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Sweet redemption at Thunder Road, Corliss kisses the cow again: 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 LATE MODELS: CORLISS USES LATE PASS TO EARN SECOND STRAIGHT MILK BOWL TROPHY

Thunder Road International Speedbowl put the cherry atop its 2018 season with the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank. With the track’s season championship decided, only bragging rights and prize money were on the line for the track’s biggest race of the season, an event often described as one of short track racing’s toughest races. The 150-lap race features field inversions after the first two segments, and the winner is the driver scoring the fewest points total (scored per position after each segment).

Thirty-six teams, a mix of weekly American-Canadian Tour Late Model competitors and ACT Tour regulars, packed the pits for the weekend, with some new faces and new pairings hoping to threaten for the win. Christopher Pelkey hopped into his weekly #64VT entry for the Milk Bowl, with Peyton Lanphear taking the wheel of his Tour #41VT entry. Nick Sweet yielded the Mad Dog Motorsports #40VT to car owner Eric Chase, instead rolling his red #88VT out for the race. Patrick Laperle again took the wheel of a black #91QC from Martin Latulippe’s stable.

From the ACT Tour, Scott Payea and Jimmy Hebert were the only two top competitors to make the trip. ACT champion and 2010 Milk Bowl winner Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. slipped back into his Late Model for another shot at the race. White Mountain Motorsports Park track champion Quinny Welch’s #78 was on hand, but with a new driver: former ARCA champion Mason Mitchell, with an entourage including ACT winner and fellow ARCA champion Austin Theriault, was hoping to qualify for his first Milk Bowl.

Time trials on Saturday set the field for the weekend’s qualifying races as well as the front row of the Milk Bowl. Jimmy Hebert earned the pole with Bobby Therrien starting outside. Jason Corliss won the first 50-lap heat, with the top eight advancing to the starting lineup. Scott Payea won the second heat, bringing along 2018 Thunder Road champion Scott Dragon and Joey Polewarczyk.

Thirteen drivers remained for Sunday’s last-chance qualifier, with four drivers advancing to the feature. Patrick Laperle, who was spun out of contention in his heat, won the B-feature, with Boomer Morris and Matthew Smith advancing along with Christopher Pelkey, who was awarded a provisional. Mason Mitchell, seventh in the B-feature, was unable to qualify, as were Seekonk Speedway champion Ryan Kuhn, rookie Peyton Lanphear, Eric Chase and Canadian Mathieu Kingsbury.

Sunday’s Milk Bowl went green in the early afternoon, with Jason Corliss winning a brisk first segment over Bobby Therrien and Jimmy Hebert. The field of twenty-six was inverted for the next segment, with Evan Hallstrom leading the field to green and Corliss starting shotgun on the field. Six laps into the second segment, Hebert, Scott Payea and Nick Sweet were involved in a grinding crash that left Sweet sidelined for the rest of the day. Boomer Morris held the lead midway through the segment, but Patrick Laperle got around Morris to take the second-segment victory, with Therrien and Corliss charging from the back to finish second and third. Following the second segment, Therrien and Corliss were tied with only four points each.

With Nick Sweet unable to make repairs in time for the third segment, Jimmy Hebert led the field to green. Despite damage from the second-segment wreck, Hebert held onto the top spot for a handful of laps, with Scott Payea taking the top spot away. Corliss and Therrien, meanwhile, battled through traffic, racing their own race for the overall victory. Cody Blake was the nearest competitor to the two, and when Blake and Trampas Demers crashed out with 19 laps remaining, the Milk Bowl became a two-man race to the end.

At the front of the field, Scott Payea held down the top spot, with Joey Polewarczyk moving into second in the closing laps. Payea won the segment over Pole with Stephen Donahue finishing third. Behind them, Corliss and Therrien had battled through traffic to run in the top five, with Therrien holding fourth and Corliss chasing. Corliss ran Therrien down in the closing laps, making a last-lap pass to finish fourth. With only eight points scored all day, Corliss earned his second Milk Bowl trophy. Corliss is the sixth driver to win back-to-back Milk Bowls, and the first driver to score single-digit points in the event since Brian Hoar in 1998.

Therrien’s fifth-place finish earned him nine total points but still only netted him a runner-up result in the final standings. Brooks Clark was a distant third, a seventh-place run in the final segment his best effort of the day. Donahue was fourth, with Payea fifth despite a poor finish in the second segment. Joey Pole was scored sixth, Trampas Demers seventh, Laperle eighth, Josh Masterson ninth and Kyle Pembroke tenth.

Thunder Road track champion Scott Dragon was eleventh, with Jimmy Hebert finishing tenth in the final segment to score 13th in final points. Rookie Evan Hallstrom was 14th. Jonathan Bouvrette from Quebec was 22nd overall.

The next race for the ACT Late Models is the Tour season finale in two weeks at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut, as part of the World Series festivities to close out the year. Scott Payea will hope to avoid misfortune to win his second straight title, while Jimmy Hebert and Eddie MacDonald will hope to rebound into contention for their first championships.

PASS NORTH: HOME-TRACK ADVANTAGE PROPELS SWEET TO FIRST PASS VICTORY

Milk Bowl weekend festivities kicked off Friday evening with a rare bit of role reversal, as the Pro All Stars Series played the role of undercard to the ACT Late Models. The PASS North teams’ second visit of 2018 to Thunder Road was a first-time event, with the Super Late Models having never raced as part of the Milk Bowl weekend.

The Friday-night feature meant teams had a short turn-around from a Beech Ridge race that ended just before dinnertime on Sunday. DJ Shaw still held the points lead after a tough afternoon at the Ridge, with Travis Benjamin poised to pounce on the championship lead if Shaw slipped again.

A stout 23-car field paired the PASS faithful with a number of double-duty drivers looking to poach a PASS win from the series regulars, or at least get some extra laps on the track. PASS part-timer Nick Sweet, a two-time Thunder Road champion, was joined by reigning track champion Bobby Therrien, ACT points leader Scott Payea, ACT winner and defending Milk Bowl winner Jason Corliss, and track regulars Matt White and Evan Hallstrom. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., both former ACT Tour champions, looked to score a PASS win on familiar turf. Granite State Pro Stock Series racer Scott MacMichael was entered in his black #24. Oxford regulars Calvin Rose, Jr. and Gabe Brown made the trip to Vermont. Two drivers from Canada were entered as well: ACT fixture Patrick Laperle from Quebec was in a car owned by PASS part-timer Martin Latulippe, and PASS South racer J.P. Josiasse enjoyed a much shorter drive to Vermont from his native Ontario. GSPSS points leader Devin O’Connell was at the track as well, but packed up early after engine trouble in practice.

“Bad Boy” Bobby Therrien won the first heat, with Jeremy Davis and Derek Ramstrom defeating the local challengers. After features for the North East Mini Stock Tour and Street Stock Showdown Series, the Super Late Models returned to the track for their feature, with Therrien and Davis leading Ramstrom and Glen Luce to the green flag.

Davis got the jump on the start, leading the early laps over Therrien and Ramstrom. However, fifth-place starter Nick Sweet was on the move, picking off Ramstrom and then Therrien to advance to second. After two Thunder Road track championships and an ACT Tour title in 2016, Sweet and the Mad Dog Motorsports team built a Super Late Model, looking for a new challenge in 2017. Sweet recorded two top-ten finishes in the first six races of 2017, but a hard wreck at his home track sidelined Sweet’s SLM hopes for the rest of the season. The team returned to competition at the season opener at Thompson this year, but an engine failure two laps into the race proved to be a forecast of the season ahead. In ten starts so far, Sweet had shown speed early on, but had yet to finish in the top ten. The new car and new competitors had, indeed, proven to be a challenge.

Two nights before the Milk Bowl, though, Sweet was dicing through traffic, eventually passing Jeremy Davis for the race lead on lap 36. Nine laps later, Davis made contact with the lapped car of Brad Babb, with both cars spinning to bring out a caution. On the restart, Davis battled back into second, with Sweet setting sail from the field.

Another caution just past halfway brought new names into contention, as DJ Shaw and Derek Griffith dispatched the early frontrunners. Lapped traffic helped Shaw close the gap on Sweet with 50 laps remaining, but a spin by Shaw’s corporate teammate Gabe Brown kept him from taking the lead under green.

On the ensuing restart, Shaw battled Sweet, taking the lead for the first time with forty laps left. Patrick Laperle, who started 16th, moved into second, battling Shaw for the race lead. Laperle stole the lead from Shaw, but only barely. As Shaw and Laperle battled, Sweet took advantage, getting past Laperle and charging around Shaw to take the lead back with 23 laps to go.

The race was green for the final laps, but hardly clean, with Laperle getting back around Shaw for second. A veteran of ACT and Série ACT competition but only an occasional SLM racer, Laperle was looking for his fourth PASS win and his first since 2013. To do so, though, he would have to get past a decorated Thunder Road veteran. Sweet and Laperle battled for the final laps, with Laperle only relenting as lapped traffic got in the way. At the checkered flag, Nick Sweet secured his first PASS top-ten of the year in grand fashion, earning a hard-fought home-track first career win.

Behind Laperle, DJ Shaw held on for third, with Bobby Therrien fourth. Derek Griffith ended a streak of late-summer frustrations with a fifth-place run. Derek Ramstrom was sixth, with Maine’s Garrett Hall finishing seventh. Jeremy Davis hung on for an eighth-place run, while Travis Benjamin battled back from front-end damage to finish ninth. Gabe Brown finished tenth after being involved in a couple incidents on the evening.

ACT ace Scott Payea finished just outside of the top ten, ahead of Joey Polewarczyk and Ben Rowe, who had an uneventful night rounding out the lead-lap cars. For the rest of the ACT and Thunder Road faithful, it was a tough night; Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Jason Corliss, Matt White and Evan Hallstrom all failed to finish.

DJ Shaw’s podium finish and Travis Benjamin’s ninth-place run extended Shaw’s points lead to 26 over the reigning champion with two races remaining. Derek Griffith sits just out of reach of the top-two battle, but his top-five run kept his bid for third in the standings alive, with Garrett Hall a close fourth. Behind fifth-place Ben Rowe, the battle for sixth is essentially settled, with Reid Lanpher over 200 points ahead of Sweet and Glen Luce, despite all three having eleven starts. Lanpher, who was not at Thunder Road, will surely be in action in a couple weeks at Oxford.

The PASS teams have a week off from the North championship chase before heading back to Oxford Plains Speedway for their last home appearance of the season. Before the addition of Seekonk Speedway to the schedule, Oxford had been the site of the season finale. However, it bears mentioning that if the rare October snowstorm interferes, Oxford’s results could dictate the final outcome of the PASS season regardless.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The Granite State Pro Stock Series teams are the only touring teams in action, racing Sunday for the first time as part of Lee USA Speedway’s Oktoberfest racing spectacular. Seekonk Speedway is hosting the non-points D.A.V. 150 Saturday with big money on the line for Pro Stocks.

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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