Two weeks ago, Johnny Clark left Oxford Plains Speedway not with an Oxford 250 win, but with heartbreak and the hint of a harsh penalty to come.
Sunday afternoon, Clark got the best kind of redemption.
The seven-time Pro All Stars Series North champion picked up his third win of the year in the Feed The County 150, the series’ first trip in three years to Spud Speedway.
Sunday’s race was the fourth for the PASS North Super Late Models at the Caribou, Me. third-mile. The track’s PASS race, centered around supporting the food pantries of rural Aroostook County, is the only race Spud Speedway runs each year.
PASS first visited the remote raceway in 2010, with Clyde Hennessey winning a PASS Sportsman feature that May. The PASS Super Late Models traveled north for their own race a few months later. Clark, then a four-time titlist, started deep in the field and drove to the front, winning the first touring Super Late Model race at the speedway in years.
After several years away, PASS returned to Spud in 2018 and 2019. The track was on the PASS calendar for 2020, but with Maine restricting spectator attendance in the wake of the pandemic, Spud and Speedway 95 in Bangor dropped from the season’s revised schedule. After one more year away, Spud was booked for a June race this year, but heavy rain in the forecast and a long drive for most competitors forced the event to be rescheduled to September.
Sunday’s showdown was a repeat of that inaugural visit, with Clark rolling off ninth after qualifying heats. Joe Pastore and Ben Rowe brought the field to green, but Clark wasted little time finding his way to the front. And once he was there, Clark only had one destination in mind: Victory Lane.
And once in victory lane, in front of a capacity crowd, Clark hoisted a bag of Maine potatoes over his head in celebration.
DJ Shaw, the victor of the 2019 PASS feature at Spud, raced his way to second at the finish. Oxford 250 runner-up Eddie MacDonald was third, improving on his fourth-place finish in 2018. Point leader Ryan Kuhn was one position behind MacDonald in fourth, with 2010 runner-up Trevor Sanborn rounding out the top five.
Gabe Brown was sixth, with JR Robinson seventh. Polesitter Pastore was eighth, the last car on the lead lap. Ben Rowe, in his second start in father Mike’s red #24, was ninth, with Scott McDaniel rounding out the top ten.
Wyatt Alexander, whose family’s roots trace back to Aroostook County and who recorded top-ten finishes in two prior races at Spud, was 12th in his first PASS race since the 2020 Oxford 250.
Alexander finished 22nd in that race to Johnny Clark, who took advantage of a pit road blunder by Jeff Taylor to claim victory in the crown jewel event. And two weeks ago, Clark was well on his way to winning his second Oxford 250 in three years.
But with eight laps to go, Clark slowed down for a lapped car. Cole Butcher did not. Clark spun from the lead, rejoining the field in fourth as the yellow flag flew. Try as he might, Clark could not claw his way back to the front, instead watching as the Canadian driver took the win instead.
Clark delivered his frustrations with a bumper tap as Butcher slowed on the frontstretch. Rumors of a potential disqualification hovered in the air, but PASS ultimately elected for a monetary fine and a points penalty, citing the crowd rushing to the track when Clark made his displeasure known.
In a handful of laps, a weekend to remember became an evening to forget.
Clark bowed out of his title defense early this year, unable to stay through a rain-delayed weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Despite missing the race, Clark has been stout all season, finishing every other weekend in the top ten. But in a year when the title is just out of reach, wins matter most.
And while nothing can replace an Oxford 250 win, Sunday’s victory at Spud does its part to soften the blow.
Unofficial Results, PASS North Feed The County 150 at Spud Speedway:
1. (54) Johnny Clark
2. (60) DJ Shaw
3. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
4. (72) Ryan Kuhn
5. (29) Trevor Sanborn
6. (50) Gabe Brown
7. (20) JR Robinson
8. (20) Joe Pastore
9. (24) Ben Rowe
10. (14) Scott McDaniel
11. (99) Ben Ashline
12. (96) Wyatt Alexander
13. (84) Jamie Wright
14. (12) Dennis Spencer, Jr.