After two consecutive top-three finishes, Farmington’s Cassius Clark finally broke through and captured the Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North division points championship a year ago.
He edged Berwick’s Joey Doiron by four points and D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, N.H., by five.
The 32-year-old Clark will begin defense of his championship on Saturday when the tour kicks off with the Ripley and Fletcher (Ford) 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway beginning at 2 p.m.
There will also be PASS Modified and Sportsman features. Newburgh’s Scott Alexander won the Mods title a year ago and North Bridgton’s Carey Martin was the Sportsman points winner.
Clark won the opening race last season at OPS, one of his two wins and nine top-five finishes in 12 races.
There will be 15 races this year.
“Oxford is a track I have had success at in the past,” said Clark. “I’m happy with how the car went there last year and Brian [crew chief Brian Burgess] and the crew will shake it down and get the bugs worked out of it before the race.”
He said there are plenty of strong contenders for his title and doesn’t mind the fact he will have a target on his back as the defending champ.
“That’s alright with me. If you have a target on your back, it’s because you did something right the year before,” said Clark.
Hallowell’s Johnny Clark, the series’ all-time leader in points championships with six in 13 years, said he is looking to bounce back after a couple of off years in which he finished sixth (last year) and fourth (2012).
“We had a new car last year and tried some funky stuff that never did pan out,” said Johnny Clark, who is not related to Cassius. “We learned what not to do. Our curiosity got the best of us.”
He said he and his team are ready to go this year but pointed out that the competition has gotten “better and better.”
“I won the points by over 100 points two years ago . The fact that the top three guys were separated by five points last year says a lot. The tour must be doing something right,” said Johnny Clark.
Morrill’s Travis Benjamin garnered his first points championship in 2012 but was fourth a year ago.
However, he won one of the three Oxford races, the TD Bank 250, and finished third and fourth in the other two.
“I used to hate Oxford and Beech Ridge but now they’re two of my favorites,” said Benjamin, referring to the Scarborough track that will host the SouthernMaineChryslerDodgeJeep.com 150 the following weekend.
Benjamin had two top-fives in three races there last year. He is optimistic about the season.
“We’ve refreshed the car and I think it is our best yet. It has the best of everything,” said Benjamin. “It’s 100 percent. We’ve tuned everything up.”
Shaw comes into the race with a lot of momentum.
He won the season finale at Oxford last September and triumphed at the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Speedway (N.C.) last weekend.
Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe and Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault, who recently signed a three-race Nationwide Series deal with JR Motorsports, also will be among the race favorites.