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Northeast Late Model Recap (8/4)

Racing at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, July 2017

Despite New England’s short racing season, a number of the touring series idle down their schedules through the summer. With many drivers chasing track championships as well as touring points, it gives them the opportunity to focus on track points battles without losing sight of the tour. While some local tracks had special features this weekend, only one tour was active, and that was largely in preparation of their biggest event of the summer.

PASS NORTH: With the Oxford 250 only a month away, the Pro All Stars Series teams returned to Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday for their third point-paying appearance of 2017. The 150-lap feature was the perfect opportunity to test long-run strategies that could never play out within a 50-lap sprint.

One face largely absent from PASS competition the last two years is that of Cassius Clark. After parting ways with car owner Corey Hight in 2015, Clark headed northeast to the Canadian Maritimes, reuniting with Rollie MacDonald and his King Racing operation. Clark has spent the bulk of the last two years racing in the Maritimes, with spot appearances at events like the Oxford 250 and the Snowball Derby. Earlier this year, Clark announced he would get back together with the Hight Motorsports team in 2017 for selected events stateside.

Clark was back in the saddle for Sunday evening’s feature. Fresh off a win in the Best Of The Best 150 at Geary, NB’s Speedway 660, the 2013 PASS North champion came to Oxford not with the Hight-owned #77 SLM but the white King Racing #13. Clark won his heat race and broke out to an early lead.

Travis Benjamin began to reel in the fast #13 as the laps wore down, though. On a late restart, Benjamin got the better of Clark and moved the Petit Motorsports #7 into the lead. The two-time Oxford 250 winner came away with the victory, serving notice that once again, Benjamin will be a threat for the big race in August.

Glen Luce got around Cassius Clark in the closing laps to finish second, with Clark hanging on for third. Beech Ridge’s Curtis Gerry, fresh off his third feature win of the season, finished fourth to place three #7 cars within the top four (along with a lucky #13). Travis Stearns, in the Richard Green Trucking #16ME, finished fifth for his first career PASS top-five.

Joey Doiron, an Oxford PASS winner in June, finished sixth, followed by Derek Griffith and part-timer Derek Ramstrom. Dave Farrington, Jr., who finished second in Saturday night’s PASS South event at Southern National Motorsports Park, flew back to Maine Sunday morning and finished ninth in the North feature. Chad Dow, in the #2 for the Mathesons of New Brunswick, rounded out the top ten.

Points contenders DJ Shaw and Ben Rowe finished 13th and 14th. Johnny Clark’s season struggles continued with an eighteenth-place finish. The poor finishes combined with Benjamin’s win and Luce’s second-place finish moved the two back into first and second in the points, ahead of Rowe and Shaw.

Wayne Helliwell, Jr. was back in his #27NH at Oxford, but a bad set of tires doomed the defending Oxford 250 champions. Helliwell finished 16th. TJ Brackett hoped his Saturday-night feature win would translate to more, but the track regular finished a dismal 28th in the 30-car field.

SPECIAL FEATURES: White Mountain Motorsports Park was finally able to hold its thrice-rescheduled Foley Oil 150 on Saturday. With the ACT Tour on an off week, the special feature attracted a few visitors to challenge the weekly Late Model racers. In the end, it was youth prevailing over experience. Stephen Donahue took the lead on a restart with four to go, winning his first career Late Model race over Stacy Cahoon. Donahue, the son of former ACT Tour racer John Donahue, led midway through the race and settled into second place before the late-race yellow closed up the field.

WMMP veteran Quinny Welch finished third, ahead of Jesse Switser and Thunder Road Late Model regular Cody Blake. Jonathan Bouvrette finished tenth, best among the visiting Canadian combatants. Rising ACT Tour star Rich Dubeau started ninth but could only finish 20th.

While the stars of PASS competed at Oxford Plains on Sunday afternoon, Wiscasset Speedway hosted its own special feature, the Boss Hogg 150. The twenty-car lineup featured Wiscasset’s weekly Pro Stock competitors, with PASS part-timers Mike Hopkins and Garrett Hall on hand to play the role of spoiler.

Garrett Hall skipped weekly competition at Beech Ridge to focus on the 150-lap feature. At first glance, the decision proved wise, as Hall dominated the event en route to victory. However, attention quickly turned to post-race tech inspection. Each team was allotted six tires for the race. Late in the going, Hall had a left-rear tire cut down due to contact. Having already changed right-side tires, the team opted to bolt on a used practice tire rather than park the car. While the officials acknowledged it was an unintended consequence of the rules, they were forced to disqualify Hall for an illegal tire change, stripping him of the win.

Hall’s disqualification handed the win to second-place finisher Nick Jenkins. For Jenkins, the Boss Hogg 150 marked his first victory in a long-distance event. Cody Tribbet was credited with second place, and third went to GSPSS and PASS competitor Wyatt Alexander. Alexander’s top-three is likely his final start of the season, as the Ellsworth, ME racer moves south to begin his college studies. Mike Hopkins, driving the Frahm family’s #14, finished eighth after completing only 112 laps.

WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS: Thunder Road celebrated the midpoint of its Late Model season with Thursday evening’s Times Argus Mid-Season Championship feature. Shaking off the hardships of the season thus far, Jim “Boomer” Morris dominated the 75-lap event, holding off challenges from Kyle Pembroke and Governor’s Cup winner Trampas Demers to claim his first win of the year. Demers finished second, with Scott Dragon third. “Bad Boy” Bobby Therrien finished sixth in the double-points event, maintaining his points lead over Demers.

Ever since Curtis Gerry found Beech Ridge Motor Speedway’s victory lane this season, he has been reluctant to relinquish it. The Pro Series veteran and defending track champion locked down his third consecutive victory Saturday night at his home track. Brandon Barker and Reid Lanpher finished second and third. Gerry now leads the points at Maine’s only NASCAR-sanctioned short track, with Lanpher only four points behind.

A week after his father found victory lane for the first time in 2017, TJ Brackett took his second Super Late Model win of the season in Saturday night’s SLM feature at Oxford Plains Speedway. Brackett’s win came after a fierce battle with Travis Stearns, who held on for second ahead of Kyle DeSouza, Kyle Treadwell and rookie Ryan Robbins.

In the “Where Are They Now?” department, former ACT Tour winner Brad Babb was in the winner’s circle Saturday night at Star Speedway, in a Supermodified. Babb currently leads the weekly Supermodified point standings at Star. Finishing fifth in Saturday’s feature was Bobby Timmons, a part-timer on the PASS North tour also dabbling in Supermodifieds this year.

COMING UP: PASS North teams face another quick turnaround from Sunday evening to Friday as they return to Lee USA Speedway for their second scheduled (but first actual) race of 2017. The ACT Tour resumes Saturday night for their annual August visit to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

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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