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Granite State Pro Stock Series

Travis Benjamin repeats as GSPSS opener winner at Star Speedway

The reigning GSPSS champion is already off to a strong start with a repeat win in the series’ season opener.

Travis Benjamin made the most of his track position Saturday night, holding off two hungry racers to score his fourth career GSPSS win and his third in the last four races at Star Speedway. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Last year, Travis Benjamin’s plans to take the Granite State Pro Stock Series schedule one race at a time turned into an unstoppable championship drive.

It looks like the same storyline could be in play again.

Casey Call and Ryan Green both had opportunities to dethrone the reigning champ, but Benjamin kept them at bay for most of the Spring 100. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The reigning GSPSS champion fended off Casey Call and Ryan Green to win Saturday night’s Spring 100 at Star Speedway, picking up his fifth career win at the Epping, N.H. quarter-mile.

“I’ve got a wicked good car here,” Benjamin said. “I can’t thank my crew enough. They bust their butts.”

Saturday night’s lidlifter was the kickoff of the Mike Parks-led series’ thirteenth full season, and it featured everything a fan could want: a popular veteran, two hungry challengers, a fresh cast of characters in the field, and even a dash of carnage and controversy.

The carnage came before the drop of the green flag. Benjamin and Green won the two qualifying events, setting the grid for the 17-car feature, but a three-car pileup in the second heat collected Josh King, rookie Danny Wear and T.J. Watson. Wear and Watson were able to answer the call for the feature, but King was done for the evening with heavy front and rear damage.

Josh St. Clair’s spin on lap two slowed the early pace, but the field fell into a rhythm after that, with Green testing the high line against Benjamin for the race lead. Aided by two-time GSPSS titlist Joey Doiron in the pits, Green worked his way around Benjamin to take the point, closing in on slower traffic with almost a third of the race complete.

Travis Benjamin and Ryan Green lead the field to the green flag for the first of nine GSPSS races planned for 2024. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The yellow flew on lap 28 for Mike Mitchell’s spin in turn four, with a few cars pitting for mid-race adjustments. Green fended off Benjamin on the restart, but in their rear-view mirror, Evan Beaulieu and Wayne Helliwell, Jr. got together, with Beaulieu spinning off the turn-one banking to draw another caution. Officials re-racked the field for another restart, but this time Mitchell and St. Clair were swept into second spins, bringing the yellow flag out once more on lap 34.

Through the spins at the front of the field, Watson had made a stunning climb from the tail of the field to third place for the restart. Watson’s charge through traffic had earned little respect among the drivers, though, and had garnered extra scrutiny from race officials. On the restart, Watson bulled his way into the race lead, but when Cory Casagrande’s flat tire forced another yellow on lap 36, officials sent the hard-charging Watson to the tail for rough driving.

T.J. Watson made an impressive drive from last to first by lap 34, but warnings for contact went unheeded and the Maine driver was penalized for his hard charging two laps later. (STS/Jeff Brown)

That cycled Benjamin and Casey Call into first and second. Benjamin wasted no time in getting away from Call on the restart, as the field settled into a single-file march out front. Beaulieu and Casagrande, who lost two laps in the pits, worked their way through traffic as a battle waged for sixth on back. Green, the early leader, had fallen back from Benjamin and Call, but as the two leaders worked around slower cars, he was able to reel Call back in for second.

July Star Speedway winner Casey Call was fast all night, but came up just short of his third career GSPSS victory. (STS/Jeff Brown)

With twenty laps to go, Benjamin and Green were closing on the pack battling for sixth. Beaulieu, making a pass on Jamie Wright for sixth, turned Wright in front of the leaders, bringing out the night’s final caution on lap 82 and tightening up the battle for the win.

Benjamin would have none of it.

The seasoned veteran drove to the point and stayed put, holding off Call over the final eighteen laps to pick up his first win of the year, his fourth career GSPSS victory, and his third Star win in the last four GSPSS races held at the track.

“My car got real free down in the corner, and that’s not good here,” he said.

The Belfast, Me. racer called attention after the race to a subtle tribute on his Petit Motorsports entry. In the place of Benjamin’s name on his car number was the name of car owner Peter Petit’s daughter Cassidy. The entrepreneur and her fiancé lost their lives in an accident in January, weeks before their planned nuptials.

With a new look for his #93 entry, Ryan Green won his heat and led laps en route to a third-place finish. (STS/Jeff Brown)

“We’ve gotta dedicate this,” he said. “Over the winter, a crew member of mine had a stroke, and then Peter’s daughter Cassidy passed away in a plane crash. This is for her. I know she was with me tonight.

“We didn’t have the best race car, but somebody was riding with us.”

Call came home second, a year after mechanical trouble kept him from taking the green flag in the season opener at all. Green, debuting new sponsorship and a new look for his mount, settled for third in the final run to the checkers.

Dan Winter finished fourth in his first GSPSS start since 2017, while Wiscasset Speedway fixture St. Clair came back from his two spins to finish fifth.

Mike Mitchell was sixth despite hood damage, ahead of local racer and Lee USA Speedway veteran Frankie Eldredge. Miller Buzzell, Casagrande, and Morgan Call rounded out the top ten.

Saturday’s field mix of established GSPS was a blend of GSPSS loyalists and new faces, reflecting the ever-shifting driver base of the series. The GSPSS occupies a crucial middle ground between weekly competition at the few tracks that host weekly Pro Stocks and Super Late Models and the arduous touring campaign of the Pro All Stars Series. Races at Speedway 95 have drawn interest from racers from coastal Maine, with the GSPSS’ lighter schedule and rules accommodating those teams best.

Dan Winter, second in PASS points in 2021, made his first series start since 2017 and came home fourth. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Who will run that full schedule, though, is unclear. Benjamin’s key rival in 2023, Brandon Barker, is favoring a PASS- and American-Canadian Tour-centric itinerary this year. That leaves Beaulieu, who ran all but one race last year and plans a full-season assault, and Casey Call, who has met with mechanical misfortune throughout his GSPSS career.

Then there’s Benjamin.

For the two-time PASS champion and three-time Oxford 250 winner, the GSPSS represents an opportunity to balance a championship program with the more family-friendly schedule he has favored in recent years. Teammate Joey Doiron took a similar approach, winning championships in 2019 and 2022 before joining Petit Motorsports to run the full PASS slate.

This is Benjamin’s ninth season with the Petit team, a pairing that has produced two touring championships, an Oxford 250 crown, and eleven touring wins.

And whether or not Benjamin decides to run for the championship, he and the team are still prepared to bring trophies home.

Unofficial Results
Granite State Pro Stock Series Spring 100
Star Speedway

1. (7) Travis Benjamin
2. (90NH) Casey Call
3. (93) Ryan Green
4. (81) Dan Winter
5. (14) Josh St. Clair
6. (40) Mike Mitchell
7. (09) Frankie Eldredge
8. (18ME) Miller Buzzell
9. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
10. (95) Morgan Call
11. (56) Evan Beaulieu
12. (84) Jamie Wright
13. (27NH) Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
14. (04) T.J. Watson
15. (75) Gary Smith
16. (25) Anthony Bello
17. (0) Danny Wear
DNS (21) Josh King

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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