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Johnny Clark Conquers “Cement Palace” Again With Seekonk PASS Win

Clark’s win was his third victory at Seekonk in his last four visits dating back to last July’s inaugural Bay State Classic.

Johnny Clark, seen here earlier this season at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway, picked up his first PASS North win of 2022 at Seekonk Speedway last Saturday. (STS/Jeff Brown file photo)

The “Cement Palace” may want to consider installing a throne for the king of the Pro All Stars Series.

Johnny Clark survived a slam-bang Saturday-night affair at Seekonk Speedway to take home his first win of the 2022 PASS North season.

And with his streak of success at Seekonk over the last year, the seven-time series champ might have a new castle to lay claim to.

The Hallowell, Me. veteran won last July’s Bay State Classic in his first trip to the Massachusetts third-mile since 2012. September’s D.A.V. 150 saw Clark make an early exit, but he returned with a vengeance, punctuating his title drive with a physical win over Angelo Belsito in the year-ending Haunted Hundred in October.

Saturday night, Clark found himself battling Belsito once again, as the two waged war for the top spot just past halfway. Belsito, who claimed the lead after a lap-45 restart, fought back Clark’s charge, but contact on lap 87 sent the Seekonk alumnus spinning to the infield grass. Clark emerged with the lead, with Gabe Brown challenging on the restart.

Brown soon had his hands full with Seekonk all-star David Darling, sending the eight-time Seekonk champ around in a second-place battle that quickly stacked up the field with 95 laps complete. Eddie MacDonald and Derek Griffith, in his first PASS start since a grinding crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, lined up behind Clark for the restart, but Griffith’s sweet night turned sour when a tire went flat coming to the green flag.

MacDonald poked his nose out front for a lap, but “The Outlaw” faded quickly with his own flat tire, spinning out to bring out another yellow flag. Wayne Helliwell, Jr., a former D.A.V. 150 winner, moved to second, battling a resurgent Belsito and Brown for the runner-up spot.

Belsito ultimately got past Helliwell, pressuring Clark on a lap-139 restart for the lead. Behind them, Helliwell and Brown contested the third spot, but as the two fought door-to-door, MacDonald slipped past on his way back to the front.

But at the front, Belsito had nothing in the closing laps for Clark, who held on for his third win in the last four PASS North races at the “Cement Palace.”

Belsito, another former champion of Seekonk’s fall tribute to track founder D. Anthony Venditti, held on for second, his third-straight top-five finish in PASS competition. MacDonald, the current PASS North points leader, was able to climb back to third at the finish.

Helliwell, in his first PASS start of 2022, edged out Gabe Brown for fourth.

Ryan Kuhn, another Seekonk product, crossed the line sixth, ahead of Mainers Brandon Barker and Garrett Hall. Ben Ashline, wheeling the car usually driven by Anthony Constantino, was ninth at the checkers. American-Canadian Tour regular Derek Gluchacki, who won the evening’s Late Model feature, picked up his first PASS top-ten finish for car owner Rollie Lindblad.

Saturday’s race was a late rescheduling of an event originally slated for September, when PASS would again sanction Seekonk’s historic D.A.V. 150 Pro Stock showdown. However, Seekonk opted to make this year’s D.A.V. the weekly-season championship finale instead. With few open weekends to choose from, PASS’ fall trip to Seekonk was moved up to the open weekend in June.

The rebooking created a scheduling conflict between PASS and the ACT Tour, after a couple years of largely-harmonized schedules allowing teams to run for both championships. Gluchacki, the ACT Tour points leader entering the weekend, chose to race at his home track instead. By contrast, five-time champion DJ Shaw opted to travel to Canada to race with ACT, ending his bid for a sixth PASS crown but likely cementing him as the ACT Tour favorite.

Three more drivers present in every PASS North race so far – Joey Polewarczyk, Dan Winter and Michael Scorzelli – were not on the grid at Seekonk either.

Polewarczyk, in his first season racing for Richard Moody Racing, was not anticipated to run full-time. Nor was Eddie MacDonald, who sits atop the standings after six races. MacDonald last competed for a championship in 2018 with the ACT Tour; he has never raced for points with PASS. A win at Stafford Speedway in April propelled the Rowley, Mass. veteran to the top of the points, and with five top tens in six starts, MacDonald has built a healthy lead over Ryan Kuhn and Brandon Barker.

Johnny Clark, meanwhile, sits seventh in points, a surprise after a strong three-win championship campaign one year ago. But at April’s Northeast Classic at NHMS, when rain forced the race to be rescheduled to Easter Sunday, Clark’s team loaded up early to honor other commitments at home.

Clark’s numbers otherwise are stellar, with five top-tens and now a win, best among those who have not raced in all six events so far. And with another rescheduled race on the near horizon, PASS opted to implement a “drop race” in the championship standings. Following the mid-July doubleheader at White Mountain Motorsports Park, full-time teams will be eligible to drop a missed start or their lowest points race, meaning the standings could be a moving target right up to the last checkered flag in October.

Another visit to Seekonk, the late-July $10,000-to-win Bay State Classic, also looms in the near future. Even if a record eighth title is out of play for Johnny Clark, wins are still very much on the table.

And when it comes to Seekonk, it’s hard right now to bet against Johnny Clark.

Unofficial Results, PASS North 150 at Seekonk Speedway:
1. (54) Johnny Clark
2. (8B) Angelo Belsito
3. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
4. (27NH) Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
5. (50) Gabe Brown
6. (72) Ryan Kuhn
7. (88) Brandon Barker
8. (94) Garrett Hall
9. (14ME) Ben Ashline
10. (48) Derek Gluchacki
11. (52M) Jake Matheson
12. (12) Bobby Pelland III
13. (02) Brian Whalley
14. (39) Nick Lascuola
15. (06) Brandon Turbush
16. (7B) Isaac Bevin
17. (12G) Derek Griffith
18. (52D) David Darling
19. (17R) Vinnie Arrenegado
20. (88MA) Kevin Casper
21. (11B) Jacob “Rowdy” Burns
22. (00) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
23. (15MA) Jake Johnson
24. (4) Ben Rowe
25. (46) Dylan Estrella

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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