PHOTO: Derrick O’Donnell celebrates his Johnny Clark Memorial 101 Victory (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

— by T.J. Ingerson

GROVETON, N.H. — An attribute of a champion is to seize an opportunity when given to you. For Derrick O’Donnell, he is beginning to look like a champion. O’Donnell, current point leader of the Bond Auto/WIX Tiger Tour, seized the opportunity after others faltered and won the Johnny Clark Memorial 101 at the Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., extending his current point lead.

O’Donnell’s victory, however, almost never happened. After Bobby Therrien, who appeared to have the best car, relinquished the lead due to a flat right front tire on lap 49 caution period, O’Donnell would restart on the outside of early race leader of Joe Steffen on another restart on lap 63. As the field was coming to green, Steffen and O’Donnell would make contact. O’Donnell would spin to the infield, and Steffen would end up at the top of turn four with a flat right front tire. Steffen would pit, but O’Donnell was given back his position as he was able to keep momentum.

“I don’t know if [Steffen] blew a tire before he hit me, or what happened. Once he blew his right front and he knew it, he was taking me with him,” explained O’Donnell. “I knew I just had to keep it rolling to keep my spot. I just hammered on it, prayed I would keep my spot, and prayed that we didn’t hurt the left front tire.”

O’Donnell would face a brief challenge from defending Thunder Road Tiger Sportsman Champion Tony Rossi, before pulling away for victory.

“I just had to keep telling myself not to worry about [Rossi] and just run my own race,” O’Donnell said, who took his second Bond Auto/WIX Tiger Tour victory of the season. “I looked up every now and then and he kept getting smaller and smaller. The car was alright. I was pretty busy in there.”

Rossi, of Peacham, Vt., settled for second. Veteran racer Brendan Moodie took third by a bumper over Shawn Fleury. Moodie, of North Wolcott, and Fleury, of Middlesex, battled for over the final 40 laps side-by-side. Fleury was subbing in the No. 04 for Eric Badore, who was unable to attend. Therrien, of Hinesburg, rallied to finish fifth after pitting again.

Second place point man entering the event Joey Roberts finished sixth after starting 16th. Defending Tiger Tour Champion Jason Bonnett, Tucker Williams, and rookie Dylan Payea were seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively. Steffen rallied from his flat tire to finish tenth.

O’Donnell extended his point lead as the series heads to its final event at the Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. on Saturday, October 8th. He also holds the Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl Tiger Sportsman Championship with one event remaining.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Johnny Clark Memorial 101
Bond Auto/WIX Tiger Tour — Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H.
Saturday, September 17, 2011

(# – denotes rookie)

1. (8) Derrick O’Donnell, Bradford, Vt.
2. (7) Tony Rossi, Peacham, Vt.
3. (3) Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott, Vt.
4. (5) Shawn Fleury, Middlesex, Vt.
5. (4) Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg, Vt.
6. (16) Joey Roberts, Georgia, Vt.
7. (11) Jason Bonnett, St. Albans, Vt.
8. (18) Tucker Williams, Hyde Park, Vt.
9. (12) # Dylan Payea, Henniker, N.H.
10. (1) Joe Steffen, Essex Junction, Vt.
11. (6) Mike Ziter, Williamstown, Vt.
12. (15) Josh Demers, Middlesex, Vt.
13. (14) Chris Pelkey, South Barre, Vt.
14. (2) Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common, Vt.
15. (10) Mike Billado, Essex, Vt.
16. (21) Scott Coburn, Barre, Vt.
17. (17) Jeff Wimble, Waterbury, Vt.
18. (20) David Finck, Barre, Vt.
19. (19) Mark Barnier, Essex Junction, Vt.
20. (9) Brian Gosselin, Bethlehem, N.H.
21. (13) Troy Gray, Fairlee, Vt.
DNS — Randy Gonyaw, South Barre, Vt.