Saturday afternoon’s Granite State Derby at Lee USA Speedway was a Joey Doiron kind of race.
Doiron paced himself early, took control on a late restart, then drove off in the final thirty laps to score his first Granite State Pro Stock Series win of the year. And while some drivers would be frustrated by that approach, Doiron is decidedly not one of them.
“That’s my favorite type of racing,” the Berwick, Me. veteran said after the race. “I’d race like that every week, if we could.”
The first of two GSPSS events planned this year for “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed,” Saturday’s feature was a big deal in many ways. The race was one of two anchor features for the second day of May Madness, Lee’s opening weekend. The other anchor was the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, pairing GSPSS with NASCAR’s oldest regional touring series.
And there was significance for the GSPSS itself. With the series’ July visit to Lee a marquee event paying $10,000 to the winner, Saturday’s race was an opportunity to prepare for the big-money show. But in the moment, it was a battle between the championship-minded Doiron and Bryan Kruczek, who only had victory in the crosshairs.
Kruczek, fresh off a GSPSS win at Star Speedway, was quickest in qualifying and earned the pole via redraw for the feature. Two-time GSPSS Lee winner Brandon Barker, at the wheel of Archie St. Hilaire’s #32, would line up outside Kruczek, with Doiron starting third.
Barker, though, led the field onto the track, with Kruczek held up somehow in Lee’s busy paddock. Kruczek emerged at last, taking the point on the grid and leading the field to the green flag. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. made a quick charge to second, while Kruczek left the field in the dust, picking up where he left off at Star. Doiron settled into third.
As Kruczek set the pace out front, Doiron slipped past Renfrew and into second on lap 24. Clean racing throughout the field kept the race under green, and Doiron was content to ride in the runner-up slot, waiting for the opportunity to strike.
Lapped traffic just past halfway gave Doiron his opportunity, as he began reeling Kruczek in with forty laps to go. Kruczek and Doiron were closing on a battle at the back of the top ten when rookie Isaac Bevin, in his first GSPSS start, got turned around while racing for sixth. The lap-69 spin brought an end to a nice debut for Bevin.
And it brought the caution flag out for the first time.
Doiron turned up the heat on the restart, standing his ground on the outside and forcing Kruczek to hug the inside line. Doiron inched ahead, finally clearing Kruczek after a couple laps and pulling away from the former leader. Barker got back around Renfrew for third, but could not get close enough to pressure Kruczek for second.
Corey Bubar joined the top-five battle as well, charging into fourth, but the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway veteran spun in turn two with fifteen laps remaining, bringing out the afternoon’s second caution. Bubar soldiered on under yellow, but retired to the pits shortly after the restart.
Doiron took off on the restart, distancing himself from Kruczek over the last fifteen laps as he drove to his fifth career GSPSS victory. Doiron also joined Brandon Barker, Derek Griffith, Jeremy Davis and Joe Squeglia, Jr. as two-time GSPSS winners at Lee.
“That was cool, you know, playing cat-and-mouse,” Doiron said of his battle with Kruczek.
Kruczek came up just short of going two-for-two in his GSPSS appearances in 2022, but the Newmarket, N.H. native picked up his eighth top-five finish in only 12 series starts.
Barker, whose Lee wins came in 2018 and 2019, held on for third, a series best for car owner St. Hilaire. Renfrew was fourth, his fourth top-five finish at Lee in GSPSS competition. Nick Cusack rounded out the top-five with his best series performance so far.
Jeremy Sorel matched his own series best with a sixth-place finish, rebounding from early exits in the first two races of the year. Ryan Green finished seventh after engaging in some hard battles through the afternoon. Dylan Estrella kept his top-ten streak alive with an eighth-place finish. Veteran racer Luke Hinkley, who entered the weekend as the points leader with three straight second-place finishes, could do no better than ninth. Isaac Bevin was subdued after his lap-69 spin but came back to finish tenth.
Hinkley’s performance dropped him to second in points, twelve markers behind Doiron. The Claremont, N.H. driver has never run the full GSPSS slate, so whether he opts to compete for the title this year is unclear.
Doiron, on the other hand, seems poised to chase the championship again. After winning the 2019 GSPSS title, Doiron diversified his schedule, running select races in his own equipment while driving in others for car owners Wright Pearson and Greg Curtis. Doiron picked up a Pro All Stars Series win for Pearson in 2020, then won in all three cars in 2021.
Fielding the Pearson car at Lee last year for a PASS-sanctioned edition of May Madness, Doiron waited out his competition, passing them for the win when their tires were exhausted. With fifty fewer laps and on different tires for this year’s GSPSS feature, Doiron played the same strategy to perfection.
As effective a coach and crew chief as he is a driver, Doiron is rarely thrilling in traffic. But he plays the strategy game to perfection, making him a big-picture driver at every track.
And if he can race like that every week, another title could be within reach.
Unofficial Results, GSPSS Granite State Derby at Lee USA Speedway:
1. (73) Joey Doiron
2. (19) Bryan Kruczek
3. (32) Brandon Barker
4. (00) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
5. (2) Nick Cusack
6. (77) Jeremy Sorel
7. (93) Ryan Green
8. (46) Dylan Estrella
9. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
10. (7) Isaac Bevin
11. (N40) Dan McKeage, Jr.
12. (99) Charlie Buxton
13. (17) Kevin Folan
14. (01) Sammy Gooden
15. (05F) Bobby Frappier
16. (12) Corey Bubar
17. (82) Bobby Baillargeon
18. (90NH) Casey Call