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Busy Slate Of 21 Races, With More To Come, Highlights Ambitious PASS SLM Schedule

Nick Sweet (#40) works around Josh Childs in the penultimate race of the 2020 Pro All Stars Series North SLM season. Nineteen confirmed points races, plus two North Carolina dates and a few non-points events, round out a busy 21st season for the Maine-based touring group. (Jeff Brown photo)

Last week’s preview of the 2021 Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model schedule, it turns out, was only scratching the surface.

The Maine-based organization unveiled next year’s itinerary Thursday evening, with 19 points-paying events on tap for New England’s premier fendered touring series and 21 features in all under the PASS banner.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic still poses unknowns for any racing schedule next year, fans have a lot to be excited about.

Last year’s PASS Super Late Model schedule was a work in progress throughout the year, with events rescheduled and postponed to meet the ever-changing restrictions imposed under the pandemic. Despite starting the season in early June, PASS ultimately completed a 14-race championship schedule, though eleven of those races were shared between the series’ home venue of Oxford Plains Speedway and its adoptive second home, White Mountain Motorsports Park in New Hampshire.

If all goes to plan, the homogeneity of the 2020 schedule will be a thing of the past.

Oxford and WMMP will factor largely into the schedule, naturally, but the 2021 slate includes returns to old racetracks, visits to new venues, new marquee events, and no shortage of opportunities for fans to see the region’s fastest fendered cars and brightest short track stars.

The twenty-first season for PASS starts with a long-distance road trip to North Carolina. Hickory Motor Speedway will host the first two PASS events of 2021, back-to-back $5,000-to-win Easter Bunny 150s. With this year’s Easter Bunny 150 postponed in the earliest days of the pandemic, next year’s events will be credited as the 15th and 16th runnings of the long-tenured event. The races are the only two events confirmed so far for PASS’ National Championship, an honor that sat idle in 2020 amid the year’s myriad travel restrictions.

The PASS North season will open a week later, with the Super Late Models returning to the high banks of Thompson Speedway in Connecticut for the famed track’s annual Icebreaker on April 10. PASS has been a fixture at the Icebreaker since 2016, with reigning champion DJ Shaw winning the last Icebreaker feature in 2019. PASS will also be a part of October’s 59th World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson, after a well-received 2020 appearance also won by Shaw.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is next on the schedule, with the inaugural Northeast Classic the first on-track reflection of the partnership between PASS and the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour. The Northeast Classic, the lidlifter for the ACT Late Model Tour, is the first of several race weekends to be cross-promoted by PASS and ACT. PASS president Tom Mayberry and ACT managing partner Cris Michaud are also collaborating in 2020 to promote events at Thompson Speedway.

Oxford Plains Speedway, PASS’ home track since 2013, will stage its first PASS race of the year on April 25, the first of six points-paying visits to the legendary facility. Races in June, July and a warmup in mid-August will pave the path to the 48th Annual Oxford 250, the crown jewel of the PASS schedule and New England’s richest Super Late Model race with at least $25,000 promised to the winner. This year’s Oxford 250 will be a two-day event with the ACT Late Models anchoring Saturday’s card of weekly feature racing. A sixth and final stop at Oxford will be the penultimate date on the schedule, setting the stage for the year’s championship finale.

After a brief hiatus, Lee USA Speedway will welcome back both PASS and ACT for a doubleheader on May 16. The doubleheader, originally slated for the first weekend of May, was moved this week to accommodate a scheduling conflict. Lee has hosted PASS a number of times, most recently in 2017, but the May visit should alleviate the dual stresses of Lee’s Friday-night summer schedule and local roadblocks to rescheduling rain-delayed events.

White Mountain Motorsports Park, the track that opened the season and hosted five of last year’s events, is in the book for three races in 2021. The North Woodstock, N.H. quarter-mile has PASS appearances scheduled for May, mid-July in conjunction with the NASCAR weekend at NHMS, and the usual mid-September visit before the championship stretch run.

Back-to-back visits to new venues are on tap for June and July, both as ACT-PASS doubleheaders. Hudson Speedway in southern New Hampshire will welcome the PASS Super Late Models for the first time ever on June 20. The PASS Modifieds raced twice at the oval in 2019, but a 2020 PASS North visit was axed due to the pandemic. Two weeks later, PASS will make its debut at Monadnock Speedway. The Winchester, N.H. track affectionately known as “Mad Dog” has never hosted PASS or its spiritual predecessors, but the Granite State Pro Stock Series has made itself at home since 2012 on the unique quarter-mile.

Another tough quarter-mile, Thunder Road International Speedbowl, is back for 2021 with the annual Friday-night prelude to October’s Vermont Milk Bowl. The Barre, Vt. track, the home of the American-Canadian Tour, has been the personal playground of championship contender Nick Sweet, a multi-time track champion with wins in the last three fall PASS features at T-Road.

Seekonk Speedway, the sole paved oval in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, rounds out the 2021 schedule in a big way. The “Cement Palace” hosted the PASS championship finale in 2018 and 2019, but tight pandemic restrictions in the Bay State kept the track from hosting any major events in 2020. A rare Wednesday-night feature is planned for late July, with $10,000 on the line for the race winner, reminiscent of the short-lived U.S. Pro Stock/Super Late Model Nationals held at Seekonk a few years ago. In September, PASS will sanction Seekonk’s annual D.A.V. Fall Classic for the first time. The Fall Classic is named for track founder D. Anthony Venditti, a key figure in the popularization of the Pro Stock in New England.

Seekonk will also host the championship finale on October 23, a tripleheader including the ACT and the Tri-Track Open Modified Series.

In addition to the 21 points-paying events announced so far, another three non-points races are actively in the works at Oxford. Two are slated for July and August, with at least one billed as an Oxford 250 qualifying race. A third race in August is being touted as a “run-what-you-brung” open event. No dates for the non-points events have been confirmed, though free weekends are sparse in July, and the month of August has traditionally been lightly-scheduled to allow teams to prepare for the 250.

Notable omissions from next year’s schedule include Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. and Star Speedway in Epping, N.H. Riverside was one of the three venues besides Oxford and WMMP to host a PASS event in 2020, but the remote track in northern New Hampshire was not able to secure a spot on the 2021 calendar. Star’s highly-touted ACT-PASS doubleheader in June was canceled due to pandemic-related limitations, and despite holding at least one race on the PASS schedule dating back to 2013, the popular quarter-mile will not host the series in 2021.

Also missing from the schedule are northern Maine staples Speedway 95 in Hermon and Spud Speedway in Caribou. Both tracks were on the 2020 schedule, but Maine’s strict pandemic-mitigation strategies left both tracks idle when the calendar rolled around. With Speedway 95 and Spud off the schedule, Oxford Plains Speedway’s six points races are the only PASS points races scheduled in the Pine Tree State in 2021.

As with last week’s ACT Tour schedule announcement, there is plenty of uncertainty to temper the pre-season optimism. However, the schedule seems to be constructed to manage that uncertainty. Should any early-season races be postponed due to the continuing pandemic, there are ample off-weeks in the first couple months to accommodate short-term reschedulings. The two states that posed the greatest operational challenges in 2020 were Maine and Massachusetts. To that end, Oxford seems prepared yet again to host races without fans, a burden unbearable for a track like Spud Speedway. And with luck, progress on the pandemic will coincide with the first visit to Seekonk Speedway.

By comparison, New Hampshire imposed comparatively few restrictions and most late-season racing was able to go on as planned, with appropriate precautions in place. Six of the first ten PASS events are in New Hampshire; if last year’s fan limitations and protocols remain consistent, those events should still be able to go on as planned.

If racing dodges any major pandemic-related restrictions through the winter, a nineteen-race slate is still a big request of regional race teams, especially with a six-week stretch run to settle the season championship. As title hopeful Nick Sweet showed in August, two turns of fate can be enough to move a driver from championship favorite to the outside looking in.

Seven teams ran all fourteen races in 2020, the most since 2017, and another two would have run all fourteen if not for late-season points-racing matters. But a couple of those full-season entrants seem less likely to be full-timers were most of the races not held close to the series’ Maine base. Whether they return in a full-time capacity in 2021, or whether other teams rise to replace them, remains to be seen.

The schedule announcement also promises “a few twists yet to be announced.” Whether this means additional races to fill some of the early-season gaps, firm dates for the non-points events, or the return of a program like the Road To Oxford provisional program of prior seasons, there seems to be more in store for the PASS faithful.

But for now, those who started marking their calendars last week can add another batch of races to a busy summer season.

2021 Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model Schedule (current as of 12/5/2020):

Fri | Apr 2 * | Hickory Motor Speedway | Hickory, NC
Sat | Apr 3 * | Hickory Motor Speedway | Hickory, NC
Sat | Apr 10 | Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park | Thompson, CT
Sat | Apr 17 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Loudon, NH
Sun | Apr 25 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Sun | May 16 | Lee USA Speedway | Lee, NH
Sat | May 23 | White Mountain Motorsports Park | North Woodstock, NH
Sun | June 6 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Sat | June 20 | Hudson Speedway | Hudson, NH
Sun | July 4 | Monadnock Speedway | Winchester, NH
Sun | July 11 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Sat | July 17 | White Mountain Motorsports Park | North Woodstock, NH
Wed | July 28 | Seekonk Speedway | Seekonk, MA
Sun | Aug 15 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Sun | Aug 29 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Sat | Sep 18 | White Mountain Motorsports Park | North Woodstock, NH
Sat | Sep 25 | Seekonk Speedway | Seekonk, MA
Fri | Oct 1 | Thunder Road International Speedbowl | Barre, VT
Sat | Oct 9 | Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park | Thompson, CT
Sat | Oct 16 | Oxford Plains Speedway | Oxford, ME
Sat | Oct 23 | Seekonk Speedway | Seekonk, MA
* PASS National Championship events, not scored for North SLM points
Additional non-points events to be confirmed

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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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