Each week, Short Track Scene looks back at results and news from northern New England’s Late Model and Super Late Model competition, from the region’s premier tours — the American-Canadian Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, and the Pro All Stars Series — to the tracks and drivers that support them. Thanks to the local journalists and fans who report in from the track each week to keep their fellow fans informed.
GSPSS: The Granite State Pro Stock Series made its track debut at Oxford Plains Speedway Saturday night in support of the Oxford 250, occupying the support role once held by the ACT Late Models and the Valenti Modified Racing Series. PASS founder Tom Mayberry praised the move as a step toward making the weekend “all about super late models.”
As with last year’s ACT support event, PASS officials announced that they would extend a provisional to the GSPSS feature winner, promising a berth in Sunday evening’s starting lineup. The offer was especially well-received by PASS teams, many of whom prepared backup cars for Saturday night’s 100-lapper.
After many teams ran practice laps in both GSPSS and PASS trim, a total of twenty-seven Pro Stocks lined up for the feature. PASS part-timer Bobby Timmons and NASCAR spotter Derek Kneeland brought the field to the green flag and waged war early with former PASS regular Bryan Kruczek. All three spent time at the head of the field, but Garrett Hall quickly worked his way through the fray and into the lead. A late caution allowed rookie Gabe Brown to close in, but Hall used lapped traffic to keep the fourteen-year-old behind him en route to his first GSPSS victory.
Behind Hall, the results sheet looked like a NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Cup weekend. Gabe Brown held on for second place, followed by Kruczek, Maine’s Justin Drake, and Timmons. DJ Shaw finished sixth, with Derek Griffith seventh, Chad Dow eighth, Dave Farrington, Jr. ninth, and Mike O’Sullivan tenth, the highest-finishing GSPSS regular. Early leader Kneeland slid back to sixteenth in the final order.
Finishing behind Kneeland were points challengers Scott MacMichael and Barry Gray in 17th and 18th, helping Mike O’Sullivan gain ground in the points race. Cory Casagrande, fourth in points, was not at Oxford, so he will fall to fifth behind Nick Lascuola, who finished 19th at Oxford.
Mike O’Sullivan’s tenth-place run also netted him an Oxford 250 provisional as the highest-finishing series regular. O’Sullivan was appreciative, but noted that the GSPSS cars are set up for short feature events, so making the change to run a long event with pit stops could be prohibitive. A few teams, however, did opt to attempt the 250.
Worth noting is that for Saturday’s feature, the GSPSS teams were on Hoosier tires, rather than the American Racers they usually run. PASS and Oxford’s weekly SLM program run on Hoosier rubber, so perhaps the decision was made to make it easier for teams to compete in both races. (The GSPSS teams also ran Hoosiers earlier this year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.)
Also of note, early last week, New Hampshire Motor Speedway shared a video of Derek Griffith’s #12 Super Late Model, on American Racer tires, in the pit area. It appears that GSPSS officials may be ramping up for another date with the Magic Mile in 2018.
PASS/OXFORD 250: The cornerstone of this weekend’s racing action was Sunday’s 44th Annual Scott’s Recreation Oxford 250 presented by Fastway Trailer Sales. The nationally-recognized event is billed as the nation’s richest one-day short track race, with $25,000 on the line for the race winner.
During Saturday’s practice, the presence of several GSPSS teams meant that at one time, 72 cars had taken practice laps for the 250. On Sunday morning, when many of the GSPSS teams had vacated and some new teams had arrived for the big show, 65 entries were on hand for a starting field that would number “between 42 and 44 cars.”
Six qualifying heats set the field’s first 24 positions, with heat wins by Cassius Clark, Eddie MacDonald, Scott McDaniel, Scott Robbins, Canadian Cole Butcher and Oxford regular Shawn Martin. MacDonald was disqualified for being too low post-heat, handing his heat to Wayne Helliwell, Jr. Three consis, won by Lonnie Sommerville, Dave Farrington, Jr. and Derek Griffith, added another nine cars to the lineup. Another handful of cars were added via provisionals, including MacDonald (who had a flat tire in his consi), Tracy Gordon, and PASS South drivers Kodie Conner and Sarah Cornett-Ching.
That left 25 cars to duke it out in a 50-lap last-chance qualifier, from which only the winner was guaranteed entry to the 250. Derek Kneeland and Corey Bubar started up front, though as both drivers faded after an early battle, Dennis Spencer, Jr. and Mike Rowe emerged as the pair to beat. Rowe and Spencer battled door-to-door for the latter half of the LCQ, with neither driver showing a clear edge over the other. As the laps wound down, Jeremy Davis closed in on the two leaders. Rowe and Spencer made slight contact on the final lap, but Davis sealed the deal with a nudge into Spencer, opening up the inside groove for a three-wide battle to the checkered flag. Davis, whose first start in a brand-new car ended after eight laps the night before with a radiator failure, took the LCQ victory over Rowe and Spencer, who dumped Davis in turn two as a show of displeasure. Rowe was none too pleased, but he, Andy Saunders and southern visitor Jay Fogleman were gifted promoter’s options to round out the 44-car field, leaving Spencer on the outside looking in.
Spencer had no shortage of company. Also missing the 250 starting field was rookie Gabe Brown, whose run in the GSPSS race had inspired car owner/builder Dale Shaw to take a shot at the 250. Former 250 winners Jeremie Whorff and Gary Drew failed to qualify, as did veterans Kelly Moore and Jeff Taylor, one of Oxford’s winningest drivers of all time. And Derek Kneeland, who hoped to make his second 250 start in five attempts, would have to wait for 2018 for his sixth.
The green flag for the 250 flew around 6pm, with Cassius Clark leading the field down to the start. The veteran racer in the #13 King Racing entry was an early favorite, and dominated the first half of the race. Behind Clark, a series of incidents thinned his apparent competition. Eddie MacDonald lost a fender and a lap in an early incident, and a pileup in turn one on lap 62 sent Travis Stearns to the pits for good and left Joey Doiron and Derek Ramstrom with heavy body damage. Sommerville and Jeremy Davis got together in an incident that collected David Farrington and Ben Rowe, costing Rowe most of the bodywork forward of the windshield. Derek Griffith went for a spin off the nose of Tracy Gordon on lap 96, ending Griffith’s day and sending Gordon to the pits for a two-lap penalty for rough driving.
The short green-flag stints made pit strategy difficult to implement. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. made an early pit stop for two tires, echoing his winning strategy from the year before, but struggled to work through the field on the short runs. Clark stayed on the track, leading until lap 123, when Curtis Gerry took command. Gerry took off, lapping cars until a spin by Justin Drake froze the field at lap 172. Scott McDaniel assumed the lead as Gerry, Clark and the other leaders made pit stops. McDaniel set off with the race lead, but another caution flag drew the field back together with just over 50 laps remaining. Curt Gerry lined up alongside McDaniel for the restart, and the Waterboro, ME veteran wasted no time in moving back to the head of the field.
From there, it was Curtis Gerry’s race to lose. Late cautions provided that opportunity; Eddie MacDonald, back on the lead lap, took a shot at Gerry, then DJ Shaw. Contact while battling with Mike Rowe sent Shaw spinning late in the going, though, bunching up the field and giving Gerry a new nemesis: his Beech Ridge track rival, Reid Lanpher. Lanpher tailed Gerry over the final ten laps, but he was unable to get close enough to keep Gerry from his first Oxford 250 victory.
For Gerry, the defending Beech Ridge Pro Series champion, it was a victory carrying not just prestige, but a check that would close in on the $35,000 mark with lap-leader bonuses. Lanpher, the current Beech Ridge point leader (over Gerry), finished second for the second time in his career. Cassius Clark overcame a spin after his pit stop to finish third over Eddie MacDonald and Mike Rowe, who started 41st on the grid with a promoter’s option.
Defending Oxford 250 winner Wayne Helliwell, Jr. continued his comeback from health issues with a sixth-place finish, followed by Derek Ramstrom, Garrett Hall, Scott McDaniel, and Oxford regular Alan Tardiff. With the number of cautions, twenty-five cars finished on the lead lap.
The PASS regulars all showed moments of promise, but none cracked the top ten in the end. Johnny Clark came back from early contact and a flat tire to finish eleventh. Glen Luce finished 13th after a mid-race spin on the frontstretch. Travis Benjamin was in a late-race spin but finished 17th. Dave Farrington soldiered on after repairs to finish 18th. DJ Shaw, after the late-race contact with Mike Rowe, could only work his way to 22nd at the end. Ben Rowe, who spent most of the race looking like he belonged in the earlier PASS Modified feature, came home five laps down in 29th.
Former NH resident and current Brad Keselowski Racing employee Ben Lynch came home fourteenth in his black #7NC. Lonnie Sommerville was the highest-finishing Canadian in 27th. Sarah Cornett-Ching, the lone woman in the field, was also the best-performing of the southern-based teams, finishing seven laps back in 30th. TJ Brackett, who made the field on a provisional for his standing in the weekly Oxford standings, finished last in the 250 for the second straight year, but he did complete two more laps than he did in 2016, parking his car after nine circuits.
In the PASS North points, Glen Luce will slip ahead of Travis Benjamin to retake the series lead. Ben Rowe’s misfortunes were costly, though DJ Shaw’s late spin will ease the pain. The 250 pays PASS National points as well, though, and Dave Farrington will gain some ground on Rowe and third-place Derek Griffith. Spencer Davis, fourth in National points, was not in attendance despite having filed an entry for the race.
The PASS teams will have two weeks off to regroup for a 150-lap feature at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on September 17th. Interestingly, Beech Ridge Pro Series graduates claimed both the GSPSS event (Garrett Hall) and the first two positions in the 250 (Gerry and Lanpher).
WEEKLY ACTION: Barre, VT’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl closed out their Thursday-night racing schedule last week. In the Late Model division, ACT Tour rookie Jason Corliss cruised to a third victory, the only driver to repeat in the division this year. Cody Blake finished second, with title contenders Trampas Demers and Bobby Therrien third and fourth. There is one more race to decide the “King Of The Road,” as Thunder Road wraps their weekly racing up on Friday, September 8.
Not all the Super Late Model action was limited to Oxford this weekend, either. Reid Lanpher and Curtis Gerry were among the 250 hopefuls back home at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, trying to settle a battle for the track’s weekly Pro Series honors. In the end, it was Lanpher, the 2014 track champion, winning his third straight feature over veteran David Oliver, who scored easily his best finish of the season. Curt Gerry finished third over Brandon Barker and Nick Cusack, with Mike Rowe finishing sixth. Lanpher, Gerry and Rowe were joined by fellow regular Corey Bubar as they headed to Oxford the following day for the 250.
COMING UP: This weekend is all about the American-Canadian Tour. The Série ACT wraps its six-race championship Saturday at Autodrome Montmagny with a 100-lap event. The ACT Tour back stateside will host its penultimate race of 2017 at Thunder Road, the 39th annual Labor Day Classic. A threatening forecast has already led officials to postpone the race until Monday, when the forecast will be favorable.