One year ago, DJ Shaw came up a third of a mile short of winning not only the American-Canadian Tour season finale, but his first ACT Tour championship.
Shaw exorcized both demons Saturday afternoon.
The Center Conway, N.H. veteran outdueled Seekonk regular Jacob “Rowdy” Burns to win the Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway, picking up his third ACT Tour win of 2022.
And while last year’s championship battle came down to the final lap, this time Shaw was able to lock up title honors with one race remaining on the series’ schedule.
“What a reminiscent finish,” Shaw said. “There’s not as much on the line this time, but I learned from last year.”
Shaw took the white flag in last year’s Haunted Hundred as the race leader, which also would have assured him of the championship over second-place Ben Rowe. But coming off turn two, Rowe nudged Shaw out of the groove, slipping past to edge out Shaw for the victory and steal the title in one slick move.
This year, Shaw only needed to outpace rookie Alexendre Tardif to clinch the championship one race early. But earning a redeeming win at the “Cement Palace” was still on the bucket list.
Starting tenth, Shaw patiently worked through traffic as Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. set the early pace. Renfrew, at the wheel of Chad Sullivan’s HMS Racing entry, powered past polesitter Ryan Kuhn to take the early lead. Kuhn shadowed Renfrew for the opening stint, taking the lead on a lap-33 restart as a damaged car brought out an immediate yellow.
Kuhn led the field back to green, with Renfrew on the defensive against a hard-charging pack including Burns, Shaw, and Derek Gluchacki. Gluchacki was on his own redemption tour, having been shoved out of the lead late in last year’s Haunted Hundred.
But as Gluchacki made a play for position on Renfrew, the two made contact, with Gluchacki spinning into the frontstretch grass and collecting Cody LeBlanc and Jonathan Bouvrette in the aftermath. Officials pointed the finger at Renfrew for blocking, sending him to the rear.
Burns pressured Kuhn on the restart, taking the lead on lap 40 with Shaw scooting past the former Seekonk track champion for second. Two laps later, a spinning Remi Perreault brought out another caution, freezing the field with Burns at the point. Kuhn, who had fallen to fourth in two laps, ducked into the pits under yellow.
Another quick caution for Peyton Lanphear’s stalled car gave way to a long green-flag run, with Burns taking command. Shaw settled into second, waiting to strike as the rookie closed in on slower traffic. With 26 laps to go, Burns caught Claude Leclerc in turn four. Facing pressure from a closing Shaw, Burns sent ACT’s “Ironman” for a spin, drawing another caution but keeping the lead.
On the restart, though, Burns had his hands full with Shaw, who at last made a move to take the top spot. Burns fired back, dueling with Shaw until a spinning Reilly Lanphear slowed the race with sixteen circuits remaining. Shaw and Burns lined up for the restart with Thompson winner Tom Carey III third, Corliss fourth and title long-shot Tardif up to fifth.
Shaw and Burns resumed their battle, but with seven laps to go, the back half of the top ten was jumbled when Vinnie Arrenegado got into Wall while racing for sixth. Gluchacki, who had clawed his way back into the top ten, ran into the slowing Arrenegado and set off a multi-car incident that brought out another yellow flag.
With recollections of last year’s finish echoing over the track’s speakers, fans were on their feet for the final seven-lap showdown between the veteran Shaw, looking for his third Tour win of the year, and the rookie Burns, in only his fifth-ever Tour start. The two squared off in a side-by-side battle, but in the end, it was Shaw who made the winning play, taking the win and clinching his first-ever ACT Tour title.
A two-time Seekonk winner in Pro All Stars Series competition, Shaw’s win was his third of the year for car owner Arnie Hill and his fourth since partnering with the team.
“I’m happy to bring this thing home in victory lane at least one more time for these guys, and finish off the year that they deserve to have,” he said.
Burns, who opened the afternoon’s feature racing with a victory in a $2,000-to-win Legends feature, earned his best-career ACT Tour performance, improving on an eighth-place run in last year’s Haunted Hundred.
“Fireball” Tardif, the Tour’s leading rookie, kept up his hot streak with a third-place finish, his fifth podium finish of the year. Corliss finished fourth in his first trip to Seekonk since 2017. Carey slid back to fifth at the finish after challenging for the podium late.
Despite lining up 25th after his early-race penalty, early leader Renfrew drove back to a sixth-place finish. Erick Sands was seventh, while multi-time White Mountain Motorsports Park champion Quinny Welch persevered to finish eighth. Jonathan Bouvrette was ninth in the final rundown. Nick Johnson, in his first Tour start since 2020, rounded out the top ten.
Kuhn struggled to rebound from his early pit stop, finishing 13th. Gluchacki was relegated to 16th after the lap-93 fracas, left to seek redemption next year.
Meanwhile, Shaw and car owner Hill were able to celebrate redemption of their own.
“It’s great redemption for me, for this team, for everybody,” said Shaw. “Last year didn’t end the way we wanted. It was a great day all-in-all, but we always want to get that one spot better at the end of the year, and this year we were able to do it.”
A five-time PASS North champion who made the leap directly from weekly Late Model racing to touring Super Late Models, Shaw had only made a handful of ACT Tour starts entering the 2020 season. After racing his own car in the season opener that year, Shaw teamed up with Hill, a Dale Shaw Race Cars customer who fielded a weekly entry at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. Shaw ran the rest of the Tour schedule for Hill, finishing no worse than tenth and placing second in points in his first full ACT Tour season while clinching his fifth PASS North title.
Shaw and Hill committed to another points run in 2021, but started in the hole after their first win was stripped away in post-race inspection. Shaw inherited his first Tour win a few weeks later in similar fashion, and he finished no worse than ninth outside of the opening-race disqualification. But Shaw arrived at Seekonk in such a tight points battle with Ben Rowe that whoever finished better in the race would likely clinch the title as well. Shaw strong-armed his way into the lead late in the race, but Rowe fired the winning shot on the last lap, taking his first win of the year and stealing the championship by five points.
Shaw entered 2022 as the early favorite to win the title. By midseason, fate had nearly guaranteed it. Shaw was one of only a few drivers who could commit to the Tour’s first races in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic, with several title-minded teams unable to make the cross-border trips. Those two starts gave Shaw a healthy cushion in the standings, especially as some of his full-time challengers faltered with in-race misfortunes.
And Shaw’s on-track fortunes have been stellar. With one race to go, Shaw has not finished worse than ninth all year, and has not finished worse than fourth since June. Shaw picked up his second Tour win in July’s Midsummer Classic 250, then won September’s Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road to claim two of the Tour’s longest features.
With Saturday’s win, Shaw can now call himself an ACT Tour champion.
Unofficial Results, ACT Tour Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway:
1. (04VT) DJ Shaw
2. (30RI) Jacob “Rowdy” Burns
3. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
4. (66VT) Jason Corliss
5. (5MA) Tom Carey III
6. (0NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
7. (36NH) Erick Sands
8. (78NH) Quinny Welch
9. (41QC) Jonathan Bouvrette
10. (6MA) Nick Johnson
11. (22RI) Mark Jenison
12. (08RI) Richard Murray
13. (72MA) Ryan Kuhn
14. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
15. (9ME) Shawn Swallow
16. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
17. (91RI) Charlie Rose
18. (01VT) Stephen Martin
19. (77NH) Bryan Wall, Jr.
20. (11QC) Claude Leclerc
21. (50RI) Mike Benevides
22. (17RI) Vinnie Arrenegado, Jr.
23. (21VT) Reilly Lanphear
24. (33QC) Rémi Perreault
25. (22VT) Peyton Lanphear
26. (27NH) Cam Huntress
27. (7NH) Cody LeBlanc
28. (4MA) Ryan Souliere
29. (77MA) Kasey Beattie
30. (66MA) Brett LeBlanc
31. (11RI) Corey Fanning
DNS (4CT) Reese Bogue