SALISBURY, N.C. – Clark Houston has done virtually everything in Millbridge Speedway’s premier Open division, except win a top-class feature at the sixth-mile dirt oval.
He’s broken while leading, spun out while challenging for the top spot, suffered mechanical failures, missed the handling and even had plain-old bad luck rob him of a chance to celebrate.
After more than two years of trying to break through and hoist a trophy, Houston is hoping – profusely – that his long-awaited first Open victory comes during Wednesday night’s sixth-annual QRC Speed51 Open presented by HMS Motorsport.
Houston knows he has the speed to contend up front. He’s led laps before. This week, however, it’s all about finding a golden horseshoe or something that will lead him to the break he needs to finish the job.
“I just need a little bit of luck, man,” Houston said. “It’s crazy to think about, really. We’ve had the speed, but it seems like every time we get in position to win one of these things, either I screw up or something breaks and we can’t close it out. It’s honestly frustrating, because I feel like we should have a few wins here and not even have to be talking about this anymore, but we’re still here on a goose-egg.
“Hopefully after Wednesday night, we won’t have to worry about those questions anymore,” Houston added. “We’ve got the pace and we’ve got the skills, so now we just need the right breaks.”
Houston has started the big show during the Open before – finishing 17th in the main event – but arguably his best chance at shining came in last year’s edition, when he was leading his heat race and in position to advance to the pole shuffle before the chain came off and he stalled on-track.
The teenager went on to finish ninth in the B-main and had to watch the feature from the grandstands, something he hopes to rectify this time around by making his second QRC Speed51 Open A-main start.
“We had a lot of speed last year, right around the top, and we were in position to maybe make some magic happen before the heat-race issue kind of doomed us,” Houston recalled. “We haven’t changed much since then, so hopefully we can come back and pick up right where we left off in that one.
“I hope it dusts off around the top and we can get to ripping,” he added. “If it does that, I think you’ll see us contending for the win Wednesday night just like we did last year.”
While Houston is used to contending among the track’s weekly competitors – who are no slouches in their own right – he knows that the field over the three days of the QRC Speed51 Open is going to be as deep as any that he races in all season long.
“Just the competition is what makes this race so much different than a weekly show,” Houston noted. “Everyone is so good; you’ve got guys and girls with a lot of money coming out here from the West Coast and all over the country to try and leave their mark. It makes for a different atmosphere, because you know everyone has blinders on and they’ll do what they have to in order to come out a winner.
“We’ve all got the same goal this week, and I hope we can be the ones to achieve it and leave on top.”
At this juncture in his career, Houston is simply hoping to scratch out that long-present zero in his win column at Millbridge. Doing so on the track’s richest night would just be an added bonus.
“I’ve said it before, I just want to win … one race, any race,” Houston said. “But if it came Wednesday night, in the biggest-paying race we have and with the kind of attention that the Speed51 Open gets … it’d be awesome.
“I’m not sure I’d have words in that moment if it happens, to be honest.”
Practice for the QRC Speed51 Open presented by HMS Motorsport at Millbridge Speedway begins on Monday, May 20. Feature racing takes place on both Tuesday, May 21 and Wednesday, May 22.
For more information, visit www.millbridgespeedway.com.
-Millbridge Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: Jacob Seelman