Some Forgive, Others Won't Forget, Clark Starts Title Defense, Whitten Fast and More
LAPPED CAR COSTS ROWE A SHOT AT VICTORY
While the cars were lined up on the grid, Johnny Clark yelled over something to polesitter Mike Rowe that proved to be very ironic.
“Take it easy on us less experienced drivers today!” Clark asked.
As it turned out, it was the less experienced drivers that Mike Rowe should have been worrying about rather than the other way around.
Rowe was quickest throughout much of the weekend at White Mountain by more than a tenth or two at times. That’s at a track where laps are in the 12-second range as well. Rowe and his SP2 team appeared to have the field covered.
At the drop of the green, he showed how strong that he was by checking out on the field. But the tables turned on lap 60.
Rowe had already lapped some very good cars and drivers including Bobby Cabral and Corey Williams. He was going around the #72 of Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) champion Ricky Rolfe when the two cars made contact and went on synchronized spins through turn two.
“I think that he was trying to keep from going a lap down,” said Rowe. “I got into the corner and he just got into me. But that’s racing.”
Rowe did not lose a lap, but had to drop to the rear of the field on the restart. He made it back to the top five, but his car was never the same and he finished fifth.
“The car was awesome before that,” said Rowe. “Afterwards I couldn’t even step on it coming off the corner. I had to baby it the rest of the day. When I spun, I got back on it to get away from the traffic and I just brunt the right rear off it.
Still, Rowe wasn’t too upset with a top-five finish to start the year.
“We’ve got a whole racecar left, so it’s not bad,” said Rowe. “We’ll go on to Oxford and see what we can do there.”
Since Rowe is the all time feature winner at Oxford, he is already a favorite to win the upcoming PASS race there on April 30th.
ROWE TANGLES WITH DEARBORN ON MARCH BACK TO FRONT
On his way back to the lead pack, Mike Rowe got together with the #33 of Richie Dearborn while fighting for sixth. It happened going into turn three when the cars got together. Rowe dove underneath Dearborn, got him sideways and pushed him down the track like a snowplow before a caution was displayed.
“I was a little loose and I got underneath him,” said Rowe. “We got hooked up a little bit. I thought that he came down and I lifted as soon as we got together. But we both just went around. That’s part of racing.”
Dearborn kept his composure after the race when asked about the incident.
“I guess that people were getting a little anxious there,” said Dearborn. “I don’t know what happened. He got under me and then turned into me. Then I went around.”
This incident didn’t bring out any ill will between the two drivers involved.
“No hard feelings,” said Dearborn.
“It was nothing really,” said Clark. “He was protecting the bottom and I had a good run off turn two. He just went down and I ran into him. He ran into me under caution [to show his displeasure], but he’ll get over it.”
WHITTEN HAS FAST CAR BREAK EARLY
Another very fast car early on did not make it to the finish. Donnie Whitten was flying in his #83. He started sixth and was running a very solid race until he encountered an unusual problem.
Mike Rowe (51 Photo)
GORDON AND CLARK HAVE A TIFF
There were hard feelings though between Tracy Gordon and Cassius Clark after the race. Just before the 100-lap mark, Clark passed Gordon for second-place. The pass was a physical one and Gordon showed his displeasure by bumping Clark under caution a few laps later.
Or maybe not. The two racers were sharing some shop space up until recently and now that appears to be a thing of the past.
“I guess that Cassius doesn’t work out of my shop anymore because he drilled me,” said Gordon. “He was working out of my shop for two years. Not anymore.”
“I was working out of his shop,” said Clark. “I didn’t think that there was anything bad like that after what happened, but I’m working out of the shop where I work during the day now anyways, so I guess we don’t have anything to worry about.”
Clark also wanted to point out that he doesn’t think that he is a dirty driver.
Cassius Clark (51 Photo)
Clark went on to finish third and Gordon ended up seventh. The result for Gordon was better than one year ago when he broke a rear end and dropped out of the White Mountain race early on, but that was of little consolation to him after the race.
“I’d rather be broken and out of the race then finish seventh like this and not be broken,” said Gordon.
Another thing that Gordon would have liked to have would have been a chance to even things up in his mind.
“I needed another restart so I could give out a little payback,” said Gordon. “But just wait, I’ll remember.”
Clark didn’t think that he didn’t anything wrong.
“This is a good way to start off,” said Clark. “We finished fourth here last year and pulled off another top five today. We’re bringing it home in one piece and that’s what it takes to win a championship.”
Early in the race, Clark showed restraint by not abusing his car and tires by racing everyone around him hard.
“That were all running pretty hard just 25 laps into it,” said Clark. “I just pulled high and let Tracy [Gordon] by. He
DEARBORN GETS STARTED OUT RIGHT
Richie Dearborn won his first PASS race last season at Lee and has been quietly building himself into one of the top drivers on the tour. He left White Mountain with a sixth-place finish. It wasn’t what he wanted, but he’ll take it.
“That’s not bad, but we were hoping for a top five,” said Dearborn. “We got a little banged up in the race and got a few battle scars, but it’s not bad for opening day I guess.”
BENJAMIN'S PASS PROGRAM IS LOOKING UP
Travis Benjamin and his #17 team showed some muscle at White Mountain. They were strong through all of the practice sessions and very quick in the race.
“We ran well,” said Benjamin. “We were fastest in practice and messed up a little bit in time trials. We’ve got to figure out a qualifying set-up. I was hoping to stay in the top ten for time trials to get a good draw, but 13th wasn’t too bad. That put us back so it was hard to get to the front.”
“The eyelet to the sway bar broke on the driver’s side,” said Whitten. “I started to go by Johnny Clark and the car just rolled off on the right front. I knew that there was something wrong. I though that it might be a tire. In the process of getting the car in here, it tore some of the other brackets off. At that point, it wasn’t worth fixing.”
Whitten did enjoy his time out front though.
“I thought it was awesome,” said Whitten. “I didn’t think that we would have any trouble running with those guys up front. I was just trying to stay out of trouble and it the time, it seems like that was going to happen. I don’t like pushing the car too hard at the beginning of the race, but the car was so good that I figured I would race with those guys when I had the chance. It was working.”
The PASS Modifieds were the opening act at White Mountain and they put on a good show. Wayne Allard spun early in the race, but motored back to take the victory ahead of Dana Grover and Richie Morse.
“The car was wicked loose at the start of the race,” said Allard. “Then I got run down into the dirt and whatever happened then made the car better.”
“I’m not out there to run into anybody,” said Clark. “I run people like they run me. If they don’t give me anything, I won’t give them anything. That’s how it works.”
And at least one driver agrees. Ben Rowe made a point to talk about Clark in victory lane.
“I’m glad that Cassius was up there,” said Rowe. “He’s great to race with and he treated me real well. I was just hoping that he wouldn’t get on the outside because if I he did, we would have been in trouble.”
ENGINE GO SOUTH UP IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
It seemed that the White Mountain race was tough on engines. Rick Martin loaded up early and was credited with 26th-place after breaking a motor in practice on Sunday. Eric Hudson only made one lap before pulling in with powerplant problems on his #02 and, while Scott Chubbuck last a little bit longer, he was still done in on lap 18.
Whitten signs an autograph before the race. (51 Photo)
Benjamin did make some progress, but ran into a little trouble.
“We got up to eighth and then got spun,” said Benjamin. “That put us to the back and by that point, we couldn’t race to the front again.
Then more trouble…
“It was a head gasket that was bad,” said Chubbuck. “It was going and we knew it before the race. We started anyways and wanted to see how long it would last, but it started pushing out water.”
Chubbuck and car owner Jay Cushman both told Speed51.com before the race that they was worried about a problem with the head gasket, but that they would try to race anyways and monitor the situation. The start that the #29 had made a decision to pull out of the race very difficult.
“In 13 laps, we passed eight or 10 cars,” said Chubbuck. “With it going like that, the car owner would have had us stay out until it blew up. But we need the car for the next race, so we parked it.”
"We got spun by a lapped car for the second time today,” said Benjamin. “It was the #97 [Walt Hammond]. I just hope that he doesn’t do it anymore.”
Benjamin’s young team is making a home on the PASS tour and he knows where they need to focus their attention on to get even better.
“We’re experimenting still with the tires,” said Benjamin. “I need to do a little more research on those and once we have that figured out, we should be good. We didn’t wreck anything or break anything, so we’ll go on to the next race.”
CLARK STARTS OFF TITLE DEFENSE
Fresh off the 2004 PASS championship, Johnny Clark played the part of a title defender at White Mountain. He led laps and was never very far from the front all day before finishing fourth.
was putting a lot of pressure on me and I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to lap 150 pushing my tires like that.”
As it turned out, Clark really didn’t have to baby his tires as much as he thought.
“It looks like they’ve done something to these tires because they are holding up a lot better,” said Clark. “I didn’t know that at the time.”
Next, the PASS cars make a return to Oxford Plains Speedway, for the first time in two years. It’s the track where Clark got his start in racing and he’s looking forward to returning there.
“We’ll go to Oxford and hope for a good run over there,” said Clark. “We plan on testing there next week.”
MULKERN STRONG IN SECOND PLACE
“Early on, things were good,” said Mulkern. “Then I tried to ride and take it easy on the tires. I started getting shuffled back, so I took off. I wanted a good long run to just keep rolling up on the outside because everyone was trying to stay on the bottom.”
“I don’t know,” said Mulkern. “We’ll have to see. It started out really good, so we’ll go on to the next one.”
SEVERAL TEAMS MISSING FROM OPENER
There were several notable absences from the season opening PASS race. The #34 car of Clinton Teague was not there. Its usual pilot, Teddy Christopher was in North Carolina for a NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified race. The #24 owned by Carlton Robie wasn’t there either.
Travis Kheil was not at the Mountain with his car. He finished sixth in last season’s points race, but his #24k team has cut back to a limited schedule for this year. Kheil worked with Ben Rowe’s tire as the tire specialist for this race.
Larry Gelinas also wasn’t there even though he was fourth in last season’s PASS standings. Also missing were Canada’s Dave Gorveatt and Sam Sessions, who has reportedly retired from racing.
PASS MODS PUT ON SHOW
Richie Dearborn (51 Photo)
Scott Chubbuck knew before the race that his lap might be numbered. (51 Photo)
Allard's #15 actually went on to win after this incident. (Norm Marx Photo)
Clark (#54) runs with Patrick Leperle (#91), who made a rare PASS appearance. (Norm Marx Photo)