51 Leftovers: PASS North at Unity Raceway
Turner, Shaw, Staples, a Pair of Clarks and More
By Mike Twist
Randy Turner bangs fenders with race winner Johnny Clark at Unity.  (Jamie Williams Photo)
Local Boy Does Well - Turner Ends Up on Podium

Randy Turner was the feel-good story of the PASS North race at Unity Raceway (ME).  The driver from nearby Freedom, Maine isn't a PASS regular and he doesn't have a high-dollar budget to work with, but he still ran with the big boys all day and finished third.

“I'd rather have won than finished third, but we're still happy,” said Turner.  “All of these guys have raced at least three times and this is our first day out of the garage.  I wish we could have done better, but we'll take third.  It's the first day off the couch this year for me.”

Turner's plans for the rest of the season consist of running one more PASS show, at Unity on Father's Day, and a few Super Late Model shows at Wiscasset Raceway (ME).

“The only other PASS show that we are going to is the one here in June.  I'd like to run all of them, but it is just not feasible.  We don't have the budget to do it.  We'll also run at Wiscasset as a partial deal.”

Shaw Surges to Top Five Finish

D.J. Shaw didn't look like he had much to work with during the first half of the PASS North race at Unity.  But in the second part of the race, his #60 came alive and what looked like a possible top 10 finish, if he was lucky, turned into a certain fifth place result.

“We were pretty good in practice, but we weren't good in the feature,” said Shaw.  “I started going backwards.  We pitted and took five rounds of wedge out of the back and it came to life after that.  It was enough to gain position and get us up there.  It started to fall off on the long run there, but after the restart it came back to life.”

But that didn't mean that Shaw was out of the woods yet.

“We went backwards a little bit because I got into the wrong line, thinking that someone was going to go backwards and they didn't.  But when I got back in the right line, it started going to the front.

“I think that we had the fastest car on the track for the last 10 laps, but we just ran out of time.  All race long, I was counting the laps and hoping it would be over, but there at the end I wanted it to be longer.”

Shaw was satisfied with a top five finish.  After all, he knows that Unity features plenty of good racing, but he still doesn't much care to race at the track.

“I'm glad,” said Shaw.  I just wanted to get a top five and not hit the dirt bank this time.  I hate this place and I hate racing here.  It produces good racing and I can't fault the track, but it's just not my kind of place.”

No Games For Johnny

When Johnny Clark ran away and hid early on, then backed up to competiitors who included Ben Rowe, Travis Benjamin and Randy Turner, it might have looked like he was playing games to make the race seem close.

Well, that might have started out being true.  But when Clark fell back to the fourth position, it certainly wasn't the case.

“I kind of was [playing] when Benji got to my rear bumper, but when the #17 [Benjamin] and #4 [Rowe] went by me, I wasn't playing no more,” said Clark.

Rowe Runs Better, Takes Blame For Finishing Seventh

Ben Rowe finished sixth at Unity.  Despite two victories and a perch as the point leader in PASS South, his season in PASS North has been a little bit lacking so far.  The finish at Unity was the team's best result all season up in Maine and it could have even been much better.  Rowe had been contending for the victory before getting loose and hitting Travis Benjamin.  That incident drew a penalty which sent Rowe to the rear of the field late.

“That was the best that we've run up here with this old car,” said Rowe.  “I'm happy with the way that we ran. Sixth is our best finish of the year up here.  I'm just disappointed for the guys.  I give them shit when they mess up and give me a bad car, so I'll take it from them now.  I deserve it.  They gave me a good car and I just lost it going for the lead.

Things could get much better very quickly though for Rowe and his team.  The next PASS North race comes at the track where Rowe has enjoyed more success than anywhere else in his career - White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH).

“We're hoping [for a good finish],” said Rowe.  “We can't wait to get there.  We actually tested up there three or four times with David Avery's ACT car.  The car is running great and we're looking forward to going there.”

Chubbuck Seals The Deal and Finishes Second

Scott Chubbuck was the runner-up at Unity.  It's a track where he has raced well at throughout his career, but it's also a place where he has had many frustrating PASS North events - at least one of which ended with a memorable run-in between himself and local legend Ralph Nason.

“This was probably one of our better PASS races here,” said Chubbuck. “We never seem to have a good finish here in PASS, we always seem to get Ralphed.”

Chubbuck's Hight Chevrolet team has started off the season well and he currently sits third in points.  Even so, the team doesn't plan to race again until the June race at Unity.

“We're not going bad.  We were good at Beech Ridge until it came time for the feature.

“We're all done until we come back here.  It's Spring Break.”

Another Good Finish For Staples

Chris Staples tied his worst finish of the season at Unity.  But that wasn't really a bad thing for the PASS North Rookie.  Staples finished seventh, which was the same position where he ended up after the season-opener at Speedway 95 (ME).  When those two races are combined with Staples' winning performance at Beech Ridge, it ranks his second in the current PASS North standings.

“It's not bad, I would have rather run a little further up front,” said Staples of his Unity finish.  “But we had a collapsed spring on the front all race long.  I assume it was for quite awhile anyways because it wasn't the same car that we unloaded.  Something had drastically changed.  It wasn't quite as fun as down at Beech Ridge.”

The More Worn The Race Track, The Better The Racing?

It's been kind of an interesting fact over recent seasons that some of the best racing that takes place on the PASS North Super Late Model tour comes at tracks which are…well….a little bit rustic.
Unity Raceway certain fits that bill.  The track is old, the facilities are old and not much is shiny, but the racing is absolutely great.

That might be more than just a coincidence according to race winner Johnny Clark.

“As far as I'm concerned, tracks like this and Groveton are perfect racetracks for our kind of cars to put on a good show,” said Clark.  “I think that we almost have too much racecar for those tracks, so as long as the drivers are cool-headed and will give and take a little bit, it is going to be a good race. 

Benjamin Ponders What Could Have Been

After his off-track incident that resulted from contact with Ben Rowe, Travis Benjamin's day went into a downward spiral.  He got towed off the track and back to the pits.  Then he went back out and had trouble in the same spot again.  He then made some repairs, but still had to park his #17 early, finishing 19th.

So Benjamin was just to wonder just what kind of day could have been for him and his team.  The answer to that probably would have depended on how the race unfolded.

“I think that if we had some long runs at the end, we would have definitely been the car to beat,” said Benjamin.  “If we had two or three cautions, we probably would have had a second or third place car.”

A Different Clark…and Different Kind of Finish

While one Clark won at Unity, the other Clark had about the polar opposite kind of day.  Cassius Clark had a strong mount in practice, but engine problems ended his day early and left him with a finish of 21st.

“I felt it going in the heat race there,” said Clark of his engine.  “I didn't know if it might be fuel, so we changed the filter.  But tow laps into the race, it started skipping so bad that I couldn't keep up.  The car was good, but I just couldn't go fast enough.”

Clark, a Maine native, has relocated to North Carolina this year and is also racing in PASS South.  He was considering a full schedule run in PASS North as well, but what happened at Unity might have changed his mind.

“We probably won't [run the full PASS North schedule] now,” said Clark.  “If we had kept finishing good, we might have, but we probably won't now.”

Clark will be at this week's PASS North stop at White Mountain Motorsports Park though.

“I've got a crate motor that I was going to put in for that race anyways.  I'm staying up here this week, so we'll go and race.”

Welcome to Unity…Now Go Home

The Unity Raceway is located just a short walk from the village of Unity, Maine.  People who visit or camp at the track can, and often do, walk across the street to the hardware store or down the block to one of two grocery stores.  They can stroll to the local family restaurant, Chinese food restaurant or house of pizza for a quick bite.

So you might think that the Town would appreciate the extra business from race teams and fans - especially after a well-attended event like the PASS North race there.  But something that happened during the race on Saturday proved that isn't the case at all.

The PASS race was well enough attended that both the main and overflow parking lots for the track were full.  So as has been the case for many past events there, fans parked along the street in front of the track.  There are no signs that suggest that might not be allowed.

This time though, those fans were all greeted with yellow parking tickets on their windshields after the race.  A look around showed that there were still not any “no parking” signs that had sprouted up since the last event, so violators must have broken some type of town ordinance that they didn't think to look into before visiting the town.  Apparantly, enforcing the parking lots at 6pm on a Saturday evening is something that the town fathers decided was a good idea.

This led to several unhappy fans standing around their vehicles well after the race was over.  This writer knows all about it, since he was one of those who were ticketed. Do I have an axe to grind over this?  Yup.  I'll admit that I do.

So if you are visiting Unity for the next PASS North race there, scheduled for Father's Day, consider yourself warned. 

Johnny Clark's winning #54 car.  (51 Photo)
Scott Chbbuck (Right) earned a spot on the Unity podium  (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Chris Staples' #5 Super Late Model.  (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Cassius Clark's #8 ended its race early.  (51 Photo)