DILLON, S.C. – Austin Theriault led less than a hundred feet to edge out former Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National Champion Preston Peltier in a photo finish to win the 8th Annual South Carolina Clash 150 at Dillon Motor Speedway.
Theriault’s .120-second margin of victory in the PASS South season opener was the closest margin in series history. Theriault and Peltier made contact coming out of turn four racing to the checkered flag as they both maneuvered to pass the lapped machine of John Hunter Nemechek with Theriault just having enough to eke out the victory.
“I didn’t think I had anything for him [Peltier], but that lapped car gave me an opportunity there and I took it,” said Theriault, making only his second career PASS South Super Late Model start. “I hate that it came down to that, but I felt like I had the inside there down on the apron. I went there and hoped that it stuck and luckily we had the lapped car there. It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but we’re on a roll and I think we’re gonna have a great season.”
After starting 10th, Peltier methodically worked his way to the front taking the lead for the first time on lap 101. Despite momentarily losing the lead on a restart, Peltier regained the top spot on lap 116 and looked to be on his way to a second straight win in the South Carolina Clash.
However, as the leaders entered lapped traffic late in the race, Theriault was able to close on Peltier and was just a car length behind as the white flag waved. With Nemechek racing hard with Bobby Gower for a top 10 finish, the lead duo had a decision to make entering turn three on the final lap. Peltier erred on the side of caution while Theriault took a chance that ultimately led to him getting the win.
“A lot of those lapped cars were courteous and got out of the way and I was a little bit disappointed that the 8 car [Nemechek] didn’t just pull down to the inside of the track,” said a noticeably upset Peltier after the race. “So I tiptoed down there into turn three…the next time I’m behind that 29 car [Theriault] for the win, I’m gonna win that race.”
In qualifying, defending PASS South Super Late Model Champion Kyle Grissom was fastest with a lap of 91.232 miles per hour around the egg-shaped 4/10 mile speedway. Grissom’s good fortune continued as he drew pill one during the redraw allowing him to start from the pole for the main event.
At the start Grissom jumped out to the lead over outside pole starter Brandon Ward. Grissom continued to lead through the early going as the race was slowed briefly for a few minor incidents. The cars on the move early on were 4-time PASS North Champion Ben Rowe and Kevin Powell who started 21st and 22nd respectively. Rowe and Powell came up through the field together and were both in the top 10 by lap 45.
Steve Wallace ran in the top five much of the first half of the South Carolina Clash but began to struggle after contact with Theriault while battling for 5th on lap 84. Eventually, Wallace would retire from the race and finish 23rd.
With 56 laps to go, defending PASS National Champion Jay Fogleman and Peltier moved around Ward and set their sights on the lead car of Grissom. Peltier got by Fogleman for second and was able to pass Grissom for the lead with 49 laps to go.
The race’s biggest incident occurred with 42 laps to go when the cars of Bobby Measmer, Jr. and Bill Catania collided on the front straightaway while battling for 8th. Measmer made hard contact with the outside wall just passed the start/finish line and came back across the track in front of oncoming traffic.
With cars going everywhere, RA Brown, Alex Fleming, John Batten, and Karl Weber were collected causing considerable damage to all of their machines. After a lengthy red flag to clean up the speedway, the field was once again under caution just a lap later when Joe Boyd had a right front tire go flat sending him hard into the turn one wall.
Despite losing the lead to Grissom on a lap 112 restart, Peltier moved back by with 34 laps to go. Grissom and Fogleman struggled with their cars after the red flag and fell out of the top five. Theriault assumed second and began to close the gap on Peltier.
With his last lap heroics to secure the win, Theriault has the distinction of having won last year’s PASS North season finale at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine and this year’s PASS South opener in South Carolina. Following Theriault and Peltier at the finish were Kevin Powell, with his best career PASS South finish, rookie Brandon Lynn, and Clay Rogers, who fought his way back to the front after pitting with a flat right rear tire early in the race. Rounding out the top ten Gus Dean, Grissom, Fogleman, Catania, and Gower.
12-year old Harrison Burton took the lead at the drop of the green flag and led all 75 laps to take a dominating win in the PASS Pro Late Model division. Burton’s win marked his first ever in a full-bodied stock car after moving up from the Quarter Midget ranks.
“It’s just a huge deal to me with everybody in the shop working so hard and to come out with a result like this and win for me is huge,” said Burton afterwards. “It’s a fun track, but it’s also very challenging which makes it a great place to race at.”
Burton jumped to the lead at the start over fast qualifier Trevor Noles. The only major incident of the race occurred on lap 12 after Joey Padgett got sideways coming out of turn four causing Tate Fogleman and Tyler Audie to take evasive action.
Fogleman and Audie made hard contact on the front straightaway and came to a grinding stop along the inside wall. Both cars would be finished for the night. Burton led flag-to-flag to take the win over Noles, Jeff Batten, Padgett, and Nick Robinson.
Hunter Moody took his first career win in the Allison Legacy feature over Casey Hillenburg and Justin Laduke.