LUCAMA, NC – A strong run for Mason Diaz in Saturday’s Solid Rock Carriers 300 at Southern National Motorsports Park ended with a disappointing result after a late race incident with eventual runner-up Preston Peltier.
In the closing laps of the race, Pollard, Diaz and Peltier were mired in a three way battle for the win as they raced each other and lapped traffic. With seven laps to go, Diaz got loose entering turn three and then ended up going around off the front bumper of Peltier – ending what could have been a first career CARS Tour victory for the 18-year-old from Manassas, Virginia.
“Kind of heartbreaking but this is still less than 15 races in a Super Late Model for me. Live and learn,” Diaz said after the race. “Every race I’m going to, I’m learning more and more every time. The K&N race, I figured out how to save more tires. We got to the end there, Bubba got caught behind some lapped cars and I was catching him and running faster than him. Next thing I know, I’m there, then my spotter’s telling me the 33’s in the rear-view mirror. In my head, I was going harder and harder. Got loose in, thought I saved it, then the 33 hit me.”
Peltier, who went on to finish second to Pollard, said the contact was not intentional.
“He drove in and got loose,” Peltier said. “I got underneath him and he must not have gathered it all the way back up because it’s like he corrected and started to spin some more. It just came down and got me on the right front. I hate that for Mason. Man. It is what it is. There was nothing I could do. Late in the race going for the win, it is what it is.”
After the race, Diaz said Peltier apologized to him for the incident that relegated him from a podium finish, at worst, to a 13th place result.
“It is what it is,” Diaz stated. “It’s a racing incident, most likely. I don’t know. All I know is I had it saved and, all of a sudden, once I’m straight, I’m turned around. Anything could have happened. He came down and apologized to me.”
After the incident, Peltier was allowed to keep the second position – a decision that contradicts the CARS Tour’s otherwise consistent decisions to penalize every driver involved in an incident. Series director Chris Ragle, who also serves as the race director, addressed the decision not to penalize Peltier.
“We looked at the replay and [Diaz] bobbled and [Peltier] was just on him and got into him,” Ragle told Race22.com. “I thought he got dumped at first, but then I saw the replay.”
While the result did not do Diaz justice, he left Southern National with plenty of confidence after being in the mix for the win against Super Late Model greats Bubba Pollard and Preston Peltier. He is racing regularly in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and he hopes the confidence from Saturday night’s performance will translate into success at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 6th.
“That was the closest I’ve ever come to winning a Super Late Model race,” Diaz commented. “I was just trying to set him up. I finally got to his bumper. He pulled away a little bit but I was just better through the center. He had a little more drive off, he saved the right rear tire a little more than me.”