Those eagerly anticipating the start of the Pro All Stars Series at Oxford Plains Speedway will have to wait just a little longer.
Series President Tom Mayberry announced on the PASS website Wednesday that the opener — originally slated for April 12, — has been moved to Saturday, April 26, at 2 p.m. The PASS North Ripley will serve as the first race in a busy weekend for the track, with the Fletcher Ford 150 set for Saturday evening and the Colossal Carnage 150 Enduro slated for Sunday.
“We knew it was risky scheduling the opener in early April, but the past few seasons have allowed us to open up earlier as warm weather has graced us in late February and early March,” Mayberry said Wednesday in a news release. “Right now we still have several inches of snow on the grounds, and even with warm weather, we don’t feel the grounds will dry up enough to allow the event to be held on April 12th.”
For competitors like 2013 PASS North Super Late Model champion Cassius Clark, of Farmington, and six-time champ Johnny Clark, of Farmingdale, the decision didn’t come as much of a surprise.
“It was probably the right decision, especially after this winter I don’t think people are thinking about racing,” Cassius Clark said. “Hopefully, it will give us a little extra time to get the cars racing well.”
“It’s been a long, cold winter and with the amount of snow that’s on the ground, we weren’t surprised at all,” echoed Johnny Clark. “… What a crazy winter it was. I’m excited to get rolling here, but I don’t mind the extra time. It’s hard because if the temps were 65-70 you’d be roaring and ready to go. We haven’t even gotten the trailer out of storage yet.”
While Johnny Clark and most of the PASS North field are still waiting for the remaining snow to melt to get going, Cassius Clark traveled south to get in his first run of the year. The defending champ competed earlier in March in the Fox Carolina 150 — the opening race for the PASS South series at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, S.C. — and had some mixed results, winning the poll but suffering some unfortunate luck during the race after getting a flat. While it was admittedly not the result Clark was looking for, he did say it was “good competition” and that his car “sized up well.”
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The start of PASS North may be three weeks away, but when the flag drops for the first time in 2014, Cassius Clark knows it will do so with a bull’s-eye on his car.
“That’s all right,” Clark says. “If you’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back you’re doing the right things.”
One of the things Clark did right last season was get off to a strong start. He took the opening race at Oxford in 2013, and the win served as a springboard into a fantastic season that ended in a championship.
“Every year you want to win, and it’s nice to get that out of the way early and focus on racing for points,” the defending champ says. “It’s nice to be able to run well and be able to capitilize on (starting strong).”
Clark will not be the only one looking for a strong start on April 26 though, as runner-up Joey Doiron — as well strong competitors like D.J. Shaw, Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark — will be looking to make their marks early.
For Johnny Clark in particular, the opener at Oxford will be critical after the season he had last year.
“We struggled bad last year. It was so uncharacteristic to run as bad as we did,” the six-time champ says. “We’ve been working all winter long to tear into everything and reevaluate where we’re at.
“As time goes on, technology changes and it’s not always for the better. We proved that last year.”
Last season wasn’t what Clark had hoped for, but he did say the winter proved to be fruitful and he feels better prepared heading into the start of this season.
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Those familiar with the No. 54 Clark’s Westside Chevrolet will see a slightly new version of the car this season.
Johnny Clark has announced on his website that he will be teaming up with Butler MacMaster Performance Engines, which will be a featured sponsor on the car.
“We’re extremely excited about this,” Clark said in a statement on his website. “Butler MacMaster is a leader in the high performance industry and always has been. This is big for us. We’re honored to carry their name on the hood of the car.
“I am very loyal to the brands that I use, and I have always been loyal to the Butler MacMaster guys. I have been going there since I was 16 — when I first got started in racing. Since then, I have never gone anywhere else for my engines.”
Evan Crawley — 621-5640 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @EvanCrawley_MTM