The fans at Unity Raceway (ME) face a bit of a dilemma when the PASS North Super Late Models come to town. One of their own, Johnny Clark, is usually a threat to dominate the race - which is a welcome sight. But at the same time, the fans want to witness a good and competitive show as well.
This time around, the fans got to see both things happen though. Clark won. He even dominated early and late in the race. But fans also got to see some great competition in the middle stages of the event and had the added bonus of seeing two other familiar drivers to the central Maine speedplant, Scott Chubbuck and Randy Turner, finish on the podium.
At the start of the race, it was actually Travis Benjamin from the nearby coastal town of Belfast who took the lead. Benjamin pulled away early as Clark advanced from his starting position outside of the top five.
“The beginning of the race was awesome,” said Benjamin. “I could just go anywhere that I wanted to and had a good lead. I was just riding there.”
Before long though, Benjamin faded a bit and Clark took over the lead.
“On the next restart, my car just started bottoming out and that is why Chubbuck got by me and Johnny got by me,” said Benjamin. “Once we went 10 or 15 laps, the thing started coming to. So once that happened, I could drive on the bottom and I started catching up again.”
That was when Clark faded a bit and Benjamin appeared to have one of the best cars out there. Throw in Ben Rowe and Randy Turner, and there was soon a four-way battle for the race lead.
“We were really strong early and kind of burned it up, but as soon as things came around, we were fine,” said Clark. “I burned my stuff up coming from 11th just to get up to the lead. The cars are all so good now that it's hard. Once everyone burned their stuff up, I was able to pull away a little from the #17[Benjamin] and the #1 car [Turner].”
“Johnny, Turner and Travis…that was all good racing,” said Rowe of the battle for the lead.
“That was a blast,” said Clark.
A mid-race incident put a damper on the battle for the lead though. Rowe was underneath Benjamin entering turn four when they touched. Benjamin was sent sailing off the track and Rowe was sent to the rear of the field by race officials. What could have been a controversial incident though was one that Rowe accepted full blame for instead.
“I can tell you right now having watched it, that it was not intentional,” said Clark, who was directly behind the duo at the time. “Ben just lost it going into the corner.”
“It was driver error,” admitted Rowe. “I just got into turn three and it swapped ends on me. Yeah, I did it. I got into Travis and I wouldn't do that. Everyone knows that. I had no problem going to the rear, I didn't put up a stink. I mean it was obvious that I got into him.”
Afterwards, Benjamin was mad that the incident happened, but not really mad at Rowe for his role in it.
“The deal with Benji makes me mad because you don't always have those opportunities,” said Benjamin. “Especially at our hometown track with all of our family and friends here. But Benji was the first one to come over and talk to me. Him and I have raced door to door for years now and never touched once I don't think. So I know it was a mistake, but it's still hard to swallow.”
“It's too bad, because it was such a good race before that” said Clark. “It was such a good race - we were slicing and dicing. But I'll take them anyway I can get them.”
With Rowe having to claw the way back and Benjamin out of contention, Clark had an easier time to retake the lead. However, Turner and Chubbuck still attempted to put up a fight - even if it was just a small fight.
“I held him off for a lap or a lap and a half, but I was too tight and he was too good on the bottom,” said Chubbuck. ”There was nothing that I could do with him.”
So Clark sailed on to the victory at one of his two hometracks. Both Unity and Wiscasset Raceway are located about an equal distance (in separate directions) from Clark's home base of Farmingdale, Maine. He has grown up around both tracks and he has won often at both as a grown man.
Ironically, PASS got the chance to return to Unity after a two-year break because of the fact that two previously scheduled events at Wiscasset were axed from the '09 schedule.
“They said that we weren't going to Wiscasset this year and I said “we're supposed to go there two times, so now where am I going to win?'.,” said Clark. “Then they told me that we were going to Unity and I said, 'even better'.”
Which begs the question…which facility is really Clark's hometrack? Under normal circumstances, that might be a tough question for him to answer. But standing in victory lane at one of the places, an answer came much easier.
“Oh…well…we're racing Unity this year, so I'll say Unity,” said Clark. “But I love both places. I grew up in the grandstands here. This is probably the 25th time that I've raced here. I've got more laps than Derek Ramstrom or Ben Rowe, but I don't have as many as Chubbuck though. It is just such a great place. I watched my Dad race here when I was playing with my Matchbox cars. I just love it.”
The PASS North Super Late Models return to action this Saturday night at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH). Before that race takes place though, Speed51.com will present our Unity Leftovers later on in the week. Stay tuned.