When there is a big check nearby in the northern Super Late Model world, time has shown that there’s a good chance Johnny Clark will be holding it at the end of the race. The five-time PASS Champion has won some of the biggest shows around the Northeast and taken home some big cash in the process. With "THE RACE," an at least $75,000 to win event at North Wilkesboro Speedway (NC) this Saturday, the oddsmakers put him as a heavy favorite based on his past.
"We have done all that winning back home," said Clark, a native of Maine. "We’ve never been able to pull off a Snowball (Derby, Five Flags Speedway, Pensacola, FL) in three (tries) of those. We have won some bigger Southern races, but this is different."
Very different. The 300-lap event at North Wilkesboro is a true wildcard event. First, the focus must be on locking yourself in through speed. If you can’t do that, then there are sprint races to make the show. Accomplish either one of those and you are entered into the major endurance of the spring.
"It’s going to be a long race," explained Clark. "The tire wear is going to mean so much. It’s just going to mean running a smart race. I feel like this time is perfect for us and our team. We’ve got a brand new car for this race and I think we’ve got as good of a shot for the money as anybody."
“THE RACE” is at least $75,000 to win for any competitor, but for Clark, the payday could be even bigger. As a series regular he will have a chance at a $25,000 bonus for meeting all the Pro All Star Series requirements. So, for the second time in his career he is chasing a $100,000 payday.
Clark raced in Tom Mayberry’s (PASS Promoter) Big Dawg Challenge in 2003 at Wiscasset Raceway (ME), which was for $100,000. Clark was favored that day as well, since it was near his homebase.
"The biggest thing is that I’ve learned a lot since “The Big Dawg", admitted Clark. "That was right before we started winning a few races in 2003. It was $100,000 and I led the first 100 laps instead of leading the last 100 laps. I ended up wrecking.”
Eight months later he won the DNK 250 at Unity Raceway (ME) and earned a $25,000 payday - the first of many big checks for Clark. Since then he has had nine paydays over the $10,000 mark. Not all have been good finishes. He dominated the Oxford 250 in 2004 and ended up on the hook, but got enough for a $14,000 payday.
Clark has run up against the best of the best from the Gulf Coast to the Maritimes, but this is a field with so much talent, even he thinks several drivers might get overlooked.
"This is certainly not a PASS North versus South race," said Clark. "You’re talking California, Canada, Quebec, New Brunswick, Texas, all over. I don’t know how many states we’re actually covering, but I know a couple different countries and an awful lot of states. There are way too many unknowns to even have a clue what’s going to go on in this race. "
Clark does have a new twist to his plan… a new Port City Racecar. His old bread and butter machine, that won him the Auto Value 250, the Toyota Tundra 250 and twice the Beech Ridge 300, is being replaced.
"She (the car) let us down at the last race of the year at White Mountain when we broke a panhard bar bracket. Stuff is starting to get older," said Clark. "This is pretty much what we’ve been doing over the last four or five years, tweaking a few things here and there and I think we’re just going to be better off with brand new equipment."
If they can tweak out the bugs look out for Johnny Clark with a new ride at North Wilkesboro. He's already thinking of ways to spend the money.
"We'd probably do what we’ve done with all the other big wins, go buy a new racecar or a new hauler; spend it on racing."
Clark’s Money Bag
2004 – PASS DNK 250 - $25,000 – 1st
2004 – Oxford 250 - $14,250 (DNF)
2004 – PASS Atlantic Cat 250 – $6,000 – 1st
2005 – Oxford 250 - $17,800 – 2nd
2006 – PASS Atlantic Cat 250 - $10,320 – 1st
2007 – New Brunswick 250 - $19,700 – 1st
2008 – PASS Toyota Tundra 250 - $30,000 – 1st
2008 – PASS Beech Ridge 300 - $10,000 – 1st
2008 – PASS Mason Dixon Meltdown 250 - $10,000 – 1st
2009 – PASS Bastile 200 - $6,000 – 1st
2010 – Auto Value 250 – $26,350 – 1st
2010 – PASS Beach Ridge 300 - $10,000 -1st