One other thing that Shaw could apparently care less about doing is to become a regular again in what was the Busch North, now the Busch East Series. He thinks that for the most part, those days are behind him.
“It’s fun to race these cars,” said Shaw of the PASS Super Late Models. “I raced Busch North again last year and that’s the last that you’ll ever see me do that other than maybe Loudon. I don’t have anything to prove and that’s not the type of racing that I like anymore.”
PASS NORTH LEFTOVERS: OXFORD by Mike Twist
So Many Tales To Tell From the Season Opener
SHAW GETS EXCITED ABOUT RACING AGAIN
When it comes to New England stock car racing, there isn’t much that Dale Shaw hasn’t done. He was the 1994 NASCAR Busch North Series champion. He’s won in ACT Late Models. He’s won in PASS Super Late Models. He’s won at weekly tracks. He’s won open shows. He’s also built some of the fastest racecars in the region for several different customers of his.
And when will that next race be? Well, these days Shaw has to plan around another racing schedule, that’s the one that he son DJ has in racing weekly at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH).
“I’ll probably race five or six times and still concentrate on my son’s racing,” said Shaw of his plans for 2006. “I enjoy this, but I enjoy watching my son race even more, I’ve still got the drive to do it after a good day. After a bad day, I could care less whether I ever do it again.”
"Well, you never try to do anything stupid out there,” said Clark. “I’ve been around this for four or five years now. There are the same bunch of guys and you learn who you can race around and who you can’t. You know what to expect and what to do.”
THE SECOND GROOVE IS BACK – THANKS TO SOME WITCHES BREW
A common complaint over recent years at Oxford is that there has not been much of a second racing groove for the ultra-fast Pro Stocks and Super Late Models. The track spent a small fortune repaving the joint several years ago and while that has made the surface smooth and shiny, it had not done much good in terms of leading to a good race.
Shaw leads the #47 of Corey Williams early at Oxford. (Norm Marx Photo)
CASSIUS SHOWS MATURITY
Cassius Clark has always been a fun guy to watch in PASS racing. He’s been known for running every lap wide open throughout his career in a Super Late Model. But that checkers or wreckers attitude seems to be changing. Clark has been looking more like a veteran than a young gun lately and it’s worked out pretty well. At Hickory in the PASS South opener, he led early before breaking. At Oxford, he won the race on a night when most guys couldn’t even fin
Clark didn’t strike until late in the race at Oxford. He had a car that was probably capable of leading early, but he didn’t take over the lead until lap 95.
Are we seeing a kinder and gentler Cassius?
In recent seasons though, he hasn’t had much to smile about. As costs in racing have escalated, Shaw has mostly been on the sidelines. But at Oxford he was back in action with the support of a new sponsor. He dominated the early part of the race and finished second. After the race, that smile was back on Shaw’s face.
“I’m pretty happy with this,” said Shaw. “We’ve got a new sponsor in Lennox. I’m glad to bring them into the top three and hopefully we can get one better the next time out.”
Shaw takes his #60x ride for some practice laps. (Glen Davis / PitSeries.com Photo)
The icing on the cake about Shaw’s runner-up finish was the fact that he got to share it with a very solid pit crew who he appreciates a lot.
“I owe thanks to a lot of guys who have been with me for many years, we have a real good crew. It’s fun to do when you have the crew behind you. I’ve got some of the best guys that I’ve ever had on my crew here with me this weekend. That’s real exciting.”
Over the off-season, track owner Bill Ryan took steps to solve that problem.
“We added a little mystery sealant this winter to work in the outside groove,” said Ryan. “It’s basically a traction compound that gives a little more bite to the second groove. We tried a different product last year and it didn’t really make a difference. So we talked to some other tracks that had positive results with this product and we’re trying it.”
Right away, during the first practice day of 2006, drivers saw an improvement. At first, not everyone knew what it was though.
Cassius Clark gets interviewed by Kalle Oakes after the New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford. (Norm Marx Photo)
There was some good side-by-side racing at Oxford. Here are Alan Tardiff (#8t) and Mike Rowe (#24) going wheel to wheel. (Norm Marx Photo)
“We definitely noticed it in practice,” said track regular Bill Whorff, Jr. “We thought that we had done our homework and figured something out with the car, than we found out about it [the treatment].”
And after the race, even more guys were satisfied with the track conditions.
“Oh yeah, the second groove is back,” said last year’s Pro Stock (Super Late Model) champion Tim Brackett. “Just wait until Saturday night [when the track’s regular season starts].”
“I think it’s a lot better,” said Scott Chubbuck. “We were decent at the end and we burnt our right front up. We could make some passes in the second groove and last year, you couldn’t do that.”
TWO CHAMPIONS JOIN FORCES
It was strange to see the familiar yellow #00 Tom Estes-owned car at Oxford without Ben Rowe behind the wheel. Since PASS got going in 2001, the combination has been a force at every race. They have won the PASS title three times – in 2002, 2003 and 2005. Heck, the team even won last season in a borrowed car with the number #10 on the side of it at White Mountain
Rowe has moved on to another team in 2006 and is replacement knows a thing or two about wheeling a car around the track. Especially Oxford. Eight-time track champion Jeff Taylor, who runs Distance Racing during the week, was tabbed as Rowe’s replacement in the car.
Taylor ran in the top five almost all of the night at Oxford. However, a flat tire late in the race knocked him to a finish of 14th.
“We had a flat with about 20 laps to go,” said Taylor. “There’s just no luck. It’s the same old stuff that always seems to happen to me.”
There wasn’t much an adjustment period for Taylor to get used to his new crew chief, Brian Burgess. The two are old buddies from the racetrack.
“Brian and I started racing in the same year, 1986,” said Taylor. “We’ve been around each other a lot and built their cars for a long time. We couldn’t have asked for a better day other than the flat. But that happens, what are you going to do?”
The #00 team will only run a limited schedule in 2006. That will allow Taylor to also race his own car at Oxford throughout the season.
“The next one for us [with the #00 team] is going to be Canaan,” said Taylor. “We’re not going to Bangor, we’re running our own car here on Saturday night.”
TWO CHAMPIONS JOIN FENDERS
Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark are both former PASS champions. They both had challenging nights at Oxford, but being the champs that they are both were in a position to overcome that with 16 laps to go as they were battling for a top five position. Then the two got together exiting turn two.
Rowe was eliminated in the ensuing melee. Clark trucked on to finish fourth.
“Johnny just had a brain cramp,” said Rowe. “I don’t know where he though that he was going. The guys in front of me checked up and I checked up so that I wouldn’t run over Jeff [Taylor] and Johnny just plain ran over me.”
“I feel really bad,” said Clark. “I wrecked him. On that restart, Taylor used my up pretty hard. I was pretty po’ed at him. It was late in the race and his tires were used up – he slid up and shuffled me out of the way. So, I kept biting my tongue and not doing anything. Then Ben got by me. I was trying to get back by him and I was making a run on the outside when they all bobbled.”
After the race, the two discussed the incident with each other and walked away calling a truce.
“I went to see him,” said Rowe. “I wanted to settle it before we left. They started to say that it was my fault, but I can’t possibly figure out how you can get run into from behind and that’s your fault. But Johnny fessed up and told me that it was his fault. So that’s no big deal – we’ll go on to the next race. If he’s man enough to say that he’s sorry, I’m man enough to take that.”
“Ben came over and wanted to know what was up,” said Clark. “I told him that I felt bad because I turned him and he had a wrecked car out of it. I was trying to make a run when they checked up, I got Ben and they went around. I asked Ben if he checked up and if they checked up in front of him and he said yes. I lost my power steering with 60 laps to go. I’m sorry that I got into him.”
NEW ERA FOR MOODY TEAM HAS ROUGH START
The new superteam in PASS North, Richard Moody Racing, has a tough night at Beech Ridge. Both Ben Rowe and Travis Khiel got caught in wrecks that were not of their own doing. At the end of the 150 lapper, the team loaded up two wrecked racecars, but weren’t down about that fact.
“I’m just so proud of these guys and what they did tonight,” said Ben Rowe.
What Rowe was proud of was the fact that both cars appeared to be poised for a couple of solid finishes until fate intervened.
Khiel was the first Moody driver to run into problems.
“After the heat race, I decided that you needed to be a smart driver tonight,” said Khiel. “During every caution, I told myself not to be smart and not take risks early in the race. We had a really good car. We were going to the front.”
That was until the race was around 30 laps old and a bump from behind ended the night for the #44 car.
“[Chris] Kennison…I don’t know what happened…he just bailed it in and said that he hit the curb and that shot him up into me. That was it. We bent the tie road on the front. Night over.”
Now it was time for the teams to work on getting Rowe to the front.
“It started out really tight,” said Rowe. “I don’t know why. We made a bunch of pit stops and everyone worked together. When Trav fell out, both crews came over and worked together. You can’t ask for anything better than that. They took a racecar that was 20th and allowed me to drive it into the top five.”
But we all know how that ended. Rowe was credited with the 18th finishing position after the already documented run-in with Johnny Clark.
Still, the night showed the potential of the almost-brand-new pair of teams.
“We both had good cars tonight and my owner Rick is
really happy with the way that both cars ran,” said Khiel.
“It’s just some guys driving like morons that took us out
of the first race of the season.”
“These guys will put it back together,” said Rowe. “Rick
and Josh [Moody] are behind us 110% and you couldn’t
ask for more. Nobody is hanging their head. We’re
looking forward to Bangor if you can imagine that.”
Khiel will also be at Bangor. He might be running a
partial schedule for 2006, but he’ll still be at the track
this coming weekend with a patched-up racecar.
“We’ll definitely be there,” said Khiel.
TOP ROOKIE LEARNS AND HAS FUN
Alan Tardiff has an up and down night at Oxford. The PASS newbie ran in the top 10 for much of the night and then had a flat tire. That cost him a few laps, but with the new PASS lucky dog rule, it looked like he might be able to make those up. Then his car stalled under caution and it took a few laps to get a push truck out to get him rolling again.
End result – four laps down, but with a respectable finish of 13th. That was also the best result of any rookie in the race.
“We were pretty excited about tonight,” said Tardiff. “We finished third in our qualifying race and had good intentions for the feature. We were planning on finishing and we did. The night didn’t go quite how we wanted it to, but we were one of the guys who finished the race and we didn’t go home on the wrecker.”
Tardiff ran a few PASS races towards the end of 2005 and liked what he saw. After Oxford, he and his team really liked what they experienced.
“I like the longer races so that plays into our favor on the PASS Tour this year,” said Tardiff. “The 40-lap features are just too short when you want to do something from further back in the field. These longer races are going to help us out. We really, really enjoyed ourselves and we’re looking forward to racing this weekend.”
NEW LOOK DOESN’T REALLY PAY OFF FOR CLARK
Johnny Clark’s #54 looked a little bit different at Oxford Plains Speedway. Gone was the mostly white paint scheme that he’s been known for through his PASS career. In it’s place was a black, red and yellow paint scheme.
“This actually a lot like a car that I ran back in 1997 and we decided to do something different,” said Clark.
It only took a handful of laps before the new look got “christened”.
“I don’t know,” said Clark. “Every time that I paint a car, I wreck it the first time out. We made it about three laps in the heat race. That’s better than the last time. I didn’t even make it to the start-finish line before a guy wrecked me at Wiscasset in 1998. We’ve had white for an awful long time and maybe the guy should have torn more of the body off this time so I could put a whole new white body on it.”
Those heat race problems resulted in Clark having to start the feature race in a bad position. He started in the back, but survived the night to eventually finish fourth.
“27th to fifth [Clark would later get moved up a spot after Tom Brackett was DQ’ed from the fourth finishing position] is not too bad. We struggled all day from when we unloaded and drew a number. In the race, the car was going good. We just started out back and man I miss time trials.”
CHUBBUCK LANDS AT OXFORD, TAKES AWAY GOOD FINISH
Scott Chubbuck had his Cushman Engineering #29 near the front all race long and finished third. As usual, Chubbuck was a man of few words after the race, but his happiness still came through clear and strong.
“That wasn’t bad at all,” said Chubbuck. “We had a good piece and we led awhile. I’m happy with that.”
Chubbuck was happiest for his car owner.
"This is all about Jay Cushman. He owns the car and he gives us everything we need to win," Chubbuck said. "We're definitely hoping this is the year for him and us to win the 250."
The #29 team picks and chooses their events carefully. You might see them at a PASS show or a weekly show at Oxford or Beech Ridge. You’ll see them at
Speedweeks every year in Florida, but it is usually hard to tell where they will race next. This time though, it’s easy. Chubbuck will be back in action this weekend at Speedway 95, where he has two career PASS victories to his credit already.
“We usually go well there, so we’ll see what happens.”
WILLIAMS STARTS OUT SEASON WITH TOP 10
A ninth-place run is not a bad way to start the season. That’s what Corey Williams and his team found out after the Oxford race.
“We came out with a top 10 and the car is in one piece,” said Williams. “We worked on it during the race. We actually went too far at one point and then came back. We ended up getting it decent, but overall we finished the race and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Early on, Williams led but the handling on his #47 was not good for the long haul and he lost a lap on the track during a long green run.
“It almost seems that the set-up that we had for it will work for a short dash race,” said Williams. “It went away quick. We’ll figure out what we need to do to make it work for a longer race.”
This now makes two races in a row where Williams performed well. At the PASS South opener in Hickory, Williams was in the top five before encountering a few problems. He’s started out the 2006 season much improved over where he was in 2005.
“It definitely feels good to be in the position where we are going for the lead, but I’d like to be running up front more consistently during the race,” said Williams. “I think that we had a car that was much better than where the finish showed tonight.”
BRACKETT CARRIES FLAG FOR OPS REGULARS UNTIL DQ
Tim Brackett crossed the finish line in the fourth position, which was the best of any Oxford Pro Stock regular in the race. Immediately after climbing from his car, he was very satisfied to be a whole bunch of PASS guys.
“It’s hard to keep up with those guys, but the car was going really good,” said Brackett. “I was really happy. We were just trying to save our stuff. We’d let them get away a bit, but the cautions kept coming so it worked out really well. I had to miss a few wrecks that were right there. I know this place pretty well and it’s fun to race there.”
Unfortunately for Brackett, that feeling did not last for long. He was disqualified from the race for having too much left side weight after the feature. The DQ moved Brackett from fourth to 33rd in the final rundown.
LEPERLE HAS BUSY, BUT UNSATIFYING, WEEKEND
What Patrick Leperle and his team set out to do this past weekend looked to be nearly impossible in this day and age. They would race at Oxford Plains Speedway with their Super Late Model and then tow to Vermont to meet up with another trailer containing the team’s Late Model to compete in the season-opening ACT race at Thunder Road.
Did we mention that the team towed down from Canada to do all of this in the first place?
“Two races in one weekend? Man. We wanted to come here and take some practice for the 250 and we wanted to do Thunder Road. We just wanted to do both races.”
Sleep was a valuable commodity for the team all weekend long – even before they got to the track.
“The gates open at eight [on Sunday at Thunder Road], so I think that we are going to have a short night of sleep tonight,” said Leperle on Saturday. “Yesterday, we were at the motel and tried to sleep but some guy in the other
room had a party and we didn’t get to sleep until five or six in the morning. It was awful.”
“I love it. All my guys love it. There are some guys are my team who came five or six hours to get here and they were here on Wednesday. They were waiting for us and asking “where are you?” and I said, “We’re coming…we’ll be there.”
Leperle will do a lot of traveling between the ranks of ACT and PASS this season.
“We’re going to do it like last year. We had a good year with four wins in PASS and ACT. We’re going to go where they have the money and where we have a chance to win the race.
While the weekend could have a great one for the #91 team, it ended up more like a big headache. Leperle had mechanical problems that knocked him out at Oxford. Then at Thunder Road, losing a day of practice was too much to overcome as he did not qualify for the race after getting battered around in a heat race.
Leperle wasn’t alone though. Ben Rowe also made the trip to Thunder Road on Sunday. He wheeled the #10 David Avery-owned Late Model, but also did not qualify for the ACT race.
NOT A BANNER NIGHT FOR MIKE ROWE
Mike Rowe is almost always at the front when the PASS cars go to Oxford. This time however, he had a tough night. Rowe struggled with an ill-handling car before he also ran into transmission troubles and ended the race in the 11th position.
“It was one of those days,” said Rowe. “We just missed
the set-up with a new car. The car was tight going in and
loose off. Then it stuck in gear. It all made for a bad
Earlier in the month, Rowe went to Hickory Motor
Speedway for the first time and won the PASS South
opening race. His PASS North season didn’t get started
nearly as well.
“One week, you’re a hero and the next week you’re a
zero,” said Rowe. “That’s just the way it goes.”
UNLUCKY DRIVER BENEFITS FROM LUCKY DOG
Usually, there isn’t a guy in the pits with worse luck than Travis Benjamin. He’s had motors blow, lapped cars wreck in his path and inexpensive parts break. That’s kept him from winning a PASS race so far in his career when he should have at least three or four victories easily to his credit.
Oxford was a little different for Benjamin though. He didn’t have a good car under him, but he did post a good finish, coming home in the fifth position.
“Honestly, we had an awful car tonight. I honestly don’t know how we got back up there. On lap 100, we were down a lap and if would have told me that we could have finished in the top 10 or even 20th, we would have been happy. Seriously, when you got on the gas it just skated the nose right up the track. We were trying some new stuff an didn’t get it quite all figured out. Once we get it figured out, we’ll be fine.”
One thing that helped Benjamin was that he made up a lap that he lost early thanks to the new PASS lucky dog rule.
“They’ve had the lucky dog twice and it’s worked out for me twice,” said Benjamin. “The first time was at Thompson after the throttle linkage broke and I got back to the lead until we ran out of gas.”
So the end result was a good one for the Maine driver.
“I’m happy, we’re off to a much better start than last year and we haven’t torn up anything. Tonight we just rode and played the cards right.”
NO MULKERN AT OXFORD
Scott Mulkern was walking around the pits at Oxford, but elected not to run his car in the race. He told Speed51.com that his plans for the season are pretty uncertain. Mulkern likes to run by the seat of his pants so that’s no surprise, but that he will definitely be at Southern National Speedway (NC) on May 21st for the next PASS South race. He even hinted that he might run the entire PASS South schedule as well as a partial schedule of PASS North events. Stay tuned.
TURPLE TOWS FROM UP NORTH
A first time visitor to Oxford was Sean Turple, who drives the #00 Atlantic CAT car for Frank Fraser in the Canadian Maritimes. The car was made famous by the late Scott Fraser, who died in a snowmobile accident two years ago, and in the time since Turple has been giving it quite a run up North.
“We plan on coming down in July for the 250 and we don’t race at home for another month, so we figured that we would come down and try the track,” said Turple. “It’s my first time here. Most of the crew has been down here numerous times, so that helps. Basically, it’s spring here, the snow is all gone and it’s time to go racing.”
Turple was one of several drivers not to make the cut after the heat races were finished though and he did not qualify for the main event.
EVERYONE LOOKS GOOD ON FIRST DAY OF RACING
The field of Super Late Models assembled at Oxford was a handsome one and PASS head honcho Tom Mayberry made sure to let the teams know that in the driver’s meeting.
“I can’t remember a better looking group of racecars,” said Mayberry. “They look awesome.”
The competitors agreed.
“All the cars look good and it’s good to be at the racetrack,” said Patrick Leperle.
It’s one thing to look good, but it’s another to race good. Mayberry was also quick to praise the PASS drivers for their famous tightly grouped restarts.
“I heard it down south, I’ve heard it in Connecticut, I hear it everywhere. You guys have the best restarts anywhere. I’m proud of you guys.”
Taylor (#00) races with the #24 of Mike Rowe. (Norm Marx Photo)
Ben Rowe's battered #4 car. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Travis Khiel goes for a spin at the nose of Chris Kennison's #10 car. (Top - Norm Marx Photo, Bottom - Jamie Williams Photo)
The Richard Moody Racing team at Oxford. (51 Photo)
The Richard Moody Racing team at Oxford. (51 Photo)
Alan Tardiff gives a big thumbs up before the feature. (Norm Marx Photo)
Johnny Clark gets his new colors spun out in a heat race (Top - Jamie Williams Photo) and shows off the duct-taped repairs later on. (Bottom - 51 Photo)
Scott Chubbuck's #29 Ford. (Norm Marx Photo)
Corey Williams in his office. (51 Photo)
Patrick Leperle's #91. (Norm Marx Photo)
The #24 of Mike Rowe gets worked on in practice. (Norm Marx Photo)
Travis Benjamin goes for a spin in his heat race. (Norm Marx Photo)
Tom Mayberry addresses his troops in the drivers' meeting. (51 Photo)