Ray Christian III dominated every phase of Friday night’s Vynorius Piledriving 100, but it still took a last-lap move to secure his first Granite State Pro Stock Series win of 2019, kicking off Star Speedway’s 54th annual Star Classic weekend with a bang.
Joey Doiron had taken the lead with just over twenty laps remaining, and while Christian could get close, Doiron seemed poised for his first win at the Epping, N.H. quarter-mile. But a caution with four laps to go gave Christian a reprieve, and the Groton, Conn. racer took full advantage, getting physical on the final lap to claim the win. Doiron crossed the line second, inches from Christian’s rear bumper.
Christian had been atop the leaderboard all night, leading practice and setting fast time in time trials. After winning a wild heat race, Christian drew the pole in the redraw to bring the field to green. Doiron, winner of the second heat race, rolled off fifth on the grid.
The dominance continued from the drop of the green, with Christian pulling out to a small advantage over Jacob Dore in the opening laps. Doiron carved through traffic to take second by lap 20, but “RC III” was able to use lapped cars to keep the points leader at bay.
A lap-51 caution brought Doiron to Christian’s door for the first time, though Christian was able to shake the points leader on the restart. Josh King’s spin on lap 73 set off a wave of short cautions that kept Doiron in the mix, with the two-time race winner getting the best of Christian a couple laps after going back to green.
The pass briefly took the wind out of the rising star’s sails. After winning last year’s season finale at his home track, New London-Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, Christian figured to be a title threat in 2019. But despite showing speed all season, Christian and his team had been unable to close the deal, with an early crash and last-place finish at Hudson (N.H.) Speedway marking the low point. Christian was determined not to come up short once again.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Christian said of his second career GSPSS victory. “We’ve struggled this year, and finally got the car rolling pretty good.”
Though Doiron made his displeasure known to Christian on the frontstretch, Christian was unrepentant for his winning move. “When you’ve got a chance to win one, you’ve got to take every opportunity you’ve got,” he said. “I hope he’s not too upset, but if the shoe was on the other foot, you know…I would understand.”
Defending race winner Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. started 11th after a heat-race spin, but worked his way to third at the finish. “I had to use my stuff up to get to the front, and just ran out of time at the end,” Renfrew explained. The sixteen-year-old Star Speedway graduate was tempted to make a move to steal the win from Christian and Doiron on the last lap, but thought better of the opportunity. “I was thinking about going three-wide, but I didn’t want all three of us to wreck,” Renfrew said.
Cory Casagrande finished fourth, with Luke Hinkley finishing a strong fifth. Reigning GSPSS champion Devin O’Connell struggled to rebound after a spin with 25 laps to go and finished twelfth. O’Connell, the current points runner-up, is still searching for his first win of the year.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series has been a supporting part of the Star Classic since 2014, with the fendered cars providing a counterpoint to the featured International SuperModified Association (ISMA) open-wheel cars. Friday night’s race was part of a new two-day format for the Classic. “Fender Friday” featured the GSPSS along with Star’s weekly divisions and the visiting NELCAR Legends. “Open Wheel Saturday” is anchored by the Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial Classic 125 for the ISMA Supermodifieds and the Randy Witkum Memorial Classic 60 for Star’s own 350 Supermodifieds, plus features for the North East Classic Lites, Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) Midgets and NEMA Lites.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series schedule picks up in a few weeks, with the annual DAV 100 at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway on September 28th opening a four-week, four-race stretch run to close out the series’ eighth full season of competition.
Official Results, Vynorius Piledriving 100:
1. (93CT) Ray Christian III
2. (73) Joey Doiron
3. (00) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
4. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
5. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
6. (21) Josh King
7. (1X) Todd Stone
8. (05) Jacob Dore
9. (28) Ricky Bly
10. (18) John Lowinski-Loh
11. (29) Adam Gray
12. (51NH) Jeremy Harclerode
13. (43) Devin O’Connell
14. (12) Bobby Pelland
15. (2) Chola Shay
16. (84) Jamie Wright