Johnny Clark has name recognition in Maine and beyond. He’s the 30-year-old race car driver from Hallowell who is about to win his third consecutive Pro All Stars Series season championship and fifth overall.

Dale Brackett has little name recognition outside the small town of Strong in Maine’s western mountains. He’s not related to Tim Brackett, the veteran winning driver at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Dale Brackett is 31 and chasing his dream to race on NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series. He’s the greenest of rookie drivers. So inexperienced, NASCAR hasn’t yet given him a license to race on the mile oval track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend when Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and the big boys of Sprint Cup racing pull into Loudon.

For now, Brackett can race on NASCAR’s shorter tracks of less than a mile. He’s recruited Tim Bainey Jr. of Philipsburg, Pa., to qualify the Chevy truck for Saturday’s support race. It’s like buying a Chevy Corvette ZR1 and letting someone else drive while you sit in the passenger seat.

What fun is that? Brackett is ecstatic. Not for one moment is he comparing himself to Maine’s Ricky Craven, who parked his driving career five years ago. Or Joe Bessey, another Mainer, who owned the Sprint Cup cars raced by Geoff Bodine.

But the fact is, Brackett is the only Mainer with a race shop in Maine competing on one of NASCAR’s three top series. Even if his experience in a NASCAR race is minimal. He’ll be a sponge this weekend, absorbing every detail of Bainey’s time on the track or in the back in the race truck garage area.

“We’re a low-budget, family-run team with an all-volunteer crew that’s spent thousands of their own dollars out of pocket on NASCAR licenses, uniforms and some of the tools they take over the wall,” said Brackett.

That crew worked behind him, as he spoke, readying the car for the trip to New Hampshire.

“There’s not a lot of passion in the sport anymore. NASCAR talks about getting back to the grassroots of racing; well, that’s us. We’ve got passion.”

Clark heads to New Hampshire as well, except his destination is North Woodstock and White Mountain Motor Speedway, a short track about an hour’s drive north. He most definitely will be behind the wheel of his Pro Stock for Friday night’s season finale.

“All I have to do is take the green flag to win the championship,” said Clark. “Nothing short of a full body cast will keep me out of the car. And that’s not happening.”

Clark has the rest of the weekend off. He will not join the rest of stock car racing’s world and stop by NHMS. “If my family or the crew wanted to go, I’d be right there with them. But they don’t and I don’t. It just doesn’t interest me.”

Someday Clark hopes his legacy rivals that of Mike Rowe, Stan Meserve or Dave Dion. That trio and others are the legends of short-track racing in New England. Meserve came out of Unity to qualify for the Daytona 500 in the 1960s. That was the time of passion when men driving cars won races.

With today’s technology at the higher levels of racing, it seems the cars are carrying the drivers.

“I’ve made a lot of money this year winning some big-money races,” said Clark. “I think it’s $180,000 just from those races. But it all goes back into the car.

“It’s not winning the money that makes me happy. It’s winning the races. I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

Clark went south five years ago to participate in Jack Roush’s version of the “Gong Show,” in which one driver was culled from about two dozen to compete for Roush.

Clark was gonged. At 25 he was probably a bit too old. He didn’t bring the potential of a fat sponsor to the table.

His high hopes took a fall. He picked himself back up nicely. He doesn’t know Brackett personally, but he hopes the other man’s eyes are wide open.

Two Maine men, both from small communities. Both from families where strength is evident. Both with a passion for a sport that’s grounded in another era.

So alike, so different. People outside the sport may not understand what makes them tick. People in the sport know perfectly well.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]