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.
With the regional tours all on off-weeks, there were still multiple opportunities for the region’s short track stars to compete in a few of the season’s special end-of-year features.
FALL BRAWL 151: Groveton, New Hampshire’s Speedway 51 closed out its weekly racing season this past Saturday with the Fall Brawl, headlined by a 151-lap Late Model feature. The lap count, like the track’s name, is a tribute to track owner and ACT legend Joey Laquerre’s grandson, Joey M. Laquerre, who died in an ATV accident at the age of 17 shortly before the family bought the track.
Speedway 51’s Late Models run ACT rules, so the track’s regulars were joined by a number of visitors to round the field out at a healthy 25 entries. Among the visitors were Milk Bowl pole winner Marcel J. Gravel, Thunder Road track champion Bobby Therrien, recently-crowned Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway track champ Ryan Millington (who has family in the area), and a handful of ACT competitors from Quebec including Steve Cote, Claude Leclerc and Série ACT top rookie Mathieu Kingsbury.
Cote started on the pole and led the opening laps, but track regular Bryan Mason pursued the visiting Quebecer, taking the lead from Cote on lap 21. Mason, driving a former Jeff Taylor car, was dominant the rest of the way, leading the final 130 laps en route to the biggest victory of his career.
Stephen Donahue battled his way to a second-place finish ahead of Corey Mason, who finished the race with some dented bodywork from an early incident. Steve Cote held on for a fourth-place finish, with Mathieu Kingsbury coming home fifth.
Bobby Therrien ran near the front and challenged Mason for the lead early, but a spin and a subsequent crash into the frontstretch wall ended his night early. Many of the other notables in the field had less-than-remarkable runs: Claude Leclerc was thirteenth, Marcel Gravel sixteenth, Ryan Millington seventeenth, White Mountain Motorsport Park track champ Quinny Welch 21st, and Donald Theetge finished dead last in 23rd.
Two drivers, David Boyce (in the #21 entry Kevin Lepage attempted the Milk Bowl with) and Quebec’s Brandon White, failed to make the green flag.
Bryan Mason dedicated the win to his grandfather, who passed away days before the 151. The win netted the Stark, NH driver over $8000 including lap-leader money, helping to ease the sting of some engine troubles through 2017.
The Fall Brawl concludes the regular racing season for Speedway 51, though an enduro is still slated for later this month before the track closes for 2017.
D.A.V. FALL CLASSIC: While a few special events remain on the 2017 calendar, Seekonk Speedway closed out most of its weekly racing for the season with this weekend’s D.A.V. Fall Classic, named for track founder D. Anthony Venditti. The two-day event concluded Saturday with a 50-lap Late Model feature and a 150-lap battle for Pro Stocks.
The Late Model feature went to Ray Parent, who capped off a successful season behind the wheel of Don Parsons’ #98 entry. Parent, a former regular on the ACT Late Model Tour, won the 2016 DAV Fall Classic Late Model event, selling his winning car from victory lane as he anticipated a change of plans for 2017. Instead, Parsons, owner of Parent’s sponsor Anytime Realty, decided to start his own team with Parent at the wheel. While Parent and Parsons focused on the Late Model battle at nearby Thompson Speedway, the Tiverton, RI racer came back to familiar territory to dominate the annual special event.
Jake Johnson, Seekonk’s top rookie in 2017, finished second to Parent, with ringer Eddie MacDonald third, Vinny Arrenegado fourth and Ryan Vanasse fifth. Track champion Ryan Lineham finished sixth in the event.
The Pro Stock feature attracted a longer list of ringers hoping to claim the $6,000 winner’s purse. The entries included PASS star and defending Pro Stock Nationals winner Derek Griffith, Joe Squeglia, Eddie MacDonald (pulling double-duty in the #17MA), Travis Benjamin, GSPSS regulars Nick Lascuola and Devin O’Connell, and Modified talent Tommy Barrett.
To win the DAV Fall Classic, though, the ringers would have to go through David Darling. The Seekonk native, who spent a couple years testing the waters of NASCAR’s Busch North Series in the early 2000s, had a dominant season at his home track, winning eight features en route to the track’s Pro Stock title over Ryan Vanasse. Darling parlayed an early pit strategy into a late race lead that was nearly impossible to shake, as other drivers were forced to pit later for tires with fewer laps to work through traffic.
In the end, it came down to a battle between Darling and Vanasse, and Darling had the superior car, holding off his title rival to win the DAV Fall Classic. Derek Griffith was best among the visitors, bringing home the #12G in third. Travis Benjamin, in the #14 for David and Cathy Frahm, finished fourth with Nick Lascuola in fifth.
Bobby Pelland, who dropped out of the Late Model feature early, finished sixth in the Pro Stock event, followed by fellow double-duty racer Eddie MacDonald, who came back from a spin with twenty-five laps remaining. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. finished eighth in the orange #27NH, with Jake Vanada and mid-race leader Joe Squeglia, Jr. rounding out the top ten.
Teenager Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., who made his first Pro Stock start in the Star Classic GSPSS feature a month ago, finished 11th after a late-race spin. “Lightning Larry” Gelinas, a former fixture on the PASS North tour, finished fourteenth ahead of veteran Dick Houlihan. Seekonk expert Rick Martin was deeper in the field; he only completed 92 laps en route to a 19th-place finish.
OKTOBERFEST: Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire celebrates the end of its racing season with the annual Oktoberfest spectacular. The three-day event includes features for both its weekly divisions and regional tours alike.
Rain threatened the feature racing on Sunday, but the track was dry by 1pm for the first features of the day. Erick Sands won the weekly Late Model Sportsman feature over Geoff Rollins, while Russ Hersey beat out occasional fendered racer Anthony Nocella for the Valenti Modified Racing Series feature.
A fifty-lap Super Late Model feature was on the books for the afternoon as well, with a number of teams hauling directly from Seekonk’s Saturday feature to Sunday afternoon’s Oktoberfest. Derek Griffith, Eddie MacDonald and Joe Squeglia all brought top-ten runs from Seekonk Speedway and hoped to repeat their success at Lee.
The driver who prevailed Sunday afternoon was not one of those three. Jeremy Davis had cut back his own racing schedule in 2017, in the process of opening his own chassis shop and preparing cars for a number of competitors in PASS and GSPSS competition. Davis’s shop had completed their first in-house SLM, celebrating with a last-chance qualifier win to make the Oxford 250 field. However, the new “house car” had not been to a proper victory celebration.
Davis corrected that on Sunday, taking the black-and-orange #09 to victory in the 50-lap SLM feature. It was Davis’ second win of 2017 at Lee (he won the GSPSS opener in April), a track he considers his favorite. Finishing second was PASS part-timer Bobby Timmons, who also finished second in the afternoon’s Supermodified feature. Third place went to Joe Squeglia, who won July’s GSPSS event at Lee and capped off a solid weekend.
Eddie MacDonald, always a favorite at the speedway owned by his parents Red and Judy, was initially credited with fourth place, but “The Outlaw” was disqualified from the final running order. Social media chatter suggested the issue was shocks that were not approved under the GSPSS rules package in place for the feature.
With MacDonald out, Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. was credited with a fourth place in only his third SLM start (including the prior night’s DAV Fall Classic at Seekonk). Lee regular Grant Aither was scored in fifth. GSPSS regulars Josh King and Mike Mitchell finished sixth and seventh. Derek Griffith started in the back but could only work his way to eleventh at the end of the feature.
Lee has a long offseason ahead, but the track branded as “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed” will be the first in the state to open for business, as they traditionally (weather permitting) host the ACT Late Model Tour’s season opener in April.
COMING UP: After a lean few weeks of touring competition in New England, the three main Late Model tours in the region will be back in action this weekend.
Thompson (CT) Speedway Motorsports Park will host both the Granite State Pro Stock Series and the American-Canadian Tour as part of its World Series of Speedway Racing program. The GSPSS teams will run Friday evening in a 60-lap feature to set the stage for the season finale next week. The ACT Late Models will be part of Saturday’s racing card, with a 75-lap feature deciding the title race between Scott Payea and Dillon Moltz.
The Pro All Stars Series North teams, meanwhile, will put the wraps on their 2017 season Saturday afternoon at Oxford (ME) Plains Speedway. While four drivers are mathematically in the mix for the title, all eyes will be on key contenders Travis Benjamin and Glen Luce as they race for the championship.