Leftovers: PASS North at White Mountain by Mike Twist
Barry Impresses, Rowe Mows 'Em, Dion Doesn't Jump and More
Stephen Barry (#15) races with Dave Dion (#29D) at White Mountain. (Norm Marx Photo)
ANOTHER ROOKIE IMPRESSES
So far this year, we have seen rookie PASS North competitor Joey Porciello win a race at Beech Ridge and fellow rookies Derek Ramstrom and Adam Bates run strong at Speedway 95.
At White Mountain, it was Stephen Barry’s time to stand in the spotlight. The rookie driver of the #15 won his heat race, started on the pole and finished fourth.
The highlight of Barry’s race might have been going wheel-to-wheel with Northeastern racing legend Dave Dion late in the going. Dion finished just ahead of Barry at the finish.
“I can’t wait until he comes in [to the pit area],” Barry said after the race. “He has always been my favorite driver to watch. I looked up to him when I raced Limiteds. It was a pleasure to race with him. He was clean. We never touched. We passed each other three or four times.”
Barry’s car, a former Corey Williams-piloted machine, features a good amount of orange paint on it, which is Dion’s color. So maybe that helped ensure a smooth battle?
“Maybe he gave me a break because of the orange,” joked Barry.
Even though Barry was thrilled with his finish, he also knows that an even better result was possible.
“We were too tight in the middle to really do a lot with them, but it was a good finish for us.
“It was hard to do anything with those guys at the beginning,” said Barry. “I don’t know where I went back to, but it was probably seventh or eighth. I did get a few of them back and then I got a few more spots when Richie [Dearborn] and Cassius [Clark] got together. It was a good run for us. It could have been even better, but we’ll take it. This is good to build from. We tried some different stuff during the weeks off and it looks like it is going to work.”
DION DOESN’T WANT TO JUMP
Dave Dion led the first 20 laps at White Mountain, but gave up the top spot to Mike Rowe on the night’s first restart.
“You idiot, why did you let him by?” Dion recalls telling himself in the car at the time.
The answer to that was simple. Dion is a good old fashioned Yankee – and Yankees don’t like to waste money. So with PASS being known for being tough on competitors who jump restarts, and a penalty of a $500 fine for that offense, Dion played it safe.
“I‘m so afraid of that $500 fine,” said Dion. “If they gave me a $500 fine, you wouldn’t ever have to worry about seeing me jump a restart again. The Dions are never going to pay a $500 fine. I wouldn’t dare try to jump the start like that. Mike asked me if I didn’t see the flag and I said that I was just afraid of the fine. I’d rather have him beat me than to lose 500 bucks.”
Don’t get Dion wrong though. He likes the rule and thinks that fair restarts are good for the show.
“I understand why they do it, but it still makes me nervous. I think that if you are the leader and do it right, you roll through the third and fourth turn and then pick it up slowly. It’s like bending elastic, so people don’t wreck. If everyone comes up to speed slow, it works. You are allowed to go faster than the pace car once it drops off, but you aren’t allowed to go slower. That’s brake-checking. If you come off the turn and slowly pick the pace up, everyone is in a more fluid motion to grab gears and they don’t wreck. I’ve always tried to do what is right for the people behind.”
And even though Dion said that he would never pay the fine, he could think of a situation where he would be very tempted to just go for it.
“If I had gotten an outside shot at him [Mike Rowe] with power steering at the end [Dion’s car lose its power steering midway through the race], I would have gone for it all. I would have said, frig the fine.”
THREE DAYS, THREE RACETRACKS FOR ROWE
Mike Rowe had a busy weekend of motorsports action over the Memorial Day holiday. We all know that he won on Saturday night in the PASS North race at White Mountain.
“This is something to build on,” said Kennison. “This place loosens up and we were loose anyways. So we were off, but that is just the way that things go. Once we get some laps in, we’ll be alright.”
But while the results were what he had hoped for, the experience of working with his new team exceeded Kennison’s expectations.
“This is awesome. The car is awesome, the crew is awesome, the Moodys are awesome, Ben’s awesome. All of the guys click and we are all on the same page. It was fun.
“We didn’t have a good finish, but we parked it early to keep all of the fenders on it. The car is going to South Carolina next week, so I wanted to make sure it was right for them when they go.”
Kennison will run a limited schedule of races for the RMR team this season.
TARDIFF CONTINUES RECOVERY
The next day, he drove a Late Model owned by Mike Lux in the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset Raceway (ME). Rowe finished a strong second to teenaged phenom D.J. Shaw in that event and was impressed with what he saw in the young racer.
“That little kid can sure drive!” Rowe said after the race.
The most interesting motorsports event that Rowe was involved in this past weekend though might have come on Friday night, in front of a crowd of only around 100 people. Rowe dropped into the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club in Saco, Maine to take in a race of the Summer Lawn Mower Racing season.
Rowe drove the pace tractor during the 40-lap feature race. Three of Rowe’s current and former car owners, Mike Lux, Steve Perry and Scott Pullen, are regulars on the lawn mower racing circuit.
Mike Rowe - pace tractor driver. (Brenda Meserve Photo)
Rowe seemed to enjoy himself and even reference his duties one night later in victory lane at White Mountain.
“I did better tonight than I did driving that pace tractor!” Rowe told this writer immediately after the PASS North race.
CLARK SHOWS CHAMPIONSHIP FORM AGAIN
There are a few things that are consistent about Johnny Clark when he races at White Mountain. Chances are, he won’t run as well as would like to. He’s a two-time PASS champion and winning is his goal each time out. So top five finishes don’t satisfy him. But somehow, every time he goes to the track, he’ll struggle and still finish well.
Johnny Clark (#54) races three-wide with Chris Kennison (#44) and Adam Bates (#98). (Norm Marx Photo)
Saturday night was no exception. Clark finished fifth after struggling through the 150-lap feature.
“That is how you win championships – to take horrible nights like that and still come home to finish fifth. I was pretty disappointed how the car was going, but when you figure in how bad everyone else was going, we were a fifth-place car. With a couple of more restarts, could I have beat the #15 [Barry] or the #29 [Dion]? Possibly.
“Early in the run when I was trying to come back up through, they told me that I was running the same speeds as the leader. Track position meant a lot I think. We just didn’t get the car good enough to run to the end, so we pitted 20 laps in.”
No matter how hard he and his #54 team tries, Clark just can’t get a good set-up for the quarter-mile oval.
Joey Porciello's car sported this get-well message on it at White Mountain. (51 Photo)
Foster’s Daily Democrat (NH) reported that last Wednesday, Kruczek was traveling westbound on his home street in Newmarket, New Hampshire around 6 p.m. when he lost control of his 2002 Suzuki GSXR-1000 and was thrown from the motorcycle. Witnesses told the newspaper that the 24-year-old did not appear to be speeding, but that the bike snapped around on him.
Kruczek suffered multiple injuries and was airlifted to a Boston hospital. The #04 team reported that he was out of danger, but faces a long recovery process.
Kruczek is a Late Model regular at Lee USA Speedway. At the time of his crash, he was leading the track points and had one victory to his credit so far in 2007.
TOUGH NIGHT FOR CASSIUS
White Mountain wasn’t kind to Cassius Clark. He had a mountain of problems to overcome before getting up to the third position late in the race. That wasn’t to last
“Man, White Mountain just has no forward traction. The thing is, you think that you’ve got it when you practice in the day and you just never get it in the feature. I don’t know what it is, but it tricks you.”
KRUCZEK IN THE SHOP AFTER MOTORCYCLE WRECK
Bryan Kruczek, a crew member for Joey Porciello’s #04 team and a pretty good Late Model racer himself, was noticeably absent from the White Mountain race after being involved in a major motorcycle wreck on the street.
Kennison helps roll the #44 out for its heat race. (51 Photo)
Alan Tardiff wasn’t at White Mountain. Last year’s top PASS rookie was injured in a practice wreck during the opening weekend of the season at Beech Ridge. Doctors told him that it would be at least six weeks before he would heal up enough to race again.
After three weeks of inactivity, Tardiff mended up well enough to consider taking part in practice during the weekly racing program at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Well, things went well enough there on Saturday afternoon that Tardiff decided to start the feature race. He started in the back and ended up finishing a close second as part of his rehab.
“It’s been a long time since I was in the car it seemed like,” said Tardiff. “We wrecked in practice on the Friday of the Beech Ridge opener. It was really disappointing after working all winter to go racing. We have a new paint scheme and new number. We were getting anxious to see if our luck would change this year and in practice we found out that it didn’t. So I came back to Beech Ridge with my weekly car and finished a strong second. That definitely boosted our confidence. With another two laps in the race, I think that we would have won it, so that felt good too.”
Tardiff’s regular PASS Super Late Model is still sitting in his raceshop, badly twisted from the wreck. It looks to be repairable, but isn’t quite back together yet. Still, Tardiff is hoping to rejoin the PASS North ranks very soon.
“We’re getting the car back together, but the money has been tight here lately – so, it’s been taking a while. But we’ll be back shortly, probably within the next few races. We’ll see how our luck is then. Hopefully, we’ll get right back on track.”
though. Clark and Richie Dearborn got together and spun. With little time left to advance, Clark ended up finishing 14th.
“I don’t know. We were lucky to be up there anyways,” said Clark. “I lost my power steering again 20 or 30 laps into it and I just couldn’t get it turned on the bottom. Without power steering, I would get the wheel turned too much. I would just get loose up off the corner. With the crate engine, I had no power. Then I got run up into the wall about six times by lapped cars and slow cars. Then we got punted with about 15 to go, but that’s racing.”
After a rash of power steering problems lately, Clark is starting to know the woes of wrestling a steering wheel all too well.
“I’ve driven the last three of four races without power steering, so I’m getting used to it now. They tried a new pump, but the steering racks still have problems. We will get it fixed for next time.”
KENNISON MAKES RMR DEBUT
On paper, Chris Kennison’s debut for the Richard Moody Racing team, as a teammate to Ben Rowe, did not look like it went too well. He struggled with the handling of the #44 car and was credited with a 19th-place finish after exiting the race early.
DION HAS 13 YEARS BETWEEN WHITE MOUNTAIN RACES
Dave Dion had raced at White Mountain before his ran there with PASS North on Saturday, but it had been a long time since he had experienced the high banks of the quarter-mile oval. Back then, Dion was wheeling a NASCAR Busch North Series machine.
“I came here once when the track had just opened,” said Dion. “It was 1994ish. We qualified in the top five, but the stuff that I was asking them to give me didn’t work. I was trying to drive it just like Thunder Road. So everything that I asked Paul (Dion) to give me was to get that comfortable Thunder Road feeling. That really wasn’t what the car wanted. Come feature time, I had a lousy car.”
PENFOLD IS FAST, BUT FLAT KEEPS HIM BACK
Bill Penfold was quick again at White Mountain, but an early flat tire left him behind the eight ball. Penfold’s pink #0 was quicker than its 17th-place finish would seem to indicate
“We lost some laps from a flat tire at the beginning,” said Penfold. “It cut the valve stem right off it. But the car was running well. It’s still in one piece. We didn’t hurt anybody and we had a good race, but bad luck got me again.”
Penfold, a former regular in the NASCAR Busch East Series, is enjoying his season in PASS North so far. Running strong sure helps that too.
“That’s a big plus. In Busch, we’d would show up and be three or fourth tenths off. Now, we’re right in the ballpark when we unload. Dale Shaw did a hell of a job building this car and helping me out.”
Ramstrom (#35) had a tough heat at Speedway 95, but then got back on track in the feature.