LEPERLE WINS PASS UNITY 250 AFTER LATE RACE FIREWORKS by MikeTwist
Canadian Benefits When Clark and Rowe Don't Play Nice
In last season’s Unity 250 PASS Pro Stock race (then known as the DNK 250), three of the best PASS drivers out there diced it up towards the end of the race. Ben Rowe got together with his father Mike Rowe within the final few laps and Johnny Clark watched from a safe distance back. Clark passed both Rowes and went on to win.
Clark sliding backwards into the turn three dirt banking as the laps clicked down. But in the end, none of those storylines came close to preparing for what would happen in the final five laps.
Johnny Clark was leading on a late restart after spending plenty of time out front all race long. Mike Rowe had battled back from carburetor problems and was hot on his tail. Rowe looked faster, but Clark had the position. Everyone could see what was about to unfold.
“I think that everyone watching the race and who was in the race expected the same thing,” said third-place finisher Donnie Whitten. “You could see it happening. They were rubbing before the green flag came back out.”
“I knew those last three laps were going to get exciting,” said runner-up Ben Rowe. “I saw it before we even took the green [on the restart].”
“It was the same thing as last year, but different. Instead of me and Johnny, it was my father and Johnny. It was the same deal. When Johnny dove under me for the lead last year, I did the same exact thing. I ran him right to the rumble strips and in turn two, I had to give way and that was the difference. I could have come down on him and caused a big wreck like that, but I didn’t.”
There was a little bumping and banging before the two drivers made it to turn two. That’s where it all came to a head.
“Mike’s a good racer and he’s going to do what he’s got to do to win the race,” said Clark. “He was trying to move me up the track and I wasn’t going no where, so we were going to wreck.”
“Johnny had the race won, all he had to do was lift going into turn three [before the big wreck],” said Mike Rowe. “He opened the door for me and I got underneath him. He started banging me in the side and blocking and that put us both out. He put me in the infield once and I stopped so I wouldn’t hit him. Then he lost it coming out of two and got into me again. He did what he needed to do, but that took us both out. That’s the way that it goes. That’s racing.”
Ben Rowe might have had the best seat in the house for the whole incident.
“The first time that he [Mike Rowe] went in there and backed off, I was amazed,” said Ben Rowe. “The second time, I knew someone was going for a ride. Once the smoke flew for the second or third time, I knew it was all over. I was just trying not to hit Johnny as he was going around.”
“If the hole is there, you’ve got to go for it and it was there. If you’re leading, you’re going to try and slow them down. They both did it, so they both can’t be too mad. It was good for the fans though. They saw something exciting.”
Leperle gleefully watched that something exciting happen as well.
It didn't take long for the action to start. Eric Hudson's #02 went on the rollback after having trouble on the inital start. (51 Photo)
“I was hoping for something like that,” said Leperle.
And what went through Leperle’s mind as it all unfolded?
“I thought ‘I’ve got to miss them because if they touch me, I’m done’,” Leperle said. “I went down low and avoided them.”
Leperle could hardly contain himself after climbing out in victory lane. He and his whole team were very emotional.
“Our first win in Pro Stocks and it’s the Unity 250. Wow!”
With his victory, Leperle now becomes only the second driver, joining Dale Shaw, with wins in PASS and in the modern (post 1992) era of ACT Late Model racing.
When Leperle was told this fact after the race, he was equal parts surprised and humbled.
“Really?” asked Leperle. “Wow. That’s cool. Put it on the website!”
Leperle (#91) fought hard and clean with Ben Rowe's #00 at the end. (Norm Marx Photo)
Meanwhile, Canadian Patrick Leperle ventured to Unity for the first time and quietly stayed out of trouble to finish 13th. You can bet he was taking notes though.
So in this year’s race, when Clark and Mike Rowe got together exiting turn two with only two laps to go, Leperle was ready to pounce. He inherited the lead, drag raced Ben Rowe side-by-side over the final two laps and won his first PASS event.
There was a lot of drama all race long. It started when Eric Hudson had a rear end problem and launched himself into the dirt bank at the start finish line when the green flag first waved. It also included John Phippen taking a tumble in turn one and the ultra quick Cassius
But before he could win his first Pro Stock race, Leperle had to hold off a side-by-side restart with two-time PASS champion Ben Rowe on his outside.
“He was going like that [makes revving noises] on the gas pedal before the restart,” said Leperle. “I said to myself, ‘Don’t miss your shift’. If I did that, I was going to kill myself.”
Two cars can't win the same race as Johnny Clark (#54) and Mike Rowe (#24) both found out. Patrick Leperle found out that running in third behind two hard chargers late in the race could be a very good thing. (Norm Marx Photos)
Leperle didn’t miss a shift, but Rowe hung right with him on the green flag and they raced hard and clean to the finish.
“That was awesome,” said Ben Rowe. “All he had to do was slide up in front of me and pinch me off and it would have been all over. He could have driven away from me scott-free. But he’s a class act and a great guy.”
Sure enough Patrick, it’s up there now.
Speed51.com will have plenty more from Unity this week in our PASS Leftovers column.
It was an emotional victory for Patrick Leperle. (Norm Marx Photo)