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Granite State Pro Stock Series

New England Notebook: Doiron redeemed at Lee in GSPSS 100, Gerry and Martin secure Oxford 250 berths

While Devin O'Connell (43) battles Jeremy Davis (09) for second, Joey Doiron goes on to win the GSPSS EKeys4Cars 100 on Friday night at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway. (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.

GSPSS: DOIRON REDEEMED WITH LEE VICTORY

The Granite State Pro Stock Series made its fifth stop of 2019 for a Friday-night bout under the lights at Lee USA Speedway. The EKeys4Cars 100, the GSPSS’ second Lee visit of the season, was scheduled to end with Lee’s Independence Day fireworks show, but Lee’s tricky-to-master surface made on-track fireworks equally likely to play out.

Entering the race, it seemed that Brandon Barker had turned the track into his own personal playground. Barker, a weekly competitor at Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, earned his first GSPSS victory in last fall’s Oktoberfest feature at Lee. In the series’ first visit to Lee in 2019, he turned up the wick, dominating the 150-lap event to claim his second win. Barker, who had added some GSPSS races with car owner Wright Pearson to his Maine-centric weekly schedule, suddenly found himself circling any upcoming Lee events on the calendar. A win Friday night would be his third straight at the track.

To do so, though, Barker would have no shortage of competition. Twenty-two cars were gridded in the pit area before the race. A few qualified as clear ringers; ACT champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr. and PASS veteran Ben Rowe were in the house, as well as Lee specialist Jeremy Davis. Joe Squeglia and local racer Jeremy Harclerode brought local experience to their home track. Maine’s Ryan Green joined Barker and Rowe in representing the Pine Tree State, with a new Distance-built car in his pit stall. Towing in from afar were Vermont’s Todd Stone and Massachusetts’ Kevin Folan. Bobby Pelland had a few Seekonk rivals in his pit area helping to prepare the #12 entry. Of note, Brandon Barker’s entry was the only #16 car in the pits, with teammate Tom Rosati’s return to the series apparently on hiatus.

Surprisingly, Helliwell’s team called it a night early, loading the hauler before qualifying after being disappointed in their car during practice. Twenty-one cars took to the track for hot laps with Joey Doiron setting a new track record in the Friday-night heat. Doiron and Barker went on to win the night’s two heat races. Luke Hinkley, still high in the points in a full-season effort thus far, pulled off the track during his heat, reporting to the pits with drivetrain issues. Despite the best efforts of Hinkley’s team, they were unable to repair the car in time for the feature, leaving Hinkley with a goose-egg in the points slot to show for his trip to Lee.

The redraw for the pole moved Ryan Green to the top of the lineup, making him eligible for the Back of the Pack Challenge bonus. Green was given until the cars were gridded on the frontstretch to decide, but with the taillights of the pace truck the only thing ahead of him, he opted to start from the pole. Doiron and Barker would roll off third and fifth behind Green after the redraw, and Green wanted any advantage he could get on the two fastest cars.

But on the start of the race, Green’s car looked every bit as fast as his home-state rivals. Barker and Doiron wasted little time moving up to second and third, and a couple yellows in the first half of the race gave the two former Beech Ridge teammates a shot at Green. But Green was able to hold his own during a run, with Barker settling into the runner-up spot and Doiron locking down third. A win for Green would be a tremendous upset for a driver whose seventh-place run at Lee in May was the high-water mark of his GSPSS career.

Then on lap 56, Todd Stone broke a rear end while running toward the back of the top ten. Stone’s part failure left turns one and two slick with grease as Stone came to a stop on the backstretch. Ben Rowe, Josh King and rookie Jake Matheson hit the slick track and collided in turn two. Not far behind them were the leaders, and when Ryan Green entered turn one, his car skated into the turn-one wall and plowed into Matheson’s stopped car in turn two. The mood in the stands was tense until Matheson and Green climbed from their cars. They were done for the night, but able to walk away.

Brandon Barker inherited the lead, though his car showed some front-end damage as he sat on the backstretch alone. Barker soon became the subject of radio chatter, though; his crew attempted to swap a defective radio out under the red flag. Once race officials became aware, they announced Barker would have to start from the tail of the field, as if he had made a pit stop for the repair.

That moved third-place Joey Doiron to the race lead for the restart. It was a timely and remarkable twist of fate. A year before, Doiron was leading in the late stages at Lee when a mechanical failure ahead of him sent Doiron’s car into the turn-two wall, ending his night. A similar chain of events ahead of him tonight had cleared the path to the top spot.

Doiron lined up alongside Devin O’Connell for the restart, leaving the defending champion behind once the green flag fell. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. had spent the first half of the race pressuring O’Connell for fourth, and now the two battled for second as Doiron drove off with the race lead.

A pair of incidents in one lap threatened to slow the race; Dennis Spencer, Jr. dropped off the pace with mechanical issues, and as Brandon Barker darted to avoid the slowing #46, contact within the top five sent Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. spinning into the frontstretch grass. Spencer got off the track and Renfrew righted his car, and the race continued green, with Jeremy Davis moving into third.

Davis and O’Connell battled for second in the closing laps, with Davis working the inside line but unable to draw alongside O’Connell to take the spot. Ahead of them, it was all Joey Doiron with a clean track to work with. In a win that seemed to be redemption for last year’s crash, Doiron crossed the line for his first victory at Lee USA Speedway and his second GSPSS triumph of the year. Doiron made an abbreviated “Polish victory lap” to wave the checkered flag at the turn-two wall that ended his night last year. In victory lane, he admitted that while he was glad to win, he was hoping to race Green and Barker for the trophy.

READ MORE: Doiron finds redemption in EKeys4Cars 100 victory

Devin O’Connell finished second for his first podium appearance of 2019, with Jeremy Davis finishing third after changing a rear end early in the afternoon. Joe Squeglia was a quiet fourth with Rhode Island’s Mike Mitchell fifth. Brandon Barker, who pitted for nose repairs after being assessed his penalty, charged back to sixth but was unable to climb any higher. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. and Bobby Pelland rounded out the lead-lap finishers.

Ray Christian III nearly suffered his own points tragedy; a spin in the first half of the race damaged the front end of the red #93CT, and Christian pulled behind the wall with overheating issues not long after. Following the lap-56 pileup, though, the team sent Christian back to the track, 21 laps behind the leaders. RC III leapfrogged those involved in the crash and came home with a ninth-place finish for his efforts. Kevin Folan, who also left the track early, did the same, finishing tenth after picking up a bunch of spots in the closing laps.

Finishing outside the top ten were those who were not so fortunate. Dennis Spencer, Jr. matched his May result at Lee in 11th, despite not finishing the race. Early leader Ryan Green was credited with 12th. Todd Stone was next in 13th, with Josh King, Ben Rowe and Jake Matheson scored behind him. Jeff Fagan, Jeremy Harclerode and Barry Gray all dropped out early, with Matt Frahm the first in the garage after scraping the wall early on.

Doiron’s win gives him a 24-point lead over second-place Devin O’Connell, with Ray Christian III a distant third as he still seeks his first top-three run of the year. Josh King and Jake Matheson sit fourth and fifth in the standings, though their positions could be in jeopardy if they cannot get their cars repaired in time for the next race on the schedule. The gaps in the standings are substantial, but with the season not even half complete, the early-season misfortunes have not worked themselves into insignificance yet. One bad race could still swing the standings significantly.

The GSPSS moves on this week to the Gate City 100 at the remodeled and refurbished Hudson Speedway, where a Sunday-afternoon showdown will hopefully give teams some extra time to get their cars back together. Devin O’Connell opened his championship drive last year with his first career win at Hudson, and carries a runner-up finish as momentum going into the sixth race of the season.

PASS NORTH: GERRY WINS OPEN 100, EARNS OXFORD 250 PROVISIONAL

The Pro All Stars Series teams have not raced for points since June’s New England Short Track Showdown, a streak that remained intact with Sunday’s running of the Open 100. The non-points event, now in its fourth season, promises provisional starts for August’s Oxford 250 to the race’s top performers.

The Open 100 was initially crafted as a race for drivers who had not won a PASS-sanctioned race in the last five years, giving regional underdogs an opportunity to lock themselves into the competitive Oxford 250 field. With non-winner counts ebbing and flowing over the years, PASS had adjusted the eligibility for the race from year to year, allowing past winners to bolster the field while only awarding provisionals to the top non-winners in the finishing order.

And so while PASS points leader Garrett Hall, Nick Sweet and Ben Rowe opted not to race on Sunday, plenty of drivers in the title hunt like DJ Shaw and Derek Griffith were on hand for an extra opportunity to warm up for the 250, a race that hold more significance to many drivers than a touring title. Shaw and Griffith were just two of a handful of PASS regulars who competed the night before in Oxford’s 100-lap weekly SLM feature.

Saturday night’s SLM winner, Shawn Martin, was back Sunday for a shot at the Open 100 after securing his Oxford 250 berth. He was joined by fellow Oxford weekly racers Curtis Gerry, Ryan and Scott Robbins, Tim and TJ Brackett, and Michael Landry. Ray Christian III prepared for a third race in three days after running the GSPSS race Friday and Saturday’s Oxford SLM feature. A number of drivers made their return to PASS action after sparse schedules in the first half of the year; Austin Teras, Adam Polvinen and Dave Farrington, Jr. were among the familiar faces. Josh Childs, a Beech Ridge rookie, strapped in for his first PASS event since last year’s Oxford finale. Another Beech Ridge regular, Trevor Sanborn, was in a new ride, with his personal #29 affixed to a Petit Motorsports #7 car. Sanborn explained he hoped to run the Petit car at the 250 while racing his own car at Beech Ridge the night before.

Ryan Robbins, NHMS winner Eddie MacDonald and Curtis Gerry won the three qualifying heats. With the usual winner’s handicaps suspended, Robbins and MacDonald led the 28-car field to the green flag, with Gerry rolling off a strong third.

A year ago, the thought of Curtis Gerry in a non-winners race would have seemed patently foolish. After a win in the 2017 Oxford 250 and the season finale at Oxford, Gerry started 2018 with three wins in three PASS points races at Oxford, with a win and a second-place finish at Beech Ridge to boot. Gerry and his small family team looked like the team to beat entering the Oxford 250.

But trouble in the heat races forced him to the consis and eventually to the last-chance race. As a part-time competitor, Gerry’s past-winner provisional was invalid, forcing him to win his way into the big show. Gerry won the last-chance race, but a late-race wreck in the 250 spoiled his bid for a repeat. Since then, he had finished 26th, 27th and 7th in his PASS Oxford attempts, the bad luck he avoided for so long seeming to catch up. For 2019, the two-time and reigning Beech Ridge Motor Speedway champion switched tracks to race full-time at Oxford; Gerry had been rewarded so far with three feature wins and the track points lead.

Gerry moved around Ryan Robbins to take second place only nine laps into the 100-lap feature, and took the lead with an outside pass four laps later. While a couple yellow flags drew the field back together, it was mostly for show as Gerry shot out to the lead after the restarts.

In the closing stages of the race, the driver to watch was Dave Farrington, Jr. Farrington, a former Beech Ridge Pro Series champion, had become a semi-regular in the PASS ranks, running a full-season program in 2017 while racing for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. In 2018, Farrington returned to weekly competition, running regularly at Beech Ridge and Wiscasset Speedways while limiting his PASS program largely to the Oxford 250. This year, he had been absent from the PASS ranks altogether, focusing on Beech Ridge and holding the weekly Pro Series championship lead.

Farrington started tenth in the Open 100 and worked up as high as second, making a late pass on Eddie MacDonald. But try as he might, Farrington could not reel in his former Beech Ridge competitor. Gerry coasted home to his first PASS-sanctioned win since July 2018, with Farrington second and MacDonald third. Ryan Robbins held on for fourth with DJ Shaw rounding out the top five.

Josh Childs was sixth in a stellar performance for the SLM neophyte, with veteran Scott Robbins seventh. Rookie Evan Hallstrom was eighth, ahead of Ryan Kuhn and Shawn Martin. Ray Christian III turned in an 11th-place finish in his third race in three days, with Trevor Sanborn 12th in the Petit-prepared #29. Scott McDaniel, Tracy Gordon and Kelly Moore rounded out the top fifteen.

After a third-place run Saturday night, Reid Lanpher was surely disappointed with a 16th-place finish. Former Oxford track champion Alan Tardiff finished back in 19th. PASS regulars Derek Griffith and Gabe Brown were 23rd and 25th in the field.

Curtis Gerry’s race win came with a provisional for the Oxford 250, as did Dave Farrington’s second-place result. Ryan Robbins and Josh Childs, as the second- and third-place non-winners, also received provisional berths for the 250, albeit at a lower race payout should they have to fall back on them to start the race.

Gerry’s win was another victory for the ABC-template body, with both Gerry and Farrington sticking to the older bodies for now. With most of the limited-schedule teams and weekly competitors sticking with ABC bodies, only Eddie MacDonald and Evan Hallstrom placed “Gen-6” sheetmetal in the top ten. It is worth noting that a few teams, those of DJ Shaw, Gabe Brown and Reid Lanpher among them, had ABC cars instead of their usual Gen-6 rides, hinting that perhaps they are trying to make decisions on a favorite chassis leading into the 250. Without points on the line, the Open becomes a test of race conditions, particularly as the early evening turns into night.

The Open 100 is an interesting event on the schedule, given how it has evolved to meet the needs of PASS at the time. At the same time, its first running remains the one with the most enduring story, the story that demonstrates the race’s promise. In 2016, Wayne Helliwell, Jr. won the Open, setting off a string of strong performances that elevated the three-time ACT champion to a PASS feature winner and ultimately an Oxford 250 champion by summer’s end. While Gerry has a 250 in his past, Dave Farrington, Jr., Ryan Robbins, Josh Childs and Shawn Martin all have an eye on the prize as well, with a path that much clearer with a guaranteed start in their back pockets.

The preparation for the 250 continues with Sunday’s PASS North points race at Oxford Plains Speedway, the final Oxford event for the touring SLMs before the 250 itself.

LOCAL RACING: MARTIN LOCKS HIMSELF INTO OXFORD 250 FIELD, SWEET SWEEPS WMMP DOUBLEHEADER

With many PASS drivers in town for Sunday’s Open 100, and with the summer “prep-for-the-250” cycle in full swing, Saturday night’s 100-lap feature for the track’s Super Late Models was nearly a PASS feature in its own right. Twenty-four cars took the green flag, with names like DJ Shaw, Travis Benjamin and Derek Griffith looking to steal a checkered flag from the weekly SLM stars. Instead, Shawn Martin prevailed for his first feature win of 2019 after a battle with veteran Kelly Moore. DJ Shaw was second at the line, with Reid Lanpher third, Curtis Gerry fourth and Griffith fifth. Travis Benjamin was sixth, and Ben Rowe was eighth after running the GSPSS race the night before. Kelly Moore wound up 13th after a late spin. Other touring stars in the feature included Ryan Kuhn (11th), Gabe Brown (12th), and Ray Christian III (20th). With his win, Martin earned a provisional berth for August’s Oxford 250.

Rainouts and reschedulings set the stage for a Late Model doubleheader at White Mountain Motorsports Park, with 100-lap features running Friday and Saturday night. PASS regular Nick Sweet stepped back into car owner Eric Chase’s ACT Late Model and dominated a mostly-green feature Friday night, with regulars Stephen Donahue and Quinny Welch rounding out the podium. Sweet celebrated again Saturday night, beating Jeff Marshall and Donahue to win the second 100-lap event. Sisters Peyton and Reilly Lanphear both got some laps in through the weekend, with younger sister Peyton’s tenth-place run Friday the best effort of either sister’s weekend.

Charlie Rose raced to victory at Star Speedway, with the weekly Late Models returning to action after the ACT’s visit a week before. Rose sits one point back from Josh Hedges for the championship lead entering the summer.

Thunder Road raced yet another Friday-night feature program after Thursday-night rains pushed the week’s racing card off one night. Scott Dragon grabbed his third win of the year over Nick Sweet and Tyler Cahoon. Fifth-place finisher Trampas Demers will remain the points leader despite Dragon’s three feature wins. 

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The Granite State Pro Stock Series returns to action Sunday night at Hudson (N.H.) Speedway for the Gate City 100.

The Pro All Stars Series North teams return to Oxford Plains Speedway for their final points-counting tune-up before the Oxford 250, with 150 laps to be contested on Sunday afternoon.

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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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