PHOTO: Johnny Clark and his team celebrate a hard-fought PASS National Championship win at Thompson on Thursday. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)
THOMPSON, Conn. — Johnny Clark may not have had the fastest car at Thompson Int’l Speedway on Thursday, but he had the winning car. The Hallowell, Me., driver survived a series of incidents that took out multiple race leaders — including one that sent his own car into the wall — to win the third round of the Pro All Stars Series National Championship.
The carnage began in the first corner of the 100-lap race, as polesitter Scott Chubbuck was turned by third-place starter Preston Peltier entering Turn 1 after the initial green flag. Chubbuck spun in the middle of the track, collecting nearly half of the 19-car field. Among the eight cars were involved in the crash including PASS National Championship leader Jay Fogleman of Durham, N.C., and St. Johnsbury, Vt., native Steve Legendre.
Mike Rowe assumed the lead shortly after a complete restart, only to be taken out by a dive-bombing Derek Ramstrom on lap 24. Ramstrom darted underneath Rowe entering Turn 3 and made contact, sending both drivers and Lonnie Sommerville into the wall. Ben Rowe took the lead until the halfway point, but spun on lap after Cassius Clark and several others passed him as his tire deflated.
Johnny Clark’s No. 54 Clark’s Car Crushing/Port City Chevrolet snatched the lead from Farmington, Me., veteran Cassius Clark following a restart for Rowe’s spin and was then dogged for the point by Peltier. Peltier moved underneath Johnny Clark to lead lap 83, but then came up the track just after the start-finish line, made contact that put both cars into the frontstretch wall, and retired from the race with heavy right-side damage two laps later.
Johnny Clark outlasted Cassius Clark on one final restart with 13 laps remaining to take the victory. Travis Benjamin or Morrill, Me., stayed quietly inside the top five throughout the event and finished in third, followed by Alexandre Gingras of Quebec City and Billy Penfold of Oxford, Maine.
“The 26 [Peltier] was better than me, there’s no doubt about it,” Johnny Clark said in victory lane. “I fooled it for a little while and tried to stay in front of him. Earlier in the race I let him by. The second time I proved to myself I could race him. I was going to fool it for as long as I could and make him earn it, make him burn it up and try to get under me, because it’s hard to get under someone here, but I drove right back by him. He tried it a third time and he had me all but about three feet cleared and he just drove up in front of me and he hit the wall and I hit the wall. It hit just right for me so it didn’t screw anything up, but I think the way he hit, it hit hard.”
“It was stupid, but it was something you expect out of the 26 car,” said Cassius Clark, who was right behind the scrape. “Preston races like an idiot. If Johnny wouldn’t have got him, I would’ve anyways. He about put me in the wall in the heat and made us start in the back, then we got in the whole mess there [on the first lap].”
Harrisburg, N.C., Peltier, the defending PASS National Champion, wouldn’t accept any blame for the incident.
“We were definitely faster. I started working [Johnny Clark] real hard and got up underneath him and at one point I just about had him cleared in [turns] three and four, and my spotter said, ‘Clear,’ and apparently we weren’t clear by about three feet,” Peltier said.
Peltier said the crash will likely take his team out of action for a few races, and it may cost one team member his job.
“I don’t have to wear it, I’m not the spotter. I’m the driver,” Peltier said. “I can’t see, so all I can do is what they tell me to do. They say, ‘clear’, I move up the track, he’s there, boom, we’re in the wall. It’s about time to get a new spotter.”
Scott Alexander finished sixth, unofficially the last car on the lead lap. Matt Matheson finished seventh, with Ben Rowe eighth. Rowe was penalized one lap for an unapproved tire change at lap 87. John Dabrowski and Kyle DeSouza completed the unofficial top ten.
Peltier was scored in 12th place, Legendre 13th, and Fogleman 19th. Milton, Vt.’s Scott Dragon filed an entry for the event but did not compete.
In regular NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at Thompson, Meriden, Conn., driver Rocco posted his 17th Sunoco SK Modified victory in 31 total starts to pad his lead in the NWAAS national standings. Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn., was second with Danny Cates, Rick Fuller, and Woody Pitkat completing the unofficial top five.
Preece won a special 40-lap feature race for Tour-type Modifieds. Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., finished second over Todd Szegedy, Rocco, and Richard Savary. John Falconi won the Late Model feature.
The PASS event awarded points toward both the PASS National Championship and the PASS North title. The PASS North cars are back in action on Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway for the Brackett Mechanical/RB Performance 150. NASCAR star Kyle Busch has entered the race.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — PASS National Championship 100
Pro All Stars Series — Thompson Int’l Speedway, Thompson, Conn.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
1. (12) Johnny Clark, Hallowell, Me. — 100
2. (6) Cassius Clark, Farmington, Me. — 100
3. (5) Travis Benjamin, Morrill, Me. — 100
4. (7) Alexandre Gingras, Quebec, Que. — 100
5. (9) Billy Penfold, Oxford, Me. — 100
6. (16) Scott Alexander, Orrington, Me. — 100
7. (17) Matt Matheson, Oromocto, N.B. — 99
8. (14) Ben Rowe, Turner, Me. — 98
9. (15) John Dabrowski, West Bridgewater, Mass. — 98
10. (19) Kyle DeSouza, East Providence, R.I. — 96
11. (4) Alan Tardiff, Lyman, Me. — 86
12. (3) Preston Peltier, Harrisburg, N.C. — 85
13. (10) Steven Legendre, St. Johnsbury, Vt. — 60
14. (1) Scott Chubbuck, Dresden, Me. — 51
15. (18) Billy Brady, Marston’s Mills, Mass. — 39
16. (13) Lonnie Sommerville, St. Johns, N.B. — 26
17. (2) Mike Rowe, Turner, Me. — 24
18. (11) Derek Ramstrom, Worcester, Mass. — 24
19. (8) Jay Fogleman, Durham, N.C. — 8