And the National Super Late Model Champ Is… by Jason Buckley
John Stancill Celebrated, But Cassius Clark Declared The Champ
John Stancill touched the championship trophy first (top), thinking he won the title. Later the trophy was given to Cassius Clark (bottom) as the official National champ. (51 Sports Photos)
Confusion at the end of a race of who won and who didn't can stir up emotions ranging from happiness to frustration amongst drivers, crewmembers and most importantly, fans. Just ask NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Regan Smith, who crossed the finish line first in a recent series race at Talladega Superspeedway (AL), only to have it stripped away from him moments later due to a controversial rule. But, that was just a race victory. Imagine how he would have felt if it was for a series championship.
North Carolina racer John Stancill knows that feeling after celebrating what he thought was the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National Championship after the "Howler 150" Super Late Model race Saturday at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC). While Kyle Busch Motorsports' driver Alex Haase celebrated in victory lane for winning the race, Stancill performed doughnuts on the track with his car, got out, hugged his crewmembers and even posed for photos with the championship trophy. Then, moments later, he watched as PASS officials removed the trophy from the top of his car and deliver it to Maine's Cassius Clark as the series announcer officially named Clark the series champ. So, what exactly happened?
The PASS National championship pitted drivers from both Super Late Model divisions, the North and the South, for four races during the season. Three of the four were located in the South region with one in the North. The rules were fairly simple: the driver with the most points wins. However, there was a twist, as drivers were able to drop their worst finish of the four races for a three-race points total to determine the champion. That allowed a driver to have a bad race and still win the title.
Entering the final race in the four-race chase, Clark led Stancill in the points and just needed a solid day to cap off his championship bid. Clark ran strong in the "Howler" event after having mechanical issues through the early part of the day, but contact as he was three wide on the outside sent him hard into the wall, ending his day on the track. Depending on who you asked, either Stancill or Heath Hindman was involved in that incident (both have black cars).
"I don't know what happened," said Clark. "I guess we were in there three wide with a lapped car. He got loose and got up in the side of me. We were going to fast down the straightaway to get it stopped, so I went up and hit it with the right front. It stuffed it in there pretty hard."
With Clark out of the race, Stancill was looking towards the PASS National title in his rookie year in Super Late Models. Prior to the race, the word around the pits was that Stancill needed to just finish five spots ahead of Clark to win the title, even with the drop. Stancill knew this, so he just cruised the rest of the race, finishing a conservative eighth.
When the checkered flag flew, the fans as well as many teams and drivers thought the title belonged to Stancill. The trophy was even placed on his car as the fans cheered from the stands, but moments later, when they removed the trophy and gave it to Clark, there was a lot of frustration and disappointment from the Stancill camp. The earlier “word” that spread around the pits was apparently wrong. According to PASS, the only way Stancill was going to win the title was if he won the race.
“The rules are the rules," said Stancill. "It’s just bad luck - bad luck that this had to happen, not bad luck that I had actual bad luck. I just wish it could have been better. They said that I had to beat him by five spots, but that was without the drop, so that’s what we figured. I’m sure other people did too, so that’s why we got so confused.”
Clark, already in street clothes at the end of the race, accepted the trophy knowing he had the title pretty well locked up before the race started. Still though, he was a bit confused as to why Stancill was initially given the trophy.
"The 20 car (Stancill) was running good, but it was the best out of the three races and I knew we had a pretty good shot at it," said Clark. "We had a second, fourth and sixth. He just didn't finish up there today.
"I didn't know maybe if they (PASS) had changed the rules. They have done that on me before, so I didn't know if maybe they weren't going to drop a race or whatever. It doesn't really matter. I mean, it is cool to win it, but I wasn't going to lose any sleep over it."
Being the four-race PASS National championship had three of the four events in the southern region, Clark was thrilled to bring the title home to the north.
"It is obviously my first championship on this scene," explained Clark. "It is kind of cool being the national championship. It is pretty neat. Those four races were all big races."
Even though the disappointment was written all over Stancill's face well after the race was over and the cars were being loaded on the trailers, he still was able to find a silver lining after the emotional rollercoaster in his first bid for a Super Late Model title, just like Regan Smith did when he thought he won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as the underdog.
“Well, I’ve definitely done a great job," said Stancill. "I didn’t even expect to be up here. This is my first year being in a Super Late Model after coming out of a Legends Car. This is a great accomplishment for me."
As always, the one person who loses most in a situation like this is, the fan, who might have left quickly after seeing Stancill with the trophy and didn’t get the true story until reading the Sunday paper the next morning.
John Stancill exited his car, cheering (top). Cassius Clark though delivered the champion interview (bottom). (51 Sports Photo)