New talent found their way to the top of the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North championship standings during the 2013 season. A new group of younger talent rose to the top of the series standings last season, while a handful of the series most successful drivers struggled to run up front.
One of those drivers whose struggles were well-documented one season ago was six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark. Just two years removed from winning nearly half of the series’ events (7) on his way to his sixth championship, Clark went winless in 2013 on his way to a subpar sixth place finish in the championship standings.
“It’s hard to get on top; it’s harder to stay on top,” Clark told Speed51.com presented by JEGS. “We did it for four consecutive years. In 2012 we started slipping and then last year it couldn’t have gotten any worse for us. To come home sixth in points was really hard on the whole team.”
The Farmingdale, Maine driver found it difficult to pinpoint any single reason as to why his team struggled in 2013, but believes it to be a combination of “the little things” and bad luck that resulted in his worse season since entering the series as a rookie in 2002.
“It’s not like we were way out to lunch, just nothing went right for us,” Clark said. “I don’t want to say it was a lot of little things, but it kind of was. It was the little details that kept us from being able to win a race.
“I go back to 2003 and have won a race every single year on the tour up until last year. That was a hard blow. When you go from winning half the tour races in 2011 to winning a couple in 2012 to not being able to get out of your own way in 2013, it’s tough.”
Clark looks back on his years of dominance and remembers when other drivers would always be asking him what exactly he was doing that led to him being so dominant.
For Clark, the answer to what he and his team were doing to be successful was simple: They were sticking to the basics.
“In 2011, my crew chief would tell me back then to stop telling everyone what we’re doing,” said Clark. In all honesty, it was just the basics. In 2012, we started to get beat a little bit and I don’t think it was anything really big but then when you start looking for that magic wand and really, really reaching to find speed that’s just not there you can end up off in left field really quick.”
When Clark and his team began looking for that magic wand, they started to change everything and look everywhere for help. Looking back on it, the six-time champion believes his team hit the panic button too quick after other teams started to close the gap on them.
After hitting the panic button, Clark and his team started to try a variety of things they had never tried before to find the speed they were missing. When nothing seemed to work, the Farmingdale, Maine driver started to questions whether or not he and his team could still be competitive.
“We looked back and there were all sorts of things we could have fine tuned to make the car better just like we have over time, but we started to get beat and started to hit the panic button,” Clark said. “I started using a different shock guy, I started using everything different. When that’s not working you start to question yourself and you start to question the people on the team and it’s ridiculous.”
Heading into the 2014 season Clark and his team will attempt to rewind the tape two years to get back to where they were at the end of the 2011 season. The six-time series champion will attempt to use his own advice as he tries to make his way back to the top of the series in 2014.
“I always told everyone what we were doing back then when we won half the tour races,” said Clark. “I was telling everyone we were doing nothing fancy and sticking to basics. So we’re going to use our own advice and get back to that. You look at it now and say let’s go back a couple years and start over.”
Although it’s tough to find any silver linings from of a career-worst season, Clark looks back on the 2013 season as a wakeup call that will make his team stronger this upcoming season.
“If you race long enough you’re going to have years that you struggle,” Clark told Speed51.com. “I think it was healthy and good for us that we did struggle because it’s made us that much more hungry. I feel like we’re a much stronger team now going into 2014.”
If there’s one thing for certain, a stronger and hungrier Johnny Clark Motorsports team has the potential to spell trouble for other teams chasing a PASS North championship in 2014. 2013 PASS North champion Cassius Clark – no relation to Johnny Clark -- is well aware of what the six-time champion can do behind the wheel of a racecar and expects him to bounce back this season.
“Nobody expects Johnny to run like he did last year,” said 2013 PASS North champion Cassius Clark. “I don’t think he ever really finished in the top-three and a couple years before that he won six or seven races. I’ve been in a similar boat where everybody is out there chasing you and then they catch up and force you to kind of have to chase your tail.”
Both Clarks will begin their 2014 PASS North campaigns on April 26 when the series holds their season-opening event at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
Doiron Itching to Get Back Behind the Wheel After Coming Up Just Short in 2013
South Berwick, Maine’s Joey Doiron is itching to get back behind the wheel of his No. 73 in PASS North competition. After leading the PASS North standings for a large portion of the season, Doiron fell four points short of winning the 2013 championship when the checkered flag waved on the final race of the season.
The 22-year-old driver looks back on missing out on last year’s championship as one of the biggest disappointments of his young racing career.
“That was probably the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had racing coming up that short,” Doiron said. “Cassius and his team did a great job, but I honestly feel like we were the best car every week. When it came down to the end it came down to who had less bad races. They had less bad races, but it’s not like they didn’t earn it.”
Cassius Clark Looks to Become Third Multi-Time PASS North Champion
Last year was a year of redemption for Farmington, Maine’s Cassius Clark. After letting the 2012 PASS North championship slip away during the final race of that season, Clark responded last season by securing the 2013 PASS North championship during the final race at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
This upcoming season Clark will look to become the third multi-time PASS North champion and just the second repeat champion in series history. The challenge is one that Clark and his team is excited for after traveling to Greenville-Pickens (NC) for a PASS South race earlier this spring.
“We’re looking forward to getting started here,” Clark said. “It’s definitely not going to be easy (to defend). Brian and the crew have worked hard during the offseason and tried some different things. We tried a couple things down at Greenville and were happy with how the car went down there. We’ll work on a few things and I think we’ll be in pretty good shape. We feel as if everything goes well, we should be able to be right in contention again.”
“The Maine Racing” Legend Mike Rowe to Compete Full-Time in 2014
Mike Rowe has teamed up with car owner and host of Mainely Motorsports TV, Steve Perry, to make his return to the PASS North series full-time in 2014. Rowe will pilot the Lux Enterprises No. 24 Super Late Model for all of the events on the 2014 schedule.
Rowe’s return to full-time PASS North competition will be his first full-time season racing PASS since the 2007 season when he finished seven points behind his son, Ben Rowe, in the championship standings. The driver from Turner, Maine also finished in the runner-up position in the championship standings during the 2005 and 2006 seasons driving for the same team that he will be driving for again this season.
“It’s really exciting to hook back up with Mike Lux and Steve Perry for this upcoming series,” Rowe said. “We had good success in 2005 and 2006, so hopefully we can pick right back up where we left off and have good success this season.”
Although “The Maine Racing Legend” has a resume full of Oxford 250 wins, Oxford Plains Speedway Pro Stock championships and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Pro Series championships, the one thing missing is a touring series championship.
“That would probably go right to the top of my list,” Rowe said about the possibility of winning the championship. “We’ve been second three or four times. I think Ben and Johnny beat us once or twice. We’ve been right there, but just haven’t been able to seal the deal. We have a great group with us this season, so hopefully we can go out and have a good season.
PASS North Returns to Speedway 95 for First Time Since 2009
After a four year hiatus, Super Late Models from the Pro All Star Series North will travel to Hermon, Maine’s Speedway 95 for the first time since 2009. The addition of Speedway 95 to the schedule will make it the third Maine track on the 2014 schedule joining Oxford Plains Speedway and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
The last time PASS North visited Speedway 95 was for the 2009 season opener. Johnny Clark stood in victory lane at the conclusion of that event en route to winning the championship that season.
Oxford 250 Entry List at 37 Three Months Before Event
Entries from all across the country have been filed for the 41st running of the Oxford 250 on July 20. As of April 4, 37 entries have been received for the event.
PASS North favorites such as Cassius Clark, Ben Rowe, DJ Shaw, and defending race winner Travis Benjamin have already filed entries for the event.
North Carolina drivers Tate and Jay Fogleman, as well as 2013 Southern Super Series champion Daniel Hemric will make the trip to Maine in July.
Multi-time Oxford Plains Speedway champion Tim Brackett, Scott Robbins and Shane Green are just a few of the Oxford regulars that have already filed entries.