With only a few laps remaining in Sunday night’s Gate City Classic 100, a lapped car washed up the turn-one banking of Hudson International Speedway. And for an instant, it looked like a brilliant run for Angelo Belsito was in jeopardy for the third straight race.
But Belsito dodged a bullet, held off a late charge by Ray Christian III, and held on for his second career Granite State Pro Stock Series victory.
The Auburn, Mass. upstart took the lead from defending race winner Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. on a lap-37 restart, then held off both the local favorite and the early-season repeat winner to earn a convincing checkered flag in only his eleventh GSPSS event.
“Our car was on rails,” Belsito proudly said in victory lane. But in the next breath, he admitted that the win did not come easily.
“We had to work for it.”
That meant starting ninth on the grid after the redraw, despite running a close second in his heat. That meant driving into the top three only fifteen laps into the feature. That meant lining up for a restart against one of the most-decorated young racers of the region, a three-time GSPSS feature winner with wins in the Oxford 250 and the Vermont Milk Bowl to boot.
And that meant closing the deal after a full hundred laps.
Closing the deal had been Belsito’s struggle in the season’s first two races. The Seekonk Speedway graduate dominated the season-opening Let’s Go Racing 100 at Claremont (N.H.) Motorsports Park, finishing third after Ray Christian III surged into the lead with eight laps to go. In the next race, another visit to Claremont, Belsito blistered the track in time trials and capitalized on a late restart to make a run for the lead. But Belsito found himself on the wrong side of a physical battle for the lead, parking his mount with an oil leak after spinning from the top spot.
This time, Belsito made sure to manage what he had left, bracing for a late-race yellow flag that never materialized.
“I was really just pacing myself once I got the lead, and trying to save the car,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of things cost us the win in the first two races, but today we were able to put it all together.”
Christian drove past Polewarczyk with forty laps remaining, looking to extend a three-race winning streak that kicked off with last year’s season finale. But even as Belsito was slowed by lapped traffic in the closing laps, “RC III” could only close within a few car-lengths of the leader.
With three laps to go, a lapped car slowing down the frontstretch faded up the track toward the turn-one pit exit with the leaders bearing down. But cool thinking on Belsito’s part, and a lack of panic from the cars he was racing, kept from stacking up the leaders with only a few laps left. From there, it was smooth sailing to the checkers.
Belsito’s breakthrough came in the closing sessions of last year, when he earned his first touring victory in September’s GSPSS-sanctioned edition of the D.A.V. Fall Classic at Seekonk. Prior to the home track win, Belsito’s 2019 season had paled in comparison to his past GSPSS starts. Since September’s win, the young driver has finished sixth, third, 15th and first again, building a strong sense of momentum as he increases his presence on the touring circuit.
Christian finished second, ending his win streak but continuing a strong season for the Groton, Conn. racer. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. was too loose at the end to challenge for a repeat of last year’s win, but the hometown hero held on for a third-place finish.
Wayne Helliwell, Jr., an American-Canadian Tour winner earlier this year, finished fourth in a rare GSPSS start at the track where his brother George earned a Late Model Sportsman championship last year. Devin O’Connell rounded out the top five, returning after a one-week absence spent testing the open-wheel waters.
Reigning champion Joey Doiron suffered a setback to his title defense, losing power and pulling into the pits before halfway. Doiron only finished out of the top ten once last year, but with Ray Christian III off to a strong start, the Mainer will have his work cut out for him to repeat last year’s title.
With a local curfew raising concern, time trials were scrapped with practice speeds seeding three heats. Doiron, Christian and Helliwell won the heats, with Christian and Mike Mitchell drawing the front row for the start. Polewarczyk and Helliwell were only two of the ringers bringing intensity to the 23-car field, with Pro All Stars Series racers DJ Shaw and Gabe Brown making last-minute appearances as well.
The next outing for the Granite State Pro Stock Series is on July 24 at Claremont Motorsports Park, where the teams will get a final race-trim shakedown for September’s $10,000-to-win Granite State Nationals.
Official Results, Gate City Classic 100 at Hudson Speedway:
1. (8) Angelo Belsito
2. (93CT) Ray Christian III
3. (97) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.
4. (27NH) Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
5. (43) Devin O’Connell
6. (47) Gabe Brown
7. (52NH) Jake Matheson
8. (39) Nick Lascuola
9. (00) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
10. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
11. (40) Mike Mitchell
12. (12) Bobby Pelland
13. (48) Ryan Lineham
14. (87) Alexander Pearl
15. (17) Kevin Folan
16. (21) Josh King
17. (90NH) Casey Call
18. (29) Adam Gray
19. (88) Kevin Casper
20. (73) Joey Doiron
21. (08) Mike O’Sullivan
22. (55) Cody LeBlanc
23. (60) DJ Shaw