Clark opens defense of PASS North title Saturday

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted April 27, 2011, at 10:16 p.m.

Hallowell’s Johnny Clark has won the last three Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North points championships.

Turner’s Ben Rowe finished second each year after winning the 2007 points title.

The two will renew their PASS North rivalry Saturday at 3 p.m. when the season gets under way at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough.

Clark said the decision to change to the Hoosier Racing tire this season rather than sticking with the American Racer could create parity in the series.

“Whoever can figure out the new tire the quickest will have an advantage,” said Clark. “The Hoosier doesn’t have the same feeling. The tires won’t last as long.

“It’s going to be about tire management all year long,” added Clark. “I’m a little nervous. It’s going to take a different recipe to win races.”

Morrill’s Travis Benjamin concurred.

“The tires are the only thing hitting the pavement so you’ve got to figure them out. That’s a big thing,” said Benjamin, who finished 10th in points but missed one of the races.

Clark has traditionally struggled in the early Beech Ridge race and he’s hoping to buck that trend this weekend in his new Chevy Impala that he debuted at North Wilkesboro (N.C. ) earlier this month.

“Our old car never had speed in the early race at Beech Ridge. I don’t know if I’ve ever finished higher than 10th on opening day there,” said Clark. “So I don’t feel I’m taking a gamble with a new car.”

Clark said they are going to keep digging to find the right setup.

“We’re going to throw stuff at the car until it responds,” he said. “To have a really good showing would make a huge statement that the Hooser tire isn’t going to affect us.”

Benjamin and Clark said a key to winning at Beech Ridge is staying within striking distance over the first 120-130 laps.

“You want to set yourself up for the last 20-25 laps and then go for it,” said Benjamin. “Starting up front will be huge. I don’t think you can start 20th and work your way up front on these new tires without abusing them.”

Both Clark and Benjamin are looking forward to the season.

“I’d like to win a fourth straight title,” said Clark.

Benjamin has a new crew chief in Brian Burgess and he likes what Burgess will bring to the team.

He is replacing Corey Reynolds, who want to spend more time with his family according to Benjamin.

“Brian is very smart and very fussy. Nothing is ever perfect for him and that’s (good) for us,” said Benjamin, who finished third in points in 2008. “Once we get to know each other, it’s going to be good.”

Clark said there is no shortage of contenders for his title including Rowe and Rowe’s father, Mike, who had been racing regularly at Beech Ridge after running the PASS North series.

“I think Mike’s going to be running the series full-time again,” said Clark.

Tracy Gordon, a former K and N Pro Series East (Busch North) driver from Strong, is returning to racing and among the other threats are Richie Dearborn, Derek Ramstrom and 2010 Rookie of the Year Joey Doiron of Berwick.

There will also be PASS Mods and PASS Sportsman races.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/04/27/sports/clark-opens-defense-of-pass-north-title-saturday/ printed on December 17, 2014