The question of when Gabe Brown would finally break into the winner’s circle in a Super Late Model has hovered over the young racer for years.
The biggest race of the Granite State Pro Stock Series season is a great time to break through.
Brown planted himself at the head of the field and held off Joey Polewarczyk to claim his first-ever Super Late Model victory in Saturday night’s $10,000-to-win GSPSS Granite State Nationals at Claremont Motorsports Park.
And while Brown summoned the energy to celebrate as he climbed from his car, he was far more subdued on the microphone.
“I lost power steering on, like, lap fifteen,” Brown said. “I’m beat. This is the most beat I’ve been.”
The Center Conway, N.H. native was quiet in the race’s opening laps, settling into a rhythm from his fifth-place starting position. But after two quick cautions bunched up the field early, Brown willed his way to the front, slipping past both Luke Hinkley and Polewarczyk to take the point. Brown was able to build an advantage on the reigning GSPSS champion, while Polewarczyk waited for his opportunity to close the gap.
But with a short field and plenty of racing room on the third-mile New Hampshire oval, cautions were hard to come by.
Defending Granite State Nationals winner Derek Griffith was running fifth when he lost control off the second turn, bringing out a yellow with 99 laps complete. “Joey Pole” drew alongside Brown for the restart, but Brown was able to keep Polewarczyk and Hinkley at bay.
A final caution for debris gave Polewarczyk and friends one more shot at Brown, but the young racer was poised on the restart and held the lead to the finish.
“We worked so freakin’ hard for this,” Brown said. “Lap fifteen, no power steering, it was rough. Real rough.”
Polewarczyk, already a GSPSS winner twice in 2021, came up just short of his third win of the season. The Hudson, N.H. star has two Pro All Stars Series victories to his credit this year as well. “I gave Gabe all I could do there,” Polewarczyk said. “I was trying really hard to stay to the top side on restarts, and just try to keep the pressure on him. But he had a great night tonight, and he really earned this and worked hard. So I’m really happy for him to get a win.”
Local favorite Luke Hinkley improved from his starting position to finish third. Eddie MacDonald, making a rare GSPSS short-track start, matched his fourth-place finish in Wednesday’s Pro All Stars Series Bay State Classic. Griffith, after his lap 99 spin, remained on the lead lap but could do no better than fifth.
Veteran GSPSS competitor Josh King was sixth, with Monadnock Speedway racer Joey Kendall seventh. Ryan Green brought the field to the green flag and led the opening laps, but contact and nose damage relegated the Mainer to eighth at the finish. Fellow Maine racer Evan Beaulieu was ninth in his first trip to Claremont, the final car on the lead lap. Claremont veteran Aaron Fellows, racing for car owner Rollie Lindblad, was tenth.
Brown’s big breakthrough win has been four years in the making. After cutting his teeth in go-karts, Brown moved to Super Late Models midway through 2017, making spot starts at Oxford Plains Speedway and finishing second to Garrett Hall in his first GSPSS race, a prelude to the Oxford 250. Brown raced full-time at Oxford in 2018, clinching the track championship just days before his 16th birthday to become the youngest Super Late Model champion in the Maine oval’s history.
A partial PASS schedule that year set the stage for a move to full-time touring racing in 2019. Learning and working with Dale and DJ Shaw, while racing against veterans like Johnny Clark, Ben Rowe and Travis Benjamin, Brown improved steadily over the next two years. Brown notched two podium finishes in PASS last year, plus top-ten finishes in all five of his GSPSS starts.
But whether at the weekly level or the touring level, Brown had yet to visit victory lane.
For 2021, Brown and his family team committed to the full GSPSS schedule, adding in other events as time allowed. Five races into the season, a pair of third-place finishes and two more strong top-ten runs had Brown at the top of the points standings.
A new addition to the family’s stable, a Shaw-built ACT Late Model, provided further momentum for the young driver. Ryan Preece drove the new car to a tenth-place finish in the Vermont Governor’s Cup at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vt. Two days later, Brown took the car to a weekly feature at Riverside Speedway in northern New Hampshire, winning for the first time in a Late Model.
Further stoking Brown’s competitive fire was Wednesday night’s frustration at Seekonk Speedway. In practice for the PASS Bay State Classic, Brown encountered drivetrain trouble that sidelined the team through the qualifying heats. As Brown lined up for the consi, he was informed that by missing the heats, the team had forfeited their chance to qualify.
Brown made a few laps of the consi anyway, hoping officials would reconsider, but the team was waved off the track, one of only two cars sent home early from the PASS feature.
Saturday’s race was one of three $10,000-to-win races for New England’s racers this week, and the second for Super Late Model competitors after Wednesday’s Bay State Classic. Polewarczyk, MacDonald and Griffith were among a handful of drivers besides Brown who planned to run both Super Late Model events.
Only fourteen cars took the green Saturday, with Mike Scorzelli loading up early after a mechanical failure in time trials. At least two of Wednesday’s competitors at Seekonk were unable to get their cars race-ready in time for Saturday, leaving the field shy by a few entries. An Oxford 250 qualifying race in Maine, a late addition to the track’s schedule, likely did not help matters.
But with big money on the line, the big guns were still in Claremont.
And Gabe Brown had to hold them all off for his first big win.
Unofficial Results, GSPSS Granite State Nationals presented by Key Chevrolet Buick GMC of Newport at Claremont Motorsports Park:
1. (61) Gabe Brown
2. (97) Joey Polewarczyk
3. (31NH) Luke Hinkley
4. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
5. (12G) Derek Griffith
6. (21) Josh King
7. (4NH) Joey Kendall
8. (93) Ryan Green
9. (56) Evan Beaulieu
10. (48) Aaron Fellows
11. (43) Devin O’Connell
12. (90NH) Casey Call
13. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
14. (19) Bryan Kruczek