A win is always worth celebrating. A win at a home track is always that much more special. And then there are wins like Bryan Kruczek’s Friday-night victory at Star Speedway.
The veteran racer from Newmarket, N.H. held off Joey Doiron in a 28-lap green-flag run, winning the Ty Cooper Land Holdings 100 to close out the Granite State Pro Stock Series’ 2022 season.
And while Kruczek has won three out of the last four GSPSS races at Star, Friday had a deeper significance to his Bobby Webber Racing team.
“We messed it up one time there last fall,” Kruczek said, reflecting on his streak of success at the track owned by his car owner. “We made it a point this year that this was one we were gonna win.”
Friday’s racing not only kicked off Star Classic Weekend at the track owned by the Webber family, but commemorated the 75th birthday of track patriarch Bob Webber, who lost his battle with cancer in 2018.
Kruczek rolled off fourth on the grid and followed outside polesitter Rusty Poland to the front on the first lap as they cleared polesitter Travis Benjamin. Poland held the point for nine laps before Kruczek worked his way past to take the lead. While Poland fell into the clutches of Doiron and Brandon Barker, Kruczek set sail.
As Kruczek managed slower traffic, Doiron passed Poland for second, setting his sights on the leader. The newly-crowned GSPSS champion had been in a similar spot just a week before in the Freedom 300 at Lee USA Speedway, waiting until later in the race to pounce on a fading Kruczek. That, in itself, was a repeat of the GSPSS-sanctioned Granite State Derby at Lee in May.
Sure enough, as the race approached halfway, Doiron began to trim time from Kruczek’s advantage, closing in on the leader’s bumper in traffic.
As the leaders cleared a cluster of slow cars on lap 72, though, one car clipped Doiron on his way past, sending the champion for a slide through turn three. Doiron gathered his car up, but the cars scattering in his mirror brought out the race’s first caution flag, eliminating the rest of Kruczek’s margin.
The two frontrunners lined up nose-to-tail for the restart, with Casey Call and Vinnie Arrenegado, Jr. gambling on a choose-cone option to restart second and fourth. Kruczek was faster to the gas for the restart, with Doiron following through to take second.
But Kruczek’s car was hooked up on the short run, and with slower traffic a whole race track ahead, there was little opportunity for Doiron to wait for an obstacle to slow the determined leader.
Kruczek crossed the line just under seven tenths of a second ahead of Doiron to sweep the 2022 races at his team’s home track.
“I was still saving when I was riding out front,” he said. “Just running my line, not sliding the thing. That’s what I’ve learned from the same guy all the time, and he’s pretty good.”
Doiron, fastest on the clock in time trials, started back in sixth and felt like he was a step behind from the drop of the green.
“It’s just one of those nights where the draw kind of hurts you,” he said. “I felt like me and Bryan were pretty equal. I was pretty tight. I feel like if I could have beaten him to the front, it would have probably been a different story, but he got to the front first.”
Doiron could have stayed home and retained the points lead Friday, but his runner-up finish gave him an average finishing position of 2.333 over nine races. The Berwick, Me. racer won twice and finished no worse than fourth en route to his second championship, joining Mike O’Sullivan as the only drivers to score multiple GSPSS crowns.
Barker, Doiron’s friend and former teammate, wheeled his Archie St. Hilaire-owned car to third, matching his best GSPSS finish of the year in three starts.
Casey Call held on for fourth after his late-race restart gamble. Fifth was early leader Poland, making his first GSPSS start of the year at a track that has become one of the Mainer’s favorites.
Arrenegado, in his first GSPSS start ever, drove a smart race at the end to finish sixth, ahead of New Hampshire native Luke Hinkley. Ryan Ripley was eighth in his first series race since the Claremont Motorsports Park opener in April. Dylan Estrella and polesitter Travis Benjamin rounded out the top ten.
Nick Cusack, caught up in the lap-72 caution, drove back to eleventh, a performance that should secure top rookie honors for the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway alumnus.
Friday’s race wrapped up a banner year for the Granite State Pro Stock Series. The nine-race schedule, contested entirely within New Hampshire, may have raised some eyebrows when contrasted with other touring series. But series president Mike Parks may have found a sweet spot for the series’ usual base of southern New England Super Late Model competitors. June’s race at Monadnock Speedway had to be bumped one day due to rain, but no races were wholly rescheduled on account of weather, and none were canceled for a lack of turnout. Four drivers earned points in every race; three of those drivers had never run a full touring schedule before. The series enjoyed time alongside NASCAR’s Modified Tour twice this season, and July’s big Keen Parts 150 welcomed a current NASCAR star, Tyler Reddick, to the roster.
Representing the GSPSS a second time as champion is Joey Doiron, who can easily be considered one of New England’s top current driving talents. Doiron is a multiple-time winner with the Pro All Stars Series. Known for his clean and calculated style, Doiron is always among the top picks to win the region’s toughest races. The GSPSS gives Doiron an outlet to race for wins and championship, while balancing his racing efforts with business and family.
And family was the word in victory lane Friday night. The Webber family has operated Star Speedway for over 40 years, with patriarch Bob Webber purchasing the track in 1980. Plans to sell the speedway in the late 2000s fell through, with Bobby taking a managerial role once the family regained full control. Now the face of Star Speedway, Bobby takes great pains to pay tribute to those who have helped grow the speedway over the years. Bobby’s children, Tim and Jaime, have their own roles at the track as well.
Kruczek teamed up with Webber’s race team in 2019, steering Bobby Webber Racing entries to victories with the American-Canadian Tour, the GSPSS, and even at New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series. When Webber’s race cars are idle, Kruczek pitches in at Star. From the outside, Kruczek is part of the family.
And with Bob Webber looking on from the hood of Kruczek’s mount, the whole Webber family was able to celebrate Friday night.
Unofficial Results, GSPSS Ty Cooper Land Holdings 100 at Star Speedway:
1. (19) Bryan Kruczek
2. (73) Joey Doiron
3. (32) Brandon Barker
4. (90NH) Casey Call
5. (44) Rusty Poland
6. (17RI) Vinnie Arrenegado, Jr.
7. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
8. (09) Ryan Ripley
9. (46) Dylan Estrella
10. (7) Travis Benjamin
11. (2) Nick Cusack
12. (77) Jeremy Sorel
13. (N40) Dan McKeage, Jr.
14. (55) Randy Cole
15. (99) Charlie Buxton
16. (66C) Bobby Cabral
17. (15) Trevor Krouse
18. (05F) Bobby Frappier
DNS (82) Bobby Baillargeon