Fall foliage, short-track style

As the racing season ends and I start worrying just what I'm going to blog about every day so Tracie Cushman can get her on-line fix in the off-season, I realize there's still plenty going on right now.

Here are some highlights -- pace laps, if you will:
* Don't know how I never found the time to blog about this, but Kelly Moore hasn't made any friends over the last couple of weeks. First, he takes Matt Kobyluck out at New Hampshire during a Busch East Series race, then he takes out Johnny Clark, D.J. Shaw and a bunch of others in the PASS North Series race at Beech Ridge last Sunday.

There's a great element that part-time competitors bring to a race. They aren't concerned with points racing, they're there just to win and, with a resume like Moore's, they certainly bring some cache. But those guys have to respect who they're racing with, too. There are guys out there with, as Denny Hamlin is so fond of saying, "bigger fish to fry."
Moore got off the gas while leading the field to a restart on lap 197 Sunday, giving Benjamin reason to duck to the inside and make it 3-wide across the start-finish line. As the field went into turn 1, they bottled up and the result was a heap of cars atop turn 1. Clark was mad enough that he got out of his car, ran across the track to Moore's pit stall and stuck his head in Moore's car to have a word. Minutes later, Clark could still be seen with his arms in the air in the infield.
Moore's accomplishments speak for themselves -- he's done a lot over a fine career. He's in danger of tarnishing his reputation, however.

* Drag racing enjoys a cult following unlike any other sport. Maybe it's because if you can breathe nitro exhaust and live to tell about it, you're winning. Winning what, I have no idea. But John Force's injuries on Sunday are big news -- particularly for a man who lost a teammate to testing crash earlier this year, is larger than life in the auto racing scene and has built his own safety research facility.
Godspeed, John. Godspeed.
And if you haven't seen this about Force already, you should check it out.

* Kyle Petty had no right to do what he did, slapping Hamlin in the helmet during Sunday's 400-miler at Dover. But Hamlin had no right speaking of Petty the way he did, either.
Not that anyone cares, but here's my 2 cents: Drivers are responsible for driving their cars -- and that includes being responsible for avoiding slower cars. For Hamlin to say that the disparity between the frontrunners and the backmarkers makes it impossible to stay out of their way is hogwash.
I'm guessing when Hamlin was winning everything there was to win in a Late Model across Virginia a few years ago, there was an even greater disparity in the fields. He had no problems then keeping his car clean and winning races.
* This isn't a good sign for Unity Raceway. The track's annual season-ending Long John Open on Oct. 13 is going head-to-head with the PASS Sportsman championship weekend at White Mountain Motorsports Park. The highlight of the Long John is a $1,500-to-win Super Street event.
Most Super Street/Sportsman drivers that have been willing to travel for big shows this year have done so with PASS. It would be nice to see Unity go out with a big show in a year where the track has made gains toward getting back on Maine's short-track map, but that won't be so easy in this case.
* Who's got a camper? Anyone? Anyone? There's a Milk Bowl this weekend, or so I hear... Man, have I got the blogging bug bad. When kissing a cow seems like a good idea, something's seriously wrong.


Steve Berry lives to race another day

After several reports to the contrary, Steve Berry will be allowed to compete in PASS North Series events for the remainder of 2007.

Berry's car owner, Tom Mason, confronted D.J. Equipment 300 winner Mike Rowe in victory lane on Sunday, feeling as though Rowe had cost Berry a chance at winning the event. Rumors swirled that Mason had done everything from throw water at Rowe to throw a punch, and that he was no longer welcome as a car owner with PASS.

Alan Berry, crew chief for Steve Berry, said nothing like that happened, only that Mason had, indeed, voiced displeasure in victory lane.

"It's all sorted out now," Alan Berry said on Wednesday.

Rowe and Berry made contact while racing for the lead with 20 laps remaining in the 300. Berry suffered a flat tire in the incident and stopped on the track on lap 282 to bring out the race's 14th caution flag.

The team is expected to close out the season with races at All-Star Speedway (Oct. 6) and White Mountain Motorsports Park (Oct. 14.). Steven Berry was 9th in the PASS North standings entering last weekend, having only missed 2 races in Nova Scotia.

Mason also owns the car of PASS South Series competitor Corey Williams. That series races at Hickory Motor Speedway this weekend, and the Maine-based teams of drivers Cassius Clark and Trevor Sanborn are expected to make the trip down.


Hey, it's our 300th birthday!

Hard as it is to believe, but the ol' "Green-White-Checker" has turned 300.

300 posts, and still cranking out stuff that sometimes I honestly can't believe people want to read.

We've done the Oxford 250's move to Late Models ad nasuem. We've had our run-ins (or lack of them, I suppose) with Ward Burton. There was the Kyle Busch PASS fiasco, a memorable trip to Thunder Road and, of course, J.J. Yeley's induction into the Hall of Fame.

So this is the 300th post I've made in this little blog, this blog that had exactly 2 readers when it started -- my mother and Shawn Courchesne. Mom gave up months ago, Shawn still reads it regularly -- so he can e-mail me and tell me how many more hits The Backstretch gets every day.

I keep telling him I'm about quality over quantity, but even I'm not so sure anymore.

How much has happened in 4 little months of blogging? Dale Jr. left DEI. Then he joined Hendrick. Then he left Budweiser. Then he got AMPed up.

Then Cassius Clark went from splitting with owner Ed Chapman in the PASS North Series to reuniting, running a retro paint scheme, winning the NAPA 100 at Wiscasset and then failing tech.

And who could forget the hospitality tent at Speedway 95?

All that and I caught a seal, cruised around on an ATV and climbed 4 peaks in the Bigelow preserve in less than 24 hours.

It's just the life of an auto racing reporter who has no life, I suppose...


Wilson's the happiest runner-up in the world

Alan Wilson remains best-known not for what he's accomplished at Oxford Plains Speedway but for the 1 thing he didn't do.

Wilson came up 11 laps short of winning the 2004 Oxford 250, a flat rear tire claiming what would have been biggest payday and most prestigious win -- and filing it away in that cabinet under the label "What Could Have Been."

Sunday afternoon at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Wilson again came up just a bit short.

Numbers created out of yellow duct tape on the door of a car that even Wilson himself doesn't know the age of ("Ah, I don't know. Eight, 9 years, maybe."), the Hebron driver rolled from 18th starting spot to finish 2nd to Mike Rowe in the D.J. Equipment 300.
All that after being a lap down and needing the "Lucky Dog" to get back on the lead lap in the 2nd half of the race. All that after himself believing the car wasn't good enough to even qualify on Saturday. All that after driving the same car to just a 6th place finish in a 100-lapper for the Outlaw Late Models on the undercard of Sunday's 300.
And -- after all that -- Wilson was all smiles.
"I felt we lucked into qualifying. I went home and read some books about what I've done down here before, chassis set-ups and stuff, and I thought we was close," said Wilson, who has 50 career wins at nearby Oxford Plains Speedway, 10th all-time there and 3rd among active drivers. "I realized it was just me driving the track wrong.
"I was driving too hard, using too much brake. You've got to let it coast in here. It feels like you're going slower, but you're going faster."
Wilson's luck was further compounded and steered in the wrong direction when he pitted prior to lap 100. The sun created such a glare on pit road, Wilson said, that he couldn't even see where his pit stall was. He got blocked in, couldn't get out of his stall and ultimately went a lap down.
After getting that Lucky Dog with fewer than 120 laps remaining, his car began flying to the front. And people were obviously taking notice.
"(The last 100 laps), that's when the guys that are handling good are going and that's when the guys on bad tires start to fade," Wilson said. "This car was just unbelievable all day. We were just set up for long green-flag runs."
His late-race charge through the top-5 may have come up short when restarts foiled his bid, but he emerged from his race car in victory lane to cheering from those remaining in the grandstands. And, as a colleague pointed out, by finishing with the car in one piece and having made no apparent enemies on the day, Wilson truly had accomplished something for a low-budget race team trying to compete head-to-head with the big guys.

It's too bad that he's remembered for what he has yet to accomplish.

Mike Rowe wins D.J. Equipment 300 for 2nd time

For the 2nd time in 3 tries, Mike Rowe won the D.J. Equipment 300 for the PASS North Series.

Rowe capitalized on track position to dominate the final 2/3 of the event at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Sunday, and in the process he shaved his deficit atop the series standings to just 19 points. Ben Rowe, the 3-time series champ, remains the leader with 2 races to go.

Alan Wilson finished 2nd, with Derek Ramstrom, Cassius Clark and Trevor Sanborn rounding out the top-5.

Rowe has won virtually everything there is to win in Maine racing -- but he's still in search of PASS North Series title No. 1.

"I don't know if I can catch Benji, but as long as it's one of us, it doesn't matter to me," Rowe said. "If he beats us, he beats us.

"I won a lawnmower race the other night in Saco, and I retired right after. Maybe I'll stick to (PASS racing) a little longer."


D.J. Equipment 300
Unofficial results

1. Mike Rowe, Turner; 2. Alan Wilson, Hebron; 3. Derek Ramstrom, West Boylston, Mass.; 4. Cassius Clark, Farmington; 5. Trevor Sanborn, Parsonsfield; 6. Richie Dearborn, Hollis; 7. Scott Chubbuck, Dresden; 8. Kirk Thibeau, Fort Fairfield; 9. Travis Benjamin, Morrill; 10. Rick Martin, Westport, Mass.

Irony 101: 'Sportsman' driver DQ'ed from win

As they introduce the drivers to the crowd in anticipation of the start of the D.J. Equipment 300 for the PASS North Series...

* Mike Landry, who apparently won the Pullen Heavy Industries 100 for the Sportsman Series, was disqualified in post-race tech. Terry Merrill was credited with the win.

* It never fails. Some smarty-pants in the press box notes that a certain division typically runs clean races -- and then the PASS Modifieds engage in a 6-car pileup in turn 3 on lap 2 of 50. Go figure.
* Chris Smith, a 2-time Beech Ridge Sport Series champ, earned his 1st career Modified win in the Price Rite Fuels 50.
* 33 cars are in the starting field for the 300, after 42 attempted to qualify. Among the notables who did not make it in during Saturday's qualifying rounds was Brad Leighton, driving for car owner Steve Perry -- the PASS marketing director. Karma can be so sweet...

* The top-10 starters look like an Outlaw lineup. Among them, Outlaw (semi-) regulars Mike Fowler, Donnie Lashua, Jay Sands and Bill Whorff Jr.

* It's 3:47 p.m. and the field for the 300 just fired up the engines....

Landry a true Sportsman at The Ridge

A new body and a new engine added up to a trip to Beech Ridge's victory lane on Sunday.

Landry, a regular weekly competitor, hung a new body on his No. 40 for the Pullen Heavy Industries 100 and he put a new engine in, too. That engine nearly killed Landry's chances on restarts, but he was good enough over the long haul to win his 3rd career PASS Sportsman race and 1st this season.

"Basically, we're allowed to have it in this series," Landry said of the body, "and it weighs 82 pounds less."

Landry, the 2006 Beech Ridge Sportsman champion, held Terry Merrill and Shane Tatro.

On at least 2 occasions, Landry lost several spots on restarts.

"We put a new engine in it, and the cam was put in wrong," Landry said. "It made all the horsepower at the end of the straightaway."


Unofficial results
PASS Sportsman Series
Pullen Heavy Industries 100
1. Mike Landry, Oakland; 2. Terry Merrill, Saco; 3. Shane Tatro, Levant; 4. Dan McKeage, Gorham; 5. Jerry Harrison, Freeport.

Baril: I'm going home

Where's the racing spirit, anyway?

Moments after winning the Norway Savings Bank 100 for the PASS Outlaw Late Models at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, J.R Baril announced he was packing up his ball and heading home. Truly.

Baril had a choice -- take the $2,000 payday or take half of that and head into a starting spot in the D.J. Equipment 300 later in the afternoon. For the 1st time most of us can remember, the racer chose the very un-racer's way.
"I'm going to load up the car and go home," Baril said, to a shocked silence from the grandstands. "We've got 1 (Outlaw) race left. 300 laps is a long time, and anything can happen... We want to start that last race next week."
Remember when racers lived to race? It's a sure sign of the times, folks.
When it comes to racing in the 21st century, it's about a whole lot more than living for the moment. It's about big budgets and putting yourself in the right circumstances. For Baril, the right move was not racing.
Funny thing is, were he to start the 300, he'd be guaranteed the same payday, even if he finished dead last.
Unofficial results
PASS Outlaw Late Models

Norway Savings Bank 100
1. J.R. Baril, Haverhill, Mass.; 2. Tony Ricci, Westbrook; 3. Joe Decker, Chesterville; 4. Chris Staples, Brunswick; 5. Jim Rosenfield, Middleboro, Mass.