Photo courtesy of Brandon Zumbach
NAPLES, ME – There may still be some snow on the ground in the Northeast, but more than a dozen drivers are looking past it towards one of the seasons biggest races that is just over a month away. The 15th Annual Easter Bunny 150 will be run at historic Hickory Motor Speedway on April 10 and 11 and several familiar names from the Northern Pro All Stars Series (PASS) are looking to etch their names in a record book that stretches back some 60+ years.
Two-time Race Winner Ben Rowe is looking forward to the season debut with new crew chief Jason Ricker. “It seems like the Easter Bunny 150 is the spring race that everybody wants to go to. We have huge car counts, and it’s a really stout field, plus it’s Hickory and everyone wants to win at Hickory. I’m really looking forward to getting our season kicked off, especially with hiring Jason as crew chief and him working with Ricky Rolfe, we are looking for great things.”
Derek Ranstrom survived a wild 2019 race which saw popular Bubba Pollard and five-time Easter Bunny Race winner Preston Peltier swap paint in the waning laps of the race. Pollard ultimately paid the price with a turn four spin off the machine of Peltier putting them both to the rear. The ensuing restart saw youngster Tate Folgleman going around in a cloud of smoke off the bumper of Corey Heim, also relegating both of those drivers to the end of the next restart. With them out of the way, Ranstrom went on to fend off fellow north competitor Mike Hopkins for his first career Hickory win exclaiming, “This place is incredible!”
Northern transplant John Peters hopes to make his first trip to Hickory a memorable one. Peters, now residing in Morrisville, NC said, “We are at a point now as a team where we’d like to continue knocking things off the long-term bucket list, and really enjoy the racing we’re still able to do. We’ve always been interested in the Easter Bunny 150 and my move to North Carolina gave us a little extra motivation to do it now. It would be awesome to win and would be a great way to start the season. Regardless, the experience itself will be worth it.
Hickory Motor Speedway has boasted some of racing’s most recognizable names over its history, and the traditional Easter Bunny 150 is no exception. Drivers like the aforementioned Peltier, Rowe and four-time PASS North Champion have graced victory lane a combined Eight times between the three drivers.
Representing the Canadian contingent will be Nova Scotia resident Cole Butcher. The driver from Canada has shown a lot of speed at various venues up and down the eastern seaboard in recent years and hopes to figure out the tricky and bumpy Hickory surface. “It would mean the world to win it,” Butcher said, “That race puts people on the map. It’s big Motor vs. Small Motor and you really never know how it’s going to end up.” Butcher makes reference to the Northern teams’ tendency to focus on handling and getting through the corners quickly, while their southern counterparts are known to feature bigger power, but less handling, setting up a classic tire wear battle on the old and abrasive surface.
For some drivers, it’s more about luck then power or handling. 23-year-old Derek Griffith falls into that category. “We had a really good car last year but unfortunately got wrecked by someone early. I think we have run that race 4 times, and just had bad luck.” Coming off five PASS North wins in 2019, and a hot early season, the New Hampshire resident hopes this is his year to turn it around. “Hickory is a special place so any race there seems to put on a good show. That race has been won by a ton of very good guys, so it would be cool if we can add our name to that list.”
One more driver adding Hickory to his bucket list is Maine’s Ben Ashline. The driver of the Picard Racing 99 joined the PASS tour late in 2019 and made a big splash by winning at the Lanier Raceplex in Georgia. Ashline hopes to put his name in the record books alongside the others. “We show up to win, second stinks. It looks very unique. Every track has its own characteristics and this one appears to have plenty of its own from the videos I have seen online. New tracks and new competitors bring new challenges, and we love a good challenge.”
Ashline and crew will certainly be put to the test. Also on the early entry list is last year’s runner up in the race, and PASS National Champion Mike Hopkins. Hopkins is no stranger to big races and his home track, Speedway 95, is said by some to have a lot of the same characteristics as Hickory. 2019 PASS Champion and past Easter Bunny winner DJ Shaw heads up the Shaw Racing entrants along with his protégée teenager Gabe Brown. Scarborough’s Garrett Hall, a twice PASS winner in 2019, along with Jake Johnson, JP Josiasse, Angelo Belsito, and Bangor’s Gary Smith have also filed early entries for the 15th annual holiday weekend race. Adding to the pressure of it all is this is the first PASS National race of 2020 making it an especially important race for every driver who enters.
As entries continue to pour into PASS headquarters, the names and accomplishments of those hoping to take home the hardware reads of a who’s who in short track Super Late Model racing.
MASS Street Stocks and Mini-Stocks will join the docket with a pair of 50 Lap open races.
All the action gets underway Friday, April 10th with rotating practice for all three competing divisions with the pit gate opening at noon and closing at six. On Saturday, April 11, pit gates open at 11:30 with practice beginning at 1:30 followed by time trials at 4:30. An autograph party will follow the qualifying at 6:00 pm with an Easter egg hunt for the kids at 6:30. Racing begins promptly at 7:00 pm with the mini-stocks, followed by the MASS Street Stocks and the Easter Bunny 150.
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2020 Pro All Stars Series – Easter Bunny 150 – Entry List
(as of 3/12/20)