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Pro All Stars Series

Shaw Starts Strong With PASS Icebreaker Win

The five-time PASS North champ has wins in three of his last five Thompson starts dating back to 2019.

DJ Shaw celebrates his first PASS North win of 2022 as part of Thompson Speedway's Icebreaker. (Jeff Brown/STS)

As the green flag dropped for Saturday’s Pro All Stars Series Icebreaker 75 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, it seemed noteworthy that an easy favorite with wins in three of his last five PASS starts at Thompson was not in the field.

So DJ Shaw simply created a new one.

Shaw slipped past defending champion Johnny Clark on lap 41, then led the rest of the way to win the opening round of the 2022 PASS North season.

The five-time PASS North titlist from Center Conway, N.H. finished second in his heat and rolled off fourth on the starting grid, settling into an early rhythm in the afternoon’s main event.

Johnny Clark (54) leads Garrett Hall (94) and DJ Shaw in the early laps of the PASS Icebreaker 75. (Jeff Brown/STS)

But while Shaw found a rhythm, Clark set the pace. The seven-time series champ started on the pole, leading the first 40 laps in search of his first win at the historic Connecticut track since 2011.

As Clark cleared slower traffic, Shaw patiently reeled the Maine veteran in, distancing himself from a frantic battle for third between young Canadian Austin MacDonald, big-track ace Eddie MacDonald, 2020 Snowflake 100 winner Jake Johnson and reigning Granite State Pro Stock Series champion Gabe Brown.

Once Shaw caught Clark, it was only a matter of time, with Shaw dipping low in turns one and two to take the top spot away.

Shaw draws alongside Johnny Clark for the race lead. (Jeff Brown/STS)

Austin MacDonald’s podium run went up in smoke a few laps later, with a suspension problem launching his white #13 into the turn-one wall and bringing out the first caution flag of the race on lap 48. Early challenger Garrett Hall and PASS North runner-up Dan Winter made pit stops under caution as the field bunched back up.

On the restart, Shaw took control of the lead, while Clark faded into the pack. Jake Johnson emerged in second, with Eddie MacDonald third. Joey Polewarczyk, who started shotgun on the field after failing technical inspection after his heat, leaped from ninth on the restart into the top four. But as the front of the field settled out, Shaw had already driven off.

From there, Shaw was untouchable as he sailed away to his 24th career PASS North victory.

Jake Johnson matched a PASS career best with his runner-up finish. Eddie MacDonald, a five-time Thompson winner in multiple series, reversed his frustrations from the Easter Bunny 150 doubleheader at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway with a stout third-place result.

Jake Johnson and Eddie MacDonald flank the victorious Shaw after the race. (Jeff Brown/STS)

Gabe Brown, racing for car owner Dale Drew, took fourth place on the last lap, with Polewarczyk settling for fifth. “Joey Pole,” who joined forces with car owner Richard Moody in the offseason, has yet to finish worse than fifth for his new team.

Ryan Kuhn was sixth at the line, with Johnny Clark fading all the way to seventh after dominating the first half of the race. Cory Casagrande battled among the top five, but was shuffled back to eighth in the final run. Ben Rowe finished ninth to bring both Richard Moody Racing entries home in the top ten. Garrett Hall rebounded from his midrace pit stop to finish tenth.

Two of last year’s PASS full-timers found themselves in an early hole. Dan Winter was lapped on-track shortly before the lap-48 caution, trapping him a lap down for the rest of the afternoon. And rising star Kate Re was already gone before the drop of the green. The third-year racer and Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist suffered a mechanical failure early in Friday’s practice runs, dealing heavy damage to her #10 car and forcing the family team to pack up early.

There was no early departure on hand for Shaw and his team.

The 2021 season was a statistical outlier for the legacy racer from northern New Hampshire. In 2020, Shaw won only once in PASS North competition, but his consistency earned him a third straight title, his fifth PASS North crown overall. A full-time effort on the American-Canadian Tour nearly had the same result, with Shaw never finishing outside the top ten and placing second in the standings.

Shaw has three Thompson PASS wins in his last five starts, including the 2019 and 2022 Icebreakers. (Jeff Brown/STS)

But when Shaw skipped the third race of the 2021 season, he took himself out of the running for a fourth-straight title that could have tied Johnny Clark’s record. Not that Shaw was any less committed. In fifteen PASS North starts, only five found him outside the top six at race’s end. Three wins tripled his 2020 results. Shaw was seventh in PASS North points, but edged out Clark for PASS’ New England South loyalty bonus. And in another full ACT Tour season, he scored his first Tour win and finished second in points courtesy of a last-lap tap from eventual champion Ben Rowe.

Shaw was on the short list of favorites at Thompson, having won the 2019 edition of the Icebreaker and picking up his lone 2020 win at the World Series. A sixth-place finish in last year’s Icebreaker was tempered by a grinding crash last October that ended his race prematurely. The only hotter hand at the high-banked oval may have been Derek Griffith, with wins in three of his last five Thompson races, including a 2021 Thompson sweep.

Griffith was not entered for Saturday’s race, though, instead making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Richmond Raceway in Virginia. Shaw, who finished second to Griffith in 2018 and beat him a year later, now shares the same honor, with three Thompson wins in his last five starts.

October is a long way away, but PASS’ annual appearance in the World Series could be one for the ages.

Unofficial Results, PASS Icebreaker 75 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park:
1. (60) DJ Shaw
2. (15MA) Jake Johnson
3. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
4. (50) Gabe Brown
5. (4NH) Joey Polewarczyk
6. (72) Ryan Kuhn
7. (54) Johnny Clark
8. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
9. (4) Ben Rowe
10. (94) Garrett Hall
11. (23) Dave Farrington, Jr.
12. (88) Brandon Barker
13. (52M) Jake Matheson
14. (48) Derek Gluchacki
15. (76RI) Tyler Tomassi
16. (21) Josh King
17. (18) Michael Scorzelli
18. (81) Dan Winter
19. (45) Mike Mayberry
20. (06) Brandon Turbush
21. (13) Austin MacDonald
22. (29) Austin Teras
DNS (24J) J.P. Josiasse
DNS (10) Kate Re

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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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