“It was racing,” said Rowe. “I was three-quarters by him and he just came up into me in the corner and put me up into the fourth groove. He tried cutting the #8 car [Cassius Clark] after he got by me and he got what he deserved.”
Rowe recovered to finish third. Dearborn ended up 21st.
WILSON CROWNED AS TOP ROOKIE
It’s hard to imagine Alan Wilson as a rookie. After all, he’s successfully races at Oxford Plains Speedway for years. He won his first feature there, in the Limited Sportsman class, back in 1979 and since then has won another 48 races in Limiteds, Chargers and Pro Stocks.
RICHIE AND ROWE RUMBLE
Early in the IBG-PASS Pro Stock season finale at Star Speedway (NH), it looked like Richie Dearborn and Mike Rowe would have the cars to beat. The polesitting ride of Monadnock Speedway (NH) regular Russ Hersey led early, but once Dearborn’s #33 and Rowe’s #24 were past him, it was game over.
The problem was that while those two drivers were much quicker than everyone else, they were about the same speed as each other. This led to some bumping and banging.
That all came to a head on lap 56 when the two beat a little too much. The incident ended with Rowe dropping from the top five and Dearborn headed hard into the frontstretch wall.
“We had a good car, it was probably the car to beat,” said Dearborn. “We got used up on a restart and that’s where it ended. He [Mike Rowe] kind of chopped down on me on a restart and I wasn’t going to give him the position. He knew that we the only way that he was going to get by me. We hit and it was all over after that. I guess this is the Mike Rowe show.”
“I think so,” Wilson said. “That’s what the plan is.”
Wilson beat New Hampshire’s Donnie Lashua for the RoY honors in what was definitely a friendly battle.
There are a lot of good guys to race with here on the tour,” said Wilson. “I’ll tell you what, one of the nicest is Donnie Lashua. I love racing with him. We wrecked earlier and he was right here helping us out. His whole team are a good group of guys.”
Lashua has enjoyed racing with Wilson as well.
“It’s been great racing with Alan,” said Lashua. “He’s been a great competitor and a friend all year. If we needed anything, he was there to help and vice versa. He’s had an outstanding season for his first year and has been really consistent.”
LASHUA HAS REASON TO SMILE AFTER STAR
While Donnie Lashua came a little bit short of winning the Rookie of the Year title, he had plenty of reason to smile after the Star race. Lashua recorded his third top five finish of the season. His fifth-place run could not have come at a better time.
“We’ve struggled a little bit over the last few weeks and this is definitely a boost of confidence for me and I think for the team too heading into next year,” said Lashua. “We were starting to doubt ourselves a little bit, but after this run I think that we’ve got the car pretty good. It could have been a little bit better, but it was pretty good.”
Lashua has been running against some fast company this season and that’s been a good yardstick for him.
“We’re racing against the Rowes and Johnny Clark and they’ve all been doing it for awhile,” said Lashua. “This is
one’s here is Steve Benner’s, who’s been building some of Mulkern’s stuff. It’s nice and smooth. He’s going to build our stuff for next year, so we’re excited.”
The entire #17 team of Benjamin’s is already looking ahead to the start of next season.
“We had a great year this year,” said Benjamin. “Everybody is pumped up for next year. We can almost use this car as it sits. If I can make it out of Unity okay [where Benjamin is racing the October 15th Longjohn 150], I’m not even going to put a new body on it. It’s been hooked up the last half of this year. We’ve only finished out of the top five two or three times over the last, I’d say 12 weeks. It’s good for my confidence. Not making the show at Beech Ridge really hurt my confidence. We didn’t time trial well and that was my fault. I was just trying to overdrive the thing.”
ROWE WINS WAR, LOSES THIS ONE BATTLE
For Ben Rowe, there wouldn’t have been a better ending for the PASS race at Star than to win the 150-lap feature along with his third series title. He finished eighth and clinched the championship, but didn’t win the race.
“Johnny [Clark] was good for awhile and then he started backing up to me and this car was awesome.”
Rowe knew that he was assured of the title when he got aggressive for the win.
“They told me before I went green that there were only 13 cars left in the race, so I knew then that I was going for the win.”
With all kinds of mayhem early in the race going on around him, was Rowe ever concerned about dropping out early and losing the championship?
“The race started off pretty rough,” said Rowe. “I was worried for awhile, but then it settled down.”
WHITTEN TURNS LUCK AROUND AT STAR
Donnie Whitten had a really tough time at Beech Ridge a few weeks back. He wrecked during his heat race, got into the field on a provisional and then got caught in an early wreck in the feature. Fortunately, it appears that he used up all of his bad luck remaining in the 2005 season in Maine. Whitten didn’t have high expectations when he went to Star to end his season, but he was very happy afterwards with a sixth place finish.
Dearborn (#33) and Mike Rowe get together, which allows Cassius Clark got get his nose into the mix as well. The sequence ends with Dearborn in the frontstretch wall. (Norm Marx Photos)
our first season doing it. We ran a few races last year and this year we came in and had a few good runs. This is definitely one of the best that we’ve had. To be able to get up there and race with them is pretty good.”
BENJAMIN ENDS SEASON ON A HIGH NOTE
Travis Benjamin has been the poster child for bad luck this season in Pro Stock racing. We’ve said that before. But when bad luck hasn’t stuck up its ugly head, Benjamin has posted some pretty good results with his small family-owned operation. A second place finish at Star was a fine example of that.
“We had a great car, we just kept get putting put to the back tonight,” said Benjamin. “We were trying to stay out of the trouble. I’ve been pretty patient throughout most of this year and that paid off tonight. I knew that we had a good car, we just needed to get up there and run with them.”
The decision paid off. Tardiff finished ninth.
“We were thinking about it [coming to Star],” said Tardiff. “We wanted to see how Beech Ridge went and how much work that we had to do this week to get here. That worked out alright and on Wednesday, we decided to come for sure.”
On a night where more drivers got into trouble than stayed out of it, Tardiff ran a smart race to stay on the lead lap the entire race.
Ben Rowe's #00 (Norm Marx Photo)
“We were just hanging in there and staying out of the wrecks. Staying there for the end is what we were trying to do and it’s been working out pretty well.”
That didn’t mean that his car was anywhere near perfect though.
“The car was loose,” said Tardiff. “We came in and changed the bleeders and that seemed to help. We got screwed up [by another car] on those restarts and got behind. The car got better, but we just couldn’t get caught up in time.”
Tardiff has been a regular at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in recent seasons, but he is now eyeing a move up to PASS full-time for 2006.
“I had a lot of fun this year, we only did five races [including the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford, a PASS supported, but non-sanctioned race]. Hopefully we’ll do the full tour next year. We wanted to come here and get a jump on things for next year.”
CLARK WINS RACE, BUT DOESN’T MOVE UP IN POINTS
A victory at Star still wasn’t enough for Johnny Clark to move into the top three of the point standings. Clark ended the season fourth in points, only 10 markers behind Cassius Clark and 30 behind Mike Rowe.
“We could have come out of here in second, but we couldn’t control what the Mike or Cassius would do,” said Clark. “We almost got third from Cassius, but came a little bit short.”
How his competition finished was out of Clark’s control. How he finished was in his control, so Clark did the best job possible under the circumstances – he won the race and let the chips fall where they would.
“This is exactly what we wanted to do,” said Clark of his win.
“That didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would be,” said Whitten. “The early part of the race, we were pretty good. We managed to finish sixth when a lot of cars dropped out, but regardless of that, I think that we would have been there anyhow.
“My expectations haven’t been too high lately unfortunately. But tonight they were really low. This is a tough place to get a hold of. Everytime that we went on the track, we threw something different at it trying to make a change just to a reaction from the car and we were still doing that at feature time. We knew that we were heading in the right direction, but we didn’t know how good it would be. It turned out not to be bad.”
Just getting to Star was a challenge.
“We only have one car and it was torn up after Beech Ridge. The rear end was out of square, so we had to pull that out. We checked it to make sure it was straight and put that back it. Obviously, there was a whole bunch of body work [the side of Whitten’s #83 showed plenty of leftover dents that had been banged out]. We changed four springs and a couple of shocks. It was a busy week. Some of that stuff is easy, but a lot of it is time consuming. We actually finished it last night around eight o’clock.”
Ending the season on a high note makes going into the off-season much easier for Whitten and his team.
“It’s a little bit of a sunny spot to keep us going through the winter and into next year. Honestly, the way that things have been going, we were all hanging our heads. To go out there and be competitive is definitely a nice boost to end the season.”
CASSIUS SEES GOOD RUN GO BAD AT STAR
Cassius Clark was sitting right behind Mike Rowe and Richie Dearborn as they set the pace early at Star. Just like those two drivers, Cassius was in for a long night. First, he had minor engine problems. Next, he had a tire go flat. Clark spun thanks to his deflating rubber, but didn’t draw a caution. He ended up pitting under green and he lost a lap. Finally, the motor problem turned from minor to major. Thanks to attrition, Clark still finished 10th [10 cars finished the race], but it was not a fun ride to the checkers.
Benjamin and his #17 team celebrate their runner-up finish. (Norm Marx Photo)
That wasn’t due to lack of effort. Rowe actually spun himself battling for the lead with nine laps to go.
“It was a long race and we had the car that should have won the race,” said Rowe. “I had to keep babying it and babying it to make sure that we had that thing clinched. Then I got too greedy I guess. I got down on the apron and spun it around. We I got down into that speedy-dry, it just took off. It was totally my fault. It’s good that there weren’t 20 cars on the lead lap because I would have thrown it away right there.
Benjamin’s car started making some bad noises late in the race though. Since he had been plagued by engine problems all season long, that was more than enough cause for concern.
“I was worried a little bit, I was wondering about it,” said Benjamin. “She was skipping and farting. It could be an ignition problem or it could be the engine. That engine is three years old and it needs to be refreshened. I am nervous about this engine lasting, but all of the gauges looked good. That’s something that I really keep a close eye on.
“The engine deal has been killing us all year long. This
TARDIFF TESTS THE WATERS AGAIN, SURVIVES TO FINISH NINTH
Alan Tardiff wasn’t really planning on racing at Star, but after finishing fifth with an intact racecar after Beech Ridge, the 20-year-old Maine driver reconsidered.
WILSON HAS DAY GO FROM BAD TO WORSE
Alan Wilson had a long day at Star Speedway. First, he got caught in a wreck during his heat race. Then, he got caught in a wreck during the consi. After both incidents, his team fixed their #53 and got it back on track.
But maybe they shouldn’t have. Wilson’s night in the feature was even worse, as he became an innocent victim of another wreck and found himself headed hard into the frontstretch wall. Wilson be not injured, but the front clip of his car was very well used up.
“I’m fine, “ said Wilson. “I’ve just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t know what happened in this deal. I guess that someone got up high and came down and clipped me. It turned me right into the wall. There’s not much that you can do about that.”
But until this season, Wilson had not really gone on the road. He joined up with PASS this year and came away from the year finishing fifth in points and winning the Rookie of the Year title.
“We were hoping [to be competitive for Rookie of the Year,” said Wilson. “We exceeded our expectations this year, we were hoping to come in and run tenth in the points. We ran well all year and were a seventh to tenth place car. I think that is where we would have been tonight if we stayed out of trouble.”
How does racing in a different place every week compared to having a regular Saturday night home for Wilson?
“I really enjoy touring,” said Wilson. “It would be awfully hard to go back Saturday night racing now.”
So does that mean Wilson will be back for a full season of PASS racing in 2006?
Wilson had a great season, but a tough night at Star. He got tangled up in the heat race (Top) and hit the wall hard during the feature. (Bottom). We'll have more on those incidents later in the story. (Norm Marx Photos)
Alan Tardiff's #8T in the pits (51 Photo)
Lashua (#08) fared better than fellow rookie and friend Alan Wilson (#53 - against wall on left) at Star. (Norm Marx Photo)
“It was backfiring pretty bad right from the get go,” said Clark. “We were a little down on power, but we were still running pretty well. I think that we pretty much had the car to win it really. We had a flat tire and came in to change that. When we came back out it just started skipping, so we pretty much just rode around for the rest of the race.”
Clark ended up the season with three victories. That wasn’t bad for the young driver who scored his first career PASS points victory back in May at Thompson.
“It’s been a pretty good year,” said Clark. “I would have liked to have had a few more wins, but we were still pretty decent.”
Cassius Clark in his office. (Norm Marx Photo)
Johnny Clark's winning #54 car gets loaded up after the Star race. (51 Photo)