Johnny Clark Ready to Break the Ice at Thompson

Clark will be gunning for a record-extending eighth PASS title.

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The Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models may have already run their first pair of races for 2022 at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) in March, but with the start of April comes the start of the rigorous PASS North Championship, as New England breaks the ice for a new racing season. Naturally, the first event up is Icebreaker Weekend at Thompson Speedway (CT).

Choosing to concentrate on going for a record-extending eighth PASS North title, Saturday’s 75-lap event at ‘The Big T’ will be the first race of 2022 for defending champion Johnny Clark. The Farmington, Maine native is hoping that start of the racing season is a bit better than the start of the now ending off-season.

“It was good, other than we got COVID two days after the last race at Seekonk. So that slowed things down for a little bit, it ran through the family, and we were pretty sick here. But, other than that things have been good, we had a good holiday, and we’re ready to get back at it now,” Clark told Racing America.

Savoring the feeling of being champion driver once again after a decade, Clark and the No. 54 team are entering 2022 with the same arsenal equipment-wise; at least for now. But, there’s plenty of confidence after the three-win title year of 2021.

“We’re sticking with what we got. We always feel like there’s room to improve, we talked about it, and we may have something in the works later on in the season; but we feel we’re okay. We won the last race of the season, we’re going to start this year with the same stuff, but are trying some ideas at Thompson. We haven’t been the most competitive there the last few years, it seems as good a time.”

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Indeed, Clark’s performances at Thompson in 2021 did not match his numbers from the rest of the 17 races on the PASS North tour, seventh at the Icebreaker and tenth last fall at the World Series. He does have a single win there in 2011, but that came at a time when there was more freedom in PASS when it came to engine rules, something that Clark has taken time to adjust to. He also admits, that Thompson just might not be one of his better tracks.

“I think that if it’s a bad track for me, then it’s really the only bad one statistically. I really don’t know what it is that we’re missing there every single time. We just can’t roll the corner at all, we’ll try to free it up without backing in the fence first practice, and see what happens.”

The Month of April for 2022 has shaped into quite the challenging one for PASS. Following the 5/8-mile Thompson, it is on to ‘The Magic Mile’ New Hampshire Motor Speedway on April 16, then a week after is the 1/2-mile Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). All three comprising the longest tracks on the PASS schedule, and demanding the most amount of horsepower.

“Even though the tracks are all different, you have to go into them with the same mindset. If you hit something it’s not going to be good. That’s the thing at these tracks, you hit something you could be doing a lot of work or even junking a car. It’s funny how it all worked out; Thompson we’re looking for a strong run and hopefully a win, Loudon we’re excited to go back after it surprised us winning with the new car; and it’s been a long time since we went to Stafford. We wrecked, but we were competitive and fighting for the win.”

Clark feels that a strong April is a must to go for another title, not only set the tone against the competitive PASS field, but also with the lingering uncertainty of nationwide tire shortage dragging into a second year.

“I’m a little nervous with the tire shortage with what’s going to happen after that, it might get worse before it gets better. We didn’t have cut any races last year, hopefully it won’t come to that. We plan on running them all, but you never know. So, we’ll just go and try to win races right from the get go, and the points will fall where they fall. Worked last year, right?”

Watch the entire 46th Icebreaker live on Racing America this Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. The PASS Super Late Models headline the action Saturday, while the Outlaw Open Modifieds are center stage with 125 laps and a $10,000 winner’s check.