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Hebert wins second straight, Pollard joins entries for Oxford 250: 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: HEBERT GOES BACK TO BACK IN WHITE MOUNTAINS WITH WMMP WIN

The American-Canadian Tour made its final appearance of the season in New Hampshire this weekend, with the Late Models venturing to White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock. The Avery family’s quarter-mile was slated for a Saturday-night feature, but heavy rain and an unfortunate record of rainouts in 2018 encouraged all involved to fall back on a pre-arranged Sunday rain date for the Autosaver Group 150.

Few local tracks were in action on Sunday afternoon, and with WMMP among the local tracks running ACT Late Model rules, a healthy field of 36 entrants looked to qualify for the 150-lap main event. The top nine drivers in WMMP Late Model points were on hand, led by multi-time track champion Quinny Welch, Stacy Cahoon and Stephen Donahue. Donahue’s father John, a four-time Tour winner and former Thunder Road regular, was also on hand, looking to make his first Tour start since 2012. Mark Jenison and Ryan Kuhn took advantage of an off-week for Seekonk Speedway to head north. Cody Blake headed east from Thunder Road, as did Josh Masterson, who ran the full Tour schedule a year ago.

Blake and Kuhn won the first two qualifying heats, with Tour full-timers Corey Mason and Eddie MacDonald winning the second two. Craig Bushey and Ryan Olsen won the two consis, with Bryan Mason and Shawn Swallow advancing through a B-feature. Officials expanded the starting field to 30 cars, but that still left six teams packing up early. Jody Sicard (who crashed in heat racing), Reilly Lanphear, Mike Ziter, Christopher Pelkey and WMMP weekly racers David LaBrecque and Mike Foster were left on the outside looking in.

Josh Masterson and Rich Dubeau led the field to the green flag, with Dubeau clearing “Kid Rocket” for the early race lead. Fourth-place starter Cody Blake chipped away at Dubeau’s lead, using lapped traffic to take the lead forty laps into the feature. Blake, fourth in Thunder Road weekly points with two wins in 2018, was looking to make an impact with a first career win in ACT Tour competition.

Blake encountered his own traffic hardships approaching the two-thirds mark of the race, though, with Dubeau and Corey Mason closing in on the lead. And while three new faces held sway at the front of the field, two established winners, eleventh-place starter Scott Payea and twelfth-place starter Jimmy Hebert, were working forward from the middle of the pack.

A caution with 49 laps remaining drew the leaders together, with Jimmy Hebert getting past Rich Dubeau for second place on the restart. Another spin nine laps later pitted Hebert against Blake, and this time Hebert shot into the race lead, with Blake left to fend off Scott Payea and a strong-running Stephen Donahue. Hebert drove away from the second-place battle, while Payea patiently moved into second place. When Rich Dubeau’s car gave up with nine laps remaining, slowing the top-five contender to a stop on the track, a yellow flag brought Hebert and Payea side by side for a heads-up duel to the finish.

On the restart, Payea and Hebert gave the fans their money’s worth, trading the lead (and a fair amount of paint) back and forth over the next four laps. Hebert made the final pass with five to go, holding off challenges from Payea to score his second win of the 2018 season. After going winless since his first two Tour wins in 2013, Hebert now rides a streak of two straight wins at the tough quarter-miles in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Scott Payea held on for second place, his third runner-up finish of the year and his sixth podium appearance in seven races. Eddie MacDonald charged into the top-three late, passing Cody Blake in the closing laps to finish third. Blake held on for fourth with Corey Mason finishing a solid fifth.

Quinny Welch and Stephen Donahue represented the WMMP weekly warriors by finishing sixth and seventh, with polesitter Josh Masterson coming home a solid eighth in his first Tour start of the season. WMMP regular Oren Remick and Seekonk racer Ryan Kuhn rounded out the top ten. B-feature winner Bryan Mason stormed to a twelfth-place finish, with rookie Dylan Payea finishing 14th. Claude Leclerc, the only Canadian in the field, finished 17th. After his late-race misfortune, Rich Dubeau finished back in 22nd, ahead of only two full-timers, Chip Grenier and Peyton Lanphear.

With three races left on the ACT calendar, Jimmy Hebert’s win provided a minor boost in points, but top-three runs for Scott Payea and Eddie MacDonald hardly gave him room to celebrate, with Payea still leading Hebert by 41 points. The gap is hardly insurmountable, but Payea will have to falter to give up ground. Rich Dubeau and Corey Mason sit a distance back from third, locked in their own five-point battle for fourth place. Only eight drivers have started all seven races after Christopher Pelkey’s DNQ, with Chip Grenier sitting eighth in the standings despite missing the season opener at Thunder Road. Dylan Payea, seventh in the standings, is the leading rookie, with a sizable margin over Pelkey and the Lanphear sisters.

The next event for the ACT Tour teams is the Bacon Bowl 200 on August 18th. The feature at Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudière is the Tour’s only Canadian event in 2018 after the dissolution of the Série ACT. While the race does not count toward the season-long points fund, the $10,000-to-win special feature counts toward the ACT Triple Crown program, worth an extra $2000 to the Triple Crown champion. The next points race for the Tour is in conjunction with the Oxford 250 later in August.

PASS NORTH: MOTHER NATURE FORCES DELAY OF 150-LAP LEE FEATURE

For the first time since May, the Pro All Stars Series North schedule was set to return to the Granite State with a Friday-night event at Lee USA Speedway. The visit to “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed” was the Super Late Model tour’s only planned race at Lee after two scheduled stops in 2017.

Unfortunately, with a damp week underway and severe storms forecast for Friday, PASS and Lee officials decided on Thursday to cancel the evening’s program. Critics pointed to last June’s PASS event at Lee, also cancelled for a poor forecast that proved wrong. However, flash flooding and tornado warnings in the area Friday night justified the early call.

Early indications were that Lee and PASS would work together to find a replacement date for the event. PASS’ season schedule lists the event as “cancelled,” and no rain date has yet been announced. The fall weekends are fairly busy and Lee often moves its Friday-night features to Saturday and Sunday day races as the weather cools down, so it may be a struggle to find a date that works well for all.

OXFORD 250: EVENT SPONSOR ANNOUNCED, POLLARD CONFIRMS HIS 250 ENTRY

Oxford Plains Speedway announced this Wednesday that Clark’s Scrap Metals will be the title sponsor for this year’s 45th annual Oxford 250. The Maine operation, with four locations in the Pine Tree State, is the family business (and longtime sponsor) of six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark. This is the second straight season where a PASS competitor’s family enterprise stepped up to sponsor the biggest race of the year; Reid Lanpher’s family sponsored the 2017 race through their powersports company.

The bigger announcement regarding the 250 may have been a long-awaited addition to the entry list. Bubba Pollard, who had stated his intentions earlier in the year, confirmed this week that he will attempt to qualify for his first Oxford 250. The 31-year-old Georgian is a frequent visitor to victory circles throughout the Southeast, as well as an instant threat in his appearances elsewhere. Pollard will compete in this weekend’s PASS South race at South Boston (VA) Speedway in hopes of securing a guaranteed berth in the 250. If not, the veteran will have to battle through heats and consis to secure a starting position.

The Oxford 250 has a rich history of welcoming drivers from across the country to compete, but competitive entries from the Southeast have been limited in recent years. Last year’s top-performing driver with Southern ties was Canadian Sarah Cornett-Ching, who was best in class through a battle of attrition. There are a number of reasons for the minimal crossover, but Pollard could silence a number of those suggestions with a strong performance in this year’s 250.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: BUTCHER WINS IN OYSTER BAY SWEEP

The Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour returned to Prince Edward Island this weekend with a Saturday stop at Oyster Bed Speedway, where Cole Butcher locked down his fourth win of 2018. Butcher and Dylan Blenkhorn battled to the final lap, when contact relegated the two-time feature winner to a twelfth-place finish. Dylan Gosbee finished second, with Kent Vincent third. Butcher also won at Oyster Bed Speedway in late June, with this weekend’s win completing a sweep at the third-mile track.

EXTRACURRICULAR EFFORTS: LABBE BRINGS FAMILIAR SPONSOR TO NXS RIDE, THERIAULT RUNS IN CARS 276

NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Alex Labbé had a familiar name on the fenders of his King Autosport entry for last weekend’s race at Watkins Glen International. The Série ACT graduate and reigning NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion featured longtime supporter Larue Snowblowers on his #36 Chevrolet at the road course, leading four laps before contact relegated the Quebecer to a 19th-place finish.

Labbé joined Larue Motorsports in 2013, winning the 2014 Série ACT crown and eleven features in the #48QC entry while transitioning to a full-time NPS opportunity. Larue Snowblowers will join Labbé for the upcoming road course races at Mid-Ohio and Road America as well. While Labbé has considerable road course experience from the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, all his NPS wins have been recorded on short tracks.

Austin Theriault also made a start this weekend, competing in the CARS Super Late Model Tour Throwback 276. The marquée event, held at the historic Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway, serves as an opportunity for teams, officials and media personnel to pay tribute to the great racers of the past. Theriault’s #57 entry only threw back to his recent PASS efforts, and mechanical trouble ultimately sidelined the 2017 ARCA Racing Series champion with 23 laps to go. Theriault, unable to secure a ride despite his championship performance last year, has been working with MDM Motorsports as a driver coach for ARCA racer Chase Purdy.

WEEKLY RACING: DEMERS TAKES T-ROAD WIN AND POINTS LEAD, DEANE ANOTHER NEW OXFORD WINNER

Trampas Demers kicked off a light week of local racing with a Thursday-night win at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. The second-generation racer, son of NASCAR Busch North winner Dennis Demers, held off Jason Corliss and Jim “Boomer” Morris to claim his second feature win of the season and reclaim the points lead. Scott Dragon slipped to second in points after finishing fourth.

Oxford Plains Speedway hosted yet another new Super Late Model winner in 2018, with Ryan Deane beating Beech Ridge regular Dan McKeage for his first Oxford SLM win. Points leader Gabe Brown, who has not lacked for consistency in his rookie year, finished third. Trevor Sanborn, like McKeage, took advantage of a Beech Ridge rainout to head north, and was rewarded with a fourth-place finish. TJ Brackett finished eighth in a field that was largely devoid of ringers and part-timers. Brad Babb (seventh) was one of the non-regulars competing, while PASS regular Derek Griffith opted not to race after practicing through the day.

Wiscasset Speedway’s Late Model Sportsman class was in action Saturday evening as well, with Will Collins besting a field of nineteen entries. James Barker and Andrew McLaughlin rounded out the top three.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The Granite State Pro Stock Series marches forward with the annual JBH 100 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH. With points leader Cory Casagrande skipping the race for family reasons, the championship battle may have a new look after 100 laps at the unique quarter-mile.

The Pro All Stars Series North will return to New Hampshire for the Creative Counters Summer Sizzler 151 at Speedway 51 in Groveton, NH. Saturday night’s feature will be PASS’ first visit to the former Riverside Speedway since 2010.

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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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