October 17, 2011

AUTO RACING: Clark caps dominant season with title

By Bill Stewart bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

He won at familiar tracks. He won in new places. He took checkered flags up and down New England, winning in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. He even won in Canada. Twice.

And in the end, after the season came to a close Saturday, Johnny Clark had enjoyed one of the most dominant runs in Pro All Stars Series history.

Clark, of Farmingdale, won his fourth consecutive PASS North points championship and sixth overall after the series wrapped up Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway.

"It was an unbelievable season," Clark said. "We had such an unbelievable year."

The results were staggering.

Clark won seven of 14 PASS North races, falling one victory short of the single-season record. Ben Rowe won eight of the 16 races in 2003.

Clark also finished in the top five in all but one race.

"Crazy," said Clark, when asked about the season. "It's one thing to be good and to have the speed. But not only did we have that, you have to have luck. I'm a true believer you have to make your own luck and it starts in the shop. We had a phenomenal year. It might be the best season anyone has had in PASS North. To win this many races in this day and age, I don't know. Ben had a great year (in 2003) but he had more races."

Clark, who's won 30 PASS North races in the last eight seasons, trailed Rowe by 15 points when they rolled into Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough for a July 9 race.

Rowe, of Turner, finished second that night, but was bumped to fifth and docked 25 points for a deck lid infraction during post-race inspection.

Clark left Scarborough with a 15-point lead and never looked back, winning the next three points races to put a stranglehold on the competition.

"That was the turning point," Clark said. "Ben Rowe got caught with too high of a rear spoiler and got penalized. We left that race with a lead after we came in with a deficit. After that, we found an opportunity to put a hurting on, and we did."

Clark won for the first time at three tracks, including the Autodrome Chaudiere in Quebec, Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in Conn. and Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway.

He also won his third PASS 300 at Beech Ridge, earning more than $10,000.

"If we had to highlight races at the beginning of the season, those were on there," Clark said.

The big-money races, Clark added, help the team stay afloat financially year in and year out.

Clark, who races two cars, says it can cost about $100,000 to run a full PASS North season.

"That includes everything, from the car to garaging the car on the road, hotels, everything," he said. "We're not a high-budgeted team. We really like it when the car can pay for itself. Engines are very, very expensive. It's not cheap to do this."

It's also why Clark plans to defend his title next season.

"I'll be back," he said. "The series fits our budget. The time away from home plays a factor. I don't want to be traveling all over the place. We'll be back and shooting for five in a row."

Bill Stewart -- 621-5640

bstewart@centralmaine.com

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