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Doiron scores first GSPSS win, Pole conquers T-Road in PASS: Northeast Late Model Update

Each week, Short Track Scene looks back at results and news from northern New England’s Late Model and Super Late Model competition, from the region’s premier tours — the American-Canadian Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, and the Pro All Stars Series — to the tracks and drivers that support them. Thanks to the local journalists and fans who report in from the track each week to keep their fellow fans informed.

GSPSS: DOIRON CROWNED OVERALL WINNER IN WATERFORD TRIPLE-FEATURE

The Granite State Pro Stock Series ventured to the coast for its second race of 2018, with the teams gathering at Connecticut’s New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday evening for the Triple 35s.

While the initial release had suggested a triple-feature event, similar to the “flash race” format that NASCAR’s Modified Tour had toyed with in the 2000s, the actual format of the Triple 35s was much more similar to the famed Vermont Milk Bowl. After each segment, points would be awarded to the teams in order of finishing position, and all lead-lap cars would be inverted for the start of the next segment. The driver with the fewest points at the end of the third 35-lap feature would be the overall winner.

Seventeen teams arrived at the track near Connecticut’s coastline for the unique feature. Rookie Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., who crashed in the season opener was among those opting not to travel, along with past ACT winner Kyle Welch and the Frahm Racing team. George Bessette, Kevin Folan, Austin Blais and Bobby Pelland were among the regional drivers who joined the GSPSS for the evening. Maine’s Brad Babb was tabbed to wheel the Maynard Family Racing #42 entry driven by William Wall in the season opener.

Jacob Dore, still riding high after his win at Claremont Speedway, set fast time in time-trial qualifying for the Triple 35s. Brad Babb, Ray Christian III, Joey Doiron and Devin O’Connell rounded out the top five to set the grid for the first feature. The former Modified racer kept Babb and Doiron at bay to win the first 35-lap segment, with sixteen of the seventeen cars finishing on the lead lap. Mike Scorzelli would lead the field to green for the second segment.

The second segment was far less forgiving than the first. An early wreck took out championship hopefuls Scott MacMichael and Mike O’Sullivan. Brad Babb went out in a hard crash a couple laps later. Ray Christian III dropped out with electrical issues, and even first-segment winner Dore was forced to the infield before the end of the segment. Surviving the race was GSPSS veteran Cory Casagrande, who took the checkers ahead of George Bessette, Joey Doiron, and Kevin Folan.

Eleven cars were remaining to take the green flag in the final segment. Austin Blais was scheduled to lead the field, but was unable to make the start. In the third segment, sophomore driver Devin O’Connell made quick work of Mike Scorzelli and Tommy O’Sullivan at the start. O’Connell, who considers Waterford his home track, coasted to a third-segment victory, his first checkered flag in GSPSS competition. Nick Lascuola finished second, with Joey Doiron working his way to third. Tommy O’Sullivan, Josh King, and Cory Casagrande finished ahead of Jacob Dore, who managed to get his car back together for the third segment. Barry Gray finished eighth ahead of George Bessette and Mike Scorzelli.

With strong finishes in all three segments, Joey Doiron was awarded the overall win, the first for the PASS veteran in GSPSS competition. Devin O’Connell’s third-segment win propelled him to second place overall, with Cory Casagrande awarded third overall. Nick Lascuola was scored fourth with Jacob Dore finishing fifth despite his problems in the second segment. GSPSS regulars Josh King, Tommy O’Sullivan and Barry Gray were scored next ahead of George Bessette and Kevin Folan.

With two races complete, Joey Doiron holds the early points lead, an unsurprising result for the multi-time PASS winner. Defending champion Mike O’Sullivan sits deep in the standings with misfortune in both races so far. The GSPSS teams have a few weeks off before their season resumes with the second annual Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Eddie MacDonald played the ringer role to a tee in last year’s victory; this year, the series regulars will have a year’s experience under their belts as they try to hold off the likely invaders.

PASS NORTH: JOEY POLE TOPS PASS REGULARS AT THUNDER ROAD

A week after welcoming the American-Canadian Tour combatants to their home turf in Oxford, Maine, the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models headed west to ACT’s native Vermont for the first of two 2018 visits to the high-banked Thunder Road International Speedbowl. For this trip, the PASS North entries were the headline event on the schedule, with 150 laps in store for their portion of the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic.

The trip to the Green Mountain State came with a short entry list, with only fifteen Super Late Models in the pits in time for heats. Derek Ramstrom joined the full-time entrants with his #35, as did Oxford regular Gabe Brown (in the Dale Shaw-built #2). ACT stars Scott Payea and Bobby Therrien looked to put their home-track expertise to work in SLMs fielded by their ACT teams. Brad Babb was scheduled to race his own #4ME entry, but with a minor injury from a wreck in the previous evening’s GSPSS event, Babb chose to sit out the Thunder Road race. Thunder Road weekly competitor Scott Dragon was tapped to replace Babb.

Payea and Ben Rowe won the two qualifying heats. Bobby Therrien spent the heats on the sidelines, unable to make the call for his qualifying race. DJ Shaw finished second to Scott Payea in his heat, but his team found a power issue in the car after qualifying. With limited time to track down the problem, Shaw’s team unloaded their backup car, forcing them to the tail of the field for the green flag.

Scott Payea took the early lead at the drop of the green, but deeper in the pack, Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. worked his way from the tenth starting position. Joey Pole’s career arc has close ties to the high banks of Thunder Road; the Hudson, NH driver honed his skills in the American-Canadian Tour, with nineteen career Tour wins and a championship in 2014. Despite his Tour success, Pole only had one victory in an ACT car at Thunder Road, winning the non-points Vermont Milk Bowl in 2010. Pole stepped away from full-time competition in 2016; he shifted his ACT operation to focus on driver development opportunities, while satisfying his driving itch behind the wheel of a new Super Late Model.

Pole made his way through traffic, but a flat tire on lap 38 slowed his progress through the field. Two laps later, defending champion Travis Benjamin crashed on the frontstretch, ending his day well short of the finish. Payea, in only his second PASS North start, continued to lead until Derek Ramstrom seized the top spot just before halfway. Ramstrom’s time at the head of the field was short-lived, as he lost a tire a few laps later.

Ben Rowe, who had struggled through the first five races of the season with only two top-ten results to show for it, restarted in the lead, shaking off Jeremy Davis and then holding off a challenge from defending Thunder Road Late Model champion Bobby Therrien. Therrien, winless in six prior PASS starts, took the lead from Rowe with a resurgent Joey Pole in tow. Pole applied pressure to Therrien’s bumper, but waited until a lap-102 restart to surge into the lead.

From there, it was Pole at the point with a torrid battle for second place between Therrien, Rowe, Reid Lanpher, and DJ Shaw, who had made up two laps to race back into the top five. Therrien and Rowe waged war for second until contact sent Therrien spinning with eighteen laps to go. On the restart, Lanpher and Shaw got past Rowe, with Therrien wasting no time getting back into the top five. Shaw moved Lanpher to make a final run at Joey Pole, but Lanpher returned the favor with two to go.

The battle for second place was everything Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. could ask for. In his third start of 2018, Pole cruised home to his first win of the year and his fifth career PASS North win. Pole, who took some time off from driving after last year’s Oxford 250, had not won since his victory at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway last July. The jubilant winner dedicated the victory to the late Tom Curley, declaring the win one of the most meaningful of his career.

Reid Lanpher, who had never raced at Thunder Road, finished second, with “Bad Boy” Bobby Therrien finishing third despite the late-race spin. DJ Shaw, in his backup car, came home fourth, with Ben Rowe holding on for his first top-five finish of the year. Garrett Hall, Derek Ramstrom, Derek Griffith, Glen Luce and Gabe Brown rounded out the top ten.

Nick Sweet, a past ACT and Thunder Road champion, was the last car running (and the last car on the lead lap) in eleventh. Jeremy Davis dropped out with 17 laps to go; local heroes Scott Payea and Scott Dragon also ended their afternoons early. In terms of silver linings, Travis Benjamin’s last-place DNF came in a race with a short field, so the impact to his title defense will be minimal in the standings.

With six races complete, Reid Lanpher and DJ Shaw should lead the points over Benjamin, with Derek Griffith fourth and still seeking a top five finish after winning the season opener. With Joey Pole winning at Thunder Road, only Travis Benjamin and Derek Griffith have recorded victories among the points leaders. That statistic is sure to change through the summer.

The PASS North teams race again on Saturday at Petty International Raceway in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, leaving teams a short week to prepare their cars and head north. The early entry list hints at a number of stars from the Maritimes threatening to keep the part-time winner statistics rolling, with Shawn Turple, Lonnie Sommerville, brothers Cole and Jarrett Butcher and Maine’s Cassius Clark among the entrants.

WISCASSET SPEEDWAY: ASHLINE DOMINATES EN ROUTE TO COASTAL 200 VICTORY

Wiscasset Speedway was among the local tracks unaffected by inclement weather. In what turned out to be prescient planning, weekly racing had been bumped to Sunday to make room for a monster truck rally. The Sunday afternoon date was also to accommodate the annual Coastal 200. The long-distance Late Model race is a long-standing tradition for the track just east of Portland, Maine.

Last year’s Coastal 200 runner-up, Ben Ashline, came back to the big race with plans to do one position better. Ashline was a rising star on the ACT Tour in 2012, only weeks removed from his first career Tour win, when his car was wiped out in a heat race crash qualifying for the Oxford 250. Ashline came back for the 2014 season, but since then has divided his attention between spot starts in a Super Late Model and building cars for Jeff Taylor’s Distance Racing Products.

This weekend, Ashline got to wear the driving hat once again. The effort paid off; Ashline started first in the feature and nearly led wire-to-wire, leading 198 of the 200 laps. In victory lane, Ashline dedicated the win to his grandmother, who had passed away hours before the race.

Dave Farrington, Jr. was the only other driver to mount a serious challenge, taking the lead under green not long after halfway. A quick caution allowed the field to pit, though, leaving Farrington a sitting duck on old tires on the ensuing restart. Farrington made a late stop for tires, but was only able to climb to second at the checkers. Shane Clark finished third, with Andrew McLaughlin fourth and Daren Ripley fifth. JR Robinson finished sixth. PASS part-timer Mike Hopkins finished seventeenth.

ACROSS THE BORDER: BUTCHER WINS AT SCOTIA SPEEDWORLD

Scotia Speedworld in Halifax, Nova Scotia hosted the second round of the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour on Saturday. Cole Butcher led the final 57 laps of the 150-lap feature to post his first victory of the season. Dylan Blenkhorn followed up his win in the season opener with a second-place run, ahead of Craig Slaunwhite and Shawn Turple. Butcher’s younger brother Jarrett rounded out the top five. All of the top five finishers hail from Nova Scotia.

The Butcher brothers will be among those Pro Stock Tour competitors taking part in the upcoming PASS feature at Petty International Raceway in New Brunswick, where the Pro Stock Tour just hosted its season opener.

WEEKLY RACING: RAIN DOMINATES SATURDAY SCHEDULES, CODY BLAKE WINS IN T-ROAD LATE MODEL 100-LAPPER

Inclement weather was once again a factor in this week’s local racing programs. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway opted to postpone their Saturday-night program. New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park cancelled Saturday racing for the second week in a row. Star Speedway opened as scheduled, but the night’s races ran late due to weather delays through the evening.

Oxford Plains Speedway dodged the weather, getting its weekly program off without a hitch. A few Beech Ridge racers headed north, led by none other than Curtis Gerry, fresh off a PASS win at Oxford a week before (and with the engine re-installed in his black #7G after a post-victory dyno test). However, Oxford’s weekly warriors were able to do what PASS regulars have struggled with for four points races. Ryan Robbins, formerly a competitor in the PASS Modified ranks, won his first career SLM race. Gabe Brown started last in the 18-car field, but finished second to Robbins. Gerry, who started fifteenth, was able to make it to third by race’s end. Austin Teras finished fourth followed by Beech Ridge veteran Dan McKeage. Track points leader TJ Brackett finished seventh, and now leads rookie Brown by only two points. Defending track champion Tardiff finished a disappointing 17th.

In addition to hosting the visiting PASS North Super Late Models, Thunder Road International Speedbowl’s Memorial Day Classic was the opener for weekly points at Vermont’s only paved oval track. The Late Models started out their season with a 100-lap undercard to the PASS North feature. Cody Blake took the lead from Scott Dragon en route to victory, twenty years after his father Greg accomplished the same feat. Dragon, the 2016 “King of the Road,” finished second with Trampas Demers third. DJ Shaw, the only non-Vermonter in the field, finished fifth in a borrowed #04 entry. Josh Masterson finished seventh, with current ACT Tour competitor Matt White fourteenth and Jason Corliss fifteenth. Tour rookie Christopher Pelkey finished eighteenth, a position ahead of ageless veteran Joey Laquerre. Defending “King of the Road” Bobby Therrien, who raced in the afternoon’s PASS feature, was not in the race, hinting that he will not defend his track championship in 2018.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The American-Canadian Tour Late Models continue their 2018 season at Speedway 51 in Groveton, NH with the Caron Fabrication 151 on Saturday night. The Pro All Stars Series North teams will be well east of the United States border Saturday as they make their first visit to New Brunswick’s Petty International Raceway. The Granite State Pro Stock Series is off until the Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway later this month.

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional late-model touring series.

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