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American Canadian Tour

Lee PASS-ACT Doubleheader Kicks Off Important Stretch for NH Tracks

Sunday’s doubleheader marks the return of two established New Hampshire ovals, and the introduction of a venerable third, to the touring series’ calendars.

Joey Polewarczyk and Eddie MacDonald stage on pit road for last September's open-competition Freedom 300 at Lee USA Speedway. Both racers are entered in Sunday's PASS and ACT "May Madness" doubleheader at the track, the first visit for either touring series in several years. (Jeff Brown photo)

For racing fans in northern New England, weekends co-promoted by the Pro All Stars Series and American-Canadian Tour have become fairly routine.

But when the two series take to the track Sunday afternoon for the third day of “May Madness” at Lee USA Speedway, they will open an intriguing streak of doubleheader action.

PASS and ACT will double up at three popular New Hampshire short tracks in the next two months, carrying the two touring series’ schedules into July on a shared trajectory. And at two of the three, the experience will be new to all but the most seasoned veterans.

All together, the three PASS-ACT double features are a cornerstone of both series’ strongest presence in southern New Hampshire in some time.

And it all starts this weekend at the track with the richest history with both Maine’s PASS and the Vermont-based ACT.

The track billed as “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed” has hosted PASS Super Late Models dating back to the series’ inception, with eleven appearances dating back to 2001. Dale Shaw won the inaugural PASS race at Lee; his son, five-time and reigning PASS North champion DJ Shaw, won in 2015. Only Mike Rowe has won twice in PASS SLM competition at Lee, doing so in 2007 and 2010.

ACT’s history at Lee runs even deeper, with Vermont veteran Harmon “Beaver” Dragon taking the first ACT-sanctioned win at the track in 1987. ACT’s Pro Stock Tour raced regularly at Lee until the division’s dissolution after 1995. In late 2003, the ACT Late Model Tour, having supplanted the Pro Stocks as ACT’s flagship touring series, made its Lee debut. Quebecer Patrick Laperle hoisted the first ACT trophy awarded at Lee in nearly eight years, and Lee was once again an ACT staple.

By the mid-2010s, Lee had two regular dates on the PASS schedule. The annual Governor’s Cup 150 had been the established season opener for the ACT Late Models since 2008.

However, strict local ordinances have always made scheduling a challenge for the track and its visitors. Lee’s traditional Friday-night schedule cannot be shifted to the weekend during the regular season, limiting the track’s options for a rainout. With Friday nights already a rarity in PASS, the caveat of a race that cannot be rescheduled posed a risk for the tour. ACT’s early-season opener, run on a Sunday out of season, was not immune either; April snow and rain forced the event’s postponement multiple times.

The PASS North Super Late Models last visited Lee in August of 2017. A second stop at Lee was on the schedule, but rain forced the cancellation of the late June date.

ACT was set to open its 2018 Late Model Tour season at Lee, but rain and the soaked speedway grounds forced two postponements of the Governor’s Cup 150 to a rare Saturday show, a race that itself was delayed by rain and ran under the lights on a brisk May evening.

The 2018 season was Lee’s first under the ownership of former racer Norm Wrenn, who bought the track from longtime owners Red and Judy MacDonald. A reduced dependence on touring racing seemed apparent in Wrenn’s early tenure. But so far, 2021 looks to be a return to form for a track that has hosted NASCAR’s Busch North Series and Modified Tour, among so many other regional series.

And Lee’s three-year hiatus from ACT is mere minutes compared to the other two host tracks of the New Hampshire swing.

Hudson Speedway welcomed what was then called the ACT Dodge Tour in the summer of 2001. The visit to the high-banked quarter-mile was never repeated. Monadnock Speedway, another quarter-mile bullring across the state just south of the college town of Keene, hosted events for the ACT Late Models in 2002 and 2003.

For perspective, defending ACT champion Jimmy Hebert and reigning PASS champ Shaw were still years away from earning driver’s licenses. Second-year ACT racer Derek Gluchacki and PASS part-timer Jake Johnson were a few years away from kindergarten.

PASS sophomore Kate Re was not even born.

But after years of fan requests and speculation, both Hudson and Monadnock are on this year’s schedules. While PASS has never ventured to Monadnock, the series has sanctioned PASS Modified events at Hudson since 2014. Two events in 2019 served as a test for a 2020 PASS North date that was canceled due to the pandemic.

Re, then a full-time PASS Modified competitor, earned podium finishes in both 2019 events.

And the Hudson and Monadnock that PASS and ACT will visit in 2021 are not the same tracks that ACT raced at twenty years ago. Ben Bosowski purchased Hudson at the end of 2017. Since then, Bosowski has poured money into his home track, building a concrete wall around the oval, paving the pit area, erecting new grandstands, and even breaking ground on a bar. Bosowski’s next project is expanding parking for visitors, one of the track’s greatest remaining hurdles.

Monadnock was sold to the Wrenn family after the 2018 season, and has also upgraded its bleachers and amenities since changing hands.

Wrenn and Bosowski later teamed up to acquire Claremont Motorsports Park, a fourth New Hampshire track about an hour north of Monadnock. All four tracks are members of the New Hampshire Short Track Racing Association, an effort to cross-promote the speedways of southern New Hampshire and equalize their previously-disparate weekly rulebooks.

Admittedly, calling the three doubleheaders a “swing” is a bit of a misnomer. Both series will make their own trips in the coming weeks to White Mountain Motorsports Park, an ACT-affiliated speedway in northern New Hampshire. PASS will also work in a home date at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. But after the Independence Day doubleheader at Monadnock, over half of the PASS North schedule and all but one ACT Tour race will have been run in the Granite State.

The series’ schedules diverge from there. Three more combined weekends remain through the series’ season finales at Seekonk Speedway in southern Massachusetts. And each series only has two more stops in New Hampshire through the end of the year, all at the aforementioned WMMP.

Sunday afternoon’s races at Lee return both series to a challenging track where patience and tire management will pay dividends over 150 laps. Neither field will be short on veteran talent. At least six former Lee winners are entered in the ACT feature, with series regulars Ben Rowe and Jimmy Hebert battling a cast of ringers including Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Joey Polewarczyk, Dillon Moltz and home track favorite Eddie MacDonald.

On the PASS side of the pits, only Johnny Clark, DJ Shaw and Derek Griffith have driven to Lee’s victory lane. All three will surely be a threat at the finish. Griffith, the 2016 Lee winner, has momentum on his side; the rising star has won in each of his last three visits to the track.

But Sunday’s biggest winners may not be the drivers who hoist trophies after each of the afternoon’s races.

If Sunday’s races, and the doubleheaders to follow, pave the way for a long-term return to the schedule for all three tracks, New England’s racing fans may be the biggest winners in hindsight.

And that victory exceeds any trophy.

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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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