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: FROM THE WEEDS TO THE WINNER’S CIRCLE, RENFREW WINS FIRST AT STAR CLASSIC
The Granite State Pro Stock Series made its annual trip to Star Speedway in Epping, NH last weekend as the visiting fendered division in a night of open-wheel racing. The Nocella Paving 100 was part of the quarter-mile track’s annual Star Classic featuring the International Supermodified Association and showcasing the track’s own 350 Supermodified division in the Randy Witkum Memorial 50.
With five races remaining on the schedule, Cory Casagrande held onto a narrow points margin on the back of a consistent season. However, a family wedding would likely force Casagrande out of contention, as he would have to miss at least one of the final four events. That meant the title battle would be settled from second on back, with sophomore driver Devin O’Connell in a battle with Jacob Dore, Nick Lascuola, and GSPSS newcomer Joey Doiron.
Seventeen cars were in the pits for the 100-lap feature, but Lascuola was surprisingly not among them, leaving O’Connell with two chief competitors for the series crown. Joining the GSPSS roadshow for the weekend were Maine’s John Peters, who had rebuilt his car after a grinding crash at the Oxford 250, and Rhode Island’s Bobby Pelland. Guy Caron was back in the #72 car, with fellow Granite Staters Jeremy Harclerode and Luke Hinkley returning to Tour action.
And three drivers in the field could trace their roots to Star Speedway. Bobby Cabral, driving for Star owner Bobby Webber, Jr., was making his first start since rolling Webber’s car at Hudson Speedway in July. Cabral’s #70 had been rewrapped and renumbered in honor of a longtime Star Speedway supporter, James R. Rosencrantz & Sons. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., who made his series debut a year ago at 14 years of age, was in the family #00 for his fourth start of 2018. And Joe Squeglia, Jr., a winner at Lee USA Speedway in July, was looking for his third straight win in the preamble to the Star Classic.
John Peters, who finished second to Squeglia last year, was fastest in time trials in his rebuilt car, and went on to win his heat, with Squeglia winning the other qualifying heat. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. was gridded on the pole with Luke Hinkley alongside, with Peters rolling off third and Squeglia sixth for the 100-lap feature.
Hinkley jumped out to the early lead, with Ray Christian III running second just ahead of Renfrew. Two early cautions kept Christian within reach, though Hinkley held the advantage. On lap 24, though, Renfrew got sideways in turn two, shooting off the track and into the trees beyond the backstretch lawn. A lengthy yellow flag was necessary while tow trucks pulled Renfrew’s undamaged car from the puckerbrush. Renfrew’s slide was not the only drama; scoring monitors now reported Ray Christian in the lead, and despite Hinkley’s protests, RC III was moved to the point for the restart.
Christian, still in search of his first Pro Stock win, pulled away as Hinkley fought off a challenge from John Peters. Peters eventually moved around Hinkley, with Jeremy Davis following Peters through for third. Christian still held a significant lead at halfway, but Peters and Davis ran the leader down in traffic, with Davis powering around the outside to take the race lead. Yellow flags bunched up the field, allowing fourth-place Joe Squeglia to gain ground on the top three.
With Davis in the lead and Christian running second, Squeglia cleared Peters for third, but the Star veteran made contact with Christian, who in turn nudged Jeremy Davis. Davis and Christian went spinning, and since Squeglia was involved, all three were moved to the rear of the field for the restart. John Peters assumed the race lead, lining up alongside Luke Hinkley and ahead of Jacob Dore, Cory Casagrande, and Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. Despite his trip off the track, Renfrew had never lost a lap, never went to the pits, and had simply picked his way through traffic back into the top five.
Hinkley charged back into the top spot on the restart, leaving Peters to hold off Dore, Casagrande and Renfrew. Jeremy Davis turned Bobby Cabral, not drawing a caution, but Davis’ own spin a few laps later brought out the yellow with 24 laps to go. On the restart, third-place Renfrew dealt with Peters, moving past the Mainer to take second place. Renfrew and Peters ran down Hinkley under green, with Renfrew making the pass to take the top spot. From there, the teen held the point to the finish.
A year before, fourteen-year-old Jimmy Renfrew finished tenth in his first time in a Pro Stock. Now fifteen, Renfrew took the checkered flag for his first career GSPSS victory in his fourth start of the season. Young Renfrew’s charge from the rear of the field was especially notable, as many had written him off after his early crash.
John Peters finished second for the second year in a row, doing so in a car that had been destroyed from the firewall forward two weeks before. Luke Hinkley recorded his best finish of the season with a third-place finish. Consistent Cory Casagrande finished fourth with Ray Christian III rebounding for a top-five finish.
Jacob Dore was sixth, with Joe Squeglia and Jeremy Davis working back up to seventh and eighth at the drop of the checkered flag. Devin O’Connell and Josh King rounded out the top ten. Bobby Pelland was eleventh, Bobby Cabral twelfth, and Mike Scorzelli thirteenth despite missing the entire right door of the car after an early wreck. Joey Doiron’s title hopes took a hit as he dropped off the pace while solidly in the top five. Doiron pitted with suspension failure and was scored 14th.
Many fans and observers were critical of the evening’s officiating, with race control seeming hesitant to throw the yellow flag for key incidents. At least twice, the leaders were only shown the yellow with a half a straightaway to slow down for a partially-blocked track ahead. In fairness, despite upgrades to Star’s lighting system, some areas on the track remain dark for those in the stands, and perhaps there was subconscious pressure to keep the field green with a broadcast presence on hand. Fortunately, no one was injured, no teams were eliminated outright from the race, and procedures can be fine-tuned for the next race.
That next race will be absent the points leader, as family commitments will keep Cory Casagrande out of the #7 car this week. Casagrande’s fourth-place finish, combined with poor finishes for Devin O’Connell and Joey Doiron, leaves him with a 22-point lead to be absorbed Saturday night. Average nights for O’Connell and Doiron could keep Casagrande in contention for the title. O’Connell holds an eight-point edge over Doiron and a 31-point margin over fourth-place Jacob Dore, with Nick Lascuola now well out of the running in fifth. Ray Christian III and Jeremy Davis sit sixth and seventh, with Mike Scorzelli sliding to eighth despite running all the races so far. Mike O’Sullivan, not in the field despite winning two races before, fell to ninth in points ahead of part-timer Luke Hinkley.
The GSPSS teams will race for the third time in three weeks when they take the green flag at Monadnock Speedway Saturday night for the rescheduled JBH 100.
NORTH OF THE BORDER: BLENKHORN WINS THIRD OF YEAR AT RIVERSIDE, TREPANIER CLINCHES FIRST CSCC CHAMPIONSHIP
Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia hosted the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour Saturday night for its penultimate race of 2018. Dylan Blenkhorn won his third race of the year in the Lucas Oil 150, with Donald Chisholm and Greg Proude rounding out the podium. Cole Butcher finished a lap down in tenth, but still holds an eighty-point lead over Blenkhorn headed into the final race of the season. Craig Slaunwhite and Shawn Turple are in position to capitalize should Blenkhorn falter in this weekend’s season finale, with only nine points separating second through fourth in the standings.
In the province of Québec, the Championnat de Stock-Car Canadien put the finishing touches on its first season with a 100-lap feature at Autodrome St.-Eustache in conjunction with the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Reigning Série ACT champion Jonathan Bouvrette took the checkered flag in the race, ahead of three-time winner Jean-François Déry and Alex Guénette. With a fourth-place finish, 2015 Série ACT champion Dany Trépanier won the inaugural CSCC LMS championship, winning by 28 points over Bouvrette. Martin Goulet, Jr. and Déry tied for third, with Goulet getting the nod by starting every race.
With the first CSCC LMS championship complete, the series organizers are already looking forward to 2019. Eight drivers ran every race, with several only missing one or two events, and six winners were celebrated under the CSCC banner. The tour will have to plan for some upcoming hurdles, including the closure of Autodrome St.-Eustache after the 2019 season.
CSCC competitor Steve Côté was not in Saturday’s lineup, but instead competed in the evening’s NPS feature, finishing on the lead lap in ninth.
WEEKLY RACING: BROWN, GERRY, WELCH WRAP UP TRACK TITLES
Oxford Plains Speedway wrapped up its season championship on Saturday evening, with fourteen Super Late Models on hand to help decide the track title. Ryan Robbins won the night’s feature event, making him the season’s only repeat weekly SLM winner. Austin Teras and a visiting Tracy Gordon rounded out the podium. TJ Brackett finished fourth, but with Gabe Brown in sixth, Brackett was unable to dethrone the points leader. Gabe Brown, who celebrated his sixteenth birthday on Thursday, became the youngest top series champion in Oxford’s storied history. Brown will surely be on the lookout for his first feature win next year after a very consistent season.
At Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Corey Bubar bookended his season with his first win since the season opener in May, taking the feature over Dalton Gagnon and Trevor Sanborn. With a sixth-place finish, Curtis Gerry captured his second Beech Ridge Pro Series championship over veterans Mike Rowe and Gary Smith. Gerry’s championship also earns him the rank of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion for the state of Maine, as Beech Ridge is the only NASCAR-sanctioned track in the state. Two drivers expected to make a bid for the title early in the year, Wayne Helliwell, Jr. and Dave Farrington, Jr., failed to crack the top ten in points, as both curtailed their weekly programs after a rash of early-season misfortune.
White Mountain Motorsports Park closed out its 2018 season as well with a fifty-lap Late Model feature, with Jesse Switser taking his second feature win of the season. Oren Remick finished second, and third place Quinny Welch sealed up his seventh WMMP track championship. The Late Models will race again this weekend, with a 250-lap, $10,000-to-win special feature on Sunday afternoon as part of NAPA Blue & Gold Weekend.
Star Speedway’s Late Models were among the weekly classes racing on the eve of the Star Classic. Mid-season rookie sensation Max Dolliver took his second feature win in a race where officials opted to count caution laps after some early wrecks. Jay Sands holds the points lead over Tom Mackay with one event left on the calendar.
Daren Ripley swept a rare double-feature at Wiscasset Speedway, with a 40-lap makeup race added to the usual weekly schedule. In the first race, Ripley took the checkers over Dave Farrington, Jr. and Nick Hinkley in a seven-car field. Ten cars took the green for the second race, with Ripley winning over Andy Saunders and Farrington. Nick Hinkley, the only one of the full-time drivers to score a win this year, leads the track standings over Kevin Douglass and Kevin Morse, with Farrington and Ripley climbing into the top six in points despite racing part-time.
In southern Massachusetts, Seekonk Speedway was still in action, with a couple events left to determine the season championships. Ryan Kuhn won his fourth Late Model feature of the season, helping bolster his points lead over Ryan Lineham. In the Pro Stock ranks, Jake Johnson won his second straight feature, beating veteran Rick Martin and Angelo Belsito. Eighth-place David Darling saw his points lead shrink to ten over Johnson. Two more race weekends are left before the championships are decided on September 22.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE
The Granite State Pro Stock Series races Saturday night at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH, making up August’s rain-delayed JBH 100. A couple hours north in North Woodstock, NH, the PASS North Super Late Models will compete in their own 150-lap feature event as part of the track’s NAPA Blue & Gold Weekend.