It took Travis Benjamin six starts over seven seasons to win his first race with the Granite State Pro Stock Series. It took him one more start to win his second.
The three-time Oxford 250 winner outraced teammate Joey Doiron to win Saturday night’s VT&NH Racing News 100 at Riverside Speedway, the second race of the GSPSS season.
And after some lean years, Benjamin is pleased with the progress his team has already made.
“The last two years, we’ve struggled and struggled and struggled,” he said. “We really worked hard over the winter, got some new people helping us this year. This car has been awesome.”
Car owner Peter Petit made waves in the offseason by naming Doiron as the full-time driver of Petit Motorsports’ Pro All Stars Series entry, a car Benjamin had raced since 2016. But Benjamin, who reduced his driving schedule dramatically in 2021, remained a part of the team’s plans. And in the GSPSS opener at Star Speedway in May, he proved he had not lost his touch, dominating the second half of the race en route to his first touring win since the 2019 Oxford 250.
Saturday started off in similar fashion, with a heat win and a fortunate redraw gridding Benjamin at the front of the field for 100 green-flag laps around the Groveton, N.H. quarter-mile.
Outside polesitter Brandon Barker took the early lead, with Benjamin slipping to third as Doiron pressured Barker up front. Doiron traced the curb around the infield, looking for an opportunity to unseat Barker from the point. At last, he found his opening, drawing alongside Barker and making the pass on lap 27.
Benjamin followed Doiron through for second, then shifted to offense, swinging to Doiron’s inside to make his own bid for the lead. Doiron held off Benjamin for a few laps, but on lap 35 Benjamin made the move stick, getting around Doiron and stealing the lead for himself.
Luke Hinkley’s spin on lap 44 brought out the night’s only caution flag, giving Doiron a clear view of the track and an opportunity to take the lead back. But Benjamin cleared Doiron in a hurry, then drove away as Doiron and Barker settled back into second and third.
Barker closed the gap on Doiron for second, but neither could run down Benjamin on an open race track.
Never a winner at Riverside but a three-time runner-up in PASS competition, Benjamin scored his first ever win at New Hampshire’s northernmost paved track.
Doiron, meanwhile, picked up his third straight GSPSS second-place finish at the high-banked bullring. “I’ve been here three times [with GSPSS] and finished second every time,” Doiron said. “We’ll try to change some stuff up and see if we can try and make it better, maybe come back in August and try again.”
The second-place finish was Doiron’s best run for Petit Motorsports, though, an assuring rebound after a slow start to the PASS North season. Doiron echoed Benjamin’s praise for Petit in victory lane.
“I’ve got to thank Peter for everything he’s done,” he said. “He gives us everything we need to try to win, and we got a one-two today.”
Barker, the winner of the American-Canadian Tour’s recent visit to Lee USA Speedway, held on for third, his best GSPSS performance for car owner Archie St. Hilaire.
Fellow Lee USA Speedway regular Ryan Green was fourth in his first visit to Riverside. Evan Beaulieu had raced at Riverside in a Legends car over a decade ago, but made his stock car debut at the track in style, finishing fifth.
Cory Casagrande swapped a rear end after time trials, forcing him to start from the rear, but the Connecticut native drove to sixth at the finish. Former Beech Ridge Motor Speedway racers Garrett Hall and David Oliver were seventh and eighth. Hinkley recovered from his mid-race spin to place ninth. Riverside Late Model regular Jamie Swallow, Jr., who was a last-minute entry after converting his ACT-rules Late Model to fit the GSPSS rulebook, rounded out the top ten.
Casagrande fielded a second car for regular spotter Matt Frahm, who made his first GSPSS start since 2019. The five-time GSPSS feature winner quickly climbed into the top eight, but a broken sway bar mount ended his evening well shy of halfway. Helping to prepare Frahm’s entry were fellow racers Bobby Cabral, Tracy Gordon and Roger Dion, brother of popular racer “Dynamite” Dave Dion. Interesting, winner Benjamin’s first two GSPSS starts in 2017 were in a car owned by Frahm.
Twelve cars made the trip to Riverside. Massachusetts racer Nick Lascuola tagged the wall during practice; after a few test laps during the pre-qualifying scuff session, the team packed up early, leaving eleven cars to contest the race.
Car counts at Riverside have long been a challenge not only for GSPSS but for PASS, who has not raced at Riverside since 2020. In northern New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont, weekly Late Models following the ACT rulebook are the prevailing platform. Riverside is a long drive for GSPSS’ core teams, just over two hours from central New Hampshire and even further for teams south of the Granite State. Only two of last year’s twelve entrants took the green flag Saturday.
The wildcard of questionable weather, combined with an ACT event at Seekonk Speedway and a PASS race Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway, likely played a role as well. Both the ACT and PASS features were ultimately called off due to rain; earlier cancellations may have prompted a few teams to make a last-minute appearance.
The field did not lack for quality, though. Six of the eleven starters were former series winners, four of whom have multiple GSPSS wins.
The GSPSS’ next date is another long haul, with the series making its debut at Speedway 95 in Hermon, Me. later this month. To GSPSS’ benefit, the date is an open weekend for PASS and an off-weekend for Wiscasset Speedway’s Pro Stock class, opening the door for more home-state entries. Formerly a staple of the PASS schedule, Speedway 95 has not hosted a Super Late Model or Pro Stock touring race since 2019. Similar to GSPSS’ races at Beech Ridge before the Scarborough track’s untimely shuttering, the upcoming trip to Speedway 95 has tremendous potential.
Benjamin has not visited victory lane at Speedway 95, but the veteran has raced at the track since the late 1990s, dating back to the long-defunct Northeast Pro Stock Association. Benjamin has eight top-five finishes at Speedway 95, and finished sixth in the last PASS race there. Without the advantage of an entry list, it stands to reason that Benjamin may be the most experienced driver to hit the track that weekend.
Right now, Benjamin holds not only the points lead, but the crucial role of the GSPSS’ veteran racer, an established star around whom to anchor the series. Doiron held that role for the last few years, picking up wins and two championships while continuing to win elsewhere. The lighter, leaner schedule was friendlier to Doiron as he balanced the stresses of racing, family and business, and the path led him to a pair of titles. With Doiron moving back to PASS, there was room for a new veteran in the mix.
With two wins already under his belt, Benjamin is walking the same path.
Granite State Pro Stock Series VT&NH Racing News 100
1. (7) Travis Benjamin
2. (73D) Joey Doiron
3. (32) Brandon Barker
4. (93) Ryan Green
5. (56) Evan Beaulieu
6. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
7. (94) Garrett Hall
8. (21ME) David Oliver
9. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
10. (4NH) Jamie Swallow, Jr.
11. (14) Matt Frahm
DNS (39) Nick Lascuola