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Corliss wins Labor Day Classic, Shaw steals GSPSS gold at Claremont: 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: CORLISS SWEEPS THUNDER ROAD IN RINGER ROLE AT LABOR DAY CLASSIC

The penultimate race of the 2018 American-Canadian Tour season played out in front of a home crowd Sunday afternoon, as Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl welcomed the ACT home for the annual Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic. The 200-lap feature, part of the ACT Late Model Tour schedule, also serves as a special feature for the track’s weekly Late Model division with the season championship already settled.

Championship leader Scott Payea entered the race in what writers would reach to consider a “slump.” Winless since the fifth event of the season, the defending ACT Tour champ was coming off his worst finish of the year, a tenth place at Oxford Plains Speedway. To add intrigue, the last three races had been won by Payea’s title rivals. Payea entered last year’s Labor Day Classic in a similar position: he was coming off a win by his closest competition and his worst finish of the year, also a tenth. Payea responded with a win at Thunder Road to secure a significant points lead heading into the finale.

To repeat at Thunder Road, though, Payea would have to hold off not only the surging championship challengers, but the best of the Thunder Road weekly regulars.

Thirty-three cars were in the pits to start the day, with the local contingent led by recently-crowned “King of the Road” Scott Dragon and May winner Jason Corliss. Last year’s Thunder Road champion, Bobby Therrien, was not in his usual Fast One Motorsports #5VT, instead piloting the black #04VT. Jim “Boomer” Morris was in his own car, with the #13 on the door replaced with Chip Grenier’s #9VT for the day. Car owner Eric Chase had two cars on hand, piloting his own #40VT while usual driver Nick Sweet wheeled the #46VT. And Vermont governor Phil Scott, himself a Thunder Road track champion, looked to make his first ACT Tour start of the year in his own #14VT entry.

Only twenty-six cars could make the starting grid, and the process of whittling the field down began with three heats, won by Thunder Road regulars Brendan Moodie, Kyle Pembroke and Scott Dragon. Josh Masterson and Dylan Payea won the two consis, with Cody Blake and Bobby Therrien riding their plus-minus scores to take the front row for the feature. Twelve cars competed in the B-feature, with Nick Sweet and Mike Ziter finishing one-two in the final qualifying race. Governor Scott was unable to qualify for the feature, along with sisters Peyton and Reilly Lanphear, Mike “Beetle” Bailey, Matt White, rookie Trevor Lyman and Tour journeyman Jimmy Linardy.

The field dropped by one as the cars rolled off the starting line, as Eric Chase’s engine let go on the frontstretch. Blake and Therrien brought the twenty-five car field to the green flag, with Blake asserting himself at the head of the field. Blake had three weekly feature wins in 2018, including the last race of the season a week before, and he hoped to cap the season with a Tour win before moving on to the year-ending Vermont Milk Bowl.

But shortly before halfway, Jason Corliss moved into the battle for the lead after starting eleventh. The 2017 ACT Rookie of the Year, who had opted to return to weekly racing in 2018 with a few spot starts in touring action, took the lead on lap 97 and never looked back. Despite challenges from Blake and Scott Dragon, Corliss led the final 104 laps en route to his second ACT Tour win of the year, a sweep of the two races at Thunder Road. Corliss’ win marked his third “major” win at Thunder Road, with previous victories in the Memorial Day Classic and the Vermont Milk Bowl.

Thunder Road champion Scott Dragon hung on for second place with Cody Blake finishing third. Thunder Road and White Mountain Motorsports Park racer Stephen Donahue finished fourth, completing a top-four sweep for the weekly Late Model stars. None of the top four pitted for tires through the 200-lap race.

While he was unable to repeat last year’s win, Scott Payea managed a best-in-class fifth place, finishing one position ahead of Eddie MacDonald. Weekly racers Marcel J. Gravel, Brooks Clark and Kyle Pembroke rounded out the top nine, with former Thunder Road champion Nick Sweet bringing home his #46VT in tenth.

Jimmy Hebert, the other touring title rival, finished eleventh, the last car on the lead lap. Rich Dubeau was a lap down in 14th, one position ahead of Bobby Therrien. Rookie Christopher Pelkey was 16th, with fellow Tour rookie Dylan Payea 18th. Corey Mason was the last finisher in 19th, with fellow Tour regulars Claude Leclerc and Brian Tagg ending their afternoons early.

While Payea was unable to put distance on his competitors, he still managed to extend his points lead to 26 over Eddie MacDonald and 40 over Jimmy Hebert with one race remaining on the schedule. Rich Dubeau and Corey Mason, fourth and fifth in the points, are virtually locked into their positions as long as they race at Thompson Speedway in October.

The back half of the top ten, however, was shaken up significantly, with full-timers Bryan Mason and Chip Grenier skipping the race. Rookie Dylan Payea and veteran Claude Leclerc leapfrogged Mason to take sixth and seventh in the points, by virtue of starting all the races thus far. Brian Tagg and Christopher Pelkey, each of whom have missed a race, moved into ninth and tenth, with Grenier falling to eleventh. Both Mason and Grenier could still make moves up the standings with a good finish at Thompson, should they elect to enter.

For now, the ACT Tour is on hold as they await the season-ending race at Thompson (CT) Speedway Motorsports Park in mid-October, as part of the track’s year-ending World Series program. The long pause in the schedule is broken up, however, by the Vermont Milk Bowl the final weekend of September. A few touring names may throw their hats into the ring for the opportunity to win Vermont’s most prestigious race and kiss the cow.

GSPSS: SHAW PREVAILS IN 150-LAP CLAREMONT DUEL

After kicking off their 2018 season at Claremont Speedway, the Granite State Pro Stock Series returned to the track in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley for their second visit of the year and the seventh race of the season. This trip to Claremont was different, as the series had heralded it as a special event that they hoped to establish as a crown jewel of the growing Pro Stock tour’s schedule. The Rocky Ridge 150 was fifty laps longer than the typical GSPSS feature, and the extra distance meant a juicier prize check for the race’s winner.

Points leader Cory Casagrande led the series regulars to Claremont. Casagrande, still seeking his first win in the series, had expected to be out of the points chase, but a timely rainout left him atop the standings. Second-year driver Devin O’Connell, a first-time winner in July, led fellow winners Joey Doiron and Jacob Dore as they diced up the points positions behind Casagrande with rising star Nick Lascuola.

The Rocky Ridge 150 drew 26 entries, with the usual suspects accompanied by some high-profile visitors. Guy Caron made another start in the #72 vacated by Scott MacMichael. Jeremy Davis was in his black #09 Dodge, with Ricky Bly behind the wheel of Davis’ black-and-green #09NH. Local Late Model racer Aaron Fellows climbed into the #42 entry, with Luke Hinkley in his #31NH. Dale Shaw Race Cars entries were represented well, with Gabe Brown towing his #47 out to Claremont on an Oxford off-week. Modified racer Todd Patnode had a Shaw-built #24 entry of his own. But leading the charge was DJ Shaw, with the PASS points leader bringing his familiar #60 mount for a shot at GSPSS glory.

Luke Hinkley topped time trials to set the field for the heats, with Hinkley, O’Connell and Shaw each taking a heat win. Todd Patnode won the consi. Only Ryan Bell would bow out before the green flag, with the other 25 entrants all making the show. Local flavor prevailed at the head of the field, with Guy Caron and Fellows leading Hinkley and reigning champion Mike O’Sullivan to the green.

Seventh-place starter Jeremy Davis, however, was the one to watch early. Davis marched through the field and planted himself at the head of the pack early on. A former winner in both PASS and GSPSS competition, Davis put his full-time driving on hold a few years ago to open his own chassis shop. Davis’ cars had found their way to victory lane, with and without their architect at the wheel. But Davis was winless in 2018 as a driver. He missed the Oxford 250 grid a week before. A win in the long-distance Rocky Ridge 150 would be a great opportunity for redemption.

But DJ Shaw had other plans. Shaw, from sixth place on the grid, took longer to clear his path through traffic. By halfway, he had moved to second place, putting pressure on Davis for the lead. For fifty laps, Shaw and Davis battled back and forth for the top spot, racing hard but clean. In the long run, Shaw had managed his car and his tires better early, with Davis fading in the closing laps. DJ Shaw cruised home to the checkered flag, winning the Rocky Ridge 150 and the $3,500 winner’s check. The win was Shaw’s sixth in GSPSS competition, but his first since 2016.

Jeremy Davis finished second, a season best in GSPSS trim, with Luke Hinkley finishing a stout third. Ray Christian III finished fourth with Gabe Brown fifth in his second GSPSS race in 2018. Joey Doiron led the title battle with a sixth-place finish, with Mike O’Sullivan, Cory Casagrande, Devin O’Connell and Vermont’s Todd Stone rounding out the top ten.

Barry Gray, the 2016 GSPSS champion, was 11th, with Mike Scorzelli 12th. Tommy O’Sullivan and Josh King were 17th and 18th, with Todd Patnode 19th. Aaron Fellows was a distant twentieth, while first-place starter Guy Caron finished 24th. Title hopefuls Jacob Dore and Nick Lascuola finished deep in the field. Dore, who started last after discovering a clutch problem in his heat, finished 23rd, with Lascuola last in the 25-car field.

Cory Casagrande still holds a ten-point edge in the standings, but his reign at the top is limited, as the point leader still anticipates missing one or two races for his brother’s wedding this fall. With that in mind, all eyes are on the race for second place. Joey Doiron has a two-point advantage on third-place Devin O’Connell, with Nick Lascuola and Jacob Dore over 30 points behind O’Connell. Mike O’Sullivan, with one fewer start, sits sixth in the standings another thirty points behind.

The GSPSS teams will have to regroup quickly as they head to Star Speedway in Epping, NH for the Nocella Paving 100, part of the weekend’s ISMA-backed Star Classic. Joe “The Show” Squeglia, Jr. will look to win his third-straight Star Classic 100 win Saturday evening.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: GUENETTE WINS CSCC BOUT IN FIRST RIDE FOR LARUE; MESSER, POLLARD SCORE BIG-TICKET WINS

Québec’s Autodrome Montmagny hosted the seventh round of the CSCC LMS Tour Saturday, with another new winner joining the CSCC honor roll. Alex Guénette replaced Pier-Luc Ouellette in the Larue Motorsports #48QC and immediately parked the car in victory lane. Guénette assumed the lead with five to go when dominant Jonathan Bouvrette was forced to pit lane. Donald Theetge and Martin Goulet, Jr. completed the podium, with championship leader Dany Trépanier finishing 16th after an accident with five laps to go. Only one race remains before the CSCC crowns its first-ever champion.

Speedway 660 in Geary, New Brunswick hosted the 18th running of the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 on Sunday evening. The long-distance race attracted its share of regional stars and American visitors with both the Pro All Stars Series and Maritimes-based Pro Stock Tour on off-weekends. Despite some heavy-hitting veterans in the field, sophomore Pro Stock racer Ryan Messer came out on top after 250 laps for the biggest victory in his career, beating out Steve Halpin, Lonnie Sommerville and Pro Stock Tour regular Craig Slaunwhite. Cassius Clark led early, but much like his Oxford 250 run a week before, his hopes were dashed by an incident with about 100 laps remaining. Controversy struck on lap 72, when Johnny Clark rejoined the field from the pits as the pack was prepared to take the green flag, cleaning out the cars of Dylan Gosbee and Dave O’Blenis, among many others. Social media reports suggested that the six-time PASS North champion had been directed onto the track by track marshals, while others felt he had ignored cautions from his own spotter.

Further west in Canada, Ontario’s Jukasa Motor Speedway hosted its first Canadian Short Track Nationals, a $50,000-to-win Pro Late Model event. The big winner’s check attracted a number of drivers from the United States, including one who had just gone to victory in a long-distance feature in Maine. Georgian Bubba Pollard made his northern trip quite profitable with a win over Carson Hocevar and Michigan’s Brian Campbell. Québec’s Patrick Laperle, a winner on the ACT Tour this year, was fourth in a black #91 entry. Massachusetts racer Derek Ramstrom, a part-time PASS competitor, was a respectable seventh. Toyota development driver Raphaël Lessard finished seven laps down in 27th. The owners of Jukasa indicated their desire to up the ante on the Short Track Nationals, hinting at a goal of a million-dollar prize purse in a few years.

WEEKLY RACING: BARKER BEATS GERRY FOR BEECH RIDGE WIN, HOPKINS TAKES BOSS HOGG 150 AT WISCASSET

A week after damaging his car in a late-race wreck in the Oxford 250, Curtis Gerry returned to weekly action at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, his team spending the week repairing their mount. Gerry almost put the rebuilt car in victory lane, but Brandon Barker edged out the 2016 Pro Series champion in a thrilling battle for the feature win. Gerry’s runner-up finish, coupled with a ninth-place run for Mike Rowe, gave Gerry an eighteen-point lead over Rowe and a nineteen-point advantage over Bill Rodgers with one race left on the calendar.

Jerry Lesage landed his first Late Model win at White Mountain Motorsports Park Saturday night, holding off a late charge from Jeff Marshall. Point leader Quinny Welch finished a strong third. Further south, Jay Sands took his first win in Star Speedway’s weekly Late Model division. Sands leads the track standings over Jason Ryan and Charlie Rose.

Thirty-two Pro Stock and Super Late Model competitors were at Wiscasset Speedway Sunday afternoon for the Boss Hogg 150. Mike Hopkins was dominant through the race, but a late yellow brought Garrett Hall into contention. Hall, who was disqualified from last year’s running by a tire infraction that was judged to be more against the letter of the rules than the spirit of them, had the lead in hand with one lap to go, but Hopkins charged back to take the trophy and the $5,000 winner’s purse. Hall’s Beech Ridge classmate Dave Farrington, Jr. finished third, with Kevin Douglass and Scott Chubbuck rounding out the top five. Travis Benjamin was twelfth in the Frahm family’s #14. Defending winner Nick Jenkins never made the green flag, his car destroyed in a wreck in the qualifying heats.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The Granite State Pro Stock Series raced Saturday night at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway, in support of the ISMA-sanctioned Star Classic. Results will follow in next week’s Update, as well as a look back at several track championships coming to a close.

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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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