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Granite State Pro Stock Series

Lanpher stuns “Outlaw” in last-lap NHMS win, rain wins elsewhere: 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: LANPHER BEATS MACDONALD IN LAST-LAP BATTLE AT NHMS

With the other fendered Late Model tours on break this weekend, the Granite State Pro Stock Series took center stage in New England’s fendered wars. The GSPSS was one of four series featured at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the second annual New England Short Track Showdown.

The two-day event, the brainchild of North East Mini Stock Tour promoter Bob Guptill, featured the GSPSS, the Valenti Modified Racing Series, the NEMST and Guptill’s Street Stock Showdown Series to represent the four cornerstones of weekly short track racing in a big-scale format at New England’s most visible track. For the GSPSS, the 50-lap feature would be the series’ second appearance at the “Magic Mile.”

Special events at a track like NHMS are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, many racers in regional touring series will rarely get an opportunity to compete at a national-scale track. On the other, when problems arise, the results can be damaging to a team’s very existence. A blown tire at a quarter-mile oval may mean a couple laps lost. At a one-mile speedway, it could mean destroying a race car, putting an early end to a season. Last year’s race, in which a blown engine for a front-runner swept four drivers into race-ending crashes on the first lap, was a shining example of what can go wrong.

And so there were twenty-one Pro Stocks in the garage area reserved for GSPSS teams. Joining the GSPSS stalwarts were PASS regulars Ben Rowe and Derek Griffith, both of whom had been swept into last year’s early-race melee. Reid Lanpher, who competed in the PASS feature at NHMS in 2015, joined Oxford regular Dennis Spencer, Jr. and veteran Jeremie Whorff in representing the Pine Tree State. Scott “Zig” Geno was entered in his yellow #57, with 2014 GSPSS champion Dillon Moltz serving as crew chief. Geno advised that this would likely be his final race before hanging up his helmet for good.

Meanwhile, three drivers who made both races so far in 2018—reigning champion Mike O’Sullivan, brother Tommy, and 2016 champion Barry Gray—were not in the garage area. While the O’Sullivans sat deep in the standings, Gray was fourth in points entering the third race of the season.

One late-breaking driver change ultimately resulted in another last-minute change on Sunday morning. Veteran driver and chassis builder Dale Shaw was tabbed to replace his son DJ in Sunday’s feature, after DJ burned his foot en route to a PASS victory at Speedway 95. The elder Shaw, a three-time NHMS winner in NASCAR Busch North Series competition, was entered in the Dale Shaw Race Cars #2 entry normally campaigned by Gabe Brown in PASS competition. With limited practice Saturday, though, Shaw was unable to get a good feel for the car. Sunday morning, the team opted to make a change, with Brown moving from mechanic to driver of the #2. Brown was able to get the #2 car up to competitive speed.

And, of course, there was Eddie MacDonald. The defending race winner was back for another shot at Loudon glory. MacDonald already counted ten wins to his credit at the “Magic Mile,” split between NASCAR, PASS, GSPSS and ACT events.

MacDonald was quick in Saturday’s rain-shortened practice sessions, and remained quick on Sunday morning. MacDonald won his heat race easily over Reid Lanpher, with Ray Christian III winning the other heat to lock down the front row. Fans could easily be forgiven for the temptation to engrave MacDonald’s name on the trophy before the green flag flew.

And in the first stage of the race, it looked like those fans would be vindicated. MacDonald dispatched Christian quickly, moving to the point and taking command of the race. Behind MacDonald’s red #17MA entry, Derek Griffith and Reid Lanpher moved into a tight battle for second place, with GSPSS regulars Nick Lascuola and Cory Casagrande rounding out the top five.

Griffith and Lanpher began to carve into MacDonald’s lead as the race neared a planned halfway break, though. A spin for Gabe Brown led officials to honor the halftime break a few laps early, allowing teams to change two tires and make adjustments for the final 28 laps. The ensuing restart found Griffith and Lanpher on MacDonald’s bumper, and the three battled aggressively for the lead until MacDonald asserted himself at the point and pulled away. Once again, it seemed like MacDonald’s race to lose.

As in the first segment of the race, though, Reid Lanpher’s car was configured for a long run, and with thirteen laps to go, the Manchester, Maine native moved around Griffith for second place. Even as Lanpher chipped away at MacDonald’s lead, the race seemed to be in Eddie’s capable hands. Griffith was complaining about handling and possible electrical problems on his car, and Lanpher asked his crew chief if he should park the car or stay out and hope for the best with nine laps remaining. “Stay out if you can,” Lanpher was advised.

Lanpher continued to cut into the lead, finding himself at MacDonald’s bumper with a couple laps remaining. With the white flag flying, Lanpher made his move off turn two, taking the high line and drawing alongside MacDonald, then ahead by a nose, then ahead by a car length as they came into turn three. The two cleared Ray Christian III’s lapped car through turn three, and coming off of four, MacDonald had nothing for Lanpher. “The Outlaw” had dominated the race from the point, but Reid Lanpher crossed the Granite Stripe first to take the checkered flag.

Eddie MacDonald crossed the finish line second. However, on Friday morning following the race, revised results were posted that scored MacDonald last in the running order. GSPSS officials have not commented on the apparent disqualification. The initial post-race press release advised that the top two cars would be subject to further engine scrutiny, and a social media post that was critical of Lanpher’s post-race burnout received a reply that Lanpher’s engine passed post-race testing. As of press time, the reason for MacDonald’s disqualification is still unknown.

Derek Griffith was scored in the runner-up spot as a result, with regulars Nick Lascuola and Cory Casagrande finishing third and fourth. PASS champion Ben Rowe, with plenty of Loudon laps in his Busch North Series career, rounded out the top five. Dennis Spencer, Jr. came home sixth. Joey Doiron, who struggled outside the top ten for the first half of the race, brought his restyled black-and-white #73 home in seventh. Devin O’Connell was eighth, and Jacob Dore rebounded from a flat tire under caution to come home ninth. Ryan Kuhn closed out the top ten.

The second running of the event was far cleaner than the first, with only a couple crashes slowing the day. Gabe Brown hit the wall hard in turn two, and Mike Scorzelli and Scott MacMichael got together on the backstretch in the second half of the race, ending Scorzelli’s race early. Brown and Scorzelli, along with Jeremie Whorff and Matt Frahm, were the only drivers failing to finish. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. was credited as a DNS; his team suffered transmission issues in practice and was unable to repair the car by the green flag.

With the number of series interlopers at the head of the field, Joey Doiron and Jacob Dore should hang on to their points advantage, though Cory Casagrande and Nick Lascuola will draw closer with their top-five runs.

The GSPSS teams will return to more familiar territory for the fourth race of the season, a Friday-night feature at Lee USA Speedway on July 6th.

PASS NORTH: THERIAULT COMES HOME, FILES ENTRY FOR SPUD SPEEDWAY

The Pro All Stars Series schedule takes an interesting turn with two races in four days leading into the Independence Day holiday. A non-points race for PASS non-winners, the Open 100, is scheduled for Sunday evening. The points race heads east and further north on Tuesday night, with a 200-lap bout at Spud Speedway in Caribou, Maine. The Aroostook Savings & Loan Firecracker 200 will be the first PASS race at the third-mile oval since 2010.

One driver in the field will be making a special trip for a PASS homecoming of sorts, with Austin Theriault filing an entry for the event.

The reigning ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion cut his racing teeth at Spud Speedway before advancing to the American-Canadian Tour full-time in 2010. After three years on the ACT Tour, Theriault relocated to the south, running selected PASS events and earning a part-time ride in the NASCAR Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing.

For 2017, Theriault partnered with Ken Schrader Racing, wheeling the NASCAR veteran’s ARCA cars to seven wins and a series title. While seeking competitive rides down south for this year and beyond, the Fort Kent, Maine native has been serving as a coach for ARCA driver Chase Purdy.

Theriault will be back behind the wheel of his family-owned #57, affectionately nicknamed “T-Rex.” He last raced the car in October, finishing sixteenth in the season finale at Oxford.

While Theriault would relish a win in his home track feature, the real pot of gold at the end of the rainbow may be the Oxford 250 provisionals earned by the top five finishers. Theriault has five prior starts in the 250, with top-five finishes in four of them.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: BLENKHORN TAKES CHECKERS AT SCOTIA SPEEDWORLD, DERY WINS MONDAY CSCC FEATURE

The Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour was in action Saturday night at Scotia Speedworld, only a few miles from the Nova Scotia capital city of Halifax. Jarrett Butcher, Craig Slaunwhite and Jonathan Hicken won heat races to set the 21-car field, with Butcher leading the race to the green flag. The younger brother of PASS feature winner Cole, Butcher led two laps but faded to a tenth-place finish. Instead, it was Dylan Blenkhorn scoring his second win of the season over defending champion Shawn Turple and Hicken. Older brother Cole Butcher finished fourth with Craig Slaunwhite rounding out the top five.

The CSCC LMS Tour was scheduled to resume its season Sunday with a feature at Autodrome Montmagny near Québec City, QC. Unfortunately, rain in the area forced promoters to seek a new date. With replacement dates at a premium, officials opted to run a rare Monday race to avoid inconveniencing the teams further. Jean-François Déry won the 125-lap event, with Dany Trépanier and Donald Theetge rounding out the top three. Pier-Luc Ouellette and Marc-André Cliche completed the top five, with seventeen teams taking the green flag. After three races, Trépanier sits atop the standings ahead of Ouellette and Steve Côté.

WEEKLY RACING: THUNDER ROAD MAKES UP FOR RAIN, OTHER TRACKS FORCED TO CANCEL

Thunder Road International Speedbowl’s Thursday-night program became a double-feature for the weekly Late Models after a rainout of the previous week’s action. Trampas Demers opened the night by winning the make-up feature, with Jason Corliss finishing second. Corliss rebounded with a win in the second, regularly-scheduled feature. Evan Hallstrom finished a career-best second, with Demers finishing third. After four weekly features, Demers leads Corliss in the points, with Cody Blake third and rookie Hallstrom fourth.

The rest of the week’s racing was largely a washout. Tracks from Seekonk Speedway to Wiscasset Speedway were forced to call off their Saturday programs with rain through the day and evening. A number of teams headed to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, which had not called off their program, but even The Ridge was forced to call the show before cars had hit the track.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The Pro All Stars Series officials will oversee two races this week in advance of Independence Day. Oxford Plains Speedway hosts series non-winners Sunday night for the Open 100, while the points schedule continues to Spud Speedway in Caribou, ME for the Tuesday night Aroostook Savings & Loan Firecracker 200. Both races will qualify top drivers for August’s Oxford 250.

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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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