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Granite State Pro Stock Series

Short Track Showdown entries grow, weekly racers beat off-week visitors: 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: ENTRIES ROLL IN FOR NHMS SHORT TRACK SHOWDOWN

The Granite State Pro Stock Series may be on an early-season break after only two races, but the three-week layover has given series promoters ample time to build hype for the upcoming Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The four-division program on June 24th is one of two 2018 weekends at the speedway dedicated to the region’s touring series, with a NASCAR tripleheader scheduled in September. And with the end of a nine-year run for the ACT Invitational after last year’s event, the Short Track Showdown is easily the biggest opportunity for weekly-style racing on the “Magic Mile.”

Last year’s inaugural GSPSS race at NHMS played out largely as fans expected, with Eddie MacDonald dominating the fifty-lap feature en route to victory. Fellow ringer DJ Shaw, who held the lead briefly when MacDonald’s deck lid came loose midway through the race, finished second ahead of Modified driver Matt Swanson in a Dale Shaw Race Cars-prepared #49. With visitors sweeping the top three positions, it’s no surprise that a lineup of visitors has assembled to steal a win from the GSPSS regulars at Loudon.

Among the visitors entered for the event are PASS stars Ben Rowe and Derek Griffith, both of whom raced in last year’s event but were swept into an early crash. Rowe has ample experience at the big track; in addition to twelve starts in his NASCAR Busch North Series career, Rowe was in the PASS National feature at Loudon in 2015, where his day ended early with mechanical trouble.

Reid Lanpher has also filed an early entry for the Showdown. Lanpher has a previous Loudon start to his credit as well, as he was also in the PASS feature in 2015. Lanpher was competitive that afternoon but fell off the pace with a few laps to go.

Not surprisingly, Eddie MacDonald has filed an entry to defend his victory. MacDonald may have the most stellar résumé of the entrants, with wins in NASCAR North/East Series, ACT Tour and PASS competition at NHMS. “The Outlaw” and crew chief Rollie Lachance will most likely be the team to beat.

But this year, the field has a year’s experience in hand. And for GSPSS points leader Joey Doiron, this is not his first time around NHMS, as he was on hand for the 2015 PASS race as well. MacDonald may be a far-and-away favorite, but by no means is his name already engraved on the trophy.

Sunday, June 24 will be the test to see if Doiron, Jacob Dore, Devin O’Connell or any of the other GSPSS regulars can hold off the charge of the experienced veterans. More importantly, the race will mark the second year of what fans should hope is a new annual tradition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

PASS NORTH: AN OFF-WEEK SEASON RECAP

With seven races complete, the 2018 PASS North season is a third complete heading into a busy and climactic summer session. With the PASS North teams idle last weekend, Short Track Scene takes a look at the top points challengers entering the eighth race of the season this weekend at Speedway 95 in Hermon, Maine.

Travis Benjamin sits first in the points on the strength of six top tens in the first seven races, including a feature win at Star Speedway in May. Benjamin’s championship defense hasn’t been easy or straightforward; his Petit Motorsports team borrowed a car to race in the season opener at Thompson, and did the same in the most recent race at Petty International Raceway. Still, Benjamin has avoided bad luck most of the year, with his only DNF coming in a short field at Thunder Road.

Six points back of Benjamin, DJ Shaw sits in the runner-up spot. Shaw’s numbers are nearly identical to Benjamin’s, with four top-fives, six top-tens and one poor finish in seven starts. The key difference is the lack of a victory. Shaw is not the series’ most prolific winner, with only one win a year for the last three seasons, but the Precision JLM team has been competitive every week and will surely be a threat down the stretch.

Derek Griffith is third in the standings. Griffith’s offseason racing and his victory in the PASS opener at Thompson seemed to serve notice that this would be a big year for the third-year PASS challenger. Griffith has six top-ten runs this season, but only twice has he finished better than seventh. Consistency has kept Griffith within striking distance of the points leaders, but he needs to solidify his presence in the top five to threaten either Benjamin or Shaw.

Fourth in points is Garrett Hall, whose position in the points feels more like success by attrition. Hall has been competitive in his first full-season effort, but his results have placed the Black Point Motorsports team in the back half of the top ten most weeks. Still, Hall sits within fifty points of the overall lead, with some friendly tracks coming up through the summer months.

Ben Rowe is fifth in points after struggling to get out of the gate. Last year, Rowe went winless but managed to turn in some competitive finishes, including a near-victory at Beech Ridge in September. Rowe’s struggles continued into 2018; he was off the pace at Thompson and largely an afterthought in the next couple races. A partnership with crew chief Seth Holbrook finally seems to be paying off with top-five runs in Rowe’s last two starts. If the Richard Moody Racing team has finally turned the corner, there is still plenty of ground to be made up.

Over 100 points behind Rowe, and 205 points back of the lead, is Reid Lanpher. In his first full-season PASS run, Lanpher has three second-place finishes, plus another two top-five runs in his first six starts. Lanpher had taken the points lead before skipping the PASS event in New Brunswick last weekend. The season championship looks like a long shot, but if Lanpher continues to run at a high level, he may still have an outside chance.

Lanpher leads two other drivers who skipped the race in New Brunswick. Glen Luce, last year’s championship runner-up, seems to be suffering from a title-chase hangover. The 2015 Oxford 250 winner has a best finish of ninth this season in six starts, and sits seventh in points. Last year, Nick Sweet ran the first six races of the season before demolishing the team’s only Super Late Model in a crash. The 2016 ACT Tour champion is eighth in the standings after running the first six races, with no top ten finishes to show for it.

Behind Sweet, no driver has run more than four of the first seven events, with Derek Ramstrom leading Oxford Plains Speedway weekly rookie Gabe Brown and veteran racer Tracy Gordon in a battle to round out the top ten in points.

Interestingly, only two drivers in the top ten in points, Benjamin and Griffith, have visited victory lane, with Cole Butcher winning at Petty and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. scoring a win the week before at Thunder Road. The only multi-time winner so far is Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Pro Series contender Curtis Gerry, still riding a hot streak that includes two wins at Oxford and one at Beech Ridge this year.

Barring surprises and misfortunes, the title chase is shaping up to be a two-way battle between two-time champions Benjamin and Shaw. Derek Griffith can play the role of spoiler, but to win his first PASS championship, he needs to do better than the back half of the top ten week in, week out. For Garrett Hall, Ben Rowe, and maybe Reid Lanpher, the bar is higher: they need to win, they need to win often, and they need to win soon.

There is no better place to meet that challenge than the next race, which comes up Sunday afternoon at Hermon, Maine’s Speedway 95. Derek Griffith is the defending race winner, and Garrett Hall won his second career race there in 2016. Ben Rowe has a PASS victory at the track as well, but it came in 2003, before either Griffith, Hall or Lanpher had celebrated a tenth birthday.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: THEETGE WINS CSCC CLASH AT MONTMAGNY

The Championnat de Stock-Car Canadien resumed its 2018 season at Autodrome Montmagny last Saturday night. Steve Cote started on the front row and held off charges from Gaetan Gaudreault and Mathieu Kingsbury early on, but ran out of fuel to end his early domination. NASCAR Pinty’s Series regular Donald Theetge, a fixture in the ACT Tour and Série ACT ranks, worked his way from deep in the pack to battle Jean-François Déry for the race lead. In the end, Theetge prevailed for his first career CSCC win and his 23rd Late Model win in Quebec. Déry held on for second ahead of Dany Trépanier, Pier-Luc Ouellette and 2017 Série ACT champion Jonathan Bouvrette. Claude Leclerc, who has run with the ACT Tour this season, was eleventh in the 20-car Late Model field.

The CSCC returns to Autodrome Montmagny for another 125-lap feature on the 24th of June.

WEEKLY RACING: REGULARS FEND OFF VISITING TOUR DRIVERS ACROSS THE REGION

With the regional tours on an off-weekend, many racers headed for a convenient weekly track, hoping to fit in some needed practice time with relatively low stakes at hand.

Thompson Speedway welcomed weekly racers and fans for a Thursday-night racing card to make up for a rain-postponed date earlier in the year. In the 25-lap Late Model feature, Ryan Morgan beat Rick Gentes to take his first win of the year. Some of the bigger names at the track were in the second half of the field, with twelfth-place Tom Carey III finishing ahead of Modified regular Woody Pitkat, former ACT Tour regular Mark Jenison, and season opener winner William Wall, who finished last in the 18-car field.

Thunder Road International Speedbowl opened its regular weekly racing card with an irregular Friday-night set of features. Twenty-four Late Models made the call for their feature race, with Brooks Clark holding off late charges by Jason Corliss and Trampas Demers for his fourth career Late Model win at Thunder Road. Corliss, winner of the ACT Tour’s season opener in May, finished second ahead of Demers, Tour rookie Christopher Pelkey, and Kyle Pembroke. Vermont Governor Phil Scott finished eighth in his familiar #14VT. WMMP winner Stephen Donahue started his weekend with a twelfth-place run at T-Road. Scott Dragon was thirteenth, with former Tour regular Josh Masterson finishing last in the feature.

With the Oxford 250 approaching in two and a half months, Oxford Plains Speedway was one popular destination for Super Late Model competitors. PASS champion Johnny Clark and title hopeful Derek Griffith were among the ringers who turned out for Saturday night’s fifty-lap SLM feature. Rookie Ivan Kaffel started out front and looked to be on his way to a career-first victory. Not long past halfway, though, Scott McDaniel got around Kaffel, driving uncontested to his first career Super Late Model win at Oxford. Kaffel held on for second, with Ryan Deane third. Calvin Rose, Jr. finished a career-best fourth ahead of Johnny Clark. TJ Brackett was sixth and Gabe Brown eighth in the battle of the track title contenders. Last week’s winner, Austin Teras, was tenth. Chassis builder Jeremy Davis, in his own #09, was twelfth. Derek Griffith finished fifteenth, with Tracy Gordon nineteenth in the 21-car field.

Down the road at Scarborough’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, 2016 Pro Series champion Curtis Gerry returned to winning form. Gerry took his fourth checkered flag of the season, but shockingly his first in weekly competition at Beech Ridge. Gerry held off Dave Farrington, Jr., Brandon Barker, and a visiting Reid Lanpher, with Wayne Helliwell, Jr. coming home fifth. Mike Rowe, who finished tenth in the feature, leads the Pro Series standings ahead of Brandon Barker and Trevor Sanborn.

Wiscasset Speedway’s alternating weekly features brought the Late Model Sportsman entries to the track this Saturday, with Shane Clark winning the feature over Ryan St. Clair and Frank Moulton.

At White Mountain Motorsports Park, Stephen Donahue won his second straight Late Model feature, beating out track veterans Quinny Welch and Oren Remick. ACT Tour rookies Peyton and Reilly Lanphear were in the pits looking to build their Late Model experience. Peyton did not start the feature, but Reilly finished fifth in her heat and tenth in the race.

Seekonk (MA) Speedway hit its Saturday-night stride with features for both Late Models and Pro Stocks this weekend. In the Late Models, Ryan Lineham came out on top of the 35-lap event, beating Ryan Kuhn and Vinnie Arrenegado, Jr for the checkered flag. In the Pro Stock feature, local standout David Darling looked to be in control until Dylan Estrella got past him for the race lead. Estrella, in his first Pro Stock race at the Cement Palace, held on for his first victory over Darling and fellow Seekonk veteran Rick Martin. The win carried extra weight, as the event was a qualifying race for July’s U.S. Pro Stock/Super Late Model Nationals. By virtue of the win, Dylan Estrella is a guaranteed starter in the 200-lap, $10,000-to-win feature event.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The ACT Tour heads to the coast this Saturday for 150 laps at Connecticut’s New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The race is the second leg of ACT’s Summer Showdown Series, with an extra $5,000 on the line to the winner and another bonus in store if Eddie MacDonald can pick up his second Summer Showdown win.

PASS North returns to racing Sunday afternoon at Speedway 95 outside Bangor, Maine for its first race since the Canadian trek two weeks ago. Defending race winner Derek Griffith will look for his second win of the young season.

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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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