A few weeks before the dawn of the new year, New England’s Super Late Model and Pro Stock racers already know the shape of the season to come.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series released its 2021 schedule Thursday evening, with fifteen events on deck for the tenth full season for the New Hampshire-based touring series.
Track schedule announcements had already hinted at some of the races on the new schedule, but Thursday’s confirmation rounds out not only the GSPSS’ plans, but the complexion of the touring stock car season as a whole in the six-state region.
Last year’s GSPSS schedule was an ambitious effort hastily remodeled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only eleven races were run of the sixteen dates initially planned, but the series had the distinction of being the first touring organization in New England to race after tracks were shuttered for the first two months of the racing season.
As racers, fans and promoters seek a return to some form of normalcy in 2021, the new GSPSS schedule hovers close to the tried and true, while finding new opportunities to explore.
One of those new opportunities will kick off the season.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series schedule opens with the series’ first-ever visit to Stafford Motor Speedway. The Connecticut track announced in November that the GSPSS would anchor the first day of a two-day Spring Sizzler program, racing on Saturday, April 24. The annual Stafford lidlifter is headlined by Sunday’s appearance for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Stafford, known for its ties to Connecticut’s Modified scene, had planned an open feature for Pro Stocks and Pro Late Models in 2020, but the race was a casualty of the pandemic.
Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. will host the second race of the season a week later, in a second double-bill with a touring Modified series. The Sunday feature on May 2 will be the followup to Saturday’s Tri-Track Open Modified Series event at “Mad Dog.” Monadnock will stage a second GSPSS event in September, on the Friday of Labor Day weekend.
The third race of the season is at Star Speedway, with a Saturday afternoon show on May 8. The Epping, N.H. quarter-mile will welcome the GSPSS back in September as part of Star Classic Weekend, a three-day program headlined by the visiting International Supermodified Association. Interestingly, while Star announced that the GSPSS would headline Sunday afternoon’s feature action at the 2021 Star Classic, the GSPSS schedule indicates a Friday-night appearance instead.
After hosting three of the first four races of 2020 and four in total, Claremont Motorsports Park will welcome the GSPSS back home on Memorial Day weekend. Claremont, promoted by GSPSS president Mike Parks, last hosted the series for September’s Granite State Nationals, an event anchored by the $10,000-to-win Newport Chevrolet 150.
Claremont will again host the richest race on the GSPSS schedule, but the event will move this year to late July. Claremont will also be the site of the 2021 season finale on October 16, likely in conjunction with the track’s own year-ending Fall Challenge program.
A successful outing to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in August has earned the Scarborough, Me. speedway two dates for 2021. Beech Ridge, whose weekly Pro Series division closely mirrors the GSPSS rulebook, will bring the GSPSS back on June 12 and August 14 for what are slated to be 150-lap features. Beech Ridge drew a deep field for its series debut, with Wyatt Alexander winning a thriller over Corey Bubar and 25 other competitors.
Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. was left off the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Stars Series schedule announcements in recent weeks, but will bring the GSPSS cars back to the Great North Woods in mid-June. Hudson Speedway in southern New Hampshire will also host a single GSPSS appearance, the annual Gate City Classic in early July.
Lee USA Speedway will return to the schedule in 2021 as well with multiple visits. Lee’s usual Independence Day event is slated for Friday, July 2, after a last-minute schedule change scratched the appearance this summer. The GSPSS will remain a part of Lee’s year-ending Oktoberfest event, with the Pro Stocks anchoring the final day of the three-day program.
One more race, an event scheduled for July 24, remains unannounced. Early speculation points toward New London-Waterford Speedbowl filling the open slot on the schedule. The Connecticut track reopened this summer after extensive renovations, running two late-season GSPSS events including the season finale. Of the tracks that hosted GSPSS dates in 2020, NLWS is the only one not firmly on the schedule for next year, making it the most likely candidate.
Two other tracks previously on the GSPSS schedule have shifted their focus for 2021, likely leaving them out of contention for the date. Seekonk Speedway has partnered with PASS to sanction September’s D.A.V. Fall Final, with three PASS visits slated for the “Cement Palace.” Thompson Speedway, now co-promoted by PASS’ Tom Mayberry, will feature PASS at next October’s World Series. The GSPSS had been a part of the World Series schedule for several seasons, but changes at Thompson left the series off a revised 2020 schedule with PASS filling the gap.
Those late-season changes lighten what has traditionally been a backloaded GSPSS schedule, as the series has been either a headliner or an undercard to multiple major season-closing events. Last year’s spaced-out season-ending events drew deep fields at Lee and Waterford; the final two events of 2019, by comparison, had fourteen and eleven starters to close out the year.
Next year’s Granite State Pro Stock Series schedule, then, marks a bit of a change from past seasons. But the Granite State Pro Stock Series has changed as well. The last three seasons especially have seen the touring series develop its own niche in the region’s racing tapestry, becoming a legitimate alternative to the more-established PASS and ACT for drivers seeking a more cost-conscious touring approach.
In the process, the GSPSS has become a headlining tour on its own merit, developing its own star power along the way. Only three of 2021’s race weekends include the GSPSS as an undercard to another touring series; another two are major multi-division programs, but in those cases, the GSPSS is the big show on the itinerary.
And when the checkered flag falls at Monadnock Speedway in early September, only three races will remain on the schedule, compared with six races in six weeks for PASS, giving teams a chance to breathe and perhaps to regroup for the next event.
As with the ACT and PASS schedules, there remain unknowns well outside of the control of Mike Parks, the GSPSS or the series’ host tracks. How the New England states respond to the pandemic over the winter, and how they relent on those responses as the weather grows milder, remain to be seen. While racing certainly proved itself viable within its own circle, the question will be whether that message was delivered to the decision-makers who pull the strings of public health policy.
But racers and fans alike can, and should, be encouraged at the potential of the racing season ahead.
2021 Granite State Pro Stock Series Schedule (current as of 12/12/2020):
Sat | Apr 24 | Stafford Motor Speedway | Stafford Springs, CT
Sun | May 2 | Monadnock Speedway | Winchester, NH
Sat | May 8 | Star Speedway | Epping, NH
Sun | May 30 | Claremont Motorsports Park | Claremont, NH
Sat | June 12 | Beech Ridge Motor Speedway | Scarborough, ME
Sun | June 19 | Riverside Speedway | Groveton, NH
Fri | July 2 | Lee USA Speedway | Lee, NH
Sun | July 11 | Hudson Speedway | Hudson, NH
Sat | July 24 | TBD
Sat | July 31 | Claremont Motorsports Park | Claremont, NH
Sat | Aug 14 | Beech Ridge Motor Speedway | Scarborough, ME
Fri | Sep 3 | Monadnock Speedway | Winchester, NH
Fri | Sep 17 | Star Speedway | Epping, NH
Sun | Oct 3 | Lee USA Speedway | Lee, NH
Sat | Oct 16 | Claremont Motorsports Park | Claremont, NH