51 Leftovers: PASS North Toyota Tundra 250 By Mike Twist
Big Show, Big Stories at Wiscasset
WILLIAMS COMES HOME TO FINISH SECOND
Corey Williams has won PASS South and ASA Late Model races at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), Orange County Speedway (NC), Lanier National Speedway (GA) and Peachstate Speedway (GA). But all of those venues are a long way from home for the youngster who grew up in Coastal Maine. It hasn't been since Williams terrorized the New England Legends car scene when he's been able to claim a victory in his home region.
So when Williams returned home to race in the Toyota Tundra 250 at Wiscasset Raceway, the expectations on him were high and most of the Town of Boothbay, Maine seemed to come out to watch him race. Williams didn't disappoint either. No, he didn't win, but he did finish a strong second after dominating the first half of the event.
“This means a lot,” said Williams of his runner-up finish. There was a lot of pressure on me tonight. A lot of people came out to watch me and I had high expectations. I was doing my best to try and get that win, but it was still good to get second. It's good to be home and to know that we have that much support behind us. That is a good feeling and I had a great time.”
Williams wasn't always having a great time during the race though - even when he was leading. Early on, he had a sticky throttle while out front. He held his breath and kept racing until the next pit stop though.
“We had a little issue with the throttle,” said Williams. “A piece of rubber or something got stuck in there and we got lucky to have a caution at a perfect time. “
A larger piece of rubber, in the form of a race tire, gave Williams his next problems.
“We pitted and that was our right rear tire [points to a tire with the inside sidewall all cracked and weathered]. It was a terrible tire and the car got really got loose. When we put another set of right sides on, the car came back to life.”
So Williams chased down leader Johnny Clark and with just two laps to go got to him. But a green-white checkered finish wasn't even enough to get by him for the race win.
“We just didn't have enough time,” said Williams. “When we got back up there, Johnny was on a rail so I don't know if we had anything for him. But it was good to at least get there to battle for one lap. So I'm happy with what we did. For a while, I wasn't sure what would happen there. I hoped it would come back around and it did.”
KNOWLTON KNOWS LONG RACES
Back in 2001, Steve Knowlton came in under the radar and placed a strong second in the Oxford 250. This year, he came into the Toyota Tundra 250 without much hype and finished on the podium in the third position.
Corey Williams' #47. (Jamie Williams Photos)
Steve Knowlton's #10 was deep in the middle of this heat race mess (Top), but he still recovered to finish on the podium of the race (Bottom, Right). (Jamie Williams Photos)
Smith's crew had brought two trailers to the track and the other one contained his son Jesse's racecar. The team figured that they might need a spare part or two off it off the weekend and their forethought saved the day.
“The nose was knocked off it, the ductwork was knocked off it. So we had to get another hood and the ductwork on it off that car and put on it this one…and then we had to figure out why the car was tight. So they worked on it and took a chance. It worked out good. We had a good car.”
The crew joked that since the nose of Jesse's car still had his number decal on it, a #55, that maybe we should change the name of our website to celebrate the strong finish.
“You'll have to call yourselves Speed55.com this week,” joked the team.
In all seriousness though, just the fact that he made it into the race was a big relief to Smith. A top 10 finish was even better.
“The scary part was that I was writing checks for the tires and I knew that I could cover them, but if we didn't race that was really going to hurt my racing budget. I was knowing that we had to get in this race somehow just to get something.”
ANOTHER 250, ANOTHER PORT CITY WIN
This year's TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford and the Toyota Tundra 250 at Wiscasset both had something in common. Kevin Harvick used a Port City Late Model to win at Oxford for big money, while Johnny Clark used a Port City Super Late Model to win at Wiscasset.
“That's right,” said Clark after the race. “He took the lead at halfway and that's about when I took it. Of course, we still had to hit pit road and put ours tires on, but we ended up the same.”
The number 250 is a good one for Clark. He's also won the Atlantic CAT 250 at Scotia Speedworld, the Peterbilt 250 at Speedway 660 (NB) and the DNK 250 at Unity.
“I love the 250s. I'd run them every week if I could,” said Clark. “And I really like the
30 grand (winner's purse).”
All weekend long, Clark played the role of race favorite and he delivered well on that.
“I never thought that we had a dominant car all weekend. But it does feel good when
you can't walk through the pit area or go to Gardner Levitt's trailer to get some wire
ties without having 20 people stop you to say that you have your car hooked up.
People who I didn't even know commented on how good the car looked. That makes
you feel good and gives you confidence going into the race.”
With the victory, Clark now sits third in PASS North points - just a stone's throw
away from leader Travis Benjamin and second-place Ben Rowe. But Clark isn't
keeping track of that too closely.
“The points will take care of themselves. I don't know if we have a legitimate shot at
winning the championship. We're going to try to win as many races as we can and that's what we want to do.”
EDDIE MAC TRIES OUT SUPER LATE MODEL RACING
Sometimes you can find Eddie MacDonald in a NASCAR Camping World East Series car, sometimes you can find him in an ACT Late Model. He's won in both series so far in 2008 in fact.
But Wiscasset marked MacDonald's PASS North debut. Driving for car owner Steve Perry, MacDonald finished 22nd there.
“That was fun. All these guys are awesome guys and they worked their asses off all week and weekend long. They did an awesome job.”
When MacDonald said that the team worked hard, he meant it. The Wiscasset race was on a Sunday and that came after two rough days with the CW East team. On Friday, the team lost an engine in their primary car at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, so they worked through the night to get a back-up car with back-up engine in that race. Then the worked through the night to ready for Wiscasset.
“We kind of planned on it for awhile, but all of the pieces to the puzzle just came together…well, this morning…so we had a long weekend,” said MacDonald. “I had to pull the seat out of this car to go into the road course car. We put that car together at the last minute and then we had to get this car ready. It got to the track at about 9 or 10 this morning. These guys stayed there right through the night and stayed to load it. Rollie and I left at 6 in the morning because it was our second all nighter. We needed an hour and a shower. We got that and were ready to go.”
The team didn't mind their driver cutting out a little bit early though.
“This kid has not slept for three days I've only gone two days without sleep,” said one crew member..”
So all things considered, a finish of 22nd isn't what everyone wanted but MacDonald knows it is something to build on.
“The car just got finished this morning and it's pretty much all brand new, so we have a few bugs to work out of it, but it's good.”
TARDIFF RTEURNS TO PASS NORTH, BUT HAS A BAD DAY
Eddie MacDonald made a comment that it seems wherever he's been racing, he's seen Alan Tardiff there too. Like MacDonald, Tardiff has raced in the NASCAR Camping World East Series, on the ACT Late Model Tour and in PASS North this year at times. Wiscasset was only his second Super Late Model race of the year though and Tardiff was happy to be back.
“These are the most fun cars in the country. The Camping World cars are right up
there because of the tracks that you race on, but as far as a full-bodied racecars, [the
SLM] are more fun.”
Fun though wasn't the word to describe Tardiff's race. He was moving through the field
early on when the pack he was in came upon a gaggle of slower cars. Tardiff got
caught in the mess and got turned around into an infield light pole. The resulting
damage led to an early retirement.
“We had a good car. We started in the mid 20's and within 20 laps, we were in the
top 10. But we were a victim of circumstances. It knew that we had a good car today
and we were just riding. Yesterday, I thought it might be a mid-pack car, but today,
we were second fastest in practice and I think we had a top three car tonight.
“Lapped cars….I don't know…you really can't do anything about them. But at that point
in the race to come up on lapped cars and have to race them that hard is unfortunate. We would have had a good finish and a good payday and someone wasn't paying attention and that spun us around and took us out. I checked up, but the guy behind me didn't.”
BATES ENDURES TO FINISH SIXTH
Adam Bates finished sixth in the Wiscasset race and there wasn't anything easy about that effort.
“It was a real long night and a hard race,” said Bates. “But we came out in one piece and that was a good thing.“
Maybe the race wasn't quite long enough though for the young New Hampshire driver.
“We definitely had more car and with a couple of laps, we might have done a little better. It was running good the whole race. We started 14th and got up to third before we pitted. Then I think I got to second again. Then the cars with the fresh tires came back up.
"Still, I'm happy with the run especially after seeing 48 cars show up to race. So sixth isn't a very bad position. You can't complain about that.
AN UP HOOD IS NO GOOD
Canadian John Fleming looked racy at Wiscasset, but pitted under green after his
hood flew up to block the windshield dropped him to an eventual 16th-place finish. “That
pretty much ruined the night,” said Fleming. “We came in and tried to pit for right side
tires and take the push out of the car. But we just didn't get it done quick enough.
But we had a good car for a little while.”
UPHILL DAY FOR BEN ROWE
Usually Ben Rowe is one of the guys you see near the front of any given PASS North
race. But a wreck in the first lap of his heat race set in motion of chain of events that
kept that from happening at Wiscasset for him and his Richard Moody Racing team.
“We drew a bad number in the heat and that started the day off. Then someone got turned around in the heat race and I caught a piece of that with the left front. It tore the whole door off, knocked the rear end out and sent me up over the bank. The guys busted tail just to get to the green flag. We didn't know what we had because we just caught the last part of the last chance race.
In the feature things looked a little bit brighter…but not for too long.
“The car really wasn't that bad. We started dead last and got up to sixth or seventh. We pitted and still got up into the top 10 when we had a right front tire go flat. We just couldn't catch a caution. I know some guys stop on the racetrack to bring out a caution and get penalized one lap...but that isn't me. Bad luck is bad luck. I tried to solder along, but it blew off the wheel. So we pitted and went five laps down. I just tried to stay out of trouble from there.”
SANBORN'S LUCK ISN'T GREAT EITHER
Things went better for Rowe's teammate Trevor Sanborn for most of the day, but in the end he ended up with a mangled racecar and a finish of 13th. Sanborn had led laps in the race, but got caught in a wreck that included Kelly Moore and Travis Benjamin with just a few laps to go.
“We had a good car. At the beginning it was decent, but we pitted and took four tires. It was really good then. With 50 to go, it started backing up so we pitted and took right side tires on with 30 to go. It was back to normal then and going well, but I just got caught up in a wreck. The radiator was gone, so that ended our night.”
ANOTHER LEADER HAS TROUBLE…
Also caught in that late race wreck was DJ Shaw. Like Sanborn, Shaw also led laps and appeared to be headed to a top finish. Shaw even made up a lap that was lost early in the race. But the crash dropped him to a finish of 11th.
“We passed a lot of cars, maybe more than anyone today. But we picked up a push
at the end. Johnny and Corey played out a good strategy. It worked for them, so I think
we still had a fourth place car though. But things didn't work out.”
When Shaw was leading, Johnny Clark was deep in the pack after a pit stop. But it
wasn't long before Clark got back up front.
“It was only a matter of minutes after we went back to green flag racing and I was told
that Johnny was back to sixth,” said Shaw. “So I knew we were in trouble then. But I
was still trying.”
CLARK EXPERIENCES BAD…GOOD…AND THEN MORE BAD
Cassius Clark uncharacteristically struggled through practice with his #8 car at
Wiscasset. But nobody gave up and Clark overcame that. What he couldn't overcome
though was a bad front-end part that dropped him out of the race.
“The left front ball joint fell out,” said Clark. “We were terrible all day long - a Last Place Charlie. We borrowed some shocks from Dale Shaw and set that up on Corey's scales and won the last chance race. It was actually going pretty decent and it was good in the race. Then the ball joint came off, so we fixed that and went out to see if it went good and she was pretty fast. I wish we would have been able to finish the whole race because I think that we could have been up there with those guys.
DRIVES LIKE A CADILLAC
One thing that is absent these days in Super Late Model racing are distinctive body styles. In the past, Maine race fans have seen some unique bodywork like Jerry Babb's Mercury Cougars and Ford Mustangs, but since the advent of the ABC body rules, you can pretty much only expect to find Chevrolet Monte Carlos, Ford Fusions, Dodges and an odd Toyota Camry a the track.
But PASS rules allow former PASS Outlaw teams to enter up to five PASS North races a year with an Outlaw body style and a weight penalty. Those cars can look like…well…whatever their creator wants them to look like. So Joe Decker's #01 sported an unusual front end. It had headlight, grill and trim decals to dress it up as a Cadillac.
Decker finished in the 19th position.
Eddie MacDonald (#24) came back from this heat race spin to run the feature without incident. (Norm Marx Photo)
Alan Tardiff's #88 (51 Photo)
Adam Bates' #98. (Norm Marx Photo)
Ben Rowe's crew at work. (51 Photo)
The #01 Cadillac (51 Photo)
“I was second that day and I was third today,” recalled Knowlton. “[Another] Second would have been nice today too, but the kid [Corey Williams] was a little too fast for me at the end. But third is better than fourth.”
Winning on this night wasn't really an option for Knowlton though - not when Johnny Clark's #54 seemed to have the field covered after taking on new tires late in the race.
“That #54….I looked in my mirror and there was nobody behind me. Then I looked in my mirror and he was right on my bumper. So I just let him go because he was going. So at that point, I was just hoping for second.”
There's something about 250-lap races that seems to work out well for the Massachusetts racing veteran.
“I like the long races. I like to hang around and pace myself.”
Knowlton has been driving the #10 car in PASS North since the beginning of the season and now that team seems to have really come alive.
“We hit on something tonight. So we'll have to go home and write it down so we can remember it next time.”
SMITH GOES FROM WRECKED CAR TO TOP 10 FINISH
You can't spend time around the PASS North pit area and not like Gary Smith and his team. They work hard, they are always friendly and the do the best job that they can against some well-funded teams. But one thing that they haven't had much in the corner lately has been luck. If there is a wreck on the racetrack, whether in a heat race or a feature, Smith seems to find his way into it.
That was the case during the qualifying races on Sunday at Wiscasset. But despite having the nose of his #75 car ripped off, Smith managed to come back for an eventual 10th-place finish.
“The only reason I was out there was because of these guys,” Smith said of his crew. I didn't think we could have it ready for the B-Main. But these guys wouldn't give up.”
John Fleming's #97. (Norm Marx Photo)