Cassius Clark leads every lap

Cassius Clark led every lap en route to winning the NAPA Auto Parts 100 on Saturday night at Wiscasset Raceway.

It was the first Pro Stock win of Clark's career at Wiscasset, and it also snapped a long drought that hadn't seen him win a race since taking a PASS North Series race in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June.

Surprisingly, Clark utilized the crate motor in his retro red-and-white Chevrolet to take advantage on a couple of late race restarts, when he was able to hold off 2nd-place finisher Travis Benjamin.

"I was a little surprised. When you can set your own pace, you can pick up the speed a little bit." Clark said. "I probably shouldn't tell anybody that, but it's kind of what you have to do with a crate motor. You get it revved up so you can shift in there. Everything worked out for us, and we're finally back in victory lane again."

Scott Chubbuck, Johnny Clark and Scott Moore rounded out the top-5. Just seven of 19 starters finished the race on the lead lap, and the top-4 were all PASS invaders with that series enjoying a weekend off.

Maurice Young sets new mark at Wiscasset

Maurice Young won't call himself the King of Wiscasset, but he no longer has an equal at the track.

By finishing 2nd in the 20-lap Strictly Street feature at Wiscasset Raceway on Saturday afternoon, Young clinched his 6th career championship at the track. Five of the titles are Strictly Street titles, and the other came in what is now the Late Model Sportsman class.

Young has a 70-point lead over Bobby Mesimer with one points race remaining. A driver can collect 10 points for winning a heat race and 50 for winning the feature, but Young still needs to at least start next weekend to be officially credited with the championship. Wiscasset uses a multiplier for its points, which multiplies the total number of feature starts a driver made by his or her point total.

Young had previously been tied with Scott Chubbuck of Brunswick with 5 titles. All of Chubbuck's came in a Pro Stock.

"I don't know," Young said about how he felt. "It will sink in, I'm sure, down the road, but I'm not tied with anyone anymore. I'm never going to say I'm the king, but obviously I'm alone on top."

It took Young 6 years to win his first championship, which came in 1999. He also won in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004 (LMS). His father, Bob Young, was a 6-cylinder champion at both Wiscasset and Unity Raceway.

"When I first started racing, I asked my dad how he ever won a championship," Young said. "It's a long process. Then I finally got the first one, and I learned how to do it.

"The points deal gets a lot of people wound right up. That first year, I'd sit in the lineup wanting to puke, gagging. It really gets to you."

Steve Pierpont won the race, with Zach Creamer finishing 3rd. Mike Moody and Mike Short rounded out the top-5. Mesimer ended up 8th.

How many divisions can you fit into a single race program?

Wiscasset Raceway could start a 24-hour race hotline, and chances are, whenever you chose to call, there would be cars racing on the track there.

Saturday afternoon's (and evening's) race program at Wiscasset called for a whopping 9 divisions of racing, heats included for all -- capped off by the NAPA Auto Parts 100 for the Pro Stock division. What's the over/under on the number of hours it's going to take to get this thing done? Six? Seven? Twelve?

Track announcer Ken Minott likes to joke that whenever I show up at Wiscasset, he knows he's not getting out of here before midnight. Might be true tonight, despite the afternoon start time...


Just 19 cars showed up for the $3,000 to win NAPA Auto Parts 100 for the Pro Stocks. Cassius Clark and Bill Penfold will led the field to the green flag later tonight.

With the heat win, Penfold picked up 10 points toward the track's Pro Stock championship and is 4th behind Charlie Colby, Jeff Burgess and Scott Moore. The 3 leaders finished out of the points in the heats.

Clark, Johnny Clark, Travis Benjamin, Curtis Gerry, Derek Ramstrom and Gary Smith are among the PASS North Series regulars who are here.


The $30 pit fee at the back gate met with some criticism.

"If they want to have Pro Stocks," said one support division member, "then they shouldn't make us pay for it."

It's a valid point. It may be a 100-lap event on the card, but it's still a regular, weekly race program. That ought to count for something.


I'm sure he's glad to have the ice cream cake.

On a day with temps soaring off into the 90s, Wiscasset track photographer Peter Taylor was honored with the birthday cake and a card. Only problem? Taylor's driver's license says his birthday isn't until Sept. 29.

"Hey I just read what they tell me to read and say what they want me to say," Minott joked after making the presentation.

Hey, my birthday's in January. Can I get a case of cold beer over here?

5 days and counting...

Because I spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about time (enough, probably, to label me as clinically insane), and because we all saw a Modified Tour race cut short in June by time constraints, thought I'd pass next weekend's Sylvania 300 weekend schedule along.

If we all thought the Saturday in the summer at New Hampshire International Speedway was busy, wait 'til you see this one. Couple of notes -- obviously, the addition of the USAC Silver Crown cars makes for a long day on Saturday, though arguably one of the best ticket values around with 3 races plus a couple of Cup Series practices. Also, gone are the days of local touring series practices on Saturday morning, as final Mod practice at the crack of dawn has been nixed to make room for the Silver Crown guys.

THURSDAY, Sept. 13:
11:15 a.m - Whelen Modified Tour practice (1 hour, 25 minutes)
12:50 p.m. - Busch East Series practice (1 hour, 30 minutes)
2:35 p.m. - Whelen Modified Tour practice (10 minutes)
2:50 p.m. - Whelen Modified Tour, qualifying for New Hampshire 100
4:15 p.m. - Busch East Series, qualifying for Aubuchon Hardware 125

FRIDAY, Sept. 14:
9:40 a.m. - Craftsman Truck Series practice (1 hour, 10 minutes)
11:20 a.m. - Craftsman Truck Series rookie practice (30 minutes)
12 noon - Nextel Cup Series practice (1 hour, 30 minutes)
1:45 p.m. - Craftsman Truck Series final practice (1 hour, 15 minutes)
3:10 p.m. - Nextel Cup Series, qualifying for Lenox 300
5:10 p.m. -- Busch East Series, Aubuchon Hardware 125

SATURDAY, Sept. 15:
8 a.m. - USAC Silver Crown practice and group qualifying (50 minutes)
9 a.m. - Nextel Cup Series practice (50 minutes)
10:05 a.m. - Craftsman Truck Series, qualifying for New Hampshire 200
11:30 a.m. - Nextel Cup Series final practice (1 hour)
1 p.m. - Whelen Modified Tour, New Hampshire 100 3 p.m. - Craftsman Truck Series, New Hampshire 200 5:45 p.m. - USAC Silver Crown, New Hampshire 75

SUNDAY, Sept. 16: 2 p.m. - Nextel Cup Series, Lenox 300


Guess what? I went to Unity Raceway and it didn't rain

Well, it didn't rain, but that doesn't mean some things won't change at Unity Raceway.

This just in: Nate Weston won a 75-lap Super Street race at the track he won the championship on a year ago.

The PASS Sportsman driver blistered the field, leading more than 2/3 of the Gary Mitchell Memorial on Friday night to beat out track regulars Brad Bellows and Mark Dodge. It was Weston's 2nd open win at Unity this year in 3 starts.

Though he won by nearly a 3-second margin, Weston said it wasn't quite as easy as it looked.

"I'm never going to say it's easy at Unity," Weston said, "but I was feeling pretty comfortable at the end."

About the only thing that could have slowed Weston was a late caution flag, but that never came. The last 54 laps went clean and green, and Bellows never got the chance he sought at re-starting on the outside of Weston's No. 47.

"Our cars were going the same speed," said Bellows, who had a 3-race winning streak snapped. "I would have liked a caution, maybe I could have gotten up to him and gotten him."

Weston said his car wasn't as fast on the inside.

"The outside lane was really getting me on the restarts," said Weston, who saw Mike Landry pass him twice in the outside groove coming to green flags. "With 5 to go, it could have been a whole different story. I definitely was not wanting to start underneath somebody."

Weston also said that he wasn't pushing the car as hard as he could have. He was wary of running too hard with a big lead and a new engine, after blowing up in a PASS Sportsman race at Canaan (N.H.) Fair Speedway last weekend.

"We were one of the fastest cars in practice at Canaan," Weston said. "Then we blew up, so I learned never to cash the check until the last lap, so to speak."

Just 13 cars started the main event, which was twice rained out and was named after a fan who was killed at the track in 1995.

In other feature racing, Dylan Lancaster of Skowhegan won the Mini Stock main event and Sam Whitmore won in the Wildcats.

ESPN: Continuing to bring racing coverage to new lows

After missing the end of the Busch Series race at Bristol a couple of weeks ago and bringing us such wonderful insight from Brad Daugherty as "it's the best 43 drivers in the world" during the Nextel Cup Series race the next night, who knew ESPN could sink much further.

Of course, this is ESPN, and with the 4-letter network, anything is once again possible.

On Friday morning, while standing in the garage stall of the famed No. 8 at Richmond International Raceway, pit reporter Jamie Little declared that practice was important, because what happened in practice might dictate what happens in Saturday night's race.

Wow. What happens in practice might have a bearing on the race? Really? No kidding?

It's a good thing Little was there to straighten it all out for us.

I'm thinking it's just a clever little way to fill some space during a 2-hour broadcast covering practice. Then Dr. Jerry Punch begins to pontificate with a little NASCAR Praise 101, straight from the sanctioning body's media relations clearing house.

Mark Martin is a man of his word, Punch tells us, because he told his family that he would only race a partial schedule in 2008, and doggone it, that's what he's going to do when he teams with Aric Almirola in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolets next year for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

I'm wondering, though, if Mark Martin is such a man of his word, what are we to believe about the end of the 2005 season -- when he said he was retiring to spend more time with his racing son Matt, sold a bunch of farewell tour merchandise to a drooling fan base and then abruptly changed his mind to help friend and owner Jack Roush.

He drove full-time for Roush in 2006 (adding a part-time Truck slate to the full-time Cup side), and then went out and ran a partial Cup series slate in 2007 for Ginn Racing/DEI. That leads one to wonder just how great the friendship between he and Roush was at the end of their partnership -- not only did he ditch Roush, but he ditched Ford and kept on racing in the process.

It's another example of NASCAR and ESPN doing whatever they can to paint a picture of these guys that may not always be accurate. Martin has every right to race as long as he wants to, and for as long as he can find gainful employment. Just don't try and sell me some story about how he's a stand-up guy for still racing after he said he was calling it quits.

He said he was going to, and he changed his mind -- but heaven forbid we look into that at all.

Oxford 250 champ still riding high

When in the midst of a championship hunt, sometimes the hardest thing for a race car driver to do is step back and look at the big picture. That's not necessarily the case for Roger Brown of Lancaster, N.H., the American-Canadian Tour driver who won the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in July.

"In a sport where it's very hard to accomplish things that will stay with you forever, it still feels really good," Brown said.

Also, Wiscasset Raceway and Katie Hagar Enterprises team up for Make-A-Wish.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.


Joe Gibbs Racing makes it official: Toyota

The worst kept secret in NASCAR was made official on Wednesday.

Joe Gibbs Racing, which will field cars in the Nextel Cup Series for Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in 2008, will field Toyota Camrys. The switch ends a 16-year relationship with Chevrolet for the 3-time championship organization.

For JGR, it was about taking a leadership role with a manufacturer instead of being just another team within a large group.

"I think we feel like Toyota has some good teams and in years to come will be very good. I think it will be a good partnership for us," said J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR. "I do think GM’s got 4 really strong teams. And I think obviously there are certain things we think we'd like to have a leadership role in. I think this gives us that leadership role."

Tony Stewart, who has won 2 Cup titles for JGR in Chevrolets and is aligned with Chevrolet as an owner in the World of Outlaws sprint car series, said he welcomes the change but does not expect it to affect his open-wheel efforts.

"I'm excited about it. We're in the middle of contract negotiations right now and working to extend my contract already, so I'm excited about this," said Stewart, who is currently 2nd in the Cup standings, one spot ahead of teammate Hamlin. "It's like J.D. said, it's a good opportunity for us to take a leadership role and have a little more input on what we can do here. But as far as my USAC and World of Outlaw teams, we're still going forward with Chevrolet on that side now. We made it work when I had Mopar and I was driving for Chevrolet on the Cup side. We've done it before. We can make it work again."

Rumors had been flying for weeks that JGR was going to make the switch to Toyota, and the newest addition to the team, Busch, all but confirmed it during the race weekend at California last week.

JGR joins Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Team Red Bull as Toyota-affiliated teams in the Cup Series. JGR also intends to run Toyotas in Busch Series competition.

"Our plan has always been that as we entered NASCAR Cup series, that we would grow," said Jim Aust, president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development. "The opportunity is one of the things that you don't know when that's going to come available to you. So the plan is that as we entered, we entered with new teams, with the addition of Bill Davis and Bill bringing the experience that he had.

"But certainly there is a lot of skill, a lot of experience, many years of championships here (at JGR) that I think are going to help Toyota in the long run, and I think you'll see the benefit of that next year."

It's one way for Yeley to make the Hall of Fame

Add J.J. Yeley to the list of Nextel Cup Series drivers who have no idea just where they fit in the sport.

On Tuesday, Yeley announced that he is joining Hall of Fame Racing in 2008 to take over the No. 96 machines currently driven by Tony Raines. With the earlier announcement that Joe Gibbs Racing has hired Kyle Busch to drive the No. 18 in the Cup Series, it left Yeley looking for a ride.

Yeley claimed to have a long list of suitors for his services, which comes as something of a surprise considering the so very little he's done to distinguish himself with the championship-caliber Gibbs folks.

"This may come as a surprise to some people that I've chosen to come here, but with all the options I had, I felt this was going to be the best for myself," Yeley said in an Associated Press story by Jenna Fryer.

That's NASCAR-speak for "nobody wanted me to drive for an established team, so I took an up and coming team that could get me on the cheap."

Within the last several weeks, guys like Sterling Marlin and Jeremy Mayfield have been bounced from Cup rides but insisted that they'd only entertain competitive offers. Given how little Marlin has done in the last decade and the smoke shows Mayfield has left behind at virtually every organization he's been with, they can both be grouped in with Yeley as guys who just don't get "it."
Yeley has just 1 top-5 finish in 67 career Cup Series starts and only 4 top-10s with an average finishing position of 25th.

If you can't run competitively at JGR -- which, by the way, will have its 2 other drivers in Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin in the Chase this fall, and won 2 Cup titles with Stewart and another with Bobby Labonte when he was driving the No. 18 -- it has to make you wonder if you can run competitively anywhere.

The real shame in Yeley's signing with HOF is that Tony Raines is out of the seat.

Raines has always done the best he could in underfunded equipment at every stop, and he's taken it on the chin for 2 years now to get HOF up and running, even when they replaced him at the start of 2006 so Terry Labonte could get the new team in the first several races of that season.

But, again, it just goes to show that you don't have to be very good at what you do -- or any good at all, really -- as long as you have a resume in hand, a pretty face and plenty of marketing potential.


NASCAR still hasn't recovered from losing No. 3

It ends with the late Dale Earnhardt asking, "Are there really any heroes?"

Not anymore.

So much of CMT's documentary, "Dale," is well put together -- wrapping 2 of Earnhardt's passions around the entire film. On one hand it's his obsession with the Daytona 500, the race it took him 20 times to win. On the other, it's his farm and his fishing pond.

But more than anything about Earnhardt's stunning and interesting life and racing career -- and there is so much about it that draws emotions from family, friends and fans -- it's something that NASCAR president Mike Helton says that truly speaks to Earnhardt and everything he meant to stock-car racing.

Helton says that, in Earnhardt's 2001 death, NASCAR was faced with its biggest obstacle in

trying to move forward.

It's an obstacle that NASCAR never cleared.

Even after 6 years, NASCAR still hasn't found its own identity. Think about it. The racing is more boring, the racers are more vanilla and the television coverage is more unbearable than it ever was before.

Earnhardt would have scoffed at the idea of points racing, the philosophy that dominates every single Nextel Cup race.

"It pays more to win."

Earnhardt didn't make friends, didn't care about anything other than competitors, didn't care about the toeing the party line.

He was "The Intimidator."

Earnhardt didn't need floating graphics, color-coded field rundowns or in-car cameras and split-screens.

He was the show.

If Tony Stewart drops an "S"-bomb in victory lane, we're awash it talk about fines and points penalties. If Matt Kenseth gives Jeff Gordon a little bump-and-run at Bristol, we're squaring off on pit road. If Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya aren't getting along, we've got nothing but satellite radio soundbites.

Gone are the days where a guy like Earnhardt would just take care of all of that stuff himself -- right out there on the track, his own Car No. 3 police force.

"Dale" doesn't make me like or dislike Earnhardt any more or less than I did before. I appreciate some of the difficult decisions he had to make, but there's not a whole lot of new ground that's broken. It's more like a good family photo album -- plenty of memories but not a lot of ol' Uncle Earl downing a fifth of Jim Beam in the basement out of everyone's eyesight.

Given that the documentary had both NASCAR's and Teresa Earnhardt's blessing, that was obvious going in.
But, again, what's more obvious than ever is that NASCAR has never been able to replicate what Earnhardt gave the sport. It never will.


Trip to Thunder Road doesn't disappoint

When your job takes you from race track to race track to race track, one right after the other, day after day each weekend, they all begin to blend. One is like the other -- crowded pit areas, dusty parking lots, bad food, too many divisions, too many inept wreckers, too much of the same thing over and over.

And then you walk over the top of the hill, and immediately Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vt., sets itself apart.

Certainly, all the elements are there.

The track itself is as unique as they come, a high-banked 1/4-mile that holds fast cars like they're running the spin cycle inside a washing machine. The views, of course, are amazing -- from the hillside grandstands the views of the racing are second-to-none, as are the views of the mountains all around Barre. The food is above-average track fare (though, in full disclosure, ever since my writing cohort Shawn Courchesne contracted food poisoning from a cheeseburger at the Waterford Speedbowl a few years back, I pass on concession stands), the people have a generally positive disposition and the racers race by rules they know all too well.

For most of Sunday, I was at a loss for words.

"Wow, a writer who's left speechless," said Thunder Road announcer Troy Germain. "That's saying something."

Indeed, it was.

How popular is racing at Thunder Road? In the support Tiger Sportsman division, more than 40 cars show up every week for one of fewer than 30 starting spots in the feature. According to Germain, nobody -- NOBODY -- has qualified for every feature this season. That they keep coming back says plenty, given the racer's penchant for hunting out greener (and less competitive) pastures.

But is as unique a place for racers as it is for fans?

"It's worse," Ben Rowe said after finishing 5th in the ACT Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200. "This is a tough place."

The front gate admission is less than 10 bucks, fans can bring their own cans of beer and the program moves swiftly and energetically. No wonder the place is jammed -- for weekly Thursday night shows.

There are things about Thunder Road that I, personally, could do without. I don't need a hokey nickname for every driver ("Irish" John Donahue, winner of the 200, for example, is no more Irish than the spark plugs in my Subaru Forester), and some of the pomp and circumstance for a race a the local speedway is over the top. Of course, I'm wearing a media hat most days and not my fan tuk, and I don't want pomp and circumstance, I want to make deadline.

I'm aware that I'm not most people, that that kind of pomp and circumstance gives it all an "event" feel and keeps people coming back for more.

But if my biggest gripe is a bunch of nicknames, then there's not a whole heck of a lot wrong. I only wish it wasn't a 4-hour drive for me to the track, that more people could get there more easily. Then again, wouldn't it lose its charm, the way most things do, if it was so easily accessible?

Clark gets big payday north of the border

One car seems to be getting the job done for Johnny Clark Motorsports.

2-time PASS North Series champion Johnny Clark won the Peterbilt 250 at New Brunswick International Speedway on Sunday night. One of 7 different leaders in the event, Clark came from an 18th starting spot on the grid to collect a guaranteed share of $15,000 (Canadian), plus lap leader bonus money.
Clark, who has been down to 1 completed race car in his shop for the last month and a half after a rash of crashes in the month of July, beat out fellow PASS North driver Travis Benjamin for the victory.

Peterbilt 250
Unofficial top-5

1. Johnny Clark; 2. Travis Benjamin; 3. John Flemming; 4. Lonnie Somerville; 5. Justin Labonte.


John Donahue wins at Thunder Road

For once, John Donahue didn't have to drive more than 3 hours to win a Late Model race.

The Graniteville, Vt., driver dominated the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road Speedbowl, taking the lead from Scott Payea in lapped traffic prior to the halfway point and never relinquishing it en route to the 1st American-Canadian Tour win of his career.

Randy Potter of Groveton, N.H., rallied from a 2-tire pit stop to finish 2nd, with multi-time ACT champion Jean-Paul Cyr 3rd. Brent Dragon and Ben Rowe rounded out the top-5.

Previously this season, Donahue, who competes weekly in Thunder Road's Late Model division, won a 100-lap open at Oxford Plains Speedway. Oxford once served as a 2nd home for Donahue's racing efforts -- he would drive more than 6 1/2 hours, round trip, to compete in a Strictly Stock owned by a relative.

"I live about 4 minutes down the street," Donahue said of Thunder Road. "But I'd (travel to Oxford) again, too, to race. I just like going around in circles. You know, drive 4 hours to drive a 20-lap race and then drive 4 hours back."

Donahue started 3rd, and he followed the pole-sitter Payea into heavy lapped traffic as the race was slowed only once in the first 100 laps by caution. On lap 94, with Payea waiting for lapped cars to sort themselves out in front of him, Donahue pounced on the chance and took the lead.

Donahue also started 3rd the day he won for the 1st time this season -- winning the L/A Harley-Davidson at Oxford on June 10.

"It worked out good that day, too. (The season) started out good and now it's ended good here. Perfect," Donahue said. "It's the same car, too. It's not the one I run here every week, it's the tour car. I probably should have run it here every week this summer.

"It is important to start up front. I started up front at Oxford and it made it easier that day, too. You don't have to beat on your equipment trying to get up through. It is important -- and I'm just learning this."


ACT Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200

Unofficial results

1. John Donahue, Graniteville, Vt.; 2. Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H.; 3. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt.; 4. Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt.; 5. Ben Rowe, Turner, Maine; 6. Brad Leighton, Center Conway, N.H.; 7. Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.; 8. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt.; 9. David Avery, North Woodstock, N.H.; 10. Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.