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PASS Confirms National Championship Plans for 2021

Mike Hopkins battles Ryan Kuhn en route to a PASS victory at Seekonk Speedway in 2019. Hopkins went on to clinch the year's PASS National Championship, an honor that will return in 2021. (Jeff Brown photo)

Loyalists of the Pro All Stars Series will have two ways to compete for a championship in 2021.

The Maine-based Super Late Model sanctioning organization quietly released its plans to revive its National Super Late Model Championship with an eight-race schedule of events.

PASS introduced their National Super Late Model Championship program in 2010, four years after establishing a presence in the Southeastern United States. The National Championship combined major events in both the Northeast and Southeast to form what was billed as the only “national” Super Late Model championship matchup.

Shifts in participation and support led PASS to discontinue the PASS South tour after 2018, with a few marquée Southeastern events remaining as part of the 2019 National Championship. Maine’s Mike Hopkins clinched the 2019 title with no Southeastern drivers competing in more than three events.

With the COVID-19 pandemic halting early-season racing and stifling late-season travel plans, a National Championship schedule never materialized in 2020.

The 2021 PASS National Championship opens at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina in April, with back-to-back runnings of the Easter Bunny 150 on Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3. The 15th and 16th runnings of the event were announced as non-points races when the PASS schedule was initially unveiled.

The remainder of the National Championship schedule draws from the existing PASS North schedule, including April’s Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, July’s visit to White Mountain Motorsports Park in northern New Hampshire, late July’s $10,000-to-win event at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway, and of course, August’s Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

October’s trip to Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl will set the stage for the National Championship finale one week later at Thompson Speedway, part of the legendary track’s annual World Series celebration.

With only two races south and west of the Connecticut state line, the resulting itinerary is a far cry from what critics would consider a “national” schedule, particularly after discussions this fall kicked around the logistics of creating a true national Super Late Model tour.

But a full-out national program sanctioned by PASS would be impractical in 2021.

PASS’ Southeast presence was rooted in the Carolinas, a region well-served by local touring organizations, but also quite loyal to the Late Model Stock Car platform. PASS also lost a significant presence in the region last year, when longtime media guru Alan Dietz parted ways with the organization in January. The few remaining PASS South regulars have since found new places to compete.

A busy PASS North Super Late Model schedule, reinforced by PASS’ new loyalty program, will pose challenges to New England teams trying to fit yet another event into their plans, particularly if pandemic or weather adjustments rearrange the schedule even further.

And the pandemic still looms large in 2021. Steps to contain the novel coronavirus are underway, but still in the very early phases, and what travel and attendance restrictions are enforced into the spring and summer months remain to be seen. Planning any long-distance travel dates would be speculative at best, particularly at this level of competition.

PASS is instead taking a safer path, maintaining the National Championship banner with a subset of marquée events that may prove more attractive to teams with a greater focus on traveling or outside opportunities. A full PASS North title run might be impractical for drivers like Mike Hopkins or Derek Griffith. But they may be able to plan around an eight-race romp.

But whether the 2021 PASS National Championship is merely an echo of the PASS North results, or if it sets the stage for a more expansive or more thorough approach in 2022, will only be evident in October.

2021 Pro All Stars Series National Super Late Model Championship (current as of 2/1/2021):

Fri | Apr 2 | Hickory Motor Speedway | Hickory, NC
Sat | Apr 3 | Hickory Motor Speedway | Hickory, NC
Sat | Apr 17 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Loudon, NH
Sat | July 17 | White Mountain Motorsports Park | North Woodstock, NH
Wed | July 28 | Seekonk Speedway | Seekonk, MA
Sun | Aug 29 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Fri | Oct 1 | Thunder Road International Speedbowl | Barre, VT
Sat | Oct 9 | Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park | Thompson, CT

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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