probably still would have won. His margin of victory might just have been a little bit less though.
First a little bit of background. In a move to reduce costs and attract more Saturday night competitors to try out a PASS race now and again, the series issued a rules package for 2006 that included a 125-pound weight break and a 58% side weight distribution (as opposed to 56% left side weight) for cars with a two-barrel intake manifold and a 500 cfm carburetor. This was designed to make a crate or spec engine more attractive to teams. Instead, it led some teams to built some pretty decent specialized powerplants and run less weight.
Clark’s team tried this combination in the PASS season opener at Oxford. He won in convincing fashion.
At Speedway 95, competitors were starting to grumble before the race even began about the rules package. When Clark won, it threw fuel on the fire even more.
On the other hand, Clark’s record at the track has been impressive no matter what he has weighed or had under his hood. He won one race there in 2005 and came close to sweeping both events under the old rules package.
CASSIUS CLARK PLOWS HIS WAY THROUGH THE FIELD AT SPEEDWAY 95 by Mike Twist
Was It a Rules Advantage or Just Knowing His Way Around The Track?
Most of the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Model teams raced inside the borders of Herman, Maine yesterday. They were there for a 150-lap race at Speedway 95.
Clark just rocketed down on the bottom to pass his way up to the front early on.
“We worked our way through,” said Clark. “The high groove is the preferred lane, but the bottom is what is always open. They were all up there nose to tail, so we took our time and worked our way through underneath. We got up there by lap 50 or so and took the lead.”
Passing down low at Speedway 95 can be an unnerving experience. A bad move can send a driver back many spots, but Clark didn’t hesitate to get his job done down there early on.
“You just have to bite your teeth and hang on,” said Clark. “You can’t give up. If you aren’t successful, you’re going to fall back a long way.”
For the most part, the outside lane was the fast one at Speedway 95. Here, Scott Chubbuck noses his #29 ahead fo Cassius Clark (#8) on a restart. (Norm Marx Photo)
“Obviously, we have a good car but we had an awesome cars here last year that should have won both races and didn’t,” said Clark. “Ever since I’ve been coming here with a Legends car, I’ve taken a liking to this place. It’s a fun track to drive. There are two distinctive grooves and there’s some room out there. It just happens that Oxford and here are two of my favorite tracks.”
“The #8 [Clark] was definitely the class of the field hands down,” said Ben Rowe, who led early and finished third.
Rowe agreed with the assessment that there were two reasons for Clark’s dominance.
“We knew going into today [that the rules would benefit Clark’s team],” said Rowe. “It’s a rules deal that they took advantage of. We could have done that if we wanted to spend the money. Now they are saying that they will bring him back to us. I don’t know. I’m on one side saying that they should bring him back to us, but if I was on his side I’d be upset too because they wrote the rules and now they’ve got to do something about it.”
And on the other hand…
“Cassius really gets around this place,” said Rowe. “It doesn’t matter if he’s on a John Deere tractor. We’d be chasing him around here.”
On paper, winning at Speedway 95 should not have been easy for Clark. He started back in the seventh row at a track where it is challenging to pass to say the least. But with other drivers fighting over the outside groove, which is normally the fastest way around the track,
But Cassius Clark was seemingly in a different zip code for much of the event. He started in the seventh row, worked his way to the front using the unpreferred bottom groove of the tight oval track and routinely pulled to a full straightaway lead after each restart.
In the end, Clark won the race after toying with the competition like a cat does with a mouse that it has caught. If you were watching the front pack of cars at Speedway 95, you probably didn’t see much of Clark’s EJP-sponsored #8 machine. For much of the afternoon, it was far that ahead of everyone else.
Was Clark’s dominance a result of a rules advantage given to two-barrel cars in regards to weight and weight distribution? Or was it a result of having a young driver on top of his game at a track where he excels driving at for a team that has everything together right now?
Maybe it was a little bit of both. We’ll address the rules situation more in depth this week and that definitely didn’t
hurt Clark at Bangor, but even on equal footing, Clark
Cassius Clark was the star again at Speedway 95. Pay attention to his firesuit in this pre-Heat race photo. it won't make an appearance later. Read on. (51 Photo)
Before Clark took over the top spot, Ben Rowe showed the way. Speedway 95 has not been one of his best racetracks through the years, but Rowe still managed to win his heat race and start on the pole. He showed the way early on before yielding the top spot to Clark after a lap-50 restart.
“Imagine that? I led at Bangor. That’s not right,” laughed Rowe after the race. “We started out front and that makes it easy. It was a good run. There’s not much that I can say. We just stayed in the top three all day.”
The day’s best racing came after any one of eight restarts during the event. Three-time PASS champion Rowe and barnstorming driver Scott Chubbuck, both of whom have won multiple races at Speedway 95 in the past, kept Clark honest for a few laps after the green flag
Scott Chubbuck (L) and Clark (C) and Ben Rowe (R) poses for photos after the race. Note that Clark had a change in warerobe since the above photos from before his heat race. What is this - Broadway?
(Norm Marx Photo)
Ben Rowe had a good run with his #4 car. (Norm Marx Photo)
would fly. For a short time, both would put up a good fight and lead laps, but Clark’s car was just so good on long runs that he would pull away to a rather sizable lead once things got rolling again.
“It was a matter of who was on the outside,” said Rowe of the restarts.
And without a restart in the final moments of the race, Clark rolled easily to the victory.
“A caution with two to go would have been about the only way to catch him,” said Chubbuck. “The outside worked well, but only for a few laps. He was good. He was toying with us.”
Chubbuck finished second with Rowe, Travis Benjamin and Richie Dearborn rounding out the top five.
John Phippen was the highest finishing Speedway 95 regular. He brought his #59 car home in the 15th position.
The victory was Clark’s fifth career point race victory in PASS North. It also adds to a top-10 finish against the best Super Late Model drivers in the country at USA International Speedway’s Speedfest in January and a dominating run cut short by mechanical problems during the PASS South Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway last month.
“This just shows how awesome the team really is,” said Clark. “We worked hard all winter long and had an awesome car last year. We should have won more
races last year, and in the past three years, than what we did. We’re always fast and always there. We always had something happen or did something stupid. Now, we are just trying to keep our heads on straight.”
The PASS Super Late Models return to action on May 21st with their Southern Tour at North Carolina’s Southern National Raceway Park. The PASS North teams will next see the track at Canaan Fair Speedway on May 27th.
Speed51.com will have more on the rules situation in PASS North later this week, with comments from both sides of the fence and more in-depth analysis of the issue. We’ll also have leftovers from Speedway 95, so stay tuned.