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Squeglia Tackles Star, Therrien Is King Of The Road: Northeast Late Model Recap

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: With three races to go to settle the series championship, the Granite State Pro Stock Series visited Star Speedway in Epping, NH this weekend. The GSPSS 100-lap feature was scheduled for Saturday evening, in support of Saturday night’s 52nd annual ISMA Star Classic.

With a busy schedule on tap for the track’s weekly divisions as well as the visiting GSPSS and ISMA Supermodified teams, practice and qualifying heats were held Friday with final practice and feature races only on Saturday. Rain delayed the heats until late in the evening on Friday, with two local racers taking the glory: former Star competitor Joe Squeglia, Jr. won the first heat, and 2015 GSPSS champion Derek Griffith claimed the second.

A redraw put Griffith on the front row for the feature, starting alongside Beech Ridge weekly SLM racer John Peters. The two drivers took off from the field on the start of the race, battling side-by-side before Griffith moved into the lead. An early yellow flag brought Griffith and Peters back together, but also brought Joe Squeglia into the picture. On the next restart, “Joe the Show” stuck with the two leaders, working his way around both Griffith and Peters to take the lead. From there, Squeglia was untouchable, besting Peters on a couple restarts with twelve laps remaining. Squeglia, who qualified for the Oxford 250 two weeks ago but dropped out early with mechanical issues, coasted home to his second GSPSS victory of 2017 and his second-straight Star Classic win.

Peters, in an all-black car he and his team built after a savage crash at Wiscasset Speedway destroyed their blue-wrapped #51 entry, finished a strong second. Griffith, who lamented early on that he did not have enough for Peters or Squeglia, finished third. Vermont’s Todd Stone and rookie Scott MacMichael battled through the race, with Stone coming out ahead for fourth place.

Mike Mitchell, who ran most of the early half of the schedule, finished sixth in Jeremy Davis’ borrowed #09, with Nick Lascuola finishing seventh after a run-in with Cory Casagrande. Rookie Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., a Star weekly regular at only fourteen years of age, finished eighth in his GSPSS debut, followed by Josh King and Casagrande.

Mike O’Sullivan, the points leader entering the evening, finished a disappointing 13th after getting caught up in a spin with Jake Vanada and 2016 champ Barry Gray, the latter of whom finished the race missing the left side of his car. Gray finished twelfth. Former ACT competitor Brad Babb, now racing Star’s weekly 350 Supermodified division, jumped into Guy Caron’s #42 for a spot start in the series, but parked the car early and finished dead last.

O’Sullivan had a 30-point lead over Scott MacMichael heading to Star, and while his misfortune will cost him some of that, he will still have a cushion over MacMichael and third-place Barry Gray. In an interesting anomaly from this season, Squeglia’s second win means that sixth-place Josh King is the highest driver in points to win a race this season, something no driver who has made every race has done. With two events remaining on the schedule, there is a strong possibility of a winless champion. (Barry Gray, the 2016 champion, did so without winning a race.)

With the GSPSS event stretched over two days, one has to wonder if additional teams might have been able to commit to a one-day show instead. One casualty of the two-day program was Oxford 250 winner Curtis Gerry, who cancelled his entry after realizing he was committed to a Friday-night wedding and would be unable to qualify. It was surprising that a number of Granite State-based PASS staples, DJ Shaw and Joey Polewarczyk among them, were not on hand to claim what some might call “easy money.”

WEEKLY ACTION: Oxford Plains Speedway hosted their final Oxford Championship Series events of 2017 Saturday night. Eighteen Super Late Models were on hand to decide the season championship, with a field devoid of PASS visitors stopping through. Dennis Spencer, Jr., who barely missed the Oxford 250 on a last-lap pass in the last-chance qualifier, held off challenges by Kelly Moore and Ryan Robbins to score his second SLM feature win of 2017. Robbins (second) and Moore (fourth) sandwiched third-place finisher Alan Tardiff, who moved into a tie in points with seventh-place finisher TJ Brackett.

Tardiff and Brackett also tied in feature wins, but with one more second-place finish in 2017, Tardiff was named the 2017 Oxford SLM champion for the first time in his career. Brackett, a two-time OPS track champion, was followed in the points by his father Tim.

While the Oxford SLM season is over, some teams will likely throw their hats into the ring for PASS’ upcoming race at nearby Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, as well as the PASS season finale at Oxford in October.

After racing most of the season on its traditional Thursday nights, the Thunder Road International Speedbowl weekly program was due to wrap up on Friday evening. Weather bumped the feature event to a Sunday-afternoon program, however. That made at least one Late Model driver happy. After a brutal season that cost Jim “Boomer” Morris another car just a few weeks ago, he and the team were cobbling their wrecked cars into one good car for the upcoming Milk Bowl. The car was not done on Friday night. But it was done by Sunday. Morris and his team counted on using practice as a shakedown session, but the car was fast enough to race.

Morris took the lead on lap one, held off Chris Pelkey midway through the race, and never looked back on his way to a dominant feature win, his second of the year. Eric Chase finished second in the feature, followed by Bobby Therrien, defending Thunder Road champion Scott Dragon, and Pelkey.

“Bad Boy” Bobby Therrien’s third-place run was enough to clinch the track championship over Trampas Demers (who finished seventh in the feature) and Jason Corliss (who finished sixth). A regular competitor on the ACT Tour, Therrien’s Tour hopes were dashed a few races in after wrecks in weekly competition left them without a car for a Tour race. The Fast One Motorsports team refocused on the Thunder Road track championship instead, with satisfying results.

The newly-crowned “King Of The Road” is also the first driver in the modern era at Thunder Road to win track championships in all three weekly divisions. Therrien won the Street Stock championship in 2007 and the Flying Tigers championship in 2012 on his way up the ladder.

Though their points season is over, a number of Late Model teams will likely represent Thunder Road’s weekly program in the upcoming ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A week after that is the famed Milk Bowl, the Monza-scored three-segment Late Model show whose winner gets the honor of kissing a cow.

COMING UP: The Pro All Stars Series North teams end their post-Oxford-250 recess with a trip to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, home track of 250 winner Curt Gerry and runner-up Reid Lanpher. The Sunday-afternoon feature will include a limited slate of weekly features as well as the PASS Modifieds. White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH will host its final weekly features of 2017 on Saturday evening, with Quinny Welch and Stacy Cahoon duking it out for the track’s Late Model championship (and likely berths in the ACT Invitational).

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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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