Forty days after ending a two-decade plus quest for the biggest Super Late Model prize in the Northeast, 2020 Oxford 250 winner Johnny Clark is taking on each race with perhaps even more vigor than before. With the Pro All Stars Series joining the always massive racing lineup of the Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, it is a unique challenge that Clark is ready to tackle.
With Maine being Clark’s home state and serving as the primary battle ground for PASS, along with New Hampshire and Vermont, 1/4-mile and 3/8-mile bullrings dominate the map and schedule. Heading south to Connecticut’s ironically named “Quiet Corner,” Thompson’s long straightaways and steeply banked turns will either play to a Maine driver’s hidden potential or expose their biggest weakness.
Thankfully for Clark, it is the former.
“Thompson is so unique for guys like me. We have Oxford and other tracks we race on, you don’t have the kind of speed you get at a place like Thompson,” Clark said. “We’re looking forward to running with some banking and speed, I think it fits more with what Port City’s got going on right now, along with my driving style. I’m tickled to be heading back.”
Clark has driven the path to victory lane at “The Big T” once before in 2011, the same year he claimed wins in seven of the fourteen PASS North rounds, in route to what is still a record sixth PASS North title. However, times have changed, especially with the what is under the hood of Super Late Models in the Northeast.
“It’s been a long time, really memorable though. That was when we had a lot of horsepower back then; now with the crate engines they’re not as powerful. You do race differently, power versus less-power. But, we’ve been fast there the last few seasons we’ve gone with the crate engine, we just haven’t had any luck. We’re looking forward to it, we’re bringing a great package, and we’re eager to try it out.”
Of course, one the biggest changes for Clark at the race track is that he is an Oxford 250 winner. Despite a slightly lackluster run in the latest PASS round at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH), Clark still has plenty of emotional momentum. That, coupled with the aforementioned anticipation the No. 54 Clark’s Scrap Metal Super Late Model has for taking on Thompson, has him believing he can place a World Series trophy right next to his hardware from the Oxford 250.
“Oh yeah, that’s never going to go away! Every now and then, you think about it and smile. We have our racecars and the family scrap metal business run out of the same shop, and the saying around the shop when anything goes bad around here my dad will say, ‘At least we won the 250.’ It’s something that’s cemented in and will never be taken away, hopefully we can string together more of them, but there’s nothing like the first.”
Considered the racing hub of Maine, Oxford Plains Speedway is a little over three hours from Thompson Speedway by street vehicle. While that might be considered being just down the street for racers across America, it seems like an eternity for New England racers. Late Models to the north, Modifieds to the south, that’s just the way it is in the region, with the Oxford 250 and World Series standing respectively as their major showpieces.
For Clark, he has seen first hand what the World Series means to the race fans of Southern New England despite never competing before at Thompson in October. Should he succeed after 75 laps on Sunday afternoon, it will be a victory that he will indeed cherish.
“Something called the World Series, of course it would be huge. I know it means more to the people like the Modified guys and the diehards that have built Thompson to what it is. They realize what a big deal it is, and I hope I do too, as a kid we used to travel down to watch the World Series. So, it would be pretty special to pull it off, especially after winning the 250.”
Tickets are still available for the 58th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing, but for those unable to make it to Thompson Speedway this weekend, Speed51.TV will provide a live pay-per-view broadcast of 13 racing divisions on the Saturday and Sunday portions of the program, including the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models. (Click here to order)
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51