Six-time Pro All-Stars Series North Super Late Model points champion Johnny Clark of Farmingdale ended a long winless drought on July 24 when he won a 150-lap PASS North SLM race at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, New Hampshire.
It was his first win since Sept. 24, 2016.
That momentum carried into Sunday night when he led the final 70 laps to capture the 47th annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said the 40-year-old Farmingdale native on Monday morning. “I can’t believe it. I’m finally an Oxford 250 champion.”
Clark started 22nd but maneuvered his way into the lead with 70 laps remaining and survived a couple of late cautions to distance himself from the field on the restarts.
“We had a super fast car all weekend,” Clark said. “We turned the race’s fastest lap on lap 182. That’s crazy.
“It was driving so beautifully, once we got up there in the lead, we were able to pull away on every restart,” added Clark, who was fourth in the PASS points standings entering the race.
It was Clark’s 19th Oxford 250 appearance with his previous best finish being a second in 2005 behind Turner’s Mike Rowe. He was fourth a year ago as Morrill’s Travis Benjamin won his third Oxford 250.
“Winning the 250 is everything,” Clark said. “There is nothing like the Oxford 250. There isn’t another short track race like it in the country.
“It’s our crown jewel,” he added.
He joins an impressive list of winners that include two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who won the 2011 Oxford 250, and 2014 NASCAR Cup points titlist Kevin Harvick, who captured the 250 in 2008.
Veteran Jeff Taylor from Farmington, who once led the race by six seconds, was second with Berwick’s Joey Dorion, Sabattus’ Dave Farrington Jr. and Hermon’s Mike Hopkins rounding out the top five in the 44-car field.
Just 13 cars finished on the lead lap.
Taylor was looking for his first Oxford 250 win and it was his third second-place finish.
Completing the top 10 were D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, New Hampshire, Pittston’s Ben Ashline, Trevor Sanborn from East Parsonfield, Scarborough’s Garrett Hall and Gabe Brown from Center Conway, New Hampshire.
Pole-sitter Alan Tardiff of Lyman wound up 11th, 2017 winner Curtis Gerry of Waterboro was 12th, two-time winners Eddie MacDonald from Rowley, Massachusetts, and Ben Rowe from Turner were 15th and 17th, respectively, and three-time champions Rowe and Benjamin were 21st and 24th.
Farmington’s Cassius Clark started last (44th) but made up 30 places to finish 14th and 16-year-old Kate Re from Lovell, just the fourth female to ever qualify for the 250, came home in 27th place.
Clark finished second to Dave Farrington Jr. in the Honey Badger 150 PASS race at Oxford Plains Speedway two weeks ago and that gave him a boost of confidence, he said.
“He had won four in a row and we knew we could almost hang with him that day,” explained Clark, who drives a Chevy Monte Carlo. “If we could do that and then tweak the car a little, we felt we could come back faster right off the trailer.”
Farrington Jr. had won three weekly Oxford races and that PASS feature.
Clark said the late start to the race season due to the COVID-19 pandemic actually proved beneficial.
“We were able to spend more time with our families and making the race car faster,” said Clark, a former hockey player at Hall-Dale High School. “We were able to do a lot of testing and we found some speed at Oxford.”
Clark found himself in danger of falling a lap down when a fortuitous caution came out on lap 91 when Re spun out. They were one of the few teams who came to the pits to get fresh tires, two rear tires, and that enabled him to make his way up through the field.
“We had bided our time knowing we had to be patient. Jeff was setting a torrid pace and he almost lapped us [before the caution came out],” Clark said. “He had an extremely good car.”
Crew chief Joel Tozier and Clark had the crew put four new tires on with around 70 laps to go and they never looked back.
The number of fans allowed in the stands was limited to 200 due to coronavirus restrictions.
“It was different not hearing the roar of the crowd but my family did a good job making up for it,” quipped Clark, who has two daughters with wife Niki, 9-year-old Alivia and 6-year-old Miranda.
He earned approximately $33,000 and said a lot of it will go back into the race team.
“With our budget, racing is normally a losing cause. But when you do something like this, it pulls you out of the hole for a year,” he said.