Back On Track: Johnny Clark Wins 4th Career Pro All Stars Series 300 At Beech Ridge

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FullSizeRender (6)SCARBOROUGH — Johnny Clark’s 2015 season came full circle on Sunday afternoon.

After contemplating retiring altogether following a disastrous first half of the year, at least by the six-time Pro All Stars Series champion’s standards, Clark returned to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway and led the final 122 laps to win the Southern Maine Chrysler Dodge Jeep 300. It was Clark’s fourth career victory in the series’ longest annual race and his first win of any kind at Beech Ridge since winning the 300 in consecutive years in 2010-2011.

“It’s so emotional with my two girls here,” Clark said of his daughters, Alivia, 4, and Miranda, 2. “It’s the first race they’ve both been at and this is so cool.”

Clark, of Hallowell, Maine, needed the benefit of a long green flag run to close out the afternoon, with veteran and PASS point leader Mike Rowe charging from deep in the pack after pitting for a flat left rear tire on lap 186 and a subsequent tire change with 51 laps remaining. Joey Doiron finished third, while Cassius Clark and Kelly Moore completed the top five.

Rowe needed another dozen laps or so to have a shot at victory — “If I’d have had 10 more laps, there might have been a helluva crash,” the Turner, Maine, driver joked — though he did virtually clinch his first career PASS North Series champion.

He had a 119-point lead over Travis Benjamin entering the weekend, but Benjamin suffered damage in an early mult-car incident on the backstretch and wound up finishing 27th after retiring just past the midway point.

But for Johnny Clark, the story of his win Sunday began at Beech Ridge back in July. In that 150-lap event, Clark finished 21st in a 30-car field — parking the No. 54 after completing just 114 laps. It was the lowpoint in a career that once saw him win seven of 14 races in 2011 en route to a fourth consecutive series title.

Clark decided then, after winning just once in a 36-race stretch from 2013-2015, that something had to change.

“We had to do something. We were just falling into a hole and getting deeper and deeper into it, and we had to step away from (PASS) for a few races to regroup,” said Clark.

“I’ve never had to park a car before because it was so bad. I wasn’t going to stay in racing if I kept doing that. No one was having fun. We hit our low, for sure. We needed to take a step back.”

So Clark did just that, skipping three consecutive PASS races in July and August and running weekly races at Oxford Plains Speedway instead to try and get his program on track in time for the Oxford 250. By the time he’d won a 50-lap weekly event at Oxford on Aug. 22 and finished fourth in the Oxford 250 a week later, Clark had turned the corner.

“That was really the turning point for us,” Clark said. “If you can get around Oxford, you can get around Beech Ridge. We had to change the car a little bit — but, man, we’ve been so much closer and giving ourselves a chance at (winning) these races… That’s really all you want.”

Clark started sixth in the 32-car field Sunday and climbed up to third in the race’s first five circuits. He stayed inside the top five for most of the first half of the race, watching as Cassius Clark (no relation) set a blistering pace that lapped all but eight cars by lap 150.

A caution on lap 177 brought every car on the track (except for three lapped machines) to pit road for fuel and tires. Cassius won the race off pit road with Johnny hot on his heels, holding the lead through a quick caution and subsequent restart before ultimately succumbing to Johnny Clark on lap 179.

Cassius Clark, of Farmington, Maine, led a race-high 162 laps and dogged Johnny Clark for several laps inside the final 100. But his shot at victory was stripped away when he was ordered by series officials to pit to repair a broken fuel vent hose that was dragging along the racing surface under caution on lap 249. He restarted at the tail of the field and could only get back as high as fourth.

“What are you going to do? Drive is all you can do, I guess,” Cassius Clark said. “The car was obviously dominant, for sure… When it was under green, it wasn’t touching anything but under caution it was on the ground. It’s kind of hard to come from dead last — we were obviously coming, but we ran out of laps.

“I was riding. I didn’t want to go for the bottom, because you wear too much of your car out… I was hanging to get fresh air on the (radiator) grill and hoping to have (Johnny) make a mistake. I was just waiting for either the right time or a banzai move on the last lap.”

Johnny Clark recognized how good Cassius was.

“He was certainly better than us on the race track in certain areas, but I was better in other areas,” he said. “They always say it’s one thing to catch someone and another thing to pass him, and it holds true… I would have liked to race him to the end, it would have been a helluva show. I wasn’t unhappy, though, to see him have to pit because I knew he was our toughest competition.”

It turned out that Rowe nearly became the toughest competition at the end, but by that time Clark had staked himself out to a full straightaway lead and cruised the final 20 laps to the checkered flag.

With the victory, Clark’s first since May of 2014, he wasn’t quite ready to declare himself all the way back to “the old Johnny Clark” who dominated the series with 22 wins from 2007-2011.

“I’m not going to tell you that we are,” Clark said, “but if we can go and win (the season finale) at Oxford, I’ll tell you we are in Victory Lane.”



  1. It ‘s amazing how two days at the track with Port City race cars have turned around Clark and Hight’s rides. They had completely dialed themselves out until Port City came to there rescue.
    Mike Rowe’s spin and almost win was a masterpiece. Guy feels his tire going down, finds a clear spot and spins himself out to draw a caution. Throw some new rubber on and almost won it. Anyone else would have stopped on the track, drawn a caution and been penalized at least one lap. Kids these days could learn a thing or two from Mike if they paid attention.
    With the less then stellar crowd at Beech Ridge for the 400 weekend, I would bet it gets scaled back next year to a regular 150 show. Too bad because the 300 lap race was great.

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