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.
PASS NORTH: GORDON RETURNS TO VICTORY LANE IN 100-LAP OPEN
Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway, Pro All Stars Series officials kicked off a busy holiday week that will see the Maine-based tour officiate three races in the state within seven days. The first race was a home track bout for selected PASS North teams in the third annual Open 100.
The Open 100 was introduced in 2016 as a special non-points non-winners feature, open only to PASS competitors who had not recorded a PASS feature victory in the last five years. Sweetening the winner’s pot were Oxford 250 provisionals to the top finishers, assuring them of a start in the big race. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. recorded his first PASS Super Late Model victory in the inaugural Open, then went on to win twice more at Oxford that year, including the 250. For 2017, eligibility was extended to all PASS competitors, though the top three non-winners would also receive Oxford 250 provisionals.
For 2018, the eligibility rules returned to the original format, with only non-winners eligible to compete. The entries in Oxford’s pit area were an interesting cross-section of Super Late Model racing, with the usual PASS part-timers and Oxford competitors joined by drivers like Vermont’s Bobby Therrien, Connecticut’s Ray Christian III and Rhode Island’s Kyle DeSouza. Canada was represented by Pro Stock Tour racer Kyle Reid and veteran Lonnie Sommerville, working with crew chief Bond Suss for the weekend. Adam Polvinen, a fixture at the Maine PASS races, was on hand for his first PASS-sanctioned attempt of the year. Jeff White returned for his first attempt since destroying a car in a wreck at Beech Ridge in the season’s third race. NASCAR Busch North Series veteran Bill Penfold returned after making a couple late-season PASS attempts at Oxford, and Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. joined Austin Teras and Gabe Brown to make three fifteen-year-olds in the field.
Sommerville, Polvinen and Teras won the three heats to set the field for the 25-car feature, and Sommerville jumped out to an early advantage over Polvinen. Oxford track champion TJ Brackett moved to second place early and took the lead seventeen laps in. Brackett believed after May’s PASS 150 that he had hit on something for the longer-distance events at his home track, and the Open was prime time to back up that assertion. However, there was a veteran carving through traffic behind Brackett, looking for his own form of redemption.
Before the Pro All Stars Series was chartered, Tracy Gordon had already made his impact upon Maine’s racing scene. The 1991 Oxford champion was one of the state’s hottest drivers in the mid-1990s, establishing himself as an Oxford 250 threat with wins in ACT’s Pro Stock Tour and the NEPSA circuit. Gordon moved to NASCAR’s Busch North Series full-time in 1997, opting to start his own team for 1998. As an owner-driver, Gordon won twelve races and emerged as a championship contender in the competitive series. Following the 2002 season and a fifth-place points finish, Gordon sold his team to chase an opportunity to race in the Midwest’s famed American Speed Association.
Despite promising results, Gordon’s ASA deal ran out of funding after four races. Gordon returned to racing in New England, with spot starts in NASCAR’s evolving Busch North Series leading to a fourth-place run in the annual Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (CA) Speedway in 2006. Gordon withdrew from the sport after that season, turning his focus to his lumbering business and a young daughter.
But as often happens, racing called Gordon home. A few spot starts encouraged the veteran to jump back in. Armed with a new team and a Fury-built chassis, Gordon ran a partial PASS North schedule in 2016, his first since 2005. Gordon improved in 2017, earning a runner-up finish at Thunder Road and a third-place finish at Star Speedway. But victories were hard to come by, even in the occasional weekly battle. Reflecting on his career in a social media group, Gordon joked that “my daughter thinks I’m lying when I say I used to win races.”
Fresh off a top-five run in weekly action at Oxford the night before, Gordon started ninth in the feature and picked through traffic in a hurry, climbing well into the top five. As the race wore on and tires wore down, Gordon clawed his way to second behind leader TJ Brackett. With sixteen laps to go, Gordon took to the outside of the flat track, moving past Brackett for the race lead.
And Gordon never looked back, leading those final sixteen laps to take the Open 100 checkered flag. The win was Gordon’s first since a PASS victory in 2004. While the win was not a points-paying victory, it rewarded the Strong, Maine native with a provisional starting berth in August’s Oxford 250.
TJ Brackett finished second after dominating the middle stages of the race. Oxford rookie Austin Teras passed Lonnie Sommerville late in the going to take the final podium position. Brackett and Teras also clinched Oxford 250 provisionals, albeit at a reduced payout, should they fail to transfer through the heats and consis.
Lonnie Sommerville, who was in the top three for most of the race, settled for fourth place, ahead of Oxford regular Ryan Robbins. Ray Christian III finished sixth, ahead of Kelly Moore, Shawn Martin, John Peters, and tenth-place finisher John Salemi. Gabe Brown, one of the pre-race favorites, finished thirteenth. Kyle Reid, a Canadian visitor who earned an Oxford 250 provisional in the race at Petty, finished eighteenth.
With Kelly Moore’s feature win at Oxford the night before, Gordon’s win had a significance to Busch North Series fans, as the two former NASCAR competitors shared a sponsor. Tic Tac Breath Mints sponsored Moore from his 1995 championship season through 1998, moving to Gordon’s car in 1998 and staying through his final full-time year in 2002.
While many of Sunday’s competitors would prepare for Friday night’s weekly feature at Oxford, others had to prepare their cars quickly and join the previous PASS winners already en route to Maine’s eastern border for the next points race in only two days.
PASS NORTH: GRIFFITH TAKES CHECKERS IN PASS RETURN TO SPUD SPEEDWAY
Two days after the non-points Open, PASS officials and teams were back in action for a Tuesday-night prelude to Independence Day. For the first time since 2010, the PASS North schedule ventured to Spud Speedway in Caribou, Maine. The third-mile oval, about an hour north of the border town of Houlton and the northernmost point of Interstate 95, had been freshened and prepared for its first stock car race since 2015.
The Aroostook Savings & Loan Firecracker 200, the ninth race on the schedule, was also sweetened as part of PASS’ “Roads to Oxford and Richmond” program, with a provisional in one of the season’s high-profile events as part of the winner’s spoils. With a provisional on the line, the track drew entries from both sides of the border. With wins in PASS and the Pro Stock Tour in 2018, Cole Butcher led the Canadian contingent, with Kyle Reid, Greg Fahey and Chris Duncan in tow. Fellow Canadian Lonnie Sommerville, fresh off a fourth-place run in Sunday’s Open 100, was on hand for a second shot at a provisional.
From the American side of the border, all eyes were on the homecoming of 2017 ARCA Racing Series champion Austin Theriault, making his first PASS start of the year at the track where he cut his racing teeth. Kirk Thibeau and Tharren MacDougal joined Theriault in the home-track club. Cassius Clark was back in action after a grinding crash at Petty International Raceway in early June. Veterans Johnny Clark and Mike Hopkins, as well as ACT regular Eddie MacDonald, were in the lineup. College student Wyatt Alexander, back in Maine for the summer, was ready for his second start of 2018.
Heat victories went to Derek Griffith, Travis Benjamin and Cole Butcher, with Garrett Hall and Kyle Reid sharing the front row for the green flag. Kyle DeSouza was not so lucky; after finishing deep in the field in Sunday’s Open, DeSouza rolled his car in a violent practice wreck, leaving him on the sidelines for the feature. Home-field advantage was no better; Tharren MacDougal was unable to make the start of the race, and Austin Theriault started shotgun on the field after sitting out his heat to repair a faulty clutch.
At the drop of the green flag, Garrett Hall took command of the field. The 2015 Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Pro Series runner-up ran part-time in PASS in 2016 and 2017 before taking on the full schedule this year. By most measures, Hall’s season had been solid so far, with top-ten finishes in all but two races. However, Hall had not been a threat to win yet, only finishing once inside the top five. The three-time PASS feature winner needed a win soon, and for the first sixty laps, it looked like a strong possibility.
Hall faded from the top spot, though, leaving the battle for the win to two other title contenders. DJ Shaw and Derek Griffith had each won once in 2018, and were looking for a second win to solidify what was becoming a close three-way title chase. Shaw led first, with Griffith taking the top spot shortly after a lap-125 competition caution. Shaw inched back into the lead quickly, though, looking to make it two straight wins in PASS competition.
With thirty laps remaining, Griffith got past Shaw to take the top spot back. This time, he held it for good, even as the car overheated in the closing laps. With his car spitting water from the overflow, and with his crew in his ear urging him to go on, Griffith steered his red-and-black #12G entry to his second PASS North win of 2018. Surprisingly, Griffith becomes only the second multiple-race winner of the season. Griffith’s early-season numbers are on pace for his best season yet on the PASS circuit, with his four top fives matching a career best.
DJ Shaw held on for second, with Cassius Clark mounting a late charge to finish third. Eddie MacDonald made the most of an extracurricular start at an unfamiliar track with a fourth-place finish. Mike Hopkins brought his black #15 home in fifth. Johnny Clark, winner of the only other PASS race held at Spud Speedway in 2010, finished sixth, ahead of Wyatt Alexander, Travis Benjamin, early leader Garrett Hall, and Scott McDaniel, who finished in the top ten despite an off-track excursion at the close of his qualifying heat.
Kirk Thibeau was the best finishing local shoe in eleventh. Ben Rowe’s frustrating season continued, with the veteran cutting a tire battling Garrett Hall for the top spot a few laps into the race. Rowe could only work his way back to twelfth. Greg Fahey was best in class among the Canadians, finishing thirteenth, with Kyle Reid and Cole Butcher running into trouble in the race. Lonnie Sommerville was scored in eighteenth after demolishing his car in an early wreck. Austin Theriault made the green flag, but did not make it much further, parking his car early in the feature to finish nineteenth and last.
With an Oxford 250 provisional already in hand from his performance at Petty International Raceway in New Brunswick, Griffith opted to take his provisional for October’s Commonwealth Classic at Richmond (VA) Raceway. Griffith now holds guaranteed starts in hand for the year’s two biggest PASS events.
With nine races complete, only eleven points separate point leader DJ Shaw from third-place Travis Benjamin, with Derek Griffith using his latest win to slide between the two. Garrett Hall, in fourth, remains in reach but in need of a boost, with Ben Rowe a distant fifth in the standings. Glen Luce, who did not race at Spud, remains sixth in points with a number of drivers closing in on the back half of the top ten.
The PASS North teams will not have much time to regroup for Saturday night’s 150-lap feature at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, the second stop of the season at the familiar flat track in Scarborough. A familiar face will be back in action Saturday night, as Curtis Gerry will look to win his fourth PASS feature of 2018 in his fourth attempt (and his sixth win in seven starts dating back to last year).
NORTH OF THE BORDER: BUTCHER WINS SECOND OF THE SEASON AT OYSTER BED SPEEDWAY
The Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour made its fifth stop of the season Saturday night at Oyster Bed Speedway on Prince Edward Island. Tour points leader Cole Butcher survived a caution-filled 150-lap feature to win his second Pro Stock Tour event of 2018 and his first at the track. Prince Edward Island racers Jonathan Hicken and Greg Proude finished second and third, with Nova Scotia’s Nicholas Naugle edging out Cornwall, PEI driver Dylan Gosbee. Two-time feature winner Dylan Blenkhorn finished 18th in the 21-car field.
WEEKLY RACING: SPECIAL FEATURES ABOUND FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY
Thunder Road International Speedbowl’s weekly Late Model teams got twice the usual racing in for another week, with the regular Thursday feature followed by a Tuesday-night holiday weekend special. In Thursday’s race, Stephen Donahue landed his first Late Model win at Thunder Road in impressive fashion, with 2016 track champion Scott Dragon second and Ricky Roberts edging out Jason Corliss in a near-photo-finish for third. Trampas Demers finished deep in the field, never making his way through traffic. In Tuesday night’s sequel, rookie Brendan Moodie scored his own first career win, taking an early lead and holding off Tour challenger Christopher Pelkey and veteran Cody Blake.
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway also hosted double features this week, with the annual Pro Series 125 running Saturday evening after a rainout a week ago. PASS contender Garrett Hall, a former Beech Ridge regular, made the most of an off night as he beat Curtis Gerry and Mike Rowe to win the long-distance feature. Donnie Colpritt and Corey Bubar rounded out the top five. Joey Polewarczyk was the only other PASS regular in the feature; he finished 18th in the 19-car field. Reid Lanpher, the reigning track champion, was not in the lineup.
A slightly shorter field returned to Beech Ridge Monday night for the weekend’s second feature, with the regular racing card supplemented by a fireworks show. This time, Curtis Gerry came out on top, winning a caution-free 50-lap dash ahead of veteran Gary Smith and David Oliver. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. was fourth. Mike Rowe finished ninth, dropping him to second in the weekly standings behind Gerry.
Not to be outdone, Oxford Plains Speedway had their weekly program in play Saturday night as a prelude to Sunday’s PASS-sanctioned Open 100. A number of teams were on hand to use the 50-lap shootout as a tune-up for the Open, with 23 cars taking the green for the feature. Kelly Moore, the 1984 Oxford track champion, held off a hard-charging Jeremy Davis to take the win, with Dennis Spencer, Jr. third. Veterans Scott Robbins and Tracy Gordon rounded out the top five. TJ Brackett finished seventh to take the weekly points lead over Gabe Brown, who finished 15th. Other notables in the field included Glen Luce (tenth), Kyle DeSouza (13th), Canadian Lonnie Sommerville (16th) and GSPSS regular Ray Christian III, who finished 21st. For Moore, the victory was his first at the oval since a 1991 NASCAR Busch North Series win.
White Mountain Motorsports Park had a long-distance feature in store Saturday for its weekly Late Models. A few ACT Tour regulars stopped by the quarter-mile track in hopes of dethroning the regulars in the Foley Oil & Propane 100. Quinny Welch took the early lead to little surprise, but Jesse Switser took a late lead in the feature and held off the multi-time track champion for the biggest win of his WMMP career in his first start of 2018. Stephen Donahue finished third. Ryan Olsen placed sixth, with Tour visitors Peyton Lanphear 14th and Matt Anderson 17th. In track points, Welch holds a solid lead over Stacy Cahoon, Oren Remick and Stephen Donahue.
Wiscasset Speedway’s Pro Stocks were in action Saturday night, with the track regulars free to settle the win amongst themselves while the likely invaders were at their own tracks for the evening. Nick Hinkley came out on top of the 50-lap feature, with Daren Ripley second and Kevin Douglass third. Hinkley, with three wins this season, leads the points over Douglass and Jamie Wright.
Seekonk Speedway’s weekly racing went off as scheduled Saturday with the usual double features for Late Models and Pro Stocks. Ryan Kuhn took the victory in the Late Model feature, holding off Vinnie Arrenegado and Nick Uhrig. Ray Parent finished fifth in Don Parsons’ #98 while recent Thompson Speedway winner Mark Jenison finished back in 14th. In the Pro Stocks, David Darling won his first feature of the year, with Fred Astle and Ryan Vanasse rounding out the podium.
Miles Chipman took advantage of the ACT Tour’s mid-summer break to roll out his Sullivan Racing #0NH in Star Speedway’s weekly Late Model feature. Chipman beat regular Jay Sands to win the feature in his first appearance at Star this year.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE
The Granite State Pro Stock Series returned to familiar turf Friday night with a race at Lee (NH) USA Speedway. A race rundown will follow in the next Update.
The Pro All Stars Series North teams make their tenth start of the year, and their third scheduled event in seven days, with Saturday night’s 150-lap feature at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine.