51 Leftovers: PASS North at White Mountain
It's No Contest in the PASS North Season Finale As
Dearborn Wins The Race and Clark Takes The Title
By Mike Twist
Richie Dearborn enjoys his victory at White Mountain.  (Jamie Williams Photos)

Dearborn Simply Dominates

Richie Dearborn had one of those races that every driver always dreams about at White Mountain Motorsports Park.  He started up front.  He finished up front.  He led every single lap.  He was never even challenged for that top spot and enjoyed a half lap lead at one point in the race.

That dominating performance turned around a tough season for Dearborn that had not resulted in a victory all year long.  To score big at White Mountain Dearborn's team taught their old dog some new tricks.

“The car was unreal tonight,” said Dearborn.  “This car out front was built in 1994 by Junior Hanley and it still goes good.  We found something last week that we've been doing wrong with it all year long, so we were excited to come here.  We had a good starting spot in the heat and just kind of rode in the heat for a bit to see what we had for the feature.  We made a few adjustments for the feature and we came out and it was on a rail.”

Dearborn was slightly concerned that his ride could come off its rail late in the race when the caution flag flew.

“It was pretty frustrating.  I had a pretty big lead, but I knew Benji was back there.  I didn't know how much he was riding.  They kept letting me know on the radio how much I had and I tried to save as much as I could in case Benji got to me.”

The White Mountain race sets up a great start to the off-season for Dearborn, who is mulling over his options for 2010.  A victory gives his team a boost going into the winter as Dearborn figures out how rising budgets and raising a three-year-old daughter are going to impact his racing program.

“It's been a long year for us and we've had some bad luck and stuff.  It's kind of good going into the winter.  We're not sure how much we're going to run next year, so this may help us decide a little bit.  I don't know, maybe we'll run a limited schedule next year.  I have to spend some time with the little one.  She's growing up way too quick, so we'll see what goes on this winter.”

Dearborn isn't planning on racing any PASS South events this fall.

“This is probably it for the year,” said Dearborn.  “We've got one car at the shop pretty torn up from the 300 last weekend and the motors are getting a little tired, so it's time to go through them.”

Once Again, Clark is The Champ

It first happened in 2004.  And then in 2006.  It happened again in 2008.  Now it has happened this season - Johnny Clark is the PASS North champion.

Clark only needed to finish higher than 16th to clinch the title at White Mountain, no matter what championship rival Ben Rowe did.  But Clark isn't used to riding around and while Rowe took down second-place honors at White Mountain, Clark clawed his way to a fifth-place result on the track's quarter mile high banks.

“It's pretty awesome,” said Clark.  “It's an odd year, so we're not supposed to win it, but to go back-to-back consecutive championships is pretty awesome. 

“This was definitely ours to lose going into this year.  Last year, we were behind going into the race and we ended up coming out 10 points ahead.  Nothing's going to replace the very first one that you got, but to tie Ben with four championships apiece - and Sam Sessions being the only one that's won a championship on the tour - that's pretty cool because Ben doesn't lead every stat there is now.”

2010 could be the tie-breaking year between Clark and Rowe. While several upstarts like Adam Bates, DJ Shaw and Derek Ramstrom will no doubt be looking at challenging for the title, you've got to figure that the early favorites for next year's championship will be Clark and Rowe - again.

Don't expect that Clark is going to swagger into next season puffing out his chest as the two-time defending champion though.  He's actually a little fired up about “only” finishing fifth at White Mountain.

“We'll definitely be back and I'm sure he will. This definitely helps give you some confidence and a little boost, but you're only as good as your last race and we finished fifth tonight. 

“I thought we had something tonight.  I thought we were better than normal, but it just seemed like the 33 [of Richie Dearborn] car was unbelievable.  Of course, Ben came on.  He wasn't very good in practice or qualifying, but he came on during the race.”

Now that the PASS North season has concluded, Clark is looking southward towards some more races this fall.

“We're going to try to get everything ready to go to Kenly [for the PASS South / PASS National Super Late Model race on Saturday as Southern National Raceway Park] next weekend and definitely back to South Boston for the Mason-Dixon.  We're going to run as many as we can, pending the pocketbook.

“We really want to go [to the Snowball Derby], it's just really hard for us being stuck up in the Northeast and the cost - travel an expenses to get the guys there, the hotels and everything.  I'm definitely going to try to be able to figure out a way to get down there because since we've been going down there, we've loved it.  It's a fun race and I'd love to get down there.

“When it comes to that Friday night qualifying, you see a lot of good cars not make it in the field.  We've been fortunate enough to qualify exceptionally well in the top five a couple times, but 20th last year, which was kind of off for us.  We're really looking forward to it and hopefully we can put it together.”

Rowe Doesn't Have Anything to Catch Dearborn

There have been races at White Mountain where Ben Rowe has been unstoppable - giving his competition fits in the process.  In Friday's race though, Rowe got to see what it was like to try and chase someone who just couldn't be beat.  Rowe finished second to Richie Dearborn, but didn't have anything in reserve to try and beat him.

“It's rough, especially here,” said Rowe.  “It's just so hard to pass and everyone's so equal.  A couple cautions helped us out and had a long green run.  We were better on a long run, but we just had to free it up so much to get it to turn on entry that it was too free off.  The 33 car just hit it right on tonight and that's all we could do.”

Rowe came into the White Mountain race already conceding the championship to Johnny Clark, so it didn't bother him when Clark finished in the top five and clinched this year's title.  In fact, Rowe is already geared up towards turning his point leads in the PASS South and PASS National Super Late Model Series into 2009 championships.

“I'm not disappointed,” said Rowe.  “If you lose to Johnny Clark, you're not disappointed.  They deserved to win the championship and we deserved to be second.  He was better at more races than we were than we were better than him.  I'm not disappointed and I'm happy for those guys.

“Now we just have to concentrate on the National and on the South.  It would've been a task to win all three of these, but if we can win two of the three and finish second up here, that's still a pretty good year.

Three is the Charm for Kelly Moore at White Mountain

Kelly Moore has raced with the #47 on the side of his racecars for as long as we can remember but at White Mountain his magic number seemed to be “three”.  Moore finished third in the race and used that podium result to move up into third in the PASS North point standings.

Considering that Moore's last race at White Mountain ended with a spectacular flip into the pit area, third place wasn't a bad night at all.

“We wanted to come back and win just like everybody that pulled into the pit area did, but it's good to come up here and run good after the finish we had last time,” said Moore.  “It was kind of unfortunate.  I'll be darned, about 30 laps to go in the race tonight and an ignition box failed in this car.  That's why I fell back there, but I flipped it over real quick and didn't get run over luckily.  The 17 [of Travis Benjamin] got right to my rear bumper, but I picked it back up and ran with it.  I had just reeled Benji in because I got the tires real hot trying to get around him one time there. 

:I let the tires cool off for a ways and I had just reeled him back in, within a carlength of his bumper, and he knew that I was coming.  Benji even said he was going to give me the bottom, and the next thing I knew they told me it was shutting off.  I said, 'Oh shit.'  But, it's one of those things.  I'm trying to figure out what's going on.  That's two ignition boxes.  We've been here twice this year and I've lost two ignition boxes and this is the only place I've lost one.  It must be some type of omen, I just don't know what it is.”

Slowing suddenly at a track where he has been hit out of the park before wasn't very fun, but everything worked out for Moore and he barely lost any ground when the ignition problem surfaced.

“It was hairy.  The last time that happened here, I got run over from behind.  That's how I got way back in the pack and then I got spun out by the 20 [of Steven Legendre] and got into the fence.  It was nerve-wracking there for a minute.  I didn't know if it was fuel or an ignition box or what it was, but luckily I flipped ignition boxes and it came right back on.”

Benjamin Finishes Fourth, But Is Still a Bit Bummed

Travis Benjamin finished fourth at White Mountain and was thankful for that, but the racer was a little disappointed that he didn't have anything more for a podium finish or better.

“Not a bad race, but I don't know.  It's still discouraging that we can't run with the front guys,” said Benjamin.  “We got lucky by starting up front.  If we didn't start up front, we weren't going to get up front.  We've got to get better because we just aren't on it right now.  I can't pinpoint what it is, but we've got some things to figure out over the winter.”
“It's a good way to end the season and go into the winter.  It's good for next year to get us excited for next season.”

Benjamin is not one of the PASS North competitors who plans to run any Southern races this fall.

“No, we're done.  The budget just isn't here right now.  We'll try to get things together for next year.”

And as far as next season goes, Benjamin isn't quite sure what the plan for his #17 team is going to be yet.

“That's up in the air.  We'll decide over the winter.  Things are starting to get hectic and it's hard to chase this every week.  It takes a lot of time and a lot of money.  That money just really isn't there right now.  So we'll see how things go.  I'm sure we'll be at the first few races and take it from there.”

Working through lapped traffic was about the only time when Richie Dearborn had to race with other cars all race.  (Jamie Williams Photo)
Champions Johnny Clark and his #54 team.  (Jamie Williams Photo)
Kelly Moore's #47.  (Norm Marx Photo)
Ben Rowe (#4N) races with the lapped #4X of Bradley Babb.  (Norm Marx Photo)
Travis Benjamin   (51 Photo)