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Granite State Pro Stock Series

Home track advantage propels Squeglia, Lanpher to touring wins: 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: SQUEGLIA SHOWS UP REGULARS IN FIRST GSPSS WIN OF 2018

After playing on the big track two weeks before, the Granite State Pro Stock Series returned to familiar territory last Friday night, racing under the lights at Lee USA Speedway. The track billed as New Hampshire’s Center of Speed welcomed the GSPSS teams for their first of two visits to the abrasive oval.

Lee has long been a staple track on the GSPSS schedule, and the car count in the pits reflected that welcoming feeling with 26 cars on hand for the feature. After sitting out the Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, reigning champion Mike O’Sullivan, brother Tommy and veteran Barry Gray were back in action with the series. Mike Mitchell was another name returning to the series, making his first GSPSS start of 2018 after acquiring a new car in the offseason. Car builder Jeremy Davis returned to competition at one of his favorite tracks. Dennis Spencer, Jr., who raced at Loudon, and Beech Ridge regular Corey Bubar were on hand from the state of Maine. And a number of GSPSS part-timers and drivers visiting from other tours and tracks were there to round out the field, including Ryan Kuhn, Craig Weinstein, Kevin Folan, and locals Bryan Kruczek and Joe Squeglia, Jr.

Squeglia, the only driver with multiple GSPSS wins in 2017, was quick in practice, but Ray Christian III set the fast time in time trials, going on to win his heat race as well. Dennis Spencer, Jr. and Joey Doiron won the other two heats, with Christian and Jacob Dore gridded at the front of the starting lineup.

Christian jumped out to an early race lead, but Joey Doiron pressured the rookie early, swapping the lead on a couple early-race restarts. Doiron settled into the lead on his own 13 laps in, surviving a couple restarts before pulling away to a straightaway advantage over Jacob Dore and Joe Squeglia.

Just past halfway, disaster struck when Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.’s car failed, spewing fluids on the track and collecting Ryan Kuhn. Doiron was swept into the mess as well, slamming the turn-two wall in a catastrophic end to the driver’s evening. Doiron, who led the points coming into Lee, would be scored 19th in the final rundown.

With Doiron out, Joe Squeglia, Jr. assumed the lead. Squeglia built his career at Lee and nearby Star Speedway, and played his home field advantage for everything it was worth, driving away from the field in a long green-flag stretch run. Jeremy Harclerode picked up speed in the closing laps, getting past Jacob Dore and Devin O’Connell and making a charge for the front. Despite being one of the fastest cars in the last 20 laps, Harclerode could not catch “Joe the Show,” as Squeglia coasted home to his first GSPSS win of the year and his second straight win in the event.

Second-year GSPSS driver Devin O’Connell finished third, ahead of Jeremy Davis, with Cory Casagrande closing out the top five. Mike O’Sullivan finished sixth ahead of Jacob Dore, with Luke Hinkley eighth, Mike Mitchell ninth and Dennis Spencer, Jr. tenth.

Cory Casagrande’s fifth-place run vaulted the Connecticut driver to the top of the points battle, ahead of Dore and Doiron. Nick Lascuola, who finished twelfth Friday night, sits fourth in the standings ahead of Devin O’Connell. Scott MacMichael, last year’s title runner-up, is sixth in points after a 15th-place run, but is still within a race’s worth of points of the lead. With much of the season remaining ahead, anything is possible.

The GSPSS teams will return to the track this weekend with a Sunday-night bout at the venerable Hudson Speedway, returning to the high-banked quarter-mile for the first time in a couple years.

PASS NORTH: LANPHER DOMINATES IN HOME-TRACK BEECH RIDGE ROUT

The Pro All Stars Series teams wrapped up a torrid stretch last Saturday, with officials proctoring their third PASS SLM event in seven days. To close out the holiday rush, the PASS North teams made their second visit of the season to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, just outside of Portland. The flat third-mile oval, the only Maine track sanctioned by NASCAR, benched its weekly Pro Series competitors for the weekend, freeing them to compete in the 150-lap PASS North feature.

One of those weekly regulars is Curtis Gerry. A former full-time PASS competitor and the 2016 Beech Ridge Pro Series champion, Gerry broke out in a big way with a win in 2017’s Oxford 250. Gerry followed up his Oxford 250 win with another win at the famed track in October’s season finale. The Waterboro, Maine racer’s success followed him to 2018, with wins in each of his three PASS attempts so far. A home-track win Saturday night would be Gerry’s fifth straight PASS win, and his sixth win in his last seven starts (an early crash took him out at Beech Ridge last September).

Gerry was an odds-on favorite, but to score that fifth consecutive victory, he had to top a field of twenty-five PASS Super Late Models comprised of touring stars and home-track heroes, plenty of whom had ample experience at Beech Ridge. Joining Gerry from the Pro Series weekly ranks were Trevor Sanborn, Brandon Barker, Bill Rodgers, Dan McKeage and Maine racing legend Mike Rowe. Reid Lanpher, the 2015 and 2017 Pro Series champion, returned to the PASS circuit for the first time since May. Visiting from nearby Oxford Plains Speedway were Justin Drake, Ryan Robbins and Scott McDaniel. Joey Doiron, a PASS feature winner at Beech Ridge, was entered after a disappointing night in GSPSS competition Friday. Fellow GSPSS entrants Rusty Poland and Kyle Welch were in the pits as well. A surprise in the field was Cassius Clark, entered in Chad Dow’s #39 for a change. American-Canadian Tour racer Adam Gray from western Massachusetts was entered for his first career PASS start. Defending event winner Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. was entered in his black #97. And Brad Babb was on hand for his first start since injuring his leg in a GSPSS crash in late May. A few of Beech Ridge’s weekly regulars were missing in action, presumably feeling the week off would help bolster their weekly programs more than a long-distance PASS feature.

Local expertise reigned supreme in qualifying, with Garrett Hall, Trevor Sanborn and Mike Rowe claiming the three heats to start first, second and third. A fifth-place run in his heat, along with PASS’ rule that a former winner can start no better than tenth, forced Curtis Gerry to roll off fifteenth. Such was the blueprint for most of Gerry’s wins so far, though; he would start mid-pack, pick through traffic, and surge late in the race to take a commanding lead.

While Gerry picked through traffic early on, the lead battle was a four-way fight between Hall, Sanborn, Rowe and fourth-place starter Reid Lanpher. Lanpher opened the 2018 season looking like a strong contender for the PASS championship, with three second-place finishes in the year’s first six races. But despite leading the points early in the year, Lanpher and his team opted to aim for wins over a championship, missing the long trips to Canada and Bangor and Caribou. Without the burden of racing for a title, Lanpher was free to focus on his family’s businesses while still scoring a victory in the GSPSS event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Lanpher dispatched Hall, his former home-track rival, for the race lead after ten laps. From there, the 20-year-old set sail, driving away from a heated battle for second place. While Hall, Sanborn and Rowe traded paint, Lanpher negotiated lapped traffic, maintaining a straightaway advantage over Hall, then Sanborn.

Gerry, meanwhile, found the top-five battle up front, then carved his way through to take second place. As Gerry assumed the runner-up spot, Lanpher found himself at the rear bumper of a two-wide battle between Bill Rodgers and Brad Babb as both tried to stay on the lead lap. Neither Rodgers nor Babb would concede track position to the leader, and for a moment it appeared Gerry would have his opportunity to run down Lanpher for the win. But Rodgers and Babb ultimately heeded the passing flag, allowing Lanpher to clear the two and forcing Gerry and friends to deal with the lap-down battle on their own terms.

With traffic no longer slowing the leader, and with no yellow flags to close up the field, Reid Lanpher was uncontested in the closing laps. The 20-year-old from Manchester, Maine led the final 140 laps to clinch his first PASS North win of 2018, the third of his career, and his second straight win following the GSPSS Short Track Showdown. A straightaway behind, Curtis Gerry finished second, coming up one spot short of winning five straight races in PASS North competition.

Trevor Sanborn bested the 67-year-old Mike Rowe for the third spot, with Rowe coming home fourth. DJ Shaw, hampered by his own late-race battle with the lapped car of Brad Babb, finished fifth. Beech Ridge regular Brandon Barker came home sixth, the final car on the lead lap. Oxford feature winner Justin Drake finished a lap down in seventh. Garrett Hall, after spending most of the race in the top five, faded to eighth, with Rodgers finishing ninth. Cassius Clark rounded out the top ten in the #39 ride.

Bradley Babb’s return ended in an 11th-place run, ahead of Spud Speedway winner Derek Griffith. Travis Benjamin was never a factor, losing a lap early but soldiering on to finish 14th. Defending winner Joey Polewarczyk dropped through the field in the closing laps, complaining of clutch issues, and finished two laps back in 17th. Joey Doiron struggled from the start, racing the car that had proven to be a handful at Loudon a couple weeks prior, and was the last one to finish in 19th. Ben Rowe’s season continued to be a struggle; the multi-time champion started tenth, but pulled off the track before the race was half over, finishing 23rd.

DJ Shaw’s consistency, coupled with off-nights for both Griffith and Benjamin, should boost his lead in the points standings with ten races complete. Garrett Hall sits fourth with Ben Rowe a distant and fading fifth in points. Short of a change of fortune for Garrett Hall, the title race is shaping up into a three-way battle with half the season remaining ahead.

The PASS teams have an extended break until the end of July, when they return to competition for a 150-lap Sunday feature at Oxford Plains Speedway.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: DERY WINS SECOND STRAIGHT AT ST.-EUSTACHE

The CSCC LMS Tour raced Saturday night at Autodrome St.-Eustache, returning to the track outside Montréal for the first time since the series opener in May. Jean-François Déry took his second straight CSCC win in the 125-lap feature, leading the final 22 laps en route to victory over Patrick Cliche and veteran Québec racer Patrick Laperle. Polesitter and early leader Steve Côté broke a transmission in the closing laps, coming home 14th in the eighteen-car field. Déry, who missed the season opener to race an ACT feature in the States, sits eighth in points, with Dany Trépanier leading the standings over Pier-Luc Ouellette.

WEEKLY RACING: TRACK VETERANS SCORE BIG AFTER WEEK OF SPECIAL FEATURES

Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Vermont wrapped a busy week of racing with its usual Thursday-night program last week, with Cody Blake going to victory lane in the Late Model feature over Boomer Morris and Stephen Donahue. Jason Corliss, tied in the points with Blake entering the night, parked his car early with steering issues.

Oxford Plains Speedway capped off a busy week of its own with a rare Friday-night feature program. Only thirteen cars were on hand for the Super Late Model feature, many having participated in Sunday’s Open 100 and Tuesday’s PASS feature at Spud Speedway. Reigning track champion Alan Tardiff claimed his first feature win of 2018, beating out Gabe Brown and Tracy Gordon. Fourth-place finisher TJ Brackett continues to lead the points over rookie Brown, who still seeks his first Oxford victory.

A couple touring names surfaced during the PASS Modified 40-lap prelude to Saturday’s PASS North feature. ACT racer Adam Gray, who ran a PASS Modified at Oxford while on hand for an ACT-PASS double feature, made his second start of the season and finished fourth. Oxford regular Austin Teras made his second ever start in a PASS Modified, challenging for second place before settling for third behind Bruce Helmuth and winner Ben Tinker. Amusingly, the fifteen-year-old Teras was subbing for rookie Kate Re, who (at age fourteen) is too young to race at Beech Ridge.

Stacy Cahoon won his first Late Model feature of the year at White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday, with rookie Matt Kopp and Scott Corey trailing the veteran. Quinny Welch finished fourth, hanging onto the weekly point lead over Cahoon. Two nights after his third-place run at Thunder Road, Stephen Donahue finished seventh, with ACT regular Peyton Lanphear finishing ninth in the 11-car lineup. Wiscasset Speedway’s Late Model Sportsman teams did battle Saturday night as well, with Andrew McLaughlin beating Chris Thorne and Tyler Robbins.

Star Speedway’s Late Model program featured a regional veteran in victory lane, with Bobby Cabral winning over ACT part-timer Aaron Fellows and opening-night winner Charlie Rose. Track owner Bobby Webber, Jr. commented this week that, with the track’s Late Models complying in full with the ACT rulebook, he would welcome an ACT Tour date for 2019. The Tour last competed at Star in 2013, with Joey Polewarczyk winning a thriller over Wayne Helliwell, Jr.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The American-Canadian Tour ends its mid-summer break with a 151-lap feature at Speedway 51 in Groveton, NH. The race is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, after the threat of rain Saturday forced a late postponement.

The Granite State Pro Stock Series will return to the high banks of Hudson Speedway Sunday afternoon for the Gate City 100. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. is expected to make an attempt for the evening’s feature.

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. 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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