Both racers showed incredible restraint in 2006. As Cassius Clark and Ben Rowe won nearly 70% of the races held, Johnny Clark and Mike Rowe didn’t push the issue. They took what they could get and both struggled at times with set-ups and changing engine/weight combination rules. If they had a sixth place car, they would find a way to get it into the top five, but not wreck it trying in vain to win a race that wasn’t theirs to win. Neither racer forgot how to win, Clark won the prestigious Atlantic CAT 250 at Scotia and Rowe headed south to win two PASS South races (to date), but they just waited until the right time to do so.
This year, Clark and Rowe shared just one Northern victory among them, but going into the season finale at Unity they were the only two drivers with a shot of winning the 2006 PASS North championship. The race doesn’t always go to the swift, and winning races alone will not win a driver or team a championship.
Rowe found that out firsthand in 2005. It was a year when he won five races on the tour – including the two biggest events of the season in the Pullen 300 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) and the Atlantic CAT 250 at Scotia Speedworld (NS). He also won the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford, a non-PASS, non-points open show. It was close to being a dream season for the veteran driver. He was the star of the Northeastern Super Late Model scene, yet when it came to keeping points, Rowe fell 10 markers short of his son Ben in the battle for the title.
Clark’s three victories in 2005 weren’t too shabby either, but finishing fourth in points was his fate.
CLARK COMES OUT ON TOP OF FRIENDLY PASS NORTH TITLE FIGHT by Mike Twist
Chase Comes Down to Clark and Rowe at Unity
Last season, Johnny Clark and Mike Rowe combined to win nearly half of the PASS North races on the schedule. Eight of the 17 races ended with one of the two men in victory lane, but neither won the championship.
because I didn’t want to screw them up or take them out of a points deal,” said Ben Rowe, who won the Unity race. “Other than that, we raced just as hard as if this was the first race and not the last race.”
Clark won his heat race, so that meant that finishing in the top five during the race would ensure the title. Rowe knew that he needed to win and Clark needed to struggle. Unfortunately for Rowe and the #24 team, the bad luck was all his at Unity. First, a wheel broke on Rowe’s car, leaving him stranded in turn four. After getting a tow back to the pits, Rowe battled back on the lead lap when another wheel broke and left him two laps down. In the end, he was left with a finish of 14th.
And that’s what got them to Unity with a scant eight points separating the leader Clark from the hunter Rowe. Depending on how the heat races shook out, that could mean just two positions on the racetrack at the end of 150 laps could determine the titlist.
The other competitors knew that and raced Clark and Rowe accordingly.
“We were trying to tip-toe around my father and Johnny
Fans at Unity got to see Johnny Clark's #54 team win the 2006 PASS North title. (51 Photo)
“We just drove the wheels right off it,” said Rowe. ““We were coming back before the second one broke. So we broke the wheels. It’s just racing. We had a bad day and Johnny had a good day. Congratulations to him.”
Clark’s good day resulted in a third-place finish, which nailed down the title.
“We’ve always had a pretty good car here,” said Clark. “I don’t think that we had a top three car today. We had probably a fifth or sixth place car and that is what we needed. If Mike won, we needed to finish fifth or sixth and that is what we did.”
The championship is Clark’s second in PASS North. He also won the title in 2004.
“It’s cool because it’s the second one,” said Clark. “The only other two time title winner on the PASS Tour is Benji [Rowe]. To be able to get another one was pretty awesome.”
Clark and Ben Rowe have won five of the six PASS North championships to date. Only Sam Sessions in PASS’
Clark (#54) and Rowe (#24) race side-by-side early on at Unity. (Norm Marx Photo)
inaugural season of 2001, has been able to also claim a title on the tour. So does that mean that Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe have defined the series so far?
“I don’t know about that,” Clark laughed modestly. “There are a lot of good racers out there. You’ve got Mike Rowe you know!”
Mike Rowe is a driver who Clark grew up watching at Oxford Plains Speedway and numerous other tracks in the area. Now, they are friendly rivals and Clark couldn’t be happier that the championship fight came down to him and Rowe.
Rowe looks over his two broken wheels after the Unity finale. (51 Photo)
Clark's team celebrates their championship. (Norm Marx Photo)
“To beat Mike Rowe is pretty awesome,” said Clark. We’ve raced awesome together all year long. We’ve swapped a little paint and that’s no big deal. To fight for the championship over the last five or six races was pretty awesome.”
Next for Rowe is the resumption of the PASS South title fight, which will be decided at the Mason-Dixon Meltdown to be held at South Boston Speedway (VA) on November 25th. Rowe holds a 12-point lead over young Texan Ryan Lawler in that battle.
“We’re headed down south to see if we can get one down there,” said Rowe. “We hope that we don’t have the luck down there that we had up here, that’s for sure.”
One thing Rowe will have though is a cheerleader in the newly crowned PASS North champion.
“I’m Mike Rowe’s biggest fan for down South,” said Clark. “We’re going to the Meltdown with one and possibly two cars. We will be there and it’s no different from up here. If Mike needed our motor or anything, he would have it. If Mike needed to get in my car to go out and win the championship, I’d stand in the grandstands and cheer for him. Mike is a class act and I’m pulling for him.”
Clark’s final margin over Rowe was 30 points. Scott Chubbuck finished third in the standings after a late-season run of bad luck took him out of championship contention. Ben Rowe swept the final three events of the season to finish fourth and Richie Dearborn used an incredibly consistent season to place fifth in the standings. The PASS North banquet will be held on November 3rd in Portland, Maine.