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April 18, 2013

JOHNNY CLARK

AUTO RACING NOTEBOOK: Clark ready for season to start

By Bill Stewart
bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Pro All Stars Series North opens its season Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway with a 150-lap feature.

Opening day couldn't have come any quicker for Farmingdale driver Johnny Clark, whose run of four consecutive PASS North championships came to a halt last season.

"We are definitely ready to move forward," Clark said. "We weren't used to what happened last year."

Clark finished fourth in the point standings last season but was never a factor for the title. He won just twice in 15 starts.

The season was so disappointing that Clark and his team ditched one of their cars and started anew this winter.

"We couldn't figure out what was wrong with last year's car," Clark said. "It just got to the point where we were like, 'How long are we going to keep using it?' So we bailed on it."

Clark again enters the season with two cars and says he is eager to see how the new one will handle OPS.

"We have faith in the backup car, and really that car saved us last season," Clark said. "But we are definitely excited to roll the new piece out. We want to see if we can get back. Look, we don't need to win all the races; we just want to win our fair share.

"I do know it would be medicine to the whole team to go out and win on opening day considering how we ended up last year."

* * *

Cassius Clark finished second in PASS North last season and led the series with three wins in 15 starts.

Now, in his second full season with Hight Motorsports, the Farmington driver is ready to once again try to chase down a points championship.

"We've worked hard on the car all winter," he said. "We didn't do any racing on it this winter so we'll see. We went over and practiced last Sunday and worked the bugs out. We'll be in good shape.

The course is certainly one of Clark's favorites. He has three PASS North victories at OPS, including one last season.

"We got some wins last year and hopefully we can get a few more this year," Clark said.

* * *

Jeff Taylor is a nine-time Oxford Plains Speedway points champion and finished second in the TD Bank 250 last summer.

But the 46-year-old Taylor says the ride may be over.

"I'm too busy now," said Taylor, a Farmington native who owns and operates Distance Racing Products in Fairfield. "I've figured out over the years what it takes to race and I don't know if I have the time to make it work."

Taylor, along with Sean LaPlante, build chassis on primarily Pro Stocks, Late Models and Modifieds. Excluding the engine, there isn't anything Taylor doesn't fix on a race car.

He said he averages about 12 jobs an offseason, but that number likely will double this year.

"We've done 20 race cars and we still have three, four, five more to go," Taylor said. "We're building a lot of race cars. Everybody is ready to go."

Taylor has built chassis for several big-name drivers, including reigning TD Bank 250 champ Joey Polewarczyk, defending PASS North champ Travis Benjamin and Ben Rowe.

As for the 250 -- the one race that's eluded him in his career -- Taylor said he'll skip it this year.

"I don't want to do it not prepared," he said. "I've figured out what it will take to have a chance in that race, and it's a lot of work. So I'll say no to that one (Wednesday)."

* * *

Reid Lanpher spent his April vacation at Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va. to test his JR Motorsports No. 8 Chevrolet in advance of the next Dirty Dozen Cup race May 4.

The Manchester native flies home today to prepare for his PASS North debut Sunday at OPS.

"It's my first PASS race, my first race ever at Oxford Plains and my first race of the season in Maine," said Lanpher, 14. "I'm really excited. I'm a little anxious because I don't know the track but we'll be ready."

Lanpher will drive the Team EJP No. 59 car Sunday. Andy Santerre will be his crew chief.

"I haven't been in the car but I'll be practicing all day Saturday," Lanpher said. "I'll turn some laps and we'll make some adjustments so hopefully we can go into Sunday with a fast car."

* * *

Left turns: The American-Canadian Tour opened last weekend with the New Hampshire Governor's Cup 150 at Lee Speedway. Jimmy Hebert won the race. Winthrop native Jeff White finished 11th. ... Fort Kent native Austin Theriault leads the PASS South points standings after three races. He was one victory and another top-five finish in three starts. ... Speedway 95 in Hermon opens Saturday at 5 p.m. with regular racing. ... Spud Speedway in Caribou recently announced it was bringing go-kart racing as a regular series back to the track for the first time in 20 years.

Bill Stewart -- 621-5640

bstewart@centralmaine.com





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