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Northeast Late Model Roundup: (7/11)

After a weekend of special events and series firsts, New England’s fendered racers were back to the regular routine this past weekend. Despite a mid-week federal holiday, many teams were unable to rest as they thrashed to repair and refresh cars for the next round of competition. While one of the weekend’s notable races was won by a series regular, part-time drivers capitalized on their moments of repose to seize weekend wins of their own.

ACT TOUR: While the ACT Tour regulars remained idle for another week, the Série ACT competitors of Quebec were in action Saturday evening. The teams’ third start of the season took place at Autodrome St.-Eustache, just northwest of the city of Montréal.

Patrick Laperle used a lapped car as a pick on a lap-83 restart to secure the lead and the win in the 100-lap event. The victory, Laperle’s twenty-third in his Série ACT career, ties him for the most Série ACT victories with fellow veteran Donald Theetge.

Jonathan Bouvrette finished second, followed by a late-charging Dany Trépanier, Jean-François Déry, and Michael Lavoie, filling in for NASCAR Pinty’s Series star Alex Labbe in the #48 Larue Motorsports entry. Theetge finished sixth.

The win officially allows Laperle to join Bouvrette and Theetge in September’s ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Laperle, who finished second in the 2014 Invitational and fourth in 2015, would likely be among the invited competitors regardless.

GSPSS: After making series history at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Granite State Pro Stock Series returned to familiar short-track turf on Friday night for a 100-lap feature at Lee (NH) USA Speedway. Season-opener winner Jeremy Davis was back in the saddle at Lee, and looked likely to repeat his April performance. In that race, Davis dominated before rain cut the feature short at 84 laps complete.

Joe Squeglia, Lee USA Speedway, 2016 File Photo

Joe “The Show” Squeglia, Jr. added to his résumé with a GSPSS win to mirror last year’s PASS victory (pictured) at Lee USA Speedway.

This time, Davis took the lead from Jeremy Harclerode late in the going, but he could have used another rainstorm. On lap 85, Davis’ engine blew while leading, handing the race lead to Joe Squeglia, Jr. On the restart, Squeglia set sail and drove his black-and-red #03 to victory. It was a familiar sight for many; last June, Squeglia won his first career PASS North race at Lee.

PASS regular and 2015 GSPSS champion Derek Griffith finished second, ahead of Jeff Fagan and Beech Ridge track regular Corey Bubar. Scott MacMichael overcame an engine failure at Loudon to finish fifth. Defending champion Barry Gray was sixth. Davis’ engine failure dropped him to fifteenth in the field.

Twenty cars were in attendance, but Cory Casagrande, second in points after Loudon, was not among them. Casagrande’s crash at NHMS was severe enough to sideline the team for a couple weeks. Rookie Devin O’Connell took a different road to Lee; he and his team headed south, bought a car, and arrived at Lee just in time for his qualifying heat. O’Connell and the new car were able to start the race, but dropped out before halfway.

Eddie MacDonald was one name missing from the results sheet that might have turned heads. A week after stealing the show at NHMS, an appearance at his family’s track would have seemed likely. Instead, MacDonald was at Thompson (CT) Speedway Motorsports Park competing with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in one of their few visits to New England.

Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. (#97) leads Curt Gerry (#7G) and Mike Hopkins late in the race.

PASS NORTH: The Pro All Stars Series made its second trip of the season to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for a Saturday-night 150-lap event. With Oxford Plains Speedway’s weekly program moved to Friday night and Beech Ridge’s own Pro Series idle for the evening, there were plenty of weekly racers looking to steal a trophy from the tour regulars.

Donnie Colpritt, Jr. and Reid Lanpher served notice by winning two of the qualifying heats, with multi-time PASS champion Ben Rowe winning the third. Tense moments arose as a light rain swept the track during driver introductions, but after a number of pace laps, the track was cleared for competition.

Ben Rowe fended off Joey Pole and Garrett Hall for many laps, but ultimately finished fourth.

Ben Rowe shot out to an early lead over Donnie Colpritt, and a long green-flag stretch allowed the veteran driver to build an advantage. As the race wore on, though, Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. and Garrett Hall were able to pressure Rowe for the lead. Polewarczyk wrestled the race lead away from Rowe on lap 105. The Hudson, NH native fended off challenges from Hall and defending Beech Ridge track champ Curtis Gerry in the closing laps to claim his first PASS win of 2017.

Polewarczyk’s win helped to ease the pain of a season where the Hudson, NH driver has shown speed, but has struggled with reliability. Blown engines have cost the team a win at Oxford, a start at Beech Ridge, and a shot at the PASS title in 2017. Worth noting, Joey Pole’s three 2016 victories all came in the second half of the season, so the next few weeks could bode well for the Pole’s Automotive team.

Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. celebrates his first PASS SLM win of 2017.

Curt Gerry came home second after starting nineteenth, and Mike Hopkins looked like an outside shot to win before settling for third. Ben Rowe faded to fourth by the finish, with Bobby Timmons bringing Scott Mulkern’s #48 home in a season-best fifth place. Former Beech Ridge regular Brad Babb, who spent the last couple years racing the ACT Tour for the ageless Joey Laquerre, wheeled his #4ME SLM to a sixth-place finish.

Points leader Glen Luce finished seventh, with DJ Shaw tenth and Johnny Clark a distant 17th. Derek Griffith, one of two drivers (along with Corey Bubar) to run both the GSPSS Friday-night feature and the PASS race on Saturday, finished 16th after pitting late for loose bodywork.

Reid Lanpher has been strong all year in weekly competition at Beech Ridge, but finished 12th.

Gerry was, by far, best among the weekly warriors. Garrett Hall battled back from a late-race spin to finish ninth. Reid Lanpher, despite his heat win, started eleventh and spent most of the race battling mid-pack en route to a 12th-place finish. Mike Rowe was the last finisher in 19th, and Joey Doiron parked his car only fourteen laps in. Oxford regular TJ Brackett was fast in his heat, but spun in turn four running second and never appeared for the feature.

Dave Farrington, Jr. had high hopes for his home track. Instead, the team lost an engine only 26 laps into the race to bring out the first caution flag. Entering Beech Ridge, Farrington’s family team had put together a consistent season, with seven top tens in eight starts and a worst finish of eleventh.

The PASS teams will have a short week to regroup before their Thursday-night feature at Star Speedway in Epping, NH.

IN BRIEF: Phil Scott made history in Thursday night’s Late Model feature at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. Scott won his heat race, won his semi-feature, then led flag-to-flag to capture his first T-Road feature win since August 2013. The win, his 30th feature win at Thunder Road, was also his first win while serving as Governor of Vermont. This appears to make Phil Scott the first United States governor ever to win a race while serving in office.

Oxford Plains Speedway SLM regulars had a short turnaround this week, with the PASS Open Sunday, rain-delayed features on Monday, and this week’s regularly-scheduled racing on Friday night instead of Saturday. Shawn Martin dominated a caution-free fifty-lap SLM feature to win his first weekly race of 2017. Beech Ridge opted not to run a Pro Series feature so drivers could instead compete in the PASS race if they chose to do so.

White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH has rescheduled its Foley Oil 150 feature event for ACT-type Late Models to July 29th. This is the fourth attempt at the feature; the original June date was rained out, and attempts to run the race on July 2nd and 3rd were also rained out.

COMING UP: Big-league NASCAR action returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week, building some hype around this week’s short-track action. The PASS North challengers will face a rare mid-week race, as they return to Star Speedway in Epping, NH on Thursday night. NASCAR spotter Derek Kneeland, a Maine native, is among the early entries. Thunder Road’s annual VP Fuels Vermont Governor’s Cup for ACT Late Models is also Thursday evening, with Kyle Busch racing a Mad Dog Motorsports-prepared entry for the 150-lap special event.

Seekonk (MA) Speedway has a busy week in store, kicking off with Wednesday night’s U.S. Pro Stock/Super Late Model National Championship event. The $10,000-to-win, 200-lap feature has already attracted some of the biggest names from the PASS and GSPSS ranks. (PASS regulars will have mere hours to turn their cars around for Thursday night’s Star Speedway feature.) Racing continues at the Cement Palace on Saturday with the ACT Late Model Tour returning to action for a 100-lap feature.

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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