UPSTART STAPLES IS IN THICK OF POINTS BATTLE
At this point in the season, it's not unusual to see three-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark on top of the PASS North Super Late Model standings. But the fact that one particular two-time PASS champion is nipping at his heels in second place is a bit of a shocker.
That is because both of Chris Staples' PASS titles have come in the Modified division. He's a newcomer to the PASS North ranks though and is doing just fine there. Staples has collected four top-ten finishes in the four races held so far this season and now is right behind Clark in the standings.
But Staples isn't thinking much about any of that. He's not even sure if he'll make a run for the title.
“I don't know. I'm not paying any attention to that right at the moment,” said Staples. “We're not even sure if we can make the whole season.”
But while that might not have been a part of Staples' first plan, he might be ready to reconsider, given his recent success.
“It's pretty hard to pull the plug on something that is going this good.”
At White Mountain, Staples was faced with a track where he didn't have much experience, but he did manage to emerge with a fifth-place finish anyhow.
“I ran here once with the [PASS] Outlaw [Late Model] and once with the Modified,” said Staples. “I think that we would have had a better finish [this time], but we got into a hole after the heat race. We burned up our tires getting to the front. But I really have to thank the crew again because they're awesome. They give me a perfect car every week.
RAMSTROM FINDS HIMSELF A RUNNER-UP FINISH
Besides race winner Ben Rowe, there were plenty of other drivers who appeared to have very quick racecars at White Mountain - Kelly Moore, Travis Benjamin, Cassius Clark and Tony Ricci, just to name a few. But all of those guys had trouble pop up during the race, and as they say, to finish first (or second), you must first finish.
Derek Ramstrom stayed out of trouble all race long, and while he might not have appeared to have as quick of a car, he did survive to finish in the second spot.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Ramstrom. “I started in the back and had some luck in the beginning. I worked my way up to the front and had fun…a lot of fun.”
Shadowing Ben Rowe, a master of White Mountain who has now won a total of eight PASS North races there, was a good experience for Ramstrom in the closing laps.
“I can watch his style and how he drives it in and drives off,” said Ramstrom. “I can just kind of learn his moves.”
Ramstrom now sits third in the PASS North standings.
“We've been trying to maintain top fives and top tens. Other than Unity, we've been going pretty good.”
Two days before the White Mountain race, Ramstrom also captured a podium finish in the Super Late Model feature at Thompson International Speedway (CT).
“That's good too. We didn't wreck the car and had two good finishes this week. We've got a good team and everyone's working hard, so that is working well this season.”
But as nice as podium finishes are, there is one thing that Ramstrom would much prefer.
“We just want to get some wins. That's what is next.”
BENJAMIN PICKS UP THE PACE
Over the last few races, there has been a real force to contend with in the PASS North ranks. While Travis Benjamin hasn't had the finishes to show for it, he has had one of the quickest cars at both the Unity and White Mountain races. In both events though, he's gotten caught up with Ben Rowe in on-track incidents and seen his chances of great finishes go away.
“The last two weeks, we've had some awesome racecars, and one of these days we're going to get three or four wins in a row,” said Benjamin. “That will leave people scratching their heads. Maybe they are doing that right now. I don't know.”
Benjamin just might break through big-time in the next PASS North race, which is scheduled for June 13th at Speedway 660 near Fredericton, New Brunswick. Benjamin has nearly won the track's biggest race of the year, the annual Peterbilt 250, in the past and he has logged many laps at the Canadian speedplant.
“The next race that we go to is Fredericton. That is a track where we have really run well at and like. So hopefully I can get a whole race going. We're getting better. At Bangor, we really stunk. At Beech Ridge, we went for 100 laps. At Unity, we went for 120 and tonight we ran 135-140. So we're getting there.”
There is also an added incentive for Benjamin at the Speedway 600 race - it takes place nearby the headquarters of the company which sponsors most of his PASS North events - Irving Oil.
“It's not an Irving race for us, but it is still up in their neck of the woods,” said Benjamin. “They are based in St. John's there. So I'm going to try and get some of them to come over and watch the race. It would really feel well to run well for them. That is always huge.”
DEARBORN ROUNDS OUT THE PODIUM FINISHERS
Richie Dearborn is a former winner at White Mountain, but he hasn't always seen his races at the New Hampshire quarter-mile end smoothly. He's been spun and wrecked in races there, but this time he emerged with a strong third-place finish.
“I like this place,” said Dearborn. “We never seem to have much luck here. We've won here, but we've run sporadic too. But tonight things came through for us and we ended up with a top-three finish.”
The podium run at White Mountain is Dearborn's best finish of the young season so far.
“We've lost a motor and stuff like that. It just hasn't been a good year so far, but hopefully it will come out. Now we've got a few weeks off and we go to Fredericton next.”
Interestingly, Dearborn's ride for the White Mountain race was not the latest and greatest racecar out there. Instead, it is a proven mount built 15 years ago by Canadian racing legend Junior Hanley.
“This old car likes this place.,” said Dearborn. “The car was built in 1994. It's the old car and it's a good car. We just missed the balance a little bit tonight, but it wasn't too far off. We've been running the same set-up here for five years now and it works every time. We just show up with that and tweak from there.”
BATES BATTLES TO FIFTH PLACE FINISH
Adam Bates finished fifth at White Mountain - which is located in his home state of New Hampshire. After the race, the up-and-comer was all smiles.
“This feels real great. We had a great car. It was a top-three car that tightened up a little right at the end. They got me. I couldn't hold them off well enough.
“The car was good. We were quick all day in practice and had a little mishap in the heat race where we missed it a little bit, so we started in the back. But we came from 16th to fifth. We were up to third at one point.”