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Kuhn dominates Northeast eClassic iRacing event at NHMS

Ryan Kuhn @ NHMS 06-2019
Ryan Kuhn parlayed a sixth-place run in last year's PASS-sanctioned Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway into a simulator victory in Saturday's Northeast eClassic 75. (Jeff Brown photo)

While early-spring winter weather dampened the pavement at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ryan Kuhn gave Northeast race fans a ray of sunshine late Saturday afternoon at the track’s digital doppelganger. Kuhn topped thirty-nine of the region’s best Late Model and Super Late Model competitors to earn a victory in the Northeast eClassic 75 presented by Speed51.

Kuhn, the 2019 American-Canadian Tour Rookie of the Year, took the lead from polesitter Steve Fisher a third of the way through the race, then set sail in a caution-free second half to claim a dominating win.

Speed51 announced the invitational iRacing event when its real-world namesake was officially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic halting racing throughout the United States. Scheduled for Saturday afternoon, the inaugural Northeast Classic was to open the season for the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Models and the ACT Late Models, with additional features for Tour-type Modifieds and Street Stocks.

The digital edition of the event was a 75-lap Super Late Model feature open to competitors from both the PASS and ACT ranks, as well as Late Model and Super Late Model stars from tracks throughout New England and the Canadian province of Quebec. Also included among the invitees were retired eight-time ACT Tour champion Brian Hoar, PASS and ACT feature winner Austin Theriault, and 1995 NASCAR Busch North Series champion Kelly Moore, adding a veteran presence to a diverse entry list.

In the opening laps, though, the veteran at the front was Fisher, a longtime ACT competitor with a 2004 Tour win at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. Fisher, awarded the pole through a top-ten inversion, held off Mainers Alan Tardiff and John Peters through a series of restarts as multiple-car incidents slowed the race three times in the first eleven laps.

Peters slipped past Tardiff and into second, but contact between the two on lap 16 sent Peters into the turn-four wall and set off another multi-car crash, putting fifth-place starter Kuhn alongside Fisher for the lap-21 restart. Four laps later, Kuhn made his move, taking the lead from Fisher off turn two with 25 laps in the books.

Ryan Kuhn iRacing

Ryan Kuhn wheels his #72 Toyota around the flat corners of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the closing laps of the Northeast eClassic 75. (Jeff Brown screencap)

A hint of a connection issue for Kuhn unsettled the race announcers under caution a few laps later, but it proved to be inconsequential. The twenty-year-old from East Bridgewater, Mass. survived two more restarts, taking the green on lap 38 and pulling away from Fisher as the race went green to the finish.

Ray Parent, the 2012 winner of the ACT Invitational at NHMS, started outside the top ten but patiently worked his way to a third-place finish. Jeff Côté was the best-finishing Canadian in fourth, with Seekonk graduate Jake Johnson rounding out the top five.

Reigning Granite State Pro Stock Series champion Joey Doiron finished sixth, ahead of reigning ACT Tour champ Rich Dubeau. David Oliver, Maine’s 2019 NASCAR weekly racing champion, was eighth. Thunder Road racer Cooper Bouchard finished ninth, with driver-turned-official Jonathan Lemay representing New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park with a tenth-place run.

Kuhn’s “Magic Mile” mastery was foreshadowed last summer, when he turned in a sixth-place finish in his PASS North debut in June’s Short Track Showdown at NHMS. The 2018 Seekonk Speedway Late Model champion supplemented his ACT rookie effort with six Super Late Model races, earning three top-ten finishes in his three GSPSS events and claiming the pole in his first Oxford 250 start. Kuhn, who purchased his car from PASS veteran Mike Hopkins, finished second to Hopkins in the PASS North season finale at Seekonk.

Fifty-nine entries were whittled down to a field of forty through six heat races and two consis. Jeff Côté, Devin O’Connell, Dubeau, Lemay, Evan Hallstrom and Jimmy Hebert won the heats, with Brian Hoar and Joel Hodgdon winning the consis. Among those failing to advance to the feature were Stephen Donahue, Bryan Kruczek, Kelly Moore and ACT legend Patrick Laperle. PASS North championship runner-up Derek Griffith had technical issues that kept him from turning a qualifying lap.

With simulator events taking center stage over the past month in the absence of live racing, the Northeast eClassic is the first major short-track event for New England racers. While no other similar events have been announced for the region, the availability of select New England ovals within iRacing could make further events a possibility should a return to racing be significantly delayed.

The inaugural Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, featuring the PASS North Super Late Models and the ACT Tour, has tentatively been rescheduled for May 8th and 9th, pending any changes to New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order.

Official Results, Northeast eClassic 75:
1. (72) Ryan Kuhn
2. (24) Steve Fisher
3. (017) Ray Parent
4. (15) Jeff Côté
5. (015) Jake Johnson
6. (73) Joey Doiron
7. (30) Rich Dubeau
8. (121) David Oliver
9. (25) Cooper Bouchard
10. (5) Jonathan Lemay
11. (99) Cody Blake
12. (1) Evan Hallstrom
13. (86) Marcel J. Gravel
14. (18) Jean-Philippe Bergeron
15. (88) Brandon Barker
16. (76) Tyler Tomassi
17. (03) Derek Gluchacki
18. (16) Scott Dragon
19. (44) Kyle Treadwell
20. (58) Jimmy Hebert
21. (63) John Salemi
22. (81) Dan Winter
23. (46) Dylan Estrella
24. (07) Dylan Payea
25. (43) Devin O’Connell
26. (6) Alan Tardiff
27. (9) Mathieu Kingsbury
28. (04) Matthew Smith
29. (7) Cory Casagrande
30. (60) Gabe Brown
31. (01) Steve Côté
32. (31) Trent Goodrow
33. (36) Joel Hodgdon
34. (48) Alex Guenette
35. (51) John Peters
36. (57) Brock Davis
37. (53) Austin Theriault
38. (42) Corey Bubar
39. (17) Darrell Morin
40. (37) Brian Hoar

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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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