2008 PASS South Rewind: Hard Luck Drivers

CHARLOTTE, NC (December 9) – Obviously we when look back at the 2008 season for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South Super Late Models, we look back at what were the high points: Alex Haase’s three wins and the championship, Justin Wakefield winning two straight, PASS North regular Trevor Sanborn’s sweep at Orange County, and John Stancill challenging for the National championship in his rookie season.  But, this week, we look back at 2008’s “hard luck” drivers.  Drivers that helped make the 2008 PASS South season a success just by being there.  At the same time, challenging for the championship and wins, while not quite being able to get there.

First up is Raleigh, North Carolina’s, Alex Fleming.  Alex came into the 2008 season pumped for his first full year competing in PASS South.  And why not?  Fleming dominated the previous year at the Wake County Speedway, his hometown track, to become the 2007 track champion.  It seemed at each and every race Fleming was among the fastest in practice, but more times than not, fell out early due to engine problems or a crash.  His dedication was never in question, though.  Often times, Alex traveled to each race with only his dad, David, there to help.  In April, Alex competed in a local show at Wake County on Friday night, and then drove all night, deep into Georgia to race with PASS at the Watermelon Capital Speedway.  Alex even managed to lead some laps there before being taken out in an accident when Zach Stroup spun.  It wasn’t until August that Fleming was able to finish a race and when he did, he did it in style, by finishing second in the South Carolina Clash at Dillon.  At season’s end, Fleming and his family owned team learned a lot and were able to finish sixth in PASS South points and lead 57 laps during the season.


Next, we look at Signal Mountain, Tennessee’s Heath Hindman.  Heath broke into PASS South in a big way in 2007 as an unlikely candidate to challenge Ryan Lawler for the championship.  Not because people thought he couldn’t do it, but because a lot of folks didn’t know about him.  It didn’t take long, though, as Hindman was a consistent challenger week in and week out, eventually scoring his first PASS South win in the Over the Mountain 150 at the Hickory Motor Speedway.  Hindman would go on to finish the 2007 season fourth in points after a crash in the season finale at Concord took him out early. 


This year, Hindman was not about to creep up on the competition.  Everyone in PASS South was well aware of the soft spoken mountain man.  Hindman started the season off strong finishing fifth at Hickory and scoring three top five’s in the first five races.  Among those top five’s was a third place finish at Wake County Speedway where Hindman appeared to have the fastest car in the waning laps of the race.  This is where Hindman’s luck began to sour.  At many of the following races, Hindman paced practice only to be stricken by a myriad of problems.  At the Southern Sizzler at Orange County, Hindman fell out early after being taken out in an accident with Preston Peltier and Alex Haase.  At Dillon, Hindman again paced practice and had his car set up for a Saturday night race.  What happened?  The race was rained out and ran on a sweltering hot Sunday afternoon.  Despite struggling with an ill handling car, Hindman managed a sixth place finish.  At Caraway, fastest again in practice, but out early with a mechanical problem.  And, then there’s the Daniel Boone Classic at Newport Speedway in Hindman’s home state of Tennessee.  Arguably, it was the greatest disappointment of the year for Hindman and his team.  Heath blistered the track in qualifying with a sub-13 second lap and the fastest time of the session.  In the race, the only person to pass him was Alex Haase on a restart.  Eventually, Hindman dropped back to fourth after a dust up on another restart and would end the night on a wrecker after a hard crash with Corey Williams.  Hindman closed out the 2008 season finishing fifth in points with three top fives, two pole awards, and having led 72 laps.


Finally, we look at the 2007 PASS South Most Popular Driver, Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s, Mark Gibson.  Mark came to PASS South with a lot to live up to.  His dad, G.W., was a former Daytona winner in the now defunct NASCAR Dash Series.  His owner, Jeff Day, has owned winning Super Late Models for years with drivers such as the late John Paul Linville.  The learning curve for Mark has been steep making the leap from Legends cars to PASS South in 2007.  But, Mark proved he’s got what it takes finishing sixth in PASS South points in his debut season.  The 2008 PASS South campaign started slowly for Gibson and the Yarborough Transfer team as they did not score a top five finish until finishing fourth at Wake County Speedway in June.  In the next three races, Mark finished fourth at Greenville-Pickens, 13th at Orange County, and seventh at Dillon.  Then came the Piedmont Pride 125 at the Caraway Speedway.  Mark dominated leading 99 of the first 100 laps.  After losing the lead to Alex Haase on a late race restart, Gibson caught Haase and made contact with him sending Haase into a spin.  Despite being penalized by PASS South officials for rough driving, Gibson still managed a fourth place finish.  The rest of the year would be a struggle for Gibson, losing an engine in practice a Newport, struggling to a 15th place finish at The Howler 150 at Greenville-Pickens, and then falling out early due to an accident at South Boston.  Nonetheless, Gibson had his best career PASS South points finish coming home fourth in the final standings with three top fives.


Hopefully for these drivers it’s like the old saying says, “You have to crawl before you walk.”  If that proves to be he case, these drivers might leave their troubles behind and make a run towards the 2009 PASS South Super Late Model championship.


Although the 2008 season is over, it won’t be long before the 2009 season begins.  The 2009 PASS South schedule was recently released and will begin on Saturday, March 14, 2009, with the Fourth Annual South Carolina Clash at the Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, SC.  The 2009 PASS North Super Late Model schedule is nearing completion and will be released in the coming weeks.