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Payea Tops In Connecticut, Shaw Wins At Speedway 95: 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.

ACT TOUR: PAYEA DEFENDS FROM THE FRONT WITH NLWS WIN

The American-Canadian Tour Late Models visited the Nutmeg State for the first time in 2018 last weekend, with a trip to New London-Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Connecticut. The third-mile oval returned to the ACT Tour schedule in 2018 after a one-year hiatus. Unlike the recent Granite State Pro Stock Series feature at NLWS, the Tour event would be a more traditional 150-lapper, but the race was the second of ACT’s three-race Summer Showdown Series, with a $5,000 prize bonus awaiting the winner.

The Saturday-evening feature drew a strong field despite the long ride for Vermont-based teams. Mike Ziter joined the Tour regulars for his third start of the season under Joey Polewarczyk’s tutelage. Former Polewarczyk student Ryan Olsen returned to the Tour in his #61NH entry, as did Massachusetts’ Adam Gray. And a healthy crop of Connecticut racers with ACT-legal cars joined the field, including Tyler Chapman, Keith Scalia, and Thompson regular Ryan Morgan.

Morgan parlayed his home-state advantage into a heat win, with Rich Dubeau and Jimmy Hebert claiming the other two heats. Mike Ziter won the consi to set the remainder of the field. The heat results were not so encouraging for others; Walt Sutcliffe, Jimmy Linardy and Miles Chipman were involved in hard crashes in the opening laps of the second heat. Sutcliffe was able to get his car repaired in time for the feature. Linardy and Chipman were not so fortunate, determining that the damage to their cars was too severe to repair. Despite a strong start to the 2018 season, Chipman would be forced to watch from the sidelines.

The plus-minus pool, determined an unlikely polesitter, with Peyton Lanphear leapfrogging the heat winners to earn a first-place starting position alongside Dubeau. The younger Lanphear sister had struggled out of the gate, missing the season opener at Thunder Road, crashing out at Lee, and start-and-parking a borrowed car at Oxford. A top-fifteen run at Speedway 51 had been a huge step forward for the rookie, and claiming the pole position at NLWS was another leap ahead.

Lanphear’s leap was short-lived, though, with Rich Dubeau taking the race lead on the first lap. Dubeau led the first 24 laps before Jimmy Hebert charged to the point. Two weeks before, Hebert was racing for the lead at Speedway 51 before taking a hard trip into the frontstretch wall. Hebert’s family team had rebuilt the car from the firewall forward, and Hebert was looking to atone for the crash in the best way possible.

Hebert held the lead until lap 87, when a familiar competitor, defending champion and Tour points leader Scott Payea, took over the top spot. Hebert took the lead back ten laps later, holding onto the advantage through the last two of the race’s ten caution flags. On lap 106, though, Payea took the lead and never looked back. After recovering from an early spin, Scott Payea led the final 45 caution-free laps to score his second ACT Tour win of 2018.

Eddie MacDonald, a victim of Hebert’s crash two weeks before, mounted a late charge in the closing laps to finish second. Hebert, in his rebuilt #58VT, held on for third. Consi winner Mike Ziter finished a strong fourth, matching his career best, with Bryan Mason rounding out the top five finishers. Rich Dubeau faded in the closing laps to sixth, ahead of Connecticut’s Ryan Morgan, Corey Mason, Tyler Chapman, and rookie Dylan Payea.

Walt Sutcliffe rebounded from his heat-race wreck to finish a lap down in fourteenth. Ray Parent, who spun during the feature, was only good enough for fifteenth on the evening. Peyton Lanphear’s pole run did not pan out as hoped; after dropping back early, Lanphear spun while racing in the back half of the top ten, and retired from the race shortly after a third of the distance was complete.

With the win, Scott Payea stretched his points lead to 43 markers over Eddie MacDonald and 70 over Jimmy Hebert with half the Tour schedule complete. Unlike his chief competition, Payea has successfully dodged misfortune, with his worst finish of the season a fifth at Oxford. Regardless of their performance going forward, MacDonald and Hebert need Payea to stumble to give them the opportunity to catch up. That said, Scott Payea’s last Tour finish outside the top ten was a twelfth at the now-dirt Devil’s Bowl Speedway in June of 2016. It’s easy to say the title is Payea’s to lose at this point, but championship trophies are never awarded at halfway.

Payea will hold the points lead for the next month, though, as the ACT Tour goes on break until mid-July. The Tour’s sixth race of the season will be another 151-lap feature at northern New Hampshire’s Speedway 51 on July 14th.

PASS NORTH: SHAW SCORES FIRST OF THE YEAR AT SPEEDWAY 95

After a race in Canada and a week to regroup, the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Models returned to action last Sunday at Speedway 95, tucked alongside its namesake interstate highway in Hermon, Maine.

Despite an extra week off to prepare for competition, only thirteen cars made the Sunday trip to Bangor for the feature. The five full-season challengers were on hand, along with the return of Glen Luce in his black-and-purple #7L. Reid Lanpher and Nick Sweet, no-shows in Canada, were not in the pits. Johnny Clark, after a weekly run at Oxford Plains Speedway, was back in the saddle for his fourth start of the season. PASS part-timer Mike Hopkins, a Hermon native, was in the lineup in his black #15. Beech Ridge regular Corey Bubar headed north not with his #12 weekly car, but his trusty #42 Dodge. Wyatt Alexander, a racer from nearby Ellsworth with a few PASS and GSPSS starts under his belt, was in his familiar #96 after returning home from college in North Carolina. Rounding out the lineup were locals Joey Doyon in a distinctively-wrapped #38 and Scott Modery in a car from Mark Lundblad’s shop in Albany, N.H.

Johnny Clark and Derek Griffith won the two heat races from the pole, placing the six-time PASS North champion at the front of the field for the feature. Clark had been a full-time fixture in the PASS ranks for most of the series’ existence, last missing a race in 2015 when a work injury and equipment problems forced him to cut back his schedule to regroup. Clark struggled through the end of last year, and was not in the field for the season opener at Thompson. After lackluster finishes in his first two starts, Clark turned in a solid top-five at Star Speedway in May before taking a few more weeks off.

Early on, Clark held the lead, fending off a challenge by fifth-place starter Glen Luce, another contender struggling early in 2018. The real charge, however, came from fourth place. DJ Shaw, in search of his own first win of the season, got around Clark just before halfway.

From there, DJ Shaw was untouchable, building a four-second lead by the time he crossed under the checkered flag. It was the 15th career win for Shaw, who has won at least once on the PASS circuit every season since 2011.

Mike Hopkins, still looking for a follow-up to his 2016 win at Star Speedway in New Hampshire, finished second at his home track, with Derek Griffith fighting from the tenth starting spot to close out the podium. Early front-runner Clark finished fourth with Travis Benjamin fifth in the Petit Motorsports #7. Garrett Hall was the last car on the lead lap in sixth. Wyatt Alexander finished seventh, ahead of Gabe Brown. Glen Luce faded to a ninth-place result, matching his finish at Thunder Road and tying his best of the year. Ben Rowe, also a lap down, rounded out the top ten, with Corey Bubar and the two locals failing to finish the feature.

Shaw’s victory puts him atop the PASS North standings by a one-point margin over Travis Benjamin, with Derek Griffith only a few points back of the two. Garrett Hall sits back in fourth, but with a decent margin on fifth-place Ben Rowe. At the back of the top ten, rookie Gabe Brown’s five starts have vaulted him into the top ten in points, ahead of fellow part-timers Johnny Clark, Mike Hopkins, Derek Ramstrom, and Tracy Gordon.

With only five drivers starting every race and thirteen in attendance for the race at Speedway 95, one could be concerned about driver turnout this early in the season. The PASS events at Speedway 95 have been drawing fewer cars the last few seasons, with eighteen starters in 2017 and twenty in 2016. June also seems to be a lean month for some of the racers in the PASS ranks. For many, the prestige of a full season pales in comparison to the glory of winning the Oxford 250. For them, the season is largely a points-paying practice session for the late-summer event.

The PASS North season takes another week off, in preparation for two races in quick succession. Oxford Plains Speedway hosts “The Open” on the first of July, with non-winners eligible to earn Oxford 250 provisionals in the non-points race. Two days later, the PASS points schedule resumes at Spud Speedway in Caribou, Maine, in a rare Tuesday feature before Independence Day.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: TURPLE TRIUMPHS AT RIVERSIDE

The Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour continued their young season with a trip to Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Heat winners Shawn Turple and Cole Butcher dueled over the final laps with Turple beating Butcher by two thousandths of a second. Craig Slaunwhite, John Flemming and Dylan Gosbee rounded out the top five. Jonathan Hicken and Kyle Reid, both guaranteed Oxford 250 starters based on their runs in the PASS race at Petty International Raceway a couple weeks ago, finished seventh and 21st in the feature.

WEEKLY RACING: JENISON WINS FIRST TSMP FEATURE IN YEARS, FARRINGTON WINS ON THE ROAD

Thunder Road International Speedbowl attempted to kick last week’s weekly racing off with its usual Thursday-night features. Unfortunately, rain halted the week’s Late Model event only a few laps in. The race will be run in conjunction with this week’s action for a double Late Model feature.

A couple hours south of Barre, Thompson Speedway dodged Thursday’s inclement weather, but only after postponing a Wednesday-night racing card by one night due to weather issues of their own. Thursday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour feature was followed by Thompson’s own Late Models in a 25-lap feature. Contact between Matthew Lowinski-Loh, William Wall and Rick Gentes at the front of the field cleared a path for Mark Jenison to take the lead and cruise home to his first Thompson win since 2007. Woody Pitkat, straight from the Modified feature, and Tom Carey III rounded out the podium, with Wall soldiering on for an eighth-place finish.

Twenty-three Super Late Models found their way to Oxford Plains Speedway for a Saturday-night fifty-lap feature. Second-year SLM racer Calvin Rose, Jr. led forty-nine of those laps en route to his first career SLM win. Veteran Kelly Moore finished second with Gabe Brown third. Counted among the visitors in Oxford’s pit area were Jeremy Davis (sixth), Tracy Gordon (eighth), John Peters (tenth), and rookie Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., who ran twelfth. With an off-weekend for NASCAR’s Cup Series, spotter Derek Kneeland and mechanic Ben Lynch returned home for some driving of their own, with Kneeland finishing seventh and Lynch placing 15th.

At nearby Wiscasset Speedway, Dave Farrington, Jr. took advantage of an off night at Beech Ridge to win his second Pro Stock feature of the season. Farrington started seventh and held off Jeremie Whorff and Kevin Douglass for the victory. Travis Benjamin was also competing at Wiscasset, though he dropped out after only nine laps of the 40-lap event.

Quinny Welch won his second Late Model feature of the year at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H. Welch finished ahead of Oren Remick and Jerry Lesage, with Stephen Donahue finishing fifth. Welch and Donahue have split this year’s Late Model features at WMMP with two wins a piece.

After weather forced a slow start to the season, Seekonk Speedway is back at full song with both Pro Stocks and Late Models highlighting their Saturday-night racing card. Gerry DeGasparre, Jr. was tops in the Late Models, holding off Charlie Rose and Thompson winner Mark Jenison for the win. Finishing nineteenth in the 21-car field was Mark Hudson, who spent last year on the ACT Tour. In the Pro Stock feature, Bobby Pelland III came away victorious. The Rhode Island driver beat David Darling, Jake Johnson, Angelo Belsito and track veteran Rick Martin. After winning last week’s Pro Stock event, Dylan Estrella finished last in the eighteen-car field, completing only six laps. Tom Scully, Jr. raced in both features, finishing thirteenth in his Late Model and eighth in his Pro Stock.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The Granite State Pro Stock Series takes center stage this weekend with Sunday’s second annual New England Short Track Showdown. GSPSS teams co-headline the event with the Valenti Modified Racing Series, each running 50-lap features at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Please consider supporting Short Track Scene’s at-the-track team as a STS Patron. Check out our Patreon page and see how you can get involved!

 

Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional late-model touring series.

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