All-Star Proves Heartwarming for Ramstrom, Heartbreaking for Clark By Mike Twist
Teen Driver Puts Thompson Defeat in The Past Thanks to a Big PASS North Victory
It has long been said by racing veterans that to really appreciate a first victory, you have to lose a race first. We're not just talking about the mentality that “second place is the first loser” either. We're talking about a heart-wrenching defeat where everything seemed to line up for a victory on a given day, but fate took that chance away.
Too often though, that wisdom is lost on the newest generation of drivers. There are too many kids out there with excesses of talent and money who just haven't learned true disappointment. How would they? If you hop into the best equipment that money can buy and you become an instant success, how would you relate to the struggles of becoming a winner the hard way?
16-year-old Derek Ramstrom isn't one of those kids. His father runs an auto repair shop, not some mega-corporation, so winning equipment has to be earned by hard work rather than simply writing a check. Ramstrom knows a thing or two about disappointment too. Earlier this month, he started in the rear of the field when PASS North went to his home track of Thompson International Speedway (CT). Ramstrom had the fastest car and put on the best driving performance by moving through the pack and making it up to the lead. But he also got squeezed into the wall on a late race restart and had to wait another day for his first PASS North victory.
That other day turned out to be a 200-lapper on Wednesday evening at All-Star Speedway (NH), where Ramstrom ironically benefitted from two-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark's heartbreak to post his first touring Super Late Model victory.
“It feels great to get our first win,” said Ramstrom. “I was really hungry for a win. That Thompson deal was really aggravating. I really couldn't do much about it, but to come here and win. That means a lot.”
Ramstrom took the lead on lap 174 after the Clark, who appeared unstoppable, had a flat tire. Clark's car slowed in turn two with a flat tire and as he limped down the backstretch. Cars scattered to avoid Clark, as the green flag was still out. But not everyone could clear him and Clark was run right into the back of by Rich Eaton's #4E. Eaton, an All-Star Speedway regular who had run as high as third in the race, dropped out instantly. Amazingly, Clark was able to change tires, fix a little bit of damage to the car and solder on - just not in the lead anymore.
“I was just riding,” said Clark. “I knew that we would have some restarts, so I didn't
want to run too ahead. We were so fast…it was like a joke. It was just unbelievable
how fast this car was…and there were only 27 more laps until the end. I just went
into the turn and it was an instant flat tire. I didn't know what happened.”
Ramstrom felt Clark's pain, especially since it was only two races ago when he lost
that race at Thompson.
“You never like to see another competitor just go down like that,” said Ramstrom.
“But honestly, I also thought that it was going to be good for me. It obviously wasn't
good for him. It stinks for him, but it worked out good for us.”
Up to that point in the race, Ramstrom was running a similar race to Thompson. He
started deep in the field and picked away cars all race long. Then, near the end, he
was up in the top five…then the top three…then the lead.
When Ramstrom got close to the lead, he found plenty of closely matched cars. Yes, Johnny Clark was running away with the show but when it came to the battle for the second-best racecar at All-Star, there were no clear winners. Richie Dearborn, Kelly Moore and Steve Berry all led laps early. Richard Moody Racing teammates Ben Rowe and Trevor Sanborn were plenty quick. DJ Shaw made the right moved to work through the pack. Adam Bates, Mike Rowe, Travis Benjamin and Scott Chubbuck were all strong at various points in the race as well.
But Ramstrom didn't show his strength until late in the event.
“We just paced ourselves,” said Ramstrom. “I started 16th and just worked our way up through the pack. We tried a late pit strategy and it turned out good. We didn't burn the tires off and the car was running great all race along. I was using my head and pacing myself. I didn't want to get in any wrecks and smash the car up. I knew that I had to be there at the end…and we were there for the last 20-30 laps.”
In those final 26 laps, Ramstrom had to hold off a charging Mike Rowe and Ben Rowe to keep the lead. He also might not have known it at the time, but Clark was flying back through the field as well.
Derek Ramstrom waves the flag of victory after the PASS North race at All-Star Speedway. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Ben Rowe (#4), Kelly Moore (#47), and Derek Ramstrom (#35) work lapped traffic while battling within the top five.
“To hold off Mike Rowe and Ben Rowe, that was great,” said Ramstrom.
Holding off the Rowes wasn't just something that had to be done under green. Ramstrom had to keep the lead over a pair of late race restarts as well.
“I was getting really nervous, but I knew that I had to keep my calm and get a good start,” said Ramstrom. “I couldn't spin my tires and that turned out good.”
Meanwhile, Clark's march back through the field ended in fourth place - which was where he ended up at the finish. Still, all things considered, that wasn't a bad result.
“I was so worried.,” said Clark of the closing laps. “The water temp got high and we had to pit extra times for extra damage. The water temp would have been fine if we stayed in the lead.”
Travis Benjamin finished fifth to stay within a stone's throw of the PASS North point lead, which unofficially went back to Ben Rowe after the All-Star event.
Ramstrom's victory marked the third time this season when a popular young driver broke through to victory lane in PASS North. DJ Shaw also won at Wiscasset and Adam Bates took the victory at Beech Ridge earlier this summer.
The smart money in the PASS North pits had pegged Ramstrom as the next first-time
winner…but even the young man himself didn't know that victory would come at All-Star
“When we came here before it got rained out, we were fast. So we knew we could
come in here and get a top five finish…but a win is even better.”
The victory won't be Ramstrom's only milestone of the week. On Saturday, he is going
for his driver's license test - and if his performance in a racecar is any indication, he'll
be a shoo-in to pass with flying colors.
Derek Ramstrom in victory lane.
Rich Eaton runs into the back of Johnny Clark's crippled #54.