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North American Pro Stock Nationals at Lee offers 30,000 reasons for racers to take notice

Lee USA Speedway is no stranger to big-ticket races, but the inaugural North American Pro Stock Nationals takes the cake with a $30,000 winner’s share.

The green flag waves on last fall's GSPSS Bosowski Properties 150 at Lee USA Speedway. The New Hampshire oval kicks its season off with today's North American Pro Stock Nationals and a 200-lap race worth $30,000 to the winner. (STS/Jeff Brown photo)

Sunday’s North American Pro Stock Nationals is unlike any other race at Lee USA Speedway in recent memory. It’s not the platform of choice, or the lap count, or even the names on the entry list.

It’s the money.

Whoever crosses under the checkered flag first this evening at “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed” will take home not only a sizable trophy, but a winner’s check worth $30,000, perhaps the biggest payday in Lee history.

Money talks. And racers up and down the East Coast have been listening.

Sunday’s race caps off Lee’s season-opening weekend, the second season under the ownership and management of Ben Bosowski. And neither a one-day rain delay or the early departure of a few competitors should stifle the enthusiasm of this year’s first big-money showdown for Super Late Models in the Northeast.

Lee has withstood the winds of change since longtime operators Red and Judy MacDonald sold the speedway in 2018. Longtime Lee racer Norm Wrenn and son Norm III took over the speedway, the longest of New Hampshire’s seven paved short tracks and a mainstay for top touring action from NASCAR’s Busch North Series and Modified Tour to the American-Canadian Tour and even the short-lived American Indycar Series. The Wrenns began a process of steady renovations and improvements, but progress was derailed by Norm III’s unexpected passing late in 2020.

The elder Wrenn, whose plans for the speedway centered heavily around his son’s involvement, pressed on over the next two years, battling economic stresses on local racing and a waning interest in Friday-night competition. Following the 2022 season, he announced the sale of Lee to Bosowski, a former Hudson Speedway competitor who had acquired Hudson in 2018 and partnered with Wrenn to purchase the former Claremont Speedway that winter.

Over the years, Pro Stocks have factored heavily into Lee’s history, serving as the track’s top fendered division for many years. Despite being supplanted for a spell by ACT-type Late Models, Pro Stocks and Super Late Models maintained a touring presence at Lee under the banners of the Pro All Stars Series and the Granite State Pro Stock Series, with PASS and GSPSS anchoring many of Lee’s major events.

In the fall of 2020, Lee hosted its inaugural Freedom 300, a commemorative weekend featuring a $10,000-to-win 150-lap Pro Stock/Super Late Model feature. After a year off due to a documented race tire shortage, the event returned in 2022, along with a $10,000-to-win GSPSS event staged in conjunction with New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s annual NASCAR touring weekend. The 2022 season also reintroduced Pro Stocks, once one of Lee’s top classes, to the weekly racing program.

Derek Kneeland (#90) and NASCAR star Tyler Reddick (#8) face off before the GSPSS Keen Parts 150 in 2022, a marquee event that has since become part of Lee’s own Pro Stock calendar. (STS/Jeff Brown photo)

For 2023, as Lee’s Pro Stock division took hold, the NASCAR cross-promotion remained as a special event, sans the touring series. An $8,500-to-win GSPSS race was added to the schedule late in the year, then moved after a rainout to anchor Lee’s season-ending Oktoberfest.

The die for big-money Pro Stock showdowns at Lee had been cast. And for 2024, Bosowski and his team planned something even bigger, targeting the beginning of the season before racers’ budgets have been exhausted.

For years, the Northeast’s biggest Super Late Model/Pro Stock race has been, without peer, the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Since returning to Super Late Model sanctioning in 2013, the Oxford 250 has been the high-water mark, paying $25,000 plus lap-leader money to the winner and bearing the prestige befitting a regional achievement. However, the Oxford 250 is also part of the PASS schedule, with PASS’ rulebook and procedures perhaps steering some competitors away.

Seekonk Speedway in southern Massachusetts, one of the adherents of the Pro Stock moniker, hosted the U.S Pro Stock/Super Late Model National Championship, an independently-promoted attempt at developing a big-ticket open-competition event for the Northeast. Seekonk regular Tom Scully won the inaugural in 2016, with eventual brothers-in-law Derek Griffith and Reid Lanpher winning in 2017 and 2018.

Derek Griffith (#12G) is an easy favorite with a few big Lee wins in his back pocket already, but plenty of drivers are willing to make bold moves to claim today’s $30,000 jackpot. (STS/Jeff Brown photo)

But most of New England’s marquee Pro Stock and Super Late Model shows are regional in their very nature. Wiscasset Speedway has increased the purse for its annual Boss Hogg 150, but the event has yet to draw significantly from outside the state.

Enter Sunday’s showdown, with a massive $30,000 winner’s purse.

The entry list for the North American Pro Stock Nationals is decidedly regional, with heavy-hitters Derek Griffith, Joey Polewarczyk and Eddie MacDonald casting a shadow over the rank-and-file of weekly competition. There are a handful of drivers who will be hoping just to qualify for the main event.

There are outsiders, too. The biggest name on the entry list was that of Bubba Pollard, the Georgia superstar with a win in his first attempt at the Oxford 250. Pollard withdrew earlier this week, unable to prep a car for the trip north. But there are others. Cole Butcher, a rising star in the Southeast by way of Nova Scotia, and fellow Maritimes racer Lonnie Sommerville are on the list. And a couple of the local names, Max Cookson and Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., are armed with fast cars from the Southeast’s competitive scene.

Saturday’s rainout also trimmed the list by a few names. With PASS staging its own race at White Mountain Motorsports Park in northern New Hampshire, Johnny Clark and Joey Doiron were forced to favor the long game and the championship battle over the big paycheck.

There will be others. PASS added its own $30,000-to-win race, an early-July tilt at Oxford, to accompany the Oxford 250. Wiscasset’s Boss Hogg 150 promises $15,000 to its winner.

But there is only one “first.” And the winnings from a big race early in the year could make the rest of the season that much easier.

Sunday’s race also marks the Lee debut of RaceDay Promotions, the next evolution of the New Hampshire Short Track Racing Association. Wrenn and Bosowski were instrumental in forming NHSTRA – pronounced “nass-tra” – to unite the rulebooks of five southern New Hampshire speedways starting in 2019. Star Speedway, independent from the Bosowski/Wrenn-owned tracks, bowed out after one season. For the other tracks, NHSTRA maintained common rulebooks for weekly divisions, proctored inter-track championships, and even provided live streaming of events through a mobile app interface.

With Wrenn leasing Monadnock to another party in 2024, NHSTRA was quietly dissolved late last season, with the concept and the streaming platform transitioning to the RaceDay Productions and RaceDayTV names. With RaceDayTV, events at Lee, Hudson and Claremont Motorsports Park will be available for streaming at a cost matching the day’s at-the-track ticket price.

The winds of change continue to whip around Lee USA Speedway.

And after 200 laps this evening, one racer will be celebrating a windfall.

Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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