The Pro All-Stars Series’ Super Late Model North tour will make its only trip to Canada on Saturday night for a 200-lap race over the high-banked, one-third mile oval at Speedway 660 in Geary, New Brunswick.
It will be the tour’s first trip to the Fredericton area since 2003.
It will be one of just three 200-lap races on the tour’s 14-race schedule. Ten others are 150-lappers and there is a 75-lapper at Thompson International Speedway (Conn.).
There will be a competition caution at lap 125 which will enable the teams to make changes to their cars like putting on new right-side tires.
“You treat it as two races, basically,” said points leader and defending points champion Johnny Clark of Hallowell. “You’re more cautious in the first half of the race. But at the same time, you’re setting yourself up to have a good starting position for the final 75 laps.”
Morrill’s Travis Benjamin called it a “real fast track.”
“It’s about the same size as Unity [Raceway], but you’re running 13-second laps instead of just under 15 seconds like you do at Unity,” said Benjamin.
“It’s a lot smoother than Unity or Bangor [Speedway 95] and there’s more banking,” said Clark. “It’s similar to Unity and Bangor in that the outside groove is faster [than the inside groove]. That’s where you prevail on restarts. That’s the place to be late in the race.”
Benjamin raced at Speedway 660 two weeks ago and was leading when he was spun out. He wound up finishing 19th.
More importantly, it gave him a feel for the track in preparation for Saturday’s race.
“We found out some little things that will help us,” said Benjamin, who has had considerable success at the track.
In fact, the track holds an annual open race, the Peterbilt 250, and Benjamin has never finished lower than fourth over the last five races. He has two seconds, two thirds and a fourth.
“It should be a real good track for us. I think I have the most experience there than anybody else on the tour,” said Benjamin. “It would be real nice to win up there.”
He pointed out that Irving, one of his primary sponsors, is located in Saint John, New Brunswick, which is “about an hour from [Geary].”
Benjamin is 11th in the points race and is looking for a change in his luck.
He has had the lead in three races, two PASS races and the one in Geary two weekends ago. He and Ben Rowe swapped paint in the two PASS races and Benjamin came out on the short end of the deal.
“We’ve got to be there at the end,” said Benjamin, who may take a more aggressive approach so that he comes out ahead if there are continued confrontations.
Clark said that any time they race in Canada “it’s fun to get the American-Canadian rivalry back. They put on a good show [at Geary]. They absolutely pack the place, and it’s always fun to race in front of big crowds.”
“They camp out right behind the pits. There are always people at the gate watching you. The fans are awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Benjamin.
Lonnie Somerville of Saint John, New Brunswick, and John Flemming of Halifax, Nova Scotia, are two of the drivers who should be in the mix up front.
Clark said the thing that hurts the Canadian drivers is the tires they use are harder and slower than the tires they use on the PASS tour.
The PASS tires will be used in the race.
“There’s almost a one-second difference,” said Clark.
Clark has a 16-point lead over Brunswick’s Chris Staples atop the points chase standings. West Boylston, Mass., teenager Derek Ramstrom trails Staples by six, Ben Rowe is eight behind Staples and Adam Bates of Warner, N.H., is one point behind Rowe.
Nason may consider another 250
Would 69-year-old Ralph Nason, who won successive TD Banknorth Oxford 250s in 1998, ’99 and 2000, consider coming out of retirement to run one more TD Banknorth Oxford 250?
“If someone offered me a first-rate LMS [Late Model Sportsman] car and a great team, I would probably do it. But it would have to be a top-shelf deal,” said the man known as Racin’ Ralph Nason.
“I know things about that track [Oxford Plains Speedway] that other drivers don’t know. It’s subconscious. If you watch me go around the track, I pass where nobody else passes: high on the outside of turn four. Nobody else can step on the gas there. How come I can? I don’t have a clue,” said Nason.
Unity’s Nason and wife Nancy are busy these days with their various businesses. They own and lease Unity Raceway and Autodrome Montmagny (Quebec) and also own Jim’s Salad, an online auto parts store [New England Auto Parts] and several apartments.
Nason retired from racing several years ago because “it wasn’t fun any more.”
He has considered coming back and driving four-cylinder racecars but said he would have to have the best equipment because his competitive juices would require that he be successful.
“I’m possessed to win and I’m sure that would raise hell with the rest of the field. It would hurt racing, I think,” said Nason.
His latest project?
“I’m going to convert one of my snowmobiles into a three-wheel motorcycle,” said Nason.