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Granite State Pro Stock Series

Benjamin Breaks Dry Spell With First GSPSS Win

The Maine veteran picked up his first touring win in nearly four years in only his sixth GSPSS start.

Travis Benjamin coasts through turn three at Star Speedway. The three-time Oxford 250 winner scored his first GSPSS win in Saturday's Hedges Excavating 100. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Over the last several years, Travis Benjamin’s career arc has seen the racer transition from championship contender to part-time racer to driver coach. Saturday night, the Maine veteran proved that winning races still fits in, too.

Benjamin dominated the second half of Saturday night’s Hedges Excavating 100 at Star Speedway to win his first-ever Granite State Pro Stock Series race and his first touring feature since 2019.

Travis Benjamin emerges victorious from his familiar Peter Petit-owned #7. (STS/Jeff Brown)

“I’ve never run good in a Granite State race, so it feels good to finally get a podium,” Benjamin said in victory lane at the Epping, N.H. quarter-mile.

The Belfast, Me. driver has no shortage of career highlights, winning three Oxford 250s, two of the Canadian Maritimes’ celebrated 250-lap Pro Stock majors, and two Pro All Stars Series championships. But in a handful of GSPSS starts, Benjamin had failed to find the success he was known for elsewhere, with a third-place finish in his 2017 debut his only top-five finish to date.

Benjamin rolled off sixth, with series regular Jeremy Sorel setting an impressive pace early. As Sorel kept heat race winners Brandon Barker and Wayne Helliwell, Jr. in his mirror, Benjamin picked his way through traffic, clearing Helliwell for third before a lap-37 caution for a single-car spin.

On the restart, Benjamin quickly dispatched Barker for second before setting off after Sorel. Sorel, who finished fourth in GSPSS points last year in his first full season, was on a drive of his own for a breakthrough win. But Benjamin closed the gap quickly, diving inside of Sorel in turn one to take the lead on lap 50.

Evan Beaulieu, making his first GSPSS start since 2021, picked up a career-best second-place finish. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Once out front, and unhindered by traffic courtesy of a short field, Benjamin set sail.

Benjamin’s biggest threat emerged late in the race, as Evan Beaulieu’s car came to life in the second half. The Durham, Me. native was running fifth on the lap-37 restart, but surged ahead of Helliwell and Barker as the early challengers’ cars faded. Beaulieu slipped past Sorel with 14 laps left on the scoreboard. Beaulieu was the fastest car on the track in the final ten laps, as Benjamin finally caught the tail end of the field and had to contend with traffic for the first time.

But there were too few laps left for that to matter. With a cushion of a few lapped cars to his rear bumper, Benjamin crossed the line first, 1.595 seconds ahead of Beaulieu.

It was a big moment for a driver whose last touring victory was the 2019 Oxford 250 nearly four years ago, a driver who had struggled to reach that bar in recent seasons.

“We’ve worked our butts off over the winter,” Benjamin said. “We struggled the last few years, we’ve been horrible. And we finally started simplifying some stuff and just came back to the way we used to do it. This team here right here is just unbelievable.

“We had a really good car last week and an awesome car tonight.”

Benjamin was untouchable in the second half of the race, with Evan Beaulieu needing a few more laps to run down the leader. (STS/Jeff Brown)

In his first series start since scoring back-to-back third-place finishes at Star and Lee USA Speedway in 2021, Beaulieu’s runner-up finish was his best career GSPSS effort. But the former Beech Ridge Motor Speedway regular was left wondering what could have been.

While both Benjamin and Beaulieu had finished on the podium in a GSPSS race before, all three drivers celebrated career-best finishes in the series. (STS/Jeff Brown)

“I love this place, man,” Beaulieu said. “Congratulations to Travis and those guys. If we had fifty more laps…this thing was on a rail.”

A late-race yellow, then, was not what Beaulieu hoped for. “We got the long run,” he said. “We just couldn’t fire off well during the race, and that really cost us. Travis was able to pick up a couple spots on the restarts. We couldn’t figure that out, but other than that, this thing was good on the long run.

“But second still sucks.”

Beaulieu’s spirits were buoyed, though, by the presence of father Todd, wife Lindsey, and one first-time spectator. “This is my daughter’s first race,” he said. “She’s gonna be six months in a few weeks. It’s pretty awesome.”

After leading the first half of the race, Jeremy Sorel settled for third. Racing a car acquired from former GSPSS champion Devin O’Connell and with former competitor Jake Matheson spotting, Sorel’s steady improvement over last year culminated in his best series run to date.

“We’ve worked really, really hard over the last couple months to get this car ready for this,” he said. “There’s a ton of people, Alex Quarterley, his dad [Dale], they’ve been amazing. The Mathesons, they’ve helped out a ton on setup. It’s just a real group effort.”

Jeremy Sorel led the first half of the feature, but settled for third at the finish. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Seekonk Speedway regular Vinnie Arrenegado, in his second series start, finished fourth, with former GSPSS Beech Ridge winner David Oliver fifth. Barker and Helliwell faded to sixth and seventh at the finish. Rookie polesitter Garrett Lamb was eighth, with Josh King and Bobby Cabral dicing for position one lap down to round out the top ten.

Two potential contenders were loaded up long before the green flag. Casey Call, second in his heat, found a broken front spindle upon his return to the pits. Unable to find a replacement at the track, last year’s Keen Parts 150 winner was forced to pack up early.

But the shock of the evening was defending race winner and pre-race favorite Bryan Kruczek. After issues throughout qualifying, Kruczek and car owner Bobby Webber opted to cut their losses, loading up early and ending their bid to win three straight GSPSS features at the track Webber owns.

Kruczek’s withdrawal opened the door for a fresh face in Star’s victory lane. A fresh face with two PASS Super Late Model wins at Star, but a fresh face in the GSPSS records, nonetheless.

The win is a shot in the arm not only for Benjamin, but for car owner Peter Petit and Petit Motorsports. Since joining Petit’s operation in 2016, Benjamin has seven PASS wins and a series championship. But after a winless 2020 season, the driver acknowledged a new priority.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Benjamin said. “And my kid’s getting older, and I’ve wanted to slow down a little bit. Peter wants to race every weekend, and I just don’t want to.”

When a driver-development approach fell short of the team’s expectations last year, Petit and Benjamin reached out to Joey Doiron. The 2022 GSPSS champion, who finished second to Petit and Mike Rowe for the 2015 PASS North title, committed to the full 2023 PASS schedule with Petit. Benjamin, meanwhile, could fit in his own slate of races with a familiar team.

“Over the winter we talked to Joey to come drive our other car in the PASS Series,” Benjamin said. “We’re going to do this on this series, I think. I’m excited. This team is awesome. I can’t thank Peter enough, he gives us whatever we need to run good.”

Doiron is still coming to terms with his Petit mount. But with Benjamin finding speed on his side of the shop, greater success may be in store for the whole team.

Unofficial Results
Granite State Pro Stock Series Hedges Excavating 100
Star Speedway

1. (7) Travis Benjamin
2. (56) Evan Beaulieu
3. (77) Jeremy Sorel
4. (17RI) Vinnie Arrenegado
5. (21ME) David Oliver
6. (32) Brandon Barker
7. (27NH) Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
8. (38) Garrett Lamb
9. (21) Josh King
10. (66C) Bobby Cabral
11. (44) Rusty Poland
12. (04) TJ Watson
13. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
14. (15) Trevor Krouse
DNS (90NH) Casey Call
DNS (19) Bryan Kruczek

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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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