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Brown Wins Oxford PASS 400, Cookson Clinches Championship

A timely nudge not only put Brown in position to win the race, but secured the championship for rookie Cookson.

Strong finishes in Sunday afternoon's three feature races earned Gabe Brown the overall win in a uniquely-formatted PASS 400 at Oxford Plains Speedway. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Even though this year’s PASS 400 was not the endurance format of previous runnings, it stood to reason that strategy would prevail in the season finale.

Instead, it was a well-placed bump that made the difference.

Gabe Brown shares the podium with teammate D.J. Shaw and Trevor Sanborn, who initially was scored third but was disqualified in post-race inspection. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Gabe Brown nudged D.J. Shaw out of the way late in the game, then kept enough distance from the five-time Pro All Stars Series North champion to win the season-ending showdown at Oxford Plains Speedway.

The win, Brown’s third under the PASS banner, closed out a six-race stretch where the Center Conway, N.H. driver won twice and finished no worse than fifth.

“We struggled at the beginning of the year with the other car,” Brown said after the race. “Just wasn’t one hundred percent. We got this thing together, and stuff stopped breaking, and we came out on top a lot.”

Sunday’s season finale was modeled after the American-Canadian Tour’s Vermont Milk Bowl. Three independently-scored 100-lap features comprised the 300-lap distance, with the lowest aggregate finishing position determining the overall winner. Heats set the starting grid for the first 100-lap feature; top-25 inverts of the field after the first two features would set the starting lineup for the next.

With Max Cookson still battling Shaw for the season-long championship, the special format infused the race with a healthy dose of uncertainty.

Angelo Belsito and Doiron brought the field to green for the first feature, with Doiron jumping out to an early advantage. Winless on the season, Doiron had one last chance to erase a frustrating goose-egg from the stats sheet.

Doiron dominated the first PASS 400 feature from start to finish, but would not be so fortunate in the second and third features. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Nick Sweet settled into second early, but Travis Stearns chased the Vermonter down to take the runner-up spot on lap 22. A spin on lap 45 slowed the race briefly, but little else slowed Doiron’s pace as he chewed through lapped traffic and kept Stearns at a safe distance.

Stearns reeled Doiron in with twenty laps to go as the two caught the lapped car of Shawn Knight. Knight hugged the inside curb, unwilling to concede the preferred groove, and Doiron could not find momentum on the outside to roll past. Corey Bubar quickly closed the gap on the leaders, using Doiron’s slowed pace to poke his bumper into the lead. But Knight closed up the inside once again, and Bubar slipped back to third.

Doiron finally cleared Knight with a few laps to go. Stearns gave Knight a shot to the bumper on his way past, sending the lapped car up the track and into fourth-place Shaw’s door. Knight continued at a reduced pace, letting the leaders clear him before driving deep into turn one to deliver a retaliatory shot on Stearns. Stearns bobbled and Knight took the bulk of the impact, skidding off the top of the turn-one banking. Knight’s late-race antics earned him a disqualification.

Joey Doiron clears the lapped car of Shawn Knight, who played a big role in the outcome of the first PASS 400 feature. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Meanwhile, Doiron kept Bubar at bay to earn the first feature win and a starting position deep in the field for the second feature. Brown stole third in the late-race fracas, while Stearns finished fourth. Shaw fell to tenth, while championship leader Cookson was a cautious 15th.

Tim Brackett and Canadian visitor Lonnie Sommerville shared the front row to start the second feature. Brackett jumped into the lead after two quick yellows, but with only seven laps complete, his car expired in turn three, oiling down the track and collecting Scott McDaniel and Ben Rowe in the aftermath. Rookie Garrett Lamb inherited the lead, with veteran Mike Rowe lining up to his outside.

The ageless Rowe went right to the front, leaving Lamb to battle a hungry pack of contenders. The early frontrunners, meanwhile, struggled deeper in the pack; Stearns ran up on a slower car and suffered terminal damage to his mount, while Doiron could not find a line around Johnny Clark.

D.J. Shaw tests the outside line against Mike Rowe, who earned an Oxford weekly feature win in August, just days before his 73rd birthday. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Shaw made a bold move on the last lap, faking high and diving low down the backstretch, but Rowe slammed the door and held on to win the second feature over Shaw, T.J. Brackett, Alan Tardiff and Trevor Sanborn. Bubar finished sixth, giving the recent Granite State Pro Stock Series feature winner the overall lead entering the final feature. Doiron could only claw his way to 12th.

Rowe holds off Shaw’s late heroics to win the second feature. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Cookson, who kept getting shuffled back in the high line, finished a cautious eighth to keep his championship lead intact.

Only four cars were officially retired after the first two features, and with Bubar and his top challengers mired in traffic, plenty of drama was in store for the final leg of the race.

Michael Scorzelli and rookie Dominic Curit started out front, but it was fourth-place starter Sylas Ripley who went for a ride early, stacking up the field and collecting second-segment winner Rowe, T.J. Brackett, and Scott McDaniel. Curit led some laps in his first PASS start, but first-feature polesitter Belsito wrested the lead from the neophyte before Nick Jenkins’ lap-9 spin brought out a second caution. Dennis Spencer’s car slowed coming to the restart, taking him out of the running for the overall win.

Corey Bubar held the unofficial lead entering the third and final feature, but was unable to advance through the field to contend for the win. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Belsito and early frontrunner Sweet swapped the lead under a long green-flag run, while Doiron worked his way toward the top ten. On lap 35, Doiron got into the back of Scorzelli, who looped his car in turn four to bring out the caution. Bubar, the overall leader before the green flag, had been unable to work through traffic, while Brown and Shaw were finally making progress through the pack.

The field powered into turn one for the restart, but contact in the front sent fifth-place Cory Hall around, collecting Clark and points leader Cookson, who had climbed to 11th. Doiron escaped with front-end damage but lined up seventh for the restart as Cookson filed in at the tail.

Belsito brought the field back to green, but Ben Rowe and Steve Chicoine made contact racing for third, sending Chicoine around and collecting Doiron on his way past. Chicoine, believing the contact came from early-season rival Austin Teras, took a swipe at Teras on his way to the pits. Doiron limped to the pits for repairs, but returned well off the pace and out of contention.

Steve Chicoine spins into Doiron’s path in the third feature, dealing heavy damage to the first-feature winner’s car. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The field only made it another circuit before Scorzelli and Ripley got together off turn two, with Scorzelli slamming nose-first into the backstretch wall. The hard-luck racer from upstate New York had already wrecked a car in practice, giving him a pair of cars to repair over the offseason.

As Doiron remained in the pits, and as Bubar struggled midpack, the focus for the overall victory shifted to Brown, who was now fifth, and erstwhile teammate Shaw, who rode in seventh. Shaw still had to keep an eye on Cookson, who needed a bad day to hand Shaw the championship lead.

Belsito settled into a rhythm out front while the rest of the field settled down for a long green-flag run. Two races emerged as the field stretched out; Belsito and the cars in his mirror were fighting for the feature victory, while Shaw and Brown battled for the overall win a few steps behind. Shaw had slipped ahead of Brown, but Mike Rowe and Cory Hall were coming back from respective early spins, and the pack began to pressure Shaw.

Neither Angelo Belsito nor Nick Sweet could convert their time out front into a win, though Sweet ended up seventh in his first PASS start of the season. (STS/Jeff Brown)

In traffic, it was Brown who made the stunning move, putting the bumper to Shaw and moving him into the high line, opening the door for Sanborn, for Hall, and even for Cookson, who at last was showing speed after playing conservative for the first two features. Shaw slipped into the back half of the top ten, watching the championship fall out of reach as well.

Out front, Teras cleared Ben Rowe and Sweet, then ran down Belsito for the lead. Teras handily took the top spot, pulling away as Belsito faded through the pack.

Rowe moved to second, but he was unable to run down Teras, who coasted to the third-feature win only two days after winning his third PASS feature of the year.

Mike Rowe battled back to third, with Sweet hanging on for fourth and Hall finishing fifth. Cookson crossed the line sixth, with Brown, Sanborn, Shaw and Belsito rounding out the top ten.

As Teras celebrated his feature win, the top contenders parked on the frontstretch awaiting the award for the overall win. With a third place in the first feature, ninth in the second and seventh in the third, Brown clinched the overall victory by only two finishing positions over Shaw.

Teras, the winningest driver in PASS North in 2023 with three feature victories, took a checkered flag Sunday to finish third overall. (STS/Jeff Brown)

While it seemed from the outside that Brown turned up the wick late in the race, he was well aware of the stakes before the day’s third green flag flew.

“I knew coming into it that it was between me, D.J., Joey, and [Bubar], really,” he said. “I just had to beat D.J., the 12, and Joey, just had to beat those guys.”

And Brown was somewhat repentant about moving the driver who has been his on-track mentor since making the leap to Super Late Models.

Brown shoves Shaw out of the way late in Sunday’s third feature, a move Shaw will likely remember as the two battle for the American-Canadian Tour title this weekend. (STS/Jeff Brown)

“Got into it with D.J.,” he mused. “But I had got down in front of him one time, he blew me around sideways down in one and two, I sent him to the top, and he raced the shit out of me. So I did what I had to do to get by him.

“It sucks to race, basically, your brother that way, and I feel like I was raced just as…poorly. But glad to have Dale Shaw Race Cars in the top three.”

Mike Rowe overcame this early-feature fracas to finish third in the feature and fourth overall. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Sanborn’s performance netted him third place overall. But a tech-shed violation stripped Sanborn not only of his third-feature finish, but his runs in the first two features as well. Sanborn was relegated to dead last in the final results, shuffling the deck as his disqualification shifted the finish of all three features.

Teras, with his feature win, placed third overall, the win breaking a three-way tie with Mike Rowe and Bubar. Ben Rowe was sixth overall with his runner-up finish in the last feature. Sweet earned seventh in his first PASS start of 2023. Cookson wound up eighth, while Alan Tardiff and Johnny Clark rounded out the top ten.

Eighth was Cookson’s worst recorded finish of the season. But it was more than enough to earn the Pittsfield, Me. racer a clean sweep in the standings. In his first full touring season, Cookson captured the PASS North crown and the PASS National Championship as well.

Coupled with the Oxford track championship he clinched in September, Cookson swept all three Super Late Model superlatives awarded between PASS and Oxford Plains Speedway.

Cookson, in his first full season, swept the PASS North and PASS National Championship standings along with his Oxford weekly track championship. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Maddening consistency propelled Cookson to the top of the heap in a battle unlike recent seasons, with six drivers starting every PASS North event and all but one visiting victory lane.

The Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist won once with PASS in 2023, but tallied four runner-up finishes and nine total top-five finishes in 15 PASS North starts. Outside of the series, he also picked up wins in the open-competition Gate City 100 at Hudson (N.H.) Speedway and September’s Boss Hogg 150 at Wiscasset Speedway in Maine. Cookson finished sixth in his second career Oxford 250, but led 118 laps and fielded a second car for fan favorite Bubba Pollard in the famed event.

Cookson is a fresh face in a region in need of young competitive stars. Whether he sticks around like Gabe Brown, takes a more relaxed and diverse approach like 2022 titlist Ryan Kuhn, or searches for greater success on the road like Derek Griffith, remains to be seen.

The potential is there if the options arise.

If he remains in the Northeast, the competition could be in for a long 2024.

Unofficial Results
Pro All Stars Series North PASS 400
Oxford Plains Speedway

1. (47) Gabe Brown
2. (60) D.J. Shaw
3. (29T) Austin Teras
4. (24) Mike Rowe
5. (12X) Corey Bubar
6. (5) Ben Rowe
7. (40VT) Nick Sweet
8. (39) Max Cookson
9. (9T) Alan Tardiff
10. (54) Johnny Clark
11. (61) T.J. Brackett
12. (03) Scott Moore
13. (73D) Joey Doiron
14. (83) Cory Hall
15. (12) Dennis Spencer, Jr.
16. (8B) Angelo Belsito
17. (3) Aaron Ricker
18. (32) Nick Jenkins
19. (14) Scott McDaniel
20. (38) Garrett Lamb
21. (09X) Sylas Ripley
22. (23X) Lonnie Sommerville
23. (5C) Dominic Curit
24. (72) Scott Robbins
25. (01) Steve Chicoine
26. (36) Ryan Robbins
27. (18) Michael Scorzelli
28. (44P) Rusty Poland
29. (153) Travis Stearns
30. (10) Kate Re
31. (60B) Tim Brackett
DQ (44) Trevor Sanborn
DQ (25) Shawn Knight

Editor’s Note: Results reflect total points scored (one per position) based on finishing order of three features.

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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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