It took most of the 2019 season for Ray Christian III to find the results his on-track performance had promised. And once he did, he was tough to beat.
Christian dominated the final round of the Granite State Pro Stock Series schedule Sunday afternoon, winning the season finale at Claremont Motorsports Park in western New Hampshire.
And second-place finisher Joey Doiron had his own reason to celebrate, earning his first GSPSS championship in his second season with the series.
Christian started from the pole after winning his heat race and never backed off, driving away from the field by over a straightaway at times during the caution-free feature. With “RC III” well in command and rain beginning to pick up, officials called the race early, waving the checkers with 85 laps of the scheduled 100 complete.
“The car was really good,” Christian said after taking time to soak in the win, crediting Crazy Horse Racing with dialing in a fast mount for the race. “Mitch and Mickey Green are just on top of their game all the time.”
Christian, who won his first career GSPSS race in last year’s season finale at New London-Waterford Speedbowl, had looked to be a force in the first half of the season. But while the Groton, Conn. racer showed speed in a limited Pro All Stars Series schedule aimed at an Oxford 250 run, his GSPSS results fell short of expectations, with bad breaks turning promising runs into average finishes.
After the Oxford 250, Christian returned his PASS-ready ride to GSPSS rules and reversed his fortunes, breaking through with a win at Star Speedway in early September. Podium finishes in two of the next three events followed, while Christian surged to second in the season-long standings.
“Hopefully I’ll ride that high all through the wintertime,” Christian said of his second-straight season-ending triumph. “It feels good to end up on a win.”
Joey Doiron only had to start Sunday’s race to clinch the 2019 GSPSS title. Doiron started fifth after the redraw, and was looking for the matching bookend to his season-opening win at Claremont. By the time Doiron clawed his way to second, though, Christian was long gone.
Doiron, who won twice in 2019, was satisfied overall with a season in which his team had been at the front more often than not. “I felt like we were the best car all year,” Doiron said, reflecting on the title that eluded him a year before. “I felt like last year, we were probably the best car, but circumstances and too many mechanical failures took us out of it. This year, it just feels good to seal the deal.”
Still, Doiron had hoped for one caution flag to draw the field back together, even though he admitted that “it would have been a full-contact race.”
Local favorite Luke Hinkley finished third, matching his finish in September’s Rocky Ridge 150 at Claremont. Devin O’Connell, back in a car that sat idle most of the year while waiting for repairs, was fastest in time trials and finished a strong fourth to close out his reign as GSPSS champion. Fifth under the checkered flag was three-time PASS North champion DJ Shaw, shaking down a car from his family’s Dale Shaw Race Cars stable.
For Shaw and Doiron, the 100-lapper was the second half of a weekend doubleheader, as both raced in the PASS North feature at Oxford Plains Speedway the day before. Doiron, who works closely with Shaw, drove one of team driver Gabe Brown’s entries to a fourth-place finish in his first PASS start of the year. Along with Shaw and Doiron, 2018 North East Mini Stock Tour champ Cody LeBlanc made the trip from Oxford to race at Claremont. LeBlanc, who competed Saturday with the American-Canadian Tour Flying Tigers, finished tenth in his GSPSS debut.
Doiron, the first GSPSS champion from the state of Maine, joined the series in 2018 after spending several years racing with PASS. The Berwick native was a front-runner in the Maine-based series, with eight PASS North wins, another six National wins, and the 2015 National Championship to his credit.
The GSPSS, however, offered Doiron the opportunity to run for a regional championship, something that had fallen out of reach for his small family operation. In his first year with the GSPSS, Doiron was a championship favorite, but a couple late-season mechanical issues allowed Devin O’Connell to nip Doiron for the title. Now, Doiron becomes the seventh different champion in eight full GSPSS seasons thus far.
Sunday’s GSPSS feature was the headline event of Claremont’s year-ending Fall Challenge, a collaboration between the speedway’s ownership and GSPSS promoter Mike Parks. The two-day, 13-division event was pulled together this fall to replace the cancelled season finale at New London-Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl. Sunday’s feature winners included Matt Sonnhalter in Mini Stocks, Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. in Street Stocks and Brian Robie in Sportsman Modifieds. Aaron Fellows won the 30-lap Late Model Sportsman feature to complete a perfect season in the division at Claremont.
After an aggressive four-week, four-race stretch run to the finish, the teams, officials and supporters of the Granite State Pro Stock Series have a long but welcome offseason ahead. The 2019 season proved to be a pivotal year as New England’s youngest Late Model/Pro Stock touring series established its own identity. The series will look to build on that identity next year as it enters its ninth season of competition.
Official Results, Fall Challenge 100:
1. (93CT) Ray Christian III
2. (73) Joey Doiron
3. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
4. (43) Devin O’Connell
5. (82) DJ Shaw
6. (8) Angelo Belsito
7. (40) Mike Mitchell
8. (00) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
9. (21) Josh King
10. (55) Cody LeBlanc
11. (29) Barry Gray
DNS (8NH) Guy Caron
DNS (17) Kevin Folan