Fans at Seekonk Speedway (MA) got their first chance ever to see the PASS North Super Late Models in action at the quarter-mile track on Saturday night.
But when they went to go home after a night of racing, they ended up seeing the same thing that they saw after two of the track's regular weekly Pro Stock (Super Late Model) shows this year - Tom Scully, Jr. in victory lane.
Local boy Scully scored a major upset victory over the touring stars of PASS North, using his knowledge of Seekonk to settle into the role of leader over the final portion of the race.
“I'm really surprised,” said Scully. “I follow these PASS guys on Speed51.com and on the PASS website and I knew that they were going to be tough to beat. I did have a home track advantage and when my car got through in one piece and there was 50 laps to go, I thought we could do it. We set the car up for the final 50 laps and it was perfect.”
Actually, Scully's car ended up being perfect throughout much of the race.
“It was pretty neutral all night. I was afraid it would give away a little bit because it was so good at the beginning of the race.”
PASS North regular Kelly Moore, who had raced at Seekonk before in what is now known as the NASCAR Camping World East Series, was the early leader, but a tangle for the top spot with Joey Pole ended his shot at staying out front for long. After Moore's demise, the Seekonk regulars took over the show. Dave Hutchins led before Ben Rowe took over the top spot for a few laps. Then it was Ray Parent who went out front and stayed there until he fuel cell ran dry (several of the Seekonk regulars had fuel cell capacities that were only in the 14-gallon range). Parent's pit stop put Scully out front.
“I knew it was going to be really tough," said Scully. "I thought if we could get any of the Seekonk cars into the top five, it would be a good effort for us. But I guess I was in the right spot all night long. We had a long green flag run and that helped.”
But it wasn't smooth sailing for Scully. After the final restart inside of 20 laps to go, he had to deal with charges from the two men who have won all but one PASS North championship in the tour's history - Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark. Scully managed to keep both at bay though, with Rowe finishing second and Clark finishing third.
“That is why I think that this is my best win ever,” said Scully on keeping Rowe and Clark behind him.
“They said 17 to go and I didn't think that we had a prayer,” said Rowe. “I tried to over drive it and find a line. It was a weird line, I went high in and clipped the curb in the corner. But with less than 20 to go, you've got to try anything. The closer that I got to him, I could see he was looking in his mirror. I was getting closer and if I could have gotten to him, I think that I could have done something, but I ran out of laps there.”
“I did get really tight at the end and that is how Ben got by me,” said Clark. “We didn't have the best car, or even a winning car. So I feel lucky to come home third. When we unloaded here, we weren't very good at all.”
Scully knows that he'd best enjoy the victory because next year, the PASS North regulars will have one race worth of experience at Seekonk under their belts and might be harder to beat.
“I know next year, they are going to be well prepared, so I took advantage of it this time,” said Scully.
Then again, by that time Scully might be one of those PASS regulars.
“That might be our plan next year. We got a little bit of exposure from this and those guys are so good to race with. There is give and take because the races are so many laps. We're used to 40 lappers when you have to get to the front. These longer races are fun.”
Ramstrom's Crazy Day
“It was a really long day, but a great day for the Ramstrom team,” said Derek Ramstrom after the race at Seekonk.
That might have been the understatement of the weekend.
Ramstrom finished fourth at Seekonk and won his heat race. But he didn't even get to the track until minutes before the qualifying events began.
Earlier in the afternoon, Ramstrom finished 12th in the NASCAR Camping World East Series race at Lime Rock Park (CT). It was his first ever road course race and the Massachusetts teenager showed plenty of talent in it. He qualified 15th, but showed maturity by giving up his starting spot to start in the rear.
“We left home Friday morning at 4am. We spent all day at Lime Rock practicing and time trialing. I time-trailed pretty well, but elected to go the rear because I didn't want to mess anyone up who is in the points race. I was a rookie on the road course, but all in all it was a good weekend. Things went really well on the road course and I picked up a second a lap here and there by adjusting my driving style. It was really good.”
Then came a three plus hour drive between the tracks, where Ramstrom's Super Late Model - minus its enclosed hauler, pit box or many spare parts, sat waiting for him.
“It was really a mad dash,” said Ramstrom. “Right after I got out of the Lime Rock car, I changed and got right into the car to head to Seekonk. It was a busy day, but it worked out good. My Dad brought the car over here on an open trailer and I showed up just in time for the heat race.”
Ramstrom did get some help from high places to make a good finish at Seekonk possible. Seekonk Late Model standout Gerry DeGasparre Jr., who has won three times at the track this season, practiced Ramstrom's car earlier in the afternoon.
“Gerry is a real good Late Model driver who has won a bunch of championships here. He's a real good friend of ours and he practiced it for us and told us how it was going. It really wasn't very far off from when it was unloaded.”
Weekly Warriors Battle Champs
For a long time, PASS North was thought of as a Rowe vs. Clark series. After all, Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark have won all but one championship in series history. When you throw in the fact that Ben's father Mike Rowe and Cassius Clark, who shares a name but no relation to Johnny, are both among the tour's winningest drivers ever, you can see where this tag came from.
In the past few seasons, regulars like Adam Bates, Derek Ramstrom and DJ Shaw have elevated themselves to become contenders as well. But in the past few races, a pair of weekly competitors have upset the PASS touring stars by winning. This had not happened since 2003 when Gary Drew won at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). At least not until Randy Turner won at Unity Raceway (ME) a few weeks ago and Tom Scully, Jr. won at Seekonk on Saturday night.
Rowe and Clark welcome this new trend….sort of.
“As far as me and Johnny, it isn't good, but as far as Tom Mayberry - the businessman, the series and the fans - it is excellent,” said Rowe. “They were saying there were a lot of fans tonight and they haven't had that for awhile. If their locals can run like this every time, we'll pick up some more of them and pick up more fans. I'm really looking forward to another race here.”
“That is absolutely good for the series,” said Clark. “Hopefully we'll be back here because we had a good crowd and a good field of cars. I thought it was a win for everyone. I thought it was a good show from where I sat. It had to be exciting.”
Clark Goes For It in the Heat Race
Johnny Clark started deep in the field in his heat race, but despite the instructions of his crew chief Robert Greene, he didn't exactly take it easy. For awhile in the 150-lap feature though, he had no choice but to ride around.
“We had an awesome car, but I couldn't go three wide in the feature like I could in the heat race,” said Clark. “[In the feature] There was nowhere to go. We were side-by-side. This is a little bullring, that's for sure. We were all sideways with absolutely no where to go.
“I was getting bored in the heat race on the green white checkered when Robert came over the radio to say 'Don't do anything stupid, I know that you have a faster car, but we still have to go to the feature,' but by the time that he said that I was already three-wide in turn one.”
More From Runner-Up Rowe
Ben Rowe ended up finishing second, which was very good considering that at one point in the race he thought he would be struggling through the feature.
“I was tight early and didn't think that I had anything for anyone. I didn't think that I had anything for Johnny when he went by, but it was fun racing with Johnny. We ran side-by-side and the #17 car of Ray Parent, he was super to race with. All of their local guys were good to race with. All in all, it was a real good race.”
Napa Leads Lap One…and Lap 150
Ironically, the NAPA of Maine-sponsored #47 of Kelly Moore led early at Seekonk while it was another blue NAPA car that led the final laps. Race winner Tom Scully, Jr. enjoys sponsorship from a NAPA vendor in the area near Seekonk.
“Everyone is wonderful. Joe Wheelock is the best sponsor that I've ever had. He owns eight NAPA stores around here,” said Scully.