Matt Craig came out on top of a controversial last lap battle that saw both he and third finisher Preston Peltier slap the wall to win the 10th Running of the Orange Blossom Special on Saturday night at Orange County Speedway.
Craig’s second straight Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South Super Late Model win also guarantees him a starting spot in the 44th Annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.
“Our car was really good, but we got really loose when it was time to go,” said Craig, driver of the C&C Boilers Sales & Service Chevrolet #54. “I’ve raced with Preston [Peltier] for a long time and I knew if I would have stayed on the outside on the last lap, it wouldn’t have been any different than what I did. I don’t feel bad about it. He’s raced me dirty and I’ve raced him dirty, that’s how we get along.”
For Peltier, with the chance to end a nearly two year winless drought in PASS dating back to the 2015 Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway, coming up short was a hard pill to swallow.
“I figured at Southern National that he won the race and I thought man, the kid’s turned a corner, but I changed my mind on that deal,” said a disappointed Peltier afterwards. “The kid’s wrecked a lot of cars and it’s gotta stop. I just hope he gets focused because that’s pretty uncalled for.”
In qualifying, Craig and PASS rookie, Tanner Thorson ran identical fast laps, but the quick qualifying time was awarded to Craig by virtue of having a faster second lap. Following the top 10 qualifiers redraw, Craig would start fifth, while Kodie Conner and Jeff Batten would move to the front row.
At the drop of the green flag, Batten got the edge over Connor to lead the opening laps. But, on lap four New Hampshire’s Derek Griffith was able to make his way by Batten for the lead. While Griffith stretched his advantage to over a straightaway over second place, Peltier was on the move from tenth, bypassing Thorson to move into the top five on lap 29.
The first caution of the night would not wave until lap 69 when Terry Horak would go for a minor spin in turn two. On the restart, Griffith continued to lead with Peltier moving past Craig into second. After restarting seventh, Conner flexed his muscle, making the low line work to move all the way up to third with 63 laps to go.
Griffith and Peltier stretched their advantage over third by 15 car lengths as they began working slower traffic. Using the car of Bradley McCaskill as a pick, Peltier was able to power his way by Griffith for the lead with 37 laps to go. The yellow flag would fly again when Ryan Moore cut a tire and slapped the wall entering turn three with 18 laps to go.
Peltier took the advantage on the restart over Craig and Griffith. Unfortunately for Griffith, he would spin on the front stretch and fall from contention for the win. The final caution of the night would wave with six laps to go after contact between Thorson and Dave Farrington, Jr. would send Farrington for a spin off turn four.
On the final restart, Peltier and Craig raced side-by-side for the lead on the high-banked, 3/8 mile speedway. With two laps to go, Craig ducked under Peltier entering turn three and slid up the track into Peltier. The two cars made hard contact, with Peltier making slight impact with the wall. With smoke pouring from the right side of his machine, Craig held off a fast charging Ben Rowe to take the win over Rowe, Peltier, Conner, and Tate Fogleman. Rounding out the top 10 were Dalton Armstrong, Thorson, Joey Polewarczyk, Batten, and Spencer Davis.
- Matt Craig
- Ben Rowe
- Preston Peltier
- Kodie Conner
- Tate Fogleman
- Dalton Armstrong
- Tanner Thorson’
- Joey Polewarczyk
- Jeff Batten
- Spencer Davis
- Trevor Noles
- Dave Farrington
- Derek Griffith
- Eddie Fatscher
- Sarah Cornett-Ching
- Bradley McCaskill
- JP Josiasse
- Terry Horak
- 74x – Ryan Moore
- Roy Hayes III
- Tyler Church
- Dustin Dunn