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Helliwell dodges carnage for first ACT win at Oxford

Wayne Helliwell @ Star 2019
Wayne Helliwell, Jr. meets with fans before last year's ACT Dream Ride 150. The three-time ACT Tour champion took the lead with seven laps remaining to win Sunday's ACT Oxford 150. (Jeff Brown archive photo)

In the closing laps of Sunday’s American-Canadian Tour feature at Oxford Plains Speedway, Wayne Helliwell, Jr. had closed in on Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.’s bumper in lapped traffic. And while Joey Pole had dominated the prior 140 laps, Helliwell looked likely to unseat his longtime ACT Tour rival at the head of the field.

But contact with Rich Dubeau sent Polewarczyk spinning with seven laps remaining, clearing the path for Helliwell to drive away with his thirteenth career Tour win and his second Late Model victory of the weekend.

Polewarczyk rebounded to finish fourth, but the late spin negated a day when he was the clear class of the field, lapping almost to the top five before the incident.

Polesitter Stephen Donahue led the first 20 laps before Polewarczyk took over. As the 2014 ACT Tour champion established himself out front, Donahue found himself in a losing battle for second with Bryan Kruczek and Helliwell. Kruczek, who swept the Tour’s Oxford visits in 2019, held the runner-up spot for a bit, but Helliwell slipped past for second as Polewarczyk drove away from the field.

Kruczek’s hopes for a repeat performance of last year were dashed just past halfway, though, when his car dropped off the pace. A broken axle led to a lap-84 spin in front of the leaders, ending the championship hopeful’s day early.

A cushion of lapped cars between Helliwell and third-place DJ Shaw helped the leaders to distance themselves from the field on a long green-flag run, with Polewarczyk remaining in control as he caught the tail of the top ten. But Helliwell kept within striking distance of Polewarczyk, and as Pole struggled to get past the car of sixth-place Rich Dubeau, the three-time Tour champion struck, looking high, then low to get around the leader.

With seven laps remaining, Polewarczyk tried to pass Dubeau high as Helliwell looked low, but ran up on the defending champion, spinning to the apron of turn four. Helliwell slipped past unscathed to take the lead coming to the yellow flag. Polewarczyk communicated his frustration to Dubeau on the backstretch under caution.

Shaw assumed second place, but five lapped cars lined up between Shaw and Helliwell on the start, leaving the four-time Pro All Stars Series North champion at a disadvantage from the drop of the green flag. Shaw dispatched some of the lapped traffic, but Helliwell was uncontested in the final run to the checkered flag.

Helliwell returned to ACT competition last year for the first time since 2016, when he and car owner Bruce Bernhardt shifted their focus to a Super Late Model program that earned the pair a win in the 2016 Oxford 250. The Dover, N.H. driver shook off early Tour misfortunes to earn weekly feature wins at Star Speedway and White Mountain Motorsports Park, before capturing a Tour win in August’s Midsummer 250 at WMMP. Lending to the veteran driver’s “outlaw” schedule, Sunday’s race marks Helliwell’s second ACT Tour win in his last three starts.

The win is also Helliwell’s first ACT Tour win at Oxford.

DJ Shaw, driving a car usually piloted by Thunder Road rookie Matthew Smith, improved on his ACT high-water mark with a career-best second-place finish. Jimmy Hebert took advantage of the late-race scramble to finish third, with Polewarczyk fighting back to finish fourth. Ryan Kuhn was fifth, with Rich Dubeau the final car on the lead lap in sixth.

Dillon Moltz came back from a midrace spin to finish seventh, a lap down. Marcel J. Gravel, Dylan Payea and Seekonk Speedway regular Derek Gluchacki rounded out the top ten finishers.

Gravel, Dubeau, and Kruczek won the afternoon’s heats, with Trent Goodrow winning the consi to set the remainder of the 26-car field.

The American-Canadian Tour will be back in action at the recently-renamed Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. on July 11 for the Gardiner & June Leavitt Memorial 150. While fans will be allowed at the track, broadcast plans have not been confirmed for the Saturday-evening feature.

Unofficial Results, ACT Tour Oxford 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway:
1. (27NH) Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
2. (04VT) DJ Shaw
3. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
4. (97NH) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.
5. (72MA) Ryan Kuhn
6. (30NH) Rich Dubeau
7. (5ME) Dillon Moltz
8. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
9. (7NH) Dylan Payea
10. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
11. (35NH) Alby Ovitt
12. (25NH) Jesse Switser
13. (5MA) Tom Carey III
14. (5VT) Bobby Therrien
15. (64VT) Christopher Pelkey
16. (31MA) Trent Goodrow
17. (61NH) Ryan Olsen
18. (76RI) Tyler Tomassi
19. (49NH) Matt Anderson
20. (78CT) Walter Sutcliffe
21. (69ME) David MacDonald
22. (2VT) Stephen Donahue
23. (00NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
24. (19NH) Bryan Kruczek
25. (15VT) Joey Laquerre
26. (21VT) Reilly Lanphear

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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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