Sometimes, when one streak ends, a new one begins.
Brooks Clark unseated a dominant Derrick O’Donnell with 23 laps to go and held on to win Sunday afternoon’s Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl.
And after opening the American-Canadian Tour season as the second of seven unique winners, Clark has become the second-straight repeat winner in Tour competition this year.
Clark won May’s Community Bank, N.A. 150 at the Tour’s Barre, Vt. home track, giving him his first two Tour wins in a Tour season sweep of the challenging quarter-mile.
For most of the race, though, O’Donnell looked unassailable at the point. O’Donnell took the lead from Matt White on lap 4 and drove off from the field. Jimmy Hebert emerged as a challenger after halfway, but O’Donnell held his ground. The “Black Knight of the White Mountains,” anointed during his three-year T-Road title run from 2013 to 2015, was en route to his first win since returning to competition at the track after a stint working in big-league NASCAR in the Carolinas.
Hebert was unable to work the high line around O’Donnell, though, opening the door for Clark in traffic. Clark, who started 14th, only needed a few laps to close the gap to O’Donnell’s bumper. On lap 177, Clark dove low, with O’Donnell cutting down to block. O’Donnell bobbled off Clark’s front bumper, and while he gathered his car up, Clark slipped past and into the lead.
Christopher Pelkey closed in to make a bid for second, but lost control making his move and spun in turn three to bring out the last caution of the afternoon. Hebert, the winner last week at Oxford, worked over O’Donnell in hopes of making a charge for his third win of the year. But while the reigning champion could get past O’Donnell, he had no time to run down Clark.
Clark became the fourth driver to sweep ACT’s Thunder Road features since 2011.
Hebert crossed the line second, with Jason Corliss rebounding from an early crash to finish third. O’Donnell fell to fourth in the final run, with multi-time “King of the Road” Scott Dragon fifth.
Darrell Morin, a recent Thunder Road feature winner, was sixth. Kyle Pembroke was seventh after drawing the first caution of the day with his own spin. Pelkey drove back to eighth after his late-race slip. DJ Shaw was ninth, with Marcel J. Gravel rounding out the top ten.
Shaw had climbed as high as third before a failing tire dropped him through the field and forced a caution flag at lap 118. The points leader recovered to finish on the lead lap, inside the top ten. With Hebert the only Tour regular to finish ahead of him, and with his title challengers Ben Rowe and Tom Carey III 11th and 13th, Shaw was still able to defend his title advantage with three races remaining.
Clark continues a strong tradition for the surname in New England racing this year. Maine’s Johnny Clark leads the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Model standings with big wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. Cassius Clark, also from Maine and unrelated to either Johnny or Brooks, took a long-awaited Oxford 250 victory last weekend.
When Brooks Clark won in May, it kicked off a streak of first-time Tour winners, with Shaw, Carey, Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. and Mike Hopkins earning their first career Tour triumphs in the coming weeks. Corliss, a multi-time Tour winner, broke that streak at July’s Midsummer Classic 250. But Corliss was still the seventh different winner of the season in seven races so far.
Hebert, who inherited the season opener in tech inspection, corrected course on a season’s worth of misfortune with his Oxford win. With Clark winning this week, the streak appears to have been reset.
If so, DJ Shaw could be in for a treat at the upcoming Fall Foliage 200 at White Mountain Motorsports Park.
Unofficial Results, ACT Tour Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl:
1. (68VT) Brooks Clark
2. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
3. (66VT) Jason Corliss
4. (60NH) Derrick O’Donnell
5. (0VT) Scott Dragon
6. (17VT) Darrell Morin
7. (27VT) Kyle Pembroke
8. (64VT) Christopher Pelkey
9. (04VT) DJ Shaw
10. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
11. (4ME) Ben Rowe
12. (5VT) Bobby Therrien
13. (5MA) Tom Carey III
14. (04NH) Shawn Swallow
15. (94VT) Brendan Moodie
16. (36NH) Erick Sands
17. (49NH) Matt Anderson
18. (7VT) Cooper Bouchard
19. (16VT) Brandon Lanphear
20. (42VT) Matt White
21. (38VT) Tyler Cahoon
22. (00NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
23. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
24. (99VT) Cody Blake
25. (47NH) Gabe Brown
26. (62VT) Chip Grenier
27. (25NH) Jesse Switser
28. (2VT) Stephen Donahue