Bates is the Logical Surprise Winner at Wiscasset By Brian Twist
Quiet Contender Posted Good Finishes at Track, Now He's Won There Too
Usually, when you think of PASS North Super Late Model drivers and Wiscasset Speedway, Johnny Clark’s name comes to mind. The track is pretty much “his” house, as evidenced by a dominating victory that he scored in August’s Toyota Tundra 250 there.
A few other names could come to mind too if you scan the entry list. Scott Chubbuck has numerous track championships at the facility, DJ Shaw won the 2007 Coastal 200 Late Model race there and broke through for his first career PASS North victory earlier this season at the track.
You probably wouldn’t think of Adam Bates as one of the Wiscasset masters…at least not before this weekend. But if you did your homework, his name appearing on the list of guys to beat wouldn’t be a surprise.
Bates finished fourth, fifth and sixth in the races at Wiscasset earlier this season. In practice this weekend, he was the only driver to turn a lap under 15 seconds and in the race, he was the man to beat as well. Even a late race tangle in lapped traffic couldn’t keep the series sophomore from scoring win number two on the 2008 season.
“This thing just went awesome since we unloaded this morning,” said Bates. “ It’s been unbelievable. The crew did an awesome job setting this thing up. It’s been awesome all day.”
That was a good thing for Bates, as there was plenty of action during the day that he needed to work through before taking the checkered flag.
The weather was chilly at Wiscasset during the evening that also crowned Johnny Clark as the 2008 tour champion (we’ll have more on that accomplishment coming up on Speed51.com), but the temperatures didn’t keep PASS North from putting on a hot show.
Starting things off on the front row were track regular Scott King and Southern invader Travis Kittleson. Corey Williams would have been in the front row but the returning Northerner was sent to the rear of a violation that resulted in confusion around the PASS North testing / practice rule. Championship contenders Travis Benjamin and Johnny Clark each won their heats but due to PASS Rules they could not start in the top 10 since they were already feature winners during this season.
Kittleson looked strong early on jumping right out in front followed by King and Bill Whorff. Any newcomers to the PASS series never would have known it was Kittleson’s first time racing at Wiscasset as he increased his lead right away. The other contender in the title fight was Ben Rowe who was slowly fading back in the field as rival Johnny Clark moved up.
The first of numerous cautions waved on lap 17, when Katie Hager had some early
trouble with her PT Watts Super Late Model. The restart was clean and once again
Kittleson took right off as Kelly Moore tried to close in on the second and third place
cars of King and Whorff. Further back, championship contenders Clark and Rowe
were back in the eighth and fifteenth spots respectively.
On lap 30, the caution flew again as Charlie Colby spun between turns one and two.
Kittleson continued to lead as Benjamin worked his way up battling King for fourth.
Benjamin knew what his mission was today.
“We had to win the race or finish ahead of Johnny (Clark) and those guys to win the
championship,” he said simply.
Rookie of the Year Contender DJ Shaw was steadily moving through the field trying to
solidify that title and get his third win of the year.
50 laps into the race, Kittleson continued to look good as Whorff just couldn’t get past him. Benjamin was determined to give the title fight everything he had and was up to second place at this point. Meanwhile, Cassius Clark snuck his way into the top five and was lurking in the shadows.
Just prior to the halfway mark, Kittleson lost the lead to Benjamin. Kittleson appeared to lose power and slowly slipped back through the field. He pitted under caution and it appeared amongst other things Kittleson may have had a left front tire go flat.
Leading laps early was of little comfort to Kittleson. He dominated the recent PASS North race at White Mountain as well, but faded back a fourth place finish. Kittleson only cared about leading one lap this time, and it wasn’t going to happen.
“I like being up front but not at the beginning any more,” said Kittleson. “I only care about being there in the end.”
Adam Bates avoided disaster after tangling with the lapped car of Chuck Colby. (Jamie Williams Photos)
Adam Bates in victory lane.
Through all the cautions and changes to rest of the field, Bates was quietly picking off cars and moving forward.
As the race hit the 100-lap mark, Bates made dash past Benjamin into the lead, while Cassius Clark contended for the second position. Clark got by and now worked on chasing down Bates. Benjamin wasn’t ready to give up though and kept the pressure on Clark. While those two raced each other, Bates raced the track and pulled away.
While Benjamin was battling for a podium finish, his championship competitors Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe were both solidly in the top 10, which meant that no matter what Benjamin would do, winning a title wasn’t a possibility.
Bates built up a strong lead, but lapped traffic almost took it all away. With just two laps to go, Bates made contact with Chuck Colby’s #87 and got sideways. Cassius Clark was in pursuit, but couldn’t make up quite enough ground to catch him.
“I got a little scared with that lapped car there because I know they’re supposed to go down low, but he was leaving the bottom open so I got under there,” said Bates. “I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I lost it there. That would have been terrible.
Bates and Cassius Clark were followed to the finish by Benjamin, Shaw, and newly-crowned PASS North Champion Johnny Clark. In a show of respect, Ben Rowe stopped at the start finish line to congratulate Clark’s team and acknowledge the new champion.
If you are surprised at Bates’ domination, don’t feel bad. Even the young racer himself didn’t expect to be so good at Wiscasset.
“I knew we were good,” Bates said. “ I knew we’d head up towards the front, but I didn’t know we’d be this good though.”
Speed51.com will have more from Wiscasset, including a championship story on Johnny Clark on our Leftovers from the race, coming soon. Stay tuned.
Johnny Clark pitted twice for right side tires during the race.
Other drivers including Aaron Ricker (#22x), Jeremie Whorff (#00) and Tony Ricci (#1) didn't avoid disaster when they all stacked up together.