When Mike Parks announced a long-distance Labor Day race for his Granite State Pro Stock Series in 2018, he promised that he hoped to build the race into a cornerstone event of the young touring series. Two years later, the promoter’s vision is coming to fruition.
Parks revealed this week that the newly-named Granite State Nationals will pay $10,000 to the winner, making it one of the top Super Late Model races in New England in 2020.
The Nationals, to be hosted at Claremont Motorsports Park in New Hampshire, will be the biggest event in the GSPSS’ ten-year history.
And for the GSPSS, it marks another step as the region’s junior touring series has worked to raise its profile and build its own identity.
LOOKING BACK: GSPSS set to open New England racing season next Friday
Claremont Motorsports Park hosted the first two runnings of the Labor Day event, with GSPSS outsider and Pro All Stars Series veteran DJ Shaw winning both. Parks stepped into the promoter role this year under a lease agreement with speedway ownership, making the unique third-mile track the home base for Parks’ touring program as well.
In its ninth full season of competition, the GSPSS has matured into a competitive alternative to the established PASS North Super Late Model circuit. Cost-conscious equipment rules and an itinerary friendlier to racers from southern New England have earned the GSPSS a steady following of regular competitors, plus a place on the schedules of some of the region’s biggest multi-division weekends.
But even with its role as a featured attraction at Thompson’s World Series, the New England Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, or the Star Classic at Star Speedway, the GSPSS had yet to establish a standalone major when Parks announced the inaugural Rocky Ridge 150 for the fall of 2018. With most GSPSS events only one hundred laps in length, the Labor Day feature was just long enough to bring endurance into the equation for drivers accustomed to short sprints to the checkered flag.
Now sponsored through the speedway’s partnership with local dealership Newport Chevrolet, the Granite State Nationals has the potential to become not only the GSPSS’ flagship event, but one of New England’s biggest short track races. Whether the race falls in the hands of a trophy-hunting visitor or a series regular, the $10,000 winner’s bounty is rivaled only by the PASS-sanctioned Oxford 250, the ACT Tour’s Midsummer 250, and the ACT-sanctioned Vermont Milk Bowl.
And with the Oxford 250 a week earlier, New England’s Super Late Model racers will have two consecutive weekends to chase a significant payday.
A week into promotion, several entries have been received already, with PASS regular Gabe Brown, Seekonk Speedway icon David Darling, and Oxford Plains Speedway track champion Curtis Gerry among the outsiders to file for competition. Gerry, who won the 2017 Oxford 250, will be among those making his GSPSS debut.
At present, the GSPSS event is the only major Super Late Model race scheduled for the weekend. The tentative PASS schedule lists an open date either for that Monday or the following Sunday. With the American-Canadian Tour’s own Labor Day Classic on tap for Sunday afternoon, it seems highly unlikely PASS would risk scheduling against the ACT Tour, leaving the door open for additional entries from the PASS ranks.
To help teams prepare for the 150-lapper, an extra points event at Claremont was added for Friday, July 24, filling a date made vacant by the series’ Beech Ridge Motor Speedway debut being rescheduled to mid-August. Ray Christian III has won both of this year’s GSPSS visits to Claremont to open the season, with three straight wins at the track going back to last year.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series carried significant momentum into the 2020 season. On the heels of two down-to-the-wire championship battles and the announcement of Parks’ promoter agreement with Claremont, the series was primed for an ambitious schedule. While those plans have been altered heavily to accommodate the global pandemic, Mike Parks and the GSPSS staff remain undeterred in building upon the identity of the region’s junior division.
The Granite State Nationals may well be the biggest test yet of what the GSPSS has become.