With New England’s brief summer racing season finally in full swing, most of the area’s touring divisions had races slated for June’s final weekend. Once again, weather threatened some of the weekend’s races. While most of them went off as planned, one cancellation gave some teams a week off while others opted to race elsewhere.
AMERICAN-CANADIAN TOUR: While the American side of the American-Canadian Tour sat idle this weekend, the Canadian division of the late-model touring series was back in action Saturday night for the second event of their six-race schedule.
In what has become a frustrating trend for 2017, rain threatened yet another race weekend as Autodrome Montmagny was dampened on race day. Race officials opted to dry the track in order to get the race in as scheduled. Eventually the Série ACT teams were able to take to the track for the LKQ Libre-Service 100.
Jonathan Bouvrette, who competed in the ACT Tour’s first three U.S. dates, took the lead early on and held off Dany Trépanier to win the 100-lap event. Patrick Laperle, an ACT winner and champion on both sides of the border, finished third. Jean-François Déry fought from deep in the field to claim fourth at the checkers. ACT graduate Alex Labbé, fresh off a second-place run in Friday night’s rain-rescheduled NASCAR Pinty’s Series CRS Express 300 at Autodrome Chaudière, rounded out the top five.
Not surprisingly, the sixteen-car field hailed exclusively from La Belle Province; drivers from the American Tour rarely venture north for Série ACT events. Missing from the lineup was season-opener winner Donald Theetge. Theetge instead competed in Friday’s NPS race, winning the pole en route to a fifth-place run.
With his victory, Bouvrette punches his card to compete in September’s ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where the top teams from both tours will battle on the big track for the ninth time. Despite coming close, a Canadian driver has yet to win the ACT Invitational.
GRANITE STATE PRO STOCK SERIES: The Granite State Pro Stock Series traveled to the border of Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Saturday night’s Seekonk 100. The feature event was the first GSPSS event held at the legendary “Cement Palace.”
Not surprisingly for an inaugural race, home-field advantage came into play in the final results. David Darling, a Seekonk weekly regular who competed in NASCAR’s Busch North Series in the early 2000s, held off fellow track regular Tom Scully, Jr. to win his first career GSPSS race. PASS regular Travis Benjamin, a last-minute entry in the #14 of David and Cathy Frahm, finished third followed by Angelo Belsito in fourth. 2016 ACT Tour Rookie of the Year Devin O’Connell, this year a rookie in GSPSS competition, finished fifth.
Points contenders Cory Casagrande and Mike O’Sullivan finished just outside the top five. Maine’s Wyatt Alexander, making his first GSPSS start of 2017, finished eighth, followed by PASS veteran Larry Gelinas and track regular Rick Martin. Defending GSPSS champion Barry Gray soldiered on to a 15th-place finish in the 21-car field.
Casagrande and Scott MacMichael sit tied atop the points standings after four races. Mike Mitchell, Mike O’Sullivan and Devin O’Connell complete the top five. The next challenge ahead for the GSPSS is a fifty-lap feature at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on the first of July, as part of the Short Track Showdown co-sanctioned with the Valenti Modified Racing Series and North East Mini Stock Tour.
PASS NORTH: Touring events offer fans the unique opportunity to see their favorite local racers go head-to-head with the region’s biggest stars. Lee USA Speedway, by contrast, has not counted Super Late Models among its weekly classes for years. However, the short track’s quasi-coastal location attracts attention from SLM racers just over the state lines in Maine and northern Massachusetts, as well as part-time contenders from New Hampshire. Friday night’s PASS 150 at Lee would pit the championship hopefuls against a list of contenders with plenty of home-turf experience, drivers like Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Wayne Helliwell, Jr., and last year’s winner, Joe “The Show” Squeglia, Jr.
Unfortunately, Lee fans will have to wait a little longer.
Lee announced on Facebook around 11:00am that they were cancelling the night’s racing card, due to afternoon and evening thunderstorms in the forecast. The social media response was less than kind. One commenter was quick to note that Lee, and not PASS, had made the decision. Plenty of fans and a couple drivers questioned the timing of the decision, as some teams would already be en route.
Was it the right decision? Forty minutes west of Lee in Manchester, NH, a few sprinkles in the early evening were the only hint of inclement weather. Decisions are always much clearer in hindsight, but the prospect of opening the track to empty stands (or having to reschedule the event anyway) was one Lee’s management likely did not want to face. It’s an easy call to second-guess as a fan, when all you stand to lose is $25 and a dry shirt.
So far, a rain date has not been announced; the PASS Web site simply says the race was “cancelled due to weather.” Local ordinances and curfews limit Lee to Friday-night racing during the regular season. Coupled with another PASS event scheduled for early August, this may pose a challenge to finding a new race date.
IN BRIEF: They say you can’t beat City Hall, but clearly you can beat the Governor. In Thursday night’s Late Model feature at Thunder Road, Jason Corliss did exactly that. Corliss, running the ACT Tour full-time in 2017, held off early leader Phil Scott to claim the feature win. Scott, a multi-time T-Road track champion, raced while serving as a state senator and lieutenant governor, and won last fall’s gubernatorial race. By racing this year, Scott is the only known U.S. governor to actively race cars as a hobby.
With the cancellation of Friday night’s PASS race, many teams sought other options for the weekend. Saturday night’s weekly SLM battle at Oxford Plains was a popular choice. PASS regular Glen Luce drove his #7L to a dominant win in the 50-lap feature, beating Alan Tardiff and a visiting Wayne Helliwell, Jr., who had hoped to make his PASS return at Lee. Dave Farrington, Jr. and Tracy Gordon were also in attendance, though neither could crack the top-ten.
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway hosted its annual Pro Series 125 Saturday night. PASS regular Ben Rowe was in the lineup, but finished last in the 17-car field. Reid Lanpher and Garrett Hall, both running limited PASS schedules this year, battled to the end, with Lanpher taking the checkers over Hall and John Peters. Lanpher’s win was his third this year at Beech Ridge; he won the PASS 300 in April in addition to the weekly season opener.
Rain kept Jeremy Davis from competing in the cancelled PASS event at Lee. He was absent from the GSPSS race at Seekonk as well, with reason: he was celebrating the birth of his son. Congratulations to the Davis family!
COMING UP: The ACT Tours are idle this week. GSPSS teams will make their first start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the inaugural Short Track Showdown on Saturday. Among the entrants for the GSPSS feature are Ben Rowe, Matt Swanson and multi-time NHMS winner Eddie MacDonald. PASS North teams compete Sunday afternoon in a special non-points event at Oxford. This year’s “Open” is not limited to PASS non-winners, but will award three Oxford 250 provisionals to the top-finishing non-winning PASS entrants (and two more to the top-finishing former PASS winners).