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New England Notebook: Big wins for Kruczek, Alexander, Farrington entering Oxford 250 weekend

Dave Farrington, Jr. (#23), seen here in last year's Oxford 250, has become one of the local favorites to win with four wins at the storied track in the month of August. (Jeff Brown archive photo)

Each week, Short Track Scene looks back at results and news from northern New England’s Late Model and Super Late Model competition, from the region’s premier tours — the American-Canadian Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, and the Pro All Stars Series — to the tracks and drivers that support them. Thanks to the local journalists and fans who report in from the track each week to keep their fellow fans informed.

ACT TOUR: KRUCZEK BREAKS 2020 SLUMP WITH DOMINATING RIVERSIDE VICTORY

Bryan Kruczek expected to win races in 2020. He just didn’t expect to take so long to break through.

But Kruczek and team made a statement last Saturday, leading all but one lap en route to their first win of the season in the American-Canadian Tour Gardiner & June Leavitt Memorial 150 at Riverside Speedway.

RECAP: Kruczek crushes competition at Riverside for first ACT Tour win of 2020

Kruczek opened the evening from the pole position, taking to the track bearing the battle flag of reigning champion Rich Dubeau in honor of Dubeau’s brother David, who passed away two weeks prior. When the green flag flew a few minutes later, Kruczek went to work, defending the lead from DJ Shaw, Stephen Donahue and Jimmy Hebert to take his first Tour win since last August.

Jimmy Hebert finished second for the second straight race, with second-year Tour racer Ryan Kuhn a strong third. Shaw battled back from a flat tire to finish fourth, with Jesse Switser recording his first top-five of the season.

Saturday’s race had been rescheduled from its original July date, when rain threatened the schedule at the remote Groveton, N.H. track. One victim of the move was Christopher Pelkey, who had to miss the race for a wedding. Shaw’s corporate teammate Gabe Brown slipped into Pelkey’s seat, making his ACT Tour debut with a strong sixth-place finish.

Otherwise, there were few surprises in the 23-car field, with reigning champ Dubeau taking a break from competition. Local drivers Corey Mason, Bryan Mason and Shawn Swallow were in the lineup, with Swallow finishing seventh to place best in class. Former Tour regular Randy Potter, a Groveton native, made his first Tour start in several years, finishing tenth in a car from the shop of Jeff Marshall. A weekly feature at White Mountain Motorsports Park kept away some challengers who might otherwise have made the trip north.

Reilly Lanphear, after announcing she would pare back her schedule due to a lack of funds, finished a career-best 15th. The big sister of the Vermont sibling duo has one more race on her schedule for 2020 as she prepares for a possible Pro All Stars Series debut later this year.

Kruczek’s victory catapulted him from tenth in the points to fourth, only 83 points out of the lead. While Kruczek’s title goals looked hopeless a week ago, with half a season remaining, they remain very much alive.

Jimmy Hebert remains atop the standings with top-ten finishes in all five races so far, with DJ Shaw 12 markers back. Ryan Kuhn sits third with a healthy advantage over Kruczek. Behind Kruczek, only 52 points separate the rest of the top ten.

After an off-weekend, the Tour will resume its schedule next week in Saturday’s preliminary to the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Kruczek swept both races at Oxford last year and ran well before an axle failure in June, making him a favorite for Saturday evening’s feature.

GSPSS: LATE PASS SECURES FIRST BIG WIN FOR WYATT ALEXANDER AT BEECH RIDGE

For the first time since 2017, the Granite State Pro Stock Series made a stop in the Pine Tree State next door. And to little surprise, the series’ first-ever visit to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway produced a home-track winner.

But with a deep field of Beech Ridge’s Pro Series regulars challenging the GSPSS regulars, it was Wyatt Alexander taking the checkered flag in the long-distance 150-lap feature, earning his first touring win in Late Model competition.

RECAP: Wyatt Alexander steals Beech Ridge GSPSS checkers in series debut

Alexander nearly missed the race altogether, after waiting all week for parts to repair a catastrophic drivetrain failure in last Saturday’s weekly feature. The parts arrived on Thursday, with Alexander, his father and grandfather working overtime to get the car reassembled. Alexander headed to the track solo on Saturday, with his family meeting him there for the race.

Corey Bubar, who turned heads with a dominant early-race performance in a PASS feature at Oxford Plains Speedway earlier this year, took the point early and drove away from the field, looking for a first touring win of his own. But as Bubar worked lapped traffic, Alexander ran him down, taking advantage of an opening on the outside. When Alexander’s car stuck, he dug in and drove around Bubar, holding the Beech Ridge veteran off to take the win.

A frustrated Bubar finished second, with PASS regular and 2014 Beech Ridge PASS 300 winner Derek Ramstrom third. Reigning Maine NASCAR champion David Oliver was fourth, with fellow Beech Ridge regular Trevor Sanborn fifth.

Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., also a former PASS winner at Beech Ridge, was the highest-finishing GSPSS regular in seventh, with Ray Christian III and 2019 GSPSS champion Joey Doiron on his heels. In all, five of the top ten finishers were Beech Ridge regulars; Doiron, from nearby Berwick, is a Beech Ridge graduate.

Angelo Belsito was involved in a spin just past halfway, retiring from the race and finishing 24th in a deep field. Series regulars Bobby Pelland (20th), Luke Hinkley (21st) and Casey Call (25th) also had shorter evenings than hoped.

With Beech Ridge’s weekly Pro Series rules and tire package quite close to the GSPSS rulebook, the local turnout made this one of the season’s best-attended races, with 27 cars on hand to take time. Rookie Cody Leblanc, a week after sustaining damage in his PASS debut, sat out the race, with Mike O’Sullivan and Mike Mitchell also missing in action. Veteran racer Larry Gelinas made a rare appearance in the Lindblad Racing #48 entry, and Ryan Green made his first start of 2020.

Beech Ridge stars Bubar, Alexander and Oliver were joined by PASS regulars Garrett Hall (18th) and Ben Rowe (26th). Joe Pastore, racing the #24 entry usually campaigned by Rowe’s legendary father Mike, did not make the call for the green flag.

Belsito’s early exit lightened the burden on Ray Christian III, who leads Joey Pole by 26 markers and Belsito by 50 with six races complete. With 50 points for a race win, and the rest of the schedule still in some degree of late-season flux, the championship battle appears to be Christian’s to lose.

The GSPSS will meet again for the biggest race of its nine-year history on September 6, with the 150-lap Labor Day Classic paying $10,000 to win.

PASS: FARRINGTON ON FIRE WITH FIRST PASS WIN, FOURTH STRAIGHT OPS TRIUMPH

A hot streak for Dave Farrington, Jr. reached its peak last Sunday, as the two-time Beech Ridge Motor Speedway track champion captured his first career Pro All Stars Series touring win in the series’ last points race before the Oxford 250.

Farrington had won the last three weekly Super Late Model features at Oxford, including one on the eve of Sunday’s PASS-sanctioned feature. Sunday’s win gave him four straight feature wins at Oxford Plains Speedway, building significant momentum en route to the richest one-day Super Late Model show in New England.

RECAP: Farrington on fire with first career PASS win at Oxford

Derek Griffith, who has run part-time since signing a deal to compete in the ARCA Menards Series this year, returned to Oxford in preparation for the 250. Griffith led the middle stages of the race before Farrington got by for the lead.

Johnny Clark stole second from Griffith, but was unable to catch Farrington down the stretch, settling in the end for the runner-up spot. Griffith, Austin Teras and early race leader Joey Doiron rounded out the top five.

Sunday’s race was scheduled as a final opportunity for teams to prepare for the 250, with plenty of teams savoring the opportunity to dial their cars in over a long-distance run. Among those who seemed like surprising absences were Cassius Clark (likely to run the race for the Chad Dow team and not his usual King Racing operation), Derek Ramstrom (who has run Archie St. Hilaire’s car at Oxford), and former Oxford track champion Alan Tardiff. Garrett Hall was not in attendance either. In fairness, Ramstrom and Hall were racing the night before at Beech Ridge in the GSPSS feature.

Joey Doiron (in the #21 and not his own #73), Ben Rowe, and GSPSS regular Ray Christian III were the only drivers to field entries in both Saturday’s GSPSS event and Sunday’s PASS feature.

While Farrington established himself as a favorite for the 250 with his win, some favorites hinted that they may have a bit of work to do. Defending 250 winner Travis Benjamin was tenth with point leader Nick Sweet eleventh. Local favorite Curtis Gerry was 16th, using the later stages of the race as a test session. Eddie MacDonald was a discouraging 24th. Christian was 27th, never quite finding the stride he had last season in a few Oxford appearances.

And while all the focus is on the big race, there’s still a bigger picture at stake, with Nick Sweet still leading Travis Benjamin by 13 points. DJ Shaw’s sixth-place finish kept him third in points, with Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe rounding out the top five. Nine drivers have started every race thus far, with Austin Teras tenth in points with only one missed start. Only Sweet and Clark have won races among the full-timers, with Sweet owning four of those checkered flags.

Usually, the week before the 250 is a much-needed break for teams preparing for the big race, but with the shortened season in play, PASS officials added a 100-lap open race to serve as the year’s Oxford 250 qualifier. Farrington and Gerry have already bowed out of the qualifier, but a number of teams will surely relish the opportunity to get a few more laps in prior to the big show.

After that remains the Oxford 250 the following Sunday, with the 47th running of the race to be streamed via Speed51 with only a handful of fans allowed into the grandstands.

WEEKLY RACING: FARRINGTON BUILDS HIS STREAK, THERRIEN CLOSES IN ON T-ROAD TITLE, SEEKONK LOOKS TO 2021

Dave Farrington’s aforementioned hot streak came into play Saturday night, with the veteran driver taking his third-straight Oxford Plains Speedway feature win by passing Alan Wilson with only four laps to go. Wilson was second with Curtis Gerry finishing third. Brandon Barker finished eighth and Mike Rowe ninth in the 18-car field, with a few drivers planning to run Sunday’s PASS feature as well. Farrington and Gerry are separated by a point atop the weekly standings, with Scott Robbins and Tim Brackett a distant third and fourth.

Seventeen Late Models showed up at White Mountain Motorsports Park for the weekly feature with the ACT Tour cars running a few miles north at Riverside Speedway. Mike “Beetle” Bailey withstood challenges from Quinny Welch to post his first Late Model win in some time. Welch, still winless in 2020, was second with Joel Hodgdon third and Stacy Cahoon fourth. Cahoon leads Welch by three points in a battle of consistency.

At Star Speedway, Connor McDougal broke into the winner’s circle in his Late Model. McDougal, owner of Eleveight Design, finally put his own car into victory lane with Jay and Erick Sands finishing second and third. The father-son tandem remains atop the points standings with only a few weeks of weekly features remaining.

New London-Waterford Speedbowl kept its season rolling Saturday night, with Thompson Speedway regular Ryan Morgan taking a feature win over Ryan Lineham and Glenn Boss. The Connecticut track has become a landing spot for some of the Thompson and Seekonk regulars as their home tracks remain closed.

Bobby Therrien tapped out of the ACT Tour points battle two weeks ago, but moved into the thick of the weekly points race at Thunder Road International Speedbowl with a feature win Thursday evening over Trampas Demers and Matt White. Marcel J. Gravel and Jason Corliss rounded out the top five, with Corliss clinging to the points lead but losing ground to Therrien, Demers and Gravel. If not for an early-season disqualification, Corliss might have an insurmountable lead with ten races complete.

After sitting idle most of the season, Seekonk Speedway has officially called off its 2020 Saturday-night schedule. Guidance from the commonwealth of Massachusetts has kept Seekonk grouped with larger sporting facilities like Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium in terms of fan access and attendance, and those venues will not be allowed to host fans until at least October. With most of the season already gone, Seekonk will focus on 2021 while still running its Friday-night program. Seekonk’s weekly Late Model and Pro Stock competitors have taken a variety of alternatives, with some racing in touring action and others traveling to tracks like Star Speedway or White Mountain Motorsports Park.

UPCOMING EVENTS

A quiet weekend for touring action this week will lead into one of the biggest weekends of the year, with all eyes on Oxford Plains Speedway for the 47th Annual Oxford 250. The American-Canadian Tour Late Models race Saturday evening with the PASS-sanctioned 250 on Sunday evening. With minimal fans allowed to attend, live streaming coverage will be available through Speed51.

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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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