Clark eyes PASS North title repeat

Posted April 16, 2009, at 9:36 p.m.

Johnny Clark of Hallowell won his third Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North points championship a year ago. Morrill’s Travis Benjamin had a breakthrough year in which he collected his first PASS North victory and finished third in points.

Benjamin’s previous best finish was sixth in 2007 and 2006.

Clark, Benjamin and the rest of the PASS North SLM drivers will open the 2009 season at Hermon’s Speedway 95 on Sunday.

The heat races will begin at 2 p.m. and, in addition to the Super Late Models, there will also be racing in the Modified and Sportsman classes.

The heat races in the Sportsman and Modified classes will be 10-lappers while the Super Late Models will have 12-lap heat races.

The SLM feature will be a 150-lapper; the Sportsman feature will be a 75-lapper and the Mods will run a 40-lap event on Speedway 95’s one-third mile track.

If recent history prevails, Turner’s Ben Rowe will claim his fifth SLM points title this season.

Over the past six seasons, Rowe has been the champion in the odd-number years while Clark has captured the title in the even-number years.

Rowe also won in 2002 while Sam Sessions won the points in the first season.

And Rowe has already gotten off to a great start by winning both PASS South SLM races to date.

“They [Rowe and his team] figured some stuff out over the winter. He seems to be on his game right now. He’s going to be tough,” said Clark.

Clark won a PASS race at Speedway 95 when Farmington’s Cassius Clark, who crossed the finish line first, failed to pass technical inspection after the race and was disqualified.

“It’s not the same. I want to be the first one across the finish line,” said Clark, who will be driving a Chevy Impala this season after previously driving a Chevy Monte Carlo.

Benjamin said he is “really excited” to get started after he challenged for the championship a year ago. He finished just 16 points behind Clark and six behind second-place Ben Rowe.

“We had an awesome year last year,” said Benjamin who received a huge boost from the hiring of two full-time employees: tire specialist Buster Bean and car chief Kevin McDaniel.

They are back as is crew chief Corey Reynolds.

“It’s amazing how much of a difference it made. I’m so much more relaxed now,” said Benjamin.

By winning two races a year ago, including his first PASS series win, he will enter the season with additional confidence.

“I’m confident I can win races now. Entering last season, I wasn’t that confident in my ability to win. I would always run up front but I wasn’t sure I could win,” said the 30-year-old Benjamin.

Like Benjamin, Clark feels he can challenge for the championship.

“I feel I have as good a shot as anybody even though I haven’t had much luck going for back-to-back championships,” said the 29-year-old Clark. “We’ve got two cars ready to go right now.”

Clark and Benjamin said there will be no shortage of drivers who will be in the hunt to take the checkered flag on Sunday and in the chase for the points championship.

“I think 12 or 13 drivers can win this race,” said Benjamin. “It’s a tough field. In my opinion, the PASS tour has the best racing in the country.”

There were seven different race winners in 2008.

“Scott Chubbuck always runs well [at Speedway 95] here. He’s the one to beat. He’s been working extremely hard over the winter,” said Clark. “The track is suited for his driving style. It’s like Unity.”

Clark said the key to winning at Speedway 95 is to “stay on the track.

“You have to save your tires probably more than any other track we go to,” said Clark. “The outside groove is the way to go. Staying on the bottom takes so much life off your tires. When you’re on the bottom [inside groove], the front end wants to push up. The bottom is extremely hard on your outside tires.”

“It’s a hard place to pass,” said Benjamin. “You have to be patient and pass on the outside when you can.”

Besides Benjamin, Moore, Chubbuck and Rowe, the other drivers who should be the thick of the battle for the win on Sunday include Scarborough’s Kelly Moore, Busch North’s (now Camping World East) winningest driver, and 2008 PASS race winners Derek Ramstrom, D.J. Shaw and Adam Bates.

Bates and Shaw each won two races a year ago.

Mike Rowe, Ben’s father, and Cassius Clark will also contend if they enter.

Local drivers who could also figure into the mix include Bangor’s Gary Smith, Glenburn’s Scott Alexander and Stetson’s Gary Bellefleur along with Brewer native Mike Thomas.

Moffitt has successful debut

Brett Moffitt, driving for the Andy Santerre Motorspors team, had a successful debut in the Camping World East Series last Saturday at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway (S.C.).

The 16-year-old Moffitt, a native of Grimes, Iowa, won the pole and finished fifth.

Brian Ickler won the race.

Santerre is a native of Cherryfield and a four-time Camping World East points champion.

He also serves as the crew chief for Moffitt.

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