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New England Notebook: Dubeau breaks through at Chaudière, Hall goes two-for-two at Oxford

Garrett Hall (94), racing Nick Sweet at Star Speedway earlier this season, claimed his second PASS North win of 2019 after going winless last year. (Jeff Brown photo)

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: DUBEAU BREAKS THROUGH AT LAST WITH CHAUDIERE VICTORY

The American-Canadian Tour paid tribute to over thirty years of racing history this past weekend, traveling across the border for the first points-paying Tour race on Canadian soil since 2015. The Tour’s Canadian return, hosted at Autodrome Chaudière southeast of Quebec City, was named the Claude Leclerc 150, paying further tribute to the 77-year-old Tour regular known to many as the “Ironman.”

The Tour’s Canadian return was originally part of a Quebeçois doubleheader weekend, with the Tour racing for points Saturday and racing for prize money Sunday at nearby Circuit Riverside Speedway Ste-Croix. With heavy rain working east, race officials opted to postpone the second leg of the doubleheader early.

There was no threat of weather Saturday, though, with 33 cars in the Chaudière pits looking for one of the twenty-six slots on the starting grid. Most of the ACT Tour points contenders made the trip north; Chip Grenier, Joel Hodgdon and Trent Goodrow were among those who did not travel north. The Canadian contingent looked like an all-star list. Joining ACT Tour full-timers like Leclerc, Jonathan Bouvrette and Mathieu Kingsbury were several familiar names from the Série ACT and CSCC tours, names like Dany Trépanier, Karl Allard and Alex Guenette, the latest driver to pilot the potent #48QC Larue Snowblowers entry. Patrick Laperle, a Tour winner in 2018, was back looking for a home-country points win. The rest of the field was drawn from Chaudière’s weekly (and NASCAR-sanctioned) Late Model program, including defending Chaudière champion Samuel Charland.

Scott Payea, Charland and rookie Ryan Kuhn each won a heat race, with Karl Allard and Payea’s younger cousin Dylan winning the two consis. Twelve cars remained to compete in a B-feature, with Remi Perreault taking the checkers and advancing to the feature. Canadians Jean-Philippe Bergeron and Michael Lavoie and Americans Stephen Donahue and Scott Coburn rounded out the starting field. Among those loading up early were Mathieu Kingsbury, Brandon Atkins, and sisters Peyton and Reilly Lanphear. ACT’s plus-minus system moved Jimmy Hebert to the pole position; Hebert, who won at Sanair Super Speedway in 2013, was the most recent driver in the field to win a Tour feature in Canada.

Hebert and Dylan Payea brought the field to the green flag, but after leading the opening eighteen laps, Hebert was forced to the pits for a flat tire. Samuel Charland moved to the point, leading 41 laps before contact sent the local ace for a spin. Patrick Laperle took the lead from the spinning Charland, holding on for several laps in search of a Quebec win of his own.

Moving up from midpack, though, was Rich Dubeau. Dubeau had spent plenty of time in the last couple years hovering around the top five, coming close to a victory at Thompson Speedway in the 2018 season finale before late yellows bunched up the field. This time, the caution flags played to Dubeau’s advantage. The fifth-year Tour racer moved to second on lap 81, taking the lead a restart later for the first time.

For the next 20 laps, in between restarts, Dubeau battled Laperle, with Laperle wrestling the lead away on lap 104. Dubeau took the lead back a lap later, though, and left Laperle to battle with Dany Trépanier and Scott Payea, who had come back from a flat tire just before halfway. Laperle ultimately spun from the front pack late in the going, taking himself out of contention for the win.

At the front, Trépanier gave chase, but the CSCC’s first and only champion could not run down Dubeau over the final green-flag sprint. Rich Dubeau crossed the finish line to earn his first career ACT Tour win after five previous podium finishes.

Dany Trépanier held on for second with Scott Payea third. Jimmy Hebert rebounded from his early flat to finish fourth, with Jonathan Bouvrette rounding out the top five. Dylan Payea scored a career best sixth-place finish, ahead of Michael Lavoie, Ryan Kuhn, Laperle and Marc Begin.

Karl Allard was eleventh with Alexandre Tardif 12th. Early leader Sam Charland could never get back to the front, finishing 13th. Christopher Pelkey and Marco Bilodeau were the last two cars on the lead lap in 14th and 15th. Claude Leclerc, in the race named for him, finished 20th, thirteen laps down. Fifteen cautions slowed the pace of the event.

Dubeau’s win was the first event of the three-race Summer Kickoff Series, good for a $5,000 winner’s purse and setting the stage for the next two races. Next week’s race at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway and the late-June visit to Star Speedway in New Hampshire will also offer $5,000 to the winner.

The win also further secures Dubeau’s lead in the Tour points standings, with Jimmy Hebert eighteen points back. Cousins Scott and Dylan Payea sit third and fourth, with Scott still not quite out of contention despite failing to qualify at Thunder Road. Rookie Ryan Kuhn is fifth in points. Only six drivers have taken the green flag in every race so far, but another seven have failed to qualify for at least one race, hinting at a decent level of full-time participation this year.

With that number in mind, the American-Canadian Tour’s return to Canada was about as strong a showing as one could expect. Twelve teams made the trip from the United States, not all that far off from the full-time participation on the Tour. And despite silence from the CSCC LMS tour that emerged last year to replace the Série ACT, the ACT Late Model platform remains favored in Quebec, making for a healthy slate of teams to compete for local supremacy.

The ACT Tour still has two visits to Quebec later this year, with the rescheduled Jean-Paul Cabana 125 now paired with the second annual Bacon Bowl 200 at Chaudière this August. Last year only a few American teams headed north for the non-points event; this year’s turnout for a points event suggests that the number could be higher this year.

For now, the ACT Tour has an off week before returning to action next Saturday night at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. The Tour will now be the headlining event of the night, with NASCAR announcing earlier this week that it had cancelled the evening’s K&N Pro Series East visit.

PASS NORTH: HALL ENDS SHORT DRY SPELL WITH SECOND OXFORD WIN OF THE YEAR

After a road trip to Vermont, the Pro All Stars Series stayed closer to home last week. The PASS North Super Late Models made their second visit to Oxford Plains Speedway last Sunday, the second half of an Oxford “doubleheader” weekend featuring weekly racing on Saturday and PASS-sanctioned action on Sunday afternoon.

After trips to two banked bullrings, the region’s premier fendered touring cars would settle back into the rhythm of Oxford’s familiar flat surface in further preparation for August’s Oxford 250. Oxford presented an opportunity for plenty of teams to hit the reset switch. And as predicted, thirty cars turned out for the fifth race of the young season.

The PASS regulars were joined by Johnny Clark and Dan Winter, both of whom had passed on the trip to Thunder Road. Fellow part-timers Evan Hallstrom and Bobby Therrien came in from Vermont, with Alan Tardiff hoping to parlay his track experience into a good showing at Oxford. Eddie MacDonald, who spent time in recent weeks testing at Oxford, looked to see results after 150 laps of racing. One night after wrecking his weekly SLM at Beech Ridge, Mike Rowe was in his red #24 Tour car. Tracy Gordon and Jeremy Davis each hoped to make his second start of the year.

But to win, they would have to face the Oxford regulars, many of whom had fifty laps on their cars from the night before. Leading the charge was Curtis Gerry, winner of Saturday’s feature and no stranger to PASS victory celebrations at Oxford. Tim and TJ Brackett, Ryan and Scott Robbins, and Scott McDaniel represented their home track as well. Local Mike Landry was there in a #09 car apparently borrowed from Justin Drake.

One driver becoming very familiar to the Oxford fans was Ray Christian III; the GSPSS regular had run second to Gerry the night before. Canadian Ashton Tucker from New Brunswick was the only driver from the Maritimes to make the trip. GSPSS regular Michael Scorzelli, who had hoped to run at Speedway 51 before the race was postponed, would instead make his PASS debut at Oxford, racing a Camaro-bodied #18 he towed in all the way from Albany, New York. Dillon Moltz, who made a few starts in 2018, would make his first start of 2019 at Oxford.

Ben Rowe won the opening heat, with Ray Christian III taking the second and DJ Shaw winning the third, for a heat-race sweep for Ford Mustang-bodied cars. Rowe and Christian would start from the front row, with Shaw moved deeper in the field per the feature winner’s handicap.

Those who expected Shaw to dice his way through the field, though, were stunned twelve laps into the feature, when the defending champion’s car came to a stop in turn one. Entering Oxford, DJ Shaw had finished no worse than second in four PASS North starts. Shaw’s car would never return from the pits; he would finish dead last.

After Shaw’s car was tended to, the field went back to green, with many drivers looking to capitalize on Shaw’s misfortune. Reid Lanpher took the top spot early, looking to erase two bad runs early in the season with a win. With 47 laps complete, Ray Christian III got past Lanpher and ran with the lead. “RC III” had risen through the ranks quickly; after making a few ACT Tour starts in 2016, the New London-Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl local moved to a full Tour schedule for 2017. But Christian and his team abandoned those plans midstream, preparing a Super Late Model and making an ill-fated bid for the Oxford 250. In 2018, Christian established himself on the Granite State Pro Stock Series circuit, winning the season finale at Waterford while making five more PASS starts, including a 13th-place finish in the 250. Christian was again racing with the GSPSS in 2019, but his team had a sharp Ford prepared for PASS competition.

As the race went green, RC III stretched his advantage, setting a torrid pace out front. A lap-112 incident for Travis Benjamin brought out the yellow flag, though, erasing Christian’s lead and lining him up ahead of Nick Sweet and Garrett Hall.

On the restart, Christian could not get away. Sweet, who had a rocketship earlier in the year at Oxford before mechanical problems struck, was looking for his second career PASS win. But Garrett Hall had other ideas. Hall had come from deep in the field to win at Oxford in April. This time, he had started twelfth, slowly climbing through the top ten. With 38 laps in the final stint, he had plenty of car left for the finish. Hall first dispatched Sweet, then worked over Christian, taking the race lead with eighteen laps remaining.

Sweet was able to get past Christian in the final laps, coming within a half-second of catching Hall. But the race for second allowed the Scarborough, Maine native to keep the rest of the field at bay. April’s win had erased a long dry spell for Garrett Hall, but it only took three more starts to get back there.

Behind Sweet and Christian, Mike Rowe finished a strong fourth. Reid Lanpher was fifth, his second top-five of 2019 and his first with a complete car. Gabe Brown, the 2018 Oxford SLM champion, was sixth, with Curtis Gerry seventh. Eddie MacDonald’s testing paid off with an eighth-place finish, with Vermonters Evan Hallstrom and Bobby Therrien rounding out the top ten.

Ben Rowe finished in eleventh, with Massachusetts’ Craig Weinstein twelfth. Dillon Moltz was 13th in his first start of the season. A week after winning at Thunder Road, Derek Griffith was 14th, the final car on the lead lap. Alan Tardiff was 15th.

Brandon Barker, the GSPSS feature winner at Lee, finished a lap back in 17th, with six-time PASS champion Johnny Clark in 18th. Ashton Tucker was 21st, two laps down in the second leg of the doubleheader. Travis Benjamin finished three laps down in 23rd. Michael Scorzelli, in his PASS debut, was five laps behind in 25th.

Hall’s win, coupled with Shaw’s last-place finish, moved the driver of the #94 to the points lead by 24 markers over Shaw. Gabe Brown, with top tens in all five races this year, sits a point back in third. Nick Sweet has moved to fourth in points over Griffith, with Rowe, Benjamin and Lanpher rounding out the full-time racers in the top eight. A 97-point spread separates point leader Hall and eighth-place Lanpher with plenty of races ahead to close that gap. Travis Benjamin, last year’s runner-up, sitting seventh in the standings despite three top-ten runs is a stunner; oddly, when Benjamin won the 2017 PASS title, runner-up Glen Luce suffered a similar backslide to open the 2018 season.

Unlike his April victory, Garrett Hall drove a newly-bodied Gen-6 Toyota Camry to victory at Oxford, making him the first driver to score 2019 wins with both body types. This is the third PASS North win for the new bodywork, and plenty of teams in the field had the new cars. Fourteen teams ran the Gen-6 body, including Oxford regular Tim Brackett (whose son TJ opted for the ABC body instead), Reid Lanpher (who had to rebuild his car following the last Oxford race and ran an ABC car at Star and T-Road), Mike Rowe (who has a Camaro-bodied car for PASS races and a Mustang-bodied car for weekly competition at Beech Ridge), and Michael Scorzelli (whose car would not be legal for GSPSS competition with the new body). Cars with Gen-6 bodies swept the top six, with Curt Gerry’s black #7G the highest-finishing ABC-bodied car. However, given the names at the front of the field, it seems likely any of the leaders could have won regardless of the body on the car.

The PASS teams get a week off before heading north for a Sunday showdown at Speedway 95 just outside of Bangor, Maine.

LOCAL RACING: GERRY SCORES SECOND OPS WIN, HELLIWELL TAKES STAR 50-LAPPER

Curtis Gerry returned to Oxford Plains Speedway’s victory circle Saturday night for the first time since the track’s opening weekend, earning his second win of 2019. Ray Christian III, visiting for the following day’s PASS feature, finished second after a race-long battle with veteran Kelly Moore, making his first start of the year. Canadian Ashton Tucker was the only other PASS competitor to join the local field, finishing seventh in the 16-car field. Gerry, last year’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway track champion, leads the Oxford standings over Ryan Deane.

Bill Rodgers topped Trevor Sanborn and David Oliver for his first Beech Ridge Pro Series win of the season the same evening. The race was marred by a grinding crash between Mike Rowe and Dave Farrington, Jr. that left both challengers walking away from destroyed cars. David Oliver leads the track standings over Travis Buzzell, Farrington, and Rowe; with luck, both will be able to regroup for this week’s feature.

At Wiscasset Speedway, Jeremie Whorff appeared to secure his third straight Pro Stock win to open the season, but an infraction at the tech shed bounced Whorff to the end of the lead lap, handing Kevin Douglass the race win. GSPSS racer Jacob Dore finished 11th in the field in a one-off start.

Quinny Welch continued his dominance at White Mountain Motorsports Park, winning his second straight Late Model feature to open the season. Jeff Marshall was second with ACT Tour regular Chip Grenier skipping the Tour’s Canadian trip to finish third.

Star Speedway’s ACT Late Models ran an extra-distance 50-lapper Saturday, with three-time Tour champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr. winning the long-distance feature over Jeramee Lillie and veteran Charlie Rose. With Helliwell’s planned ACT Tour title run over, he opted for the home race over the trip to Canada. Other racers visiting Star with Helliwell included Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. (fifth) and Thunder Road regular Marcel Gravel (10th).

Seekonk Speedway gave its Pro Stocks a night off Saturday to open the schedule for the visiting NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The Late Models were the top weekly class in action, with “Flyin’” Ryan Lineham scoring his first checkered flag of the year over Mark Jenison and Vinnie Arrenegado. GSPSS driver Mike Mitchell was fifth, with Jake Johnson ninth in the twenty-car field.

Thunder Road International Speedbowl’s traditional Thursday-night card kicked off this week with Kyle Pembroke taking the weekly Late Model win over Cody Blake and Memorial Day Classic winner Jason Corliss, who broke his four-race T-Road winning streak. Notables in the 21-car field included Vermont Governor Phil Scott (ninth), ACT Tour regular Christopher Pelkey (tenth), Stephen Donahue (12th), Joel Hodgdon (18th), defending “King of the Road” Scott Dragon (20th) and 2014 ARCA Racing Series champion Mason Mitchell (21st). Mitchell, from Iowa, has visited Thunder Road in the past, failing to qualify for last year’s Milk Bowl.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

Oddly, all three major tours are off this weekend. Touring racing resumes next weekend for the American-Canadian Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series and the Pro All Stars Series North.

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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