“No road is too long when dreams are big and the sky is the limit.”

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First times are always great and so we were very excited to get our first look up close and personal of the Pro All Stars Series. First and foremost, one word came to mind when you think of Super Late Models…speed. Combine that with the talents of the best northeast Late Model drivers and you have the ingredients for excitement. Add to that the challenge of the road as the PASS teams headed south to one of the country’s most historic short tracks, and the random draw heat race format that sets the starting order for the feature races, and things can get more than interesting. It’s also a challenge that makes chasing a championship title on this tour one of the hardest in all of short track racing. If you want a shot at it, you not only have to start off the year with at the least, for most of these teams, a thousand mile trek, you then proceed to run not only one but two 150 lap events. And so coming away with optimal points is absolutely crucial. It turns quickly into not just another road trip but an odyssey of epic proportions. And so this is how we met the Pro All Stars Series at historic Hickory Motor Speedway. Yeah…we were expecting the excitement. What we got however was much more than that. Let’s take a closer look at all the on track action.

CAROLINA MINI STOCK CHALLENGE DOUBLE HEADER

RACE 1

Four time Bowman Gray Stadium champion Chuck Wall in the # 81 will lead the field to green for the first feature with the # 12 of Jessie Yopp starting alongside. # 19 B.J. Thrasher, #98 Jimmy Crigger, and the # 10 of Tim Canipe will round out the top five as the flagman looks over the hungry field, likes what he sees, and we’re green for the first of twin features! Yopp sticks to the outside of Wall, but Wall is strong down low and clears for the lead as they’re all double file behind. Crigger begins to fall off the pace, allowing Tim Canipe to take his spot along with getting around the Thrasher machine. Up to fifth now is the # 24 of A.J. Sanders as trouble strikes just in front of him with Thrasher going around in turn three. Thrasher suffers no damage and we’re lined back up in no time with Wall leading Yopp, Tim Canipe, Sanders, and the # 16 of Blaine Curry. Wall gets a fantastic restart as Sanders begins to turn the wick up, getting by Tim Canipe as Shane Canipe in the # 1 breaks into the top five by Curry. Yopp now loses position to Sanders, and doesn’t get back in line in time as Tim Canipe gets by as well. Behind them, Curry takes fifth back while Yopp nearly spins in front of him, kicking the # 12 out of the top five. Thrasher comes back to pick the bones and gets around Curry in the process for fourth. Curry doesn’t give up without a fight though and muscles right back around Thrasher. Thrasher hounds the back bumper of Curry for a handful of laps before finally making another move, switching spots yet again. Sanders gives up second to a strong Canipe, but out front is Wall who takes his third career Carolina Mini Stock Challenge win ahead of Tim Canipe, Sanders, Thrasher, and Curry.

RACE 2

Starting on the point for race two will be Shane Canipe followed by top five finisher in feature one, the # 16 of Curry. Defending winner Wall starts third, Thrasher fourth, and Tim Canipe fifth. Shane Canipe gets a great jump as Wall is already in second, sliding past Curry. Curry takes it right back as you can put the entire top five under a blanket as they’re all nose to nose. Tim Canipe moves past Thrasher with Wall now in his sights. He peeks under the # 81 hot rod and slips by, bringing a hard charging Thrasher with him. But up in smoke goes the # 19! That stacks the field up, letting Wall back by for third as Tim Canipe slots into fourth followed by Sanders. Back up front, it’s Curry who’s all over Shane Canipe. Curry starts to set up the pass, but here comes Wall as they go three wide for the lead! The fans are on their feet as Wall takes over the top spot! Curry drops back to fourth in the exciting exchange after a loss of momentum, leaving Sanders in third as he had just got by Tim Canipe. Wall starts to pull away, but it’s still a fierce race behind with Curry turning the wick up past Sanders. That leaves Sanders to deal with Tim Canipe again, side by side for multiple laps for fourth. Sanders finally takes it just in time to make a move on Shane Canipe, who loses second to Curry. Sanders makes it look easy at first, but just like Tim Canipe, Shane Canipe won’t give up as they trade third back and forth. Sanders will prevail again with Tim Canipe getting by Shane Canipe in the process. Taking the sweep though is none other than Wall, who prevails over Curry, Sanders, Tim Canipe, and Shane Canipe.

MID ATLANTIC STREET STOCK DOUBLE HEADER

RACE 1

Northern favorite Chris Riendeau in the # 4VT starts on the pole for the first of two Mid Atlantic Street Stock features followed by the # 4 of Easton Brewer, Chase Hall in the # 12, Jeff Sparks in the # 7, and Cody DeMarmels in the # 53. The flagman gazes over the beautiful field of Street Stocks, approves the formation, and the green is out! Riendeau is quick on the loud pedal going into turn one, but behind, Sparks is on an early rampage, getting by Hall and Brewer in one fell swoop. DeMarmels now falls back a spot as Jeff Morse in the # 99 takes fifth. Back up front, Riendeau is under fire from Sparks. A little short track contact is made and Sparks is clear for the lead. Morse shows his strength as he wheels around Hall, with Charlie Baldwin in the # 2 following through. Baldwin’s gorgeous vehicle has a run, roaring past Morse and Brewer to move into third. DeMarmels is back in the picture, setting up Morse and Brewer in a two for one special successfully for fourth. Off the pace is Morse, bringing Mike Cooper in the # 07 to fifth as Morse pits. Up front is an absolute spectacle as Sparks has lapped all the way up to third place. Cooper gains another spot by DeMarmels, but it’s Jeff Sparks who now laps Baldwin coming across the line in first. Riendeau is the only remaining car on the lead lap in second followed by Baldwin, Cooper, and DeMarmels.

RACE 2

Sparks keeps the momentum rolling, starting on pole for race two ahead of Riendeau, DeMarmels, Baldwin, and Morse. The green flies but the tower disagrees with the start, setting up a redo. On the second time around, it’s another no go as the tower starts to give out warnings. The third time is the charm however as Sparks flies out in front. Behind, Baldwin gets around DeMarmels for third but the crowd’s eyes are focused on the battle for fifth as Jeff Melton in the # 49 door slams Morse. Melton’s Brewster Baker throwback machine takes it as Baldwin’s hopes of a good finish go up in smoke, bringing out the caution. Sparks remains your leader followed in tow by Riendeau, DeMarmels, Melton, and an emerging Cooper. Sparks launches like a rocket, but Riendeau is able to keep up this time, nearly putting a fender on Sparks. Sparks hangs on though as Morse breaks back into the top five. The rest of the race for Riendeau are pure qualifying laps in an effort to somehow get around Sparks, but Sparks is untouchable as he sweeps the Mid Atlantic Street Stock double at Hickory. Riendeau once again finishes second followed by DeMarmels, Melton, and Morse.

PRO ALL STARS SERIES SAINT PATRICK’S DAY 150

By virtue of a handful of heat races, the # 74 of Ryan Moore is your pole sitter for the first of two huge PASS Super Late Model races at Hickory. The # 83 of Cory Hall starts second, # 153 Travis Stearns starts third, # 90 Austin Teras starts fourth, and the # 53 of Cole Butcher rounds out the top five. After rain dampened the initial plans, the flagman looks over the eager field, loves what he sees, and we’re green for the Saint Patrick’s Day 150! Cory Hall immediately jumps out in front as Butcher is already on the prowl, getting by Teras with ease, bringing along Jimmy Renfrew Jr in the # 00 in the process. The spots keep on coming for Butcher, now getting by Stearns for third. The caution flies early for the # 19 of Rusty Poland and the # 52 of Colby Benjamin off of turn two. Poland gets away with minimal damage but the same can’t be said for Benjamin, who is done for the day just ten laps in. Cory Hall remains the leader accompanied by Moore in second, Butcher third, Stearns fourth, and Renfrew Jr fifth. Cory Hall and Moore are dead even as the green flies with Cory Hall gaining the advantage after a short battle. Moore gets a little out of shape which allows Butcher to get by, but Moore will have another shot at it as Poland spins behind, bringing out another caution. The top five now reads as Hall, Butcher, Moore, Renfrew Jr, and Garrett Hall in the # 94 who had made a great pass just prior to the caution. Cory Hall yet again gets a great restart, but Butcher’s # 53 is just outstanding, taking the lead away. Mike Hopkins in the # 15 has entered the frame, muscling past Garrett Hall. Hopkins now looks on Renfrew Jr, but Renfrew Jr gives him a battle. Hopkins prevails though, leaving Renfrew Jr in the crosshairs of D.J. Shaw in the # 60 who just got by Garrett Hall. Shaw is all over Renfrew Jr, loosening him up every chance he gets. He finally finds some room on the bottom lane and takes it away, leaving Renfrew Jr on the outside of the top five looking in.

Renfrew Jr’s troubles continue, as now the # 47 of Gabe Brown is by with a huge run. He takes his huge run and puts it into effect on Shaw now, breaking into the top five. Back up front, it’s a battle through lap traffic with Cory Hall occasionally looking under Butcher, but Butcher works through it perfectly, leaving them to hinder Cory Hall. Hopkins rockets past Moore as the middle of the field is a battle royal, with drivers gaining scars left and right. All of that beating and banging leads to a caution, as the # 12 of Dennis Spencer Jr spins around out of turn four. Butcher lines up first for the restart, followed in line by Cory Hall, Hopkins, Moore, and Brown. Butcher aces the restart and clears for the top spot as Hopkins tries to look on Cory Hall, but he can’t get it done yet. Behind, Brown’s machine starts to come alive as he takes position from Moore. But Moore is determined, practically breathing all over Brown’s left rear quarter panel as he takes the spot back, bringing the # 39 of defending champion Max Cookson with him. Now it’s Cookson who puts the bumper on Moore, scooting him just enough to get around in a classic short track pass. Moore just can’t get a break as Brown is hounding him, but Moore somehow hangs on to the spot. Back up front, it’s the same song and dance as before with Cory Hall trying his best to make a move on Butcher but lap traffic keeps spoiling it. That opens up the door for Hopkins to try and make an advance but Hopkins slips up into Cory Hall! They somehow both save it, but debris flies off of the # 83 machine, bringing out another caution and sending Cory Hall to the pits.

It will be an ever important restart for Butcher as he now has a new challenger in Hopkins in second. Cookson is now third followed by Garrett Hall and Moore. Butcher and Hopkins are dead even for the lead after the restart, with neither one looking to give an inch. Butcher barely clears, but we’ve got more trouble behind as Cookson is off the pace and the # 15K of Aiden King spins in two. Another caution means another restart as Butcher is first, Hopkins second, Moore now third, Garrett Hall fourth, and the # 77MA of Jeremy Sorel fifth. Butcher clears a bit easier this time around as Garrett Hall goes back around Moore. Butcher tries to build a bit of a gap, but Hopkins is right there. Butcher defends the best he can, but Hopkins makes the move and takes the lead for the first time. Butcher is still right there on his back bumper though heading into turn one. He gets a run and puts the bumper to Hopkins, spinning him around off of turn two and collecting Garrett Hall! Hopkins is furious and turns his machine around backwards under caution, hitting Butcher’s left rear quarter panel as he comes back around. Butcher is sent to the rear of the field, turning the entire race upside down. Moore is the biggest benefactor as he’ll restart first. Brown makes his way to second and tries his hardest to make a last minute dive bomb on Moore, but it’s just not enough as Moore comes away with the victory followed by Brown, Renfrew Jr, Trevor Sanborn in the # 44, and Shaw. Wow!

PRO ALL STARS SERIES EASTER BUNNY 150

Brandon Barker in the # 88 will start on pole for the Easter Bunny 150 followed in line by Brown, Sanborn, Cookson, and Renfrew Jr in the # 00. In the second heat race, defending winner Moore and Jarrett Butcher taking over the # 53 machine from his brother got together, leading to both machines not being able to start the feature event. The flagman looks over the bruised and battered field from race one, gives the thumbs up, and we’re green! Brown gets a great launch on the outside and takes the lead early as they’re all two by two behind him. Just like race one, all of the close racing catches up with the field as the caution flies for the # 21 of Josh King spinning and sustaining front end damage. As a result of the Daytona-like racing, the top five is a bit scrambled now as Brown now leads followed by Barker, Cookson, Sanborn, and Derek Griffith in the # 12G. Brown once again gets a great restart as Cookson gets around Barker. Barker tries his best to hold onto third, but he can’t do it as both Griffith and Garrett Hall get by followed by Sanborn. Barker files into sixth as Sanborn finds his way by Garrett Hall. Griffith is on a mission, trying his best to rebound from an abysmal first race as he powers past Cookson. Brown still leads, but the black # 12G machine continues to lurk closer and closer, and now he’s there. Brown hangs tough for a moment, but it’s not enough as Griffith is now your leader. But we’ve got multiple issues as the # 24J of J.P. Josiasse spins in turn two. No caution is flown for that but right when Josiasse gets back going, second place runner Brown spins in four! The track has no choice but to throw a caution, just what Griffith didn’t want to see. He’ll line up first for the restart followed by a strong Sanborn, Cookson, Garrett Hall, and Barker.

Sanborn and Griffith are engaged in a dead heat for the top spot, but it’s Griffith who clears by the skin of his teeth. Behind, Renfrew Jr has rebounded back into the top five around Barker. Ahead, Cookson is determined to begin his season with a win as he gets around Sanborn. Shaw now tries to make his presence known as he doorslams Renfrew Jr for fifth, with Garrett Hall now motoring past Sanborn. Coming up through the field quietly is a wounded Cory Hall, as he and Shaw have a great battle. Cory Hall prevails and eventually gets by Sanborn as well. Now the battle for fifth is a bare knuckled brawl with Sanborn, Shaw, and Renfrew Jr all battling it out. Renfrew Jr barely takes it, but now has to worry about Griffith, who, like Sparks earlier, is on a mission to lap as many people as possible. He’s able to get around Renfrew Jr and comes to the line to score the triumph. Cookson comes home second followed by Garrett Hall, Cory Hall, and Jimmy Renfrew Jr in fifth, one lap down. What a performance.

MY TAKE

What a way to start the season for the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models! Two totally different races with a little chaos and controversy thrown in to boot. There’s quite a bit to unpack there, but first we have to talk a bit about the other races that made sure the fans got an absolutely full day of racing. Of course we have to talk about two drivers that totally dominated their events. The Mid Atlantic Street Stock Series pulled drivers from all over to come run the doubles at Hickory on Saturday, but it was local driver Jeff Sparks that stole the show. Actually no surprise however as he and the team have the car dialed in to perfection and they will be an immense threat anywhere they run this season. And in the Carolina Mini Stock Challenge, it was Chuck Wall that showed his rear bumper to the entire field. Although the second race was a bit more hotly contested, Wall used his veteran skills to keep his cool and come away with trophies and his first wins of the season on the tour. With that, we have to dive into the main events where things were a bit more…let’s say complicated.

First off, we have to say that the Pro All Stars Series drivers give no quarter. That point is truly drilled home when you get out to see them live in action and you can see them from the perspective you can only get from going to the track in person and can catch all the things throughout the field that a TV or streaming broadcast just can’t show you. They race just as hard in the middle and back of the field as they do in the front, and they do it from the start of the race to the finish. In short, these guys go at it! That said however, unfortunately, this event will be remembered by a series of events that didn’t go as the drivers involved had planned, with the result of torn up race cars and bitter drivers and teams as things went south. And we could evaluate what happened for days, and everyone from the drivers themselves to the fans that follow them will see it all differently. Truthfully however, one word could have changed things tremendously, and that word is patience. But what I said at the beginning of the article is to be remembered. Speed. Things happen very fast in a racecar and sometimes you only get one shot at a decision before there’s no turning back. But as reporters, and as the followers of Short Track Report know full well, we have to comment on it from the middle ground perspective.

In the first PASS race, the Saint Patrick’s Day 150, it really came down to three drivers. Cole Butcher, Mike Hopkins, and Cory Hall. All 3 of those drivers would not win however. Mike Hopkins lost his car and got into Cory Hall, resulting in Hall receiving damage. He would however come back up through the field to finish ninth with a hard working effort. That left Butcher and Hopkins to battle it out. And in the series of late laps, they leaned on each other as you would expect in a run for the win between two dominant cars and drivers. But with the laps counting down, Hopkins finally worked his way past Cole Butcher. In the next turn however, Butcher made contact with Hopkins and never let him go, sending Hopkins around and into oncoming traffic. Cole Butcher was then sent to the rear for aggressive driving, but he also managed to make a run back to the top ten, while Hopkins was unable to get his car repaired. After that race, Cole Butcher turned over the reins of the # 53 machine to his brother Jarrett. And in the second heat race that was to set the field for the Easter Bunny 150, he made a bid for the lead on the # 00 of Jimmy Renfrew Jr that didn’t work out, and as he tried to correct his car, the # 47 of Gabe Brown took advantage and dove in under Butcher. Butcher door banged him trying to fend him off but it was too late and he soon found himself with first race winner Ryan Moore at his door underneath. Butcher managed to get a run on the outside and he tested a move down. It seemed at first that the two may have made slight contact, but after further review they never touched. But as Butcher made his way a little bit further on Moore’s outside, he again tried to clear himself and they then made definite contact, sending both drivers into the wall and leaving the # 73D of Joey Doiron with nowhere to go as he plowed into the 53 himself, folding the rear clip on Butcher’s machine up like a lawn chair.

Social media will light up all day about those specific events. Truthfully though, it doesn’t really matter how anybody feels about what happened except the drivers themselves who know that at the end of the day, they are in control of how things get handled on the track, during those events as well as moving forward, and no amount of chatter from anyone else will change that fact. Derek Griffith went on to totally dominate the Easter Bunny 150, lapping the field up to the fifth position, and leaving us all with the interesting prospects and scenarios that could and will shape the rest of the 2024 PASS Season. If it’s anything like what we saw at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday, it’s definitely going to be exciting. Until next time, as always, See You At The Track!

(Race write ups by Joshua Weatherman. Intro and My Take written by Billy Weatherman. Copyright 2024 SHORT TRACK REPORT)

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