JOHNNY CLARK GOES FROM ONE EXTREME TO ANOTHER AT STAR by MikeTwist
Frustrating Day Turns into Victory Celebration
There is a cliché in racing that everyone has heard which says that to finish first, you must first finish. A second part of that could be that to finish first, or in any other position, you must also first start the race.
Christopher at Thompson earlier this year, had a few different things to chase on the #54 car before the race even began.
“We tried a totally different set-up that did not work,” said Clark. “Geometry-wise, it didn’t work. So we scaled it and brought it back to the set-up that we normally would have brought here and the motor wouldn’t run. We borrowed a carburetor from the Dearborns and changed that. We changed spark plugs and that helped. We need to thank Dick Dearborn for that because it ran beautiful.”
With everything all buttoned up, Clark waited around for the feature to begin. While he was waiting, he told us that he wanted to win even more than usual. Clark said that he was going to do whatever it took to end the night in victory lane. After all, that’s what he came to Star for after being eliminated from the championship battle after encountering carburetor and rear end problems last week at Beech Ridge.
“We were just here to win,” said Clark. “That’s what we were here to do. That was it. There was nothing else that we could do points wise.”
But to win, Clark had to fight off several other top Pro Stock drivers. In the early going that meant Mike Rowe and Richie Dearborn. Those two set the early pace and a
Clark wasn't alone. Second-place finisher Travis Benjamin also did a lot of work to his car before the race. (51 Photo)
torrid pace it was. However, they beat and banged just a little bit too much and that left Dearborn parked with his nose as a part of the fronstretch wall and it left Rowe spinning and having to work his way back through the field. (Editor's Note: We'll have more on that battle later on in leftovers.)
Clark took the lead and then it was time to worry about what was behind him. Ben Rowe clinched the 2005 PASS championship early in the race thanks to heavy attrition, so he was also racing to win. In fact, Rowe raced hard enough to spin himself out trying to pass Clark with under 10 laps to go.
The #54 team works under the hood of their #54 before the race. (51 Photo)
“Ben was on our rear bumper for over 50 laps before he spun,” said Clark. “If Ben spins himself out trying to pass you, it’s pretty cool. That doesn’t happen much. I took the lead from Mike Rowe and raced him for a few laps. I had to fight off some of the best to win this.”
The next of the best, with only 10 laps to go, was Travis Benjamin. He had been coming up through the pack quickly as the laps clicked down, but without a caution for Rowe’s spin, he was not able to make up quite enough ground. He made it to Clark’s bumper with five laps left and that’s exactly where he stayed at the finish.
“I wasn’t going to spin Johnny,” said Benjamin. “I was going to race him hard. The outside was so tough. If
After the bad day that Johnny Clark was having during practice and qualifying for the season-ending IBG-PASS Pro Stock [Super Late Model] race at Star Speedway (NH), just making it to that start was quite a journey. But not giving up had its rewards when at the end of the night, it was Clark and his team standing in victory lane.
It was a long road to get there though.
“After time trials, I said load it up and let’s go have some beers,” said Clark. “It was a frustrating year and we came here to win. That didn’t look like it could happen. So we put our heads together and started tinkering on it and that paid off.”
Clark’s family team, with the help of rival car owner Clinton Teague whose own car was destroyed in a wreck by Ted
The #54 celebrates their victory in the shadow of newly crowned champion Ben Rowe's championship burnout tire tracks. (51 Photo)
we had a restart out there, maybe I could have stayed there and got him but to catch up to him and around him. That wasn’t going to happen. He was protecting the inside pretty well. He’s tough and he’s good.”
“I saw Travis coming, but I knew that there were only five to go,” said Clark. “He’s a good kid and I didn’t think that he was going to move me out of the way. But you never know what’s going to happen, so I just kept it on the bottom and drove it.”
Mike Rowe made it back up to finish third and was followed by Tracy Gordon and Donnie Lashua.
Ben Rowe wrapped up the 2005 IBG-PASS Championship with a finish of eighth. We’ll have a full story his title victory coming up.
Speed51.com will also have leftovers from the Star race coming soon
Clark's #54 races with the #00 of Ben Rowe before Rowe spun out. (Norm Marx Photo)