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.
PASS NORTH: GRIFFITH SURGES LATE FOR THIRD WIN OF YEAR AT WMMP
New England’s racing focus was directed toward central New Hampshire for the weekend, with NASCAR’s top touring series making their annual visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But with all eyes on Loudon, the Pro All Stars Series was more than happy to play the undercard. The ninth race of the 2019 schedule was only a short drive north of the one-mile oval, at the quarter-mile White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock.
An early-summer heat wave had promised hot temperatures all weekend, with thermometers creeping to the century mark Saturday afternoon. The hot weather kept at least one team away from the track; Jeremy Davis’ team announced on Facebook that they would sit out the race due to the extreme heat.
With quiet evenings at a few local tracks, though, sixteen cars were able to assemble at WMMP. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., fresh off a win at the quarter-mile Hudson Speedway the previous Sunday, was in the pits for his third PASS attempt of the year. Derek Ramstrom and Reid Lanpher were there, as well as Beech Ridge regular Dan Winter. Brandon Barker was in his own #88 entry. Seekonk Speedway’s Craig Weinstein and Connecticut’s Dillon Moltz helped to round out a competitive lineup.
Points leader Garrett Hall won the first heat race in the afternoon, with Derek Ramstrom winning the second. Ramstrom and Travis Benjamin would lead the field to green, with Hall among the drivers nudged into the back half of the field for their early-season wins.
Ramstrom showed the way for the first five laps of the race before Travis Benjamin moved into the top spot. For the first half of the race, Benjamin’s red and black #7 looked like the car to beat. The two-time PASS North champ had struggled through 2019 so far, recording only five top-ten finishes after placing second in points and winning twice a year ago. A win could keep Benjamin in title contention, and would surely erase some of the year’s frustrations.
But stalking Benjamin from behind was Joey Polewarczyk. The Hudson, N.H. driver closed the gap on Benjamin with a yellow flag just after halfway, and took the lead away on lap 80, leaving Benjamin to fight off Dillon Moltz and Nick Sweet for second.
Pole’s advantage disappeared just as quickly, though, with a spin by Garrett Hall bringing out a caution flag with 39 laps to go. Dillon Moltz and Derek Griffith lined up behind Polewarczyk for the restart. Nine laps later, Griffith made his move, taking the lead and bringing Moltz with him as Joey Pole fell back to third.
Benjamin’s promising start ended with a bang only eighteen laps shy from the finish, bringing out another caution and allowing the field to close up on Griffith. Unlike Benjamin and Polewarczyk, though, Griffith had staying power in the final laps. Stretching his lead to nearly a second in the final run, Griffith cruised to his third win of 2019. The win is Griffith’s eighth career PASS North victory in his fourth full season on the tour.
Dillon Moltz held on for second place, his best run at the wheel of a PASS car. DJ Shaw charged into third late in the race, earning his first top-five finish since a four-race top-two streak to open the season. Polewarczyk was fourth, with Ben Rowe overcoming a series of problems to round out the top five. Nick Sweet, Bobby Therrien, Reid Lanpher, Derek Ramstrom and Gabe Brown completed the top ten finishers.
Twelve cars were on the lead lap at race’s end, with Craig Weinstein finishing just ahead of Garrett Hall. Evan Hallstrom was a lap down in 13th. Travis Benjamin, Dan Winter and Brandon Barker all exited the race early, unable to make the distance.
Garrett Hall’s poor run coupled with top fives for his closest competitors cost him the points lead, as DJ Shaw now has a five-point advantage in the season-long standings. Nick Sweet sits a short distance back in third, with Derek Griffith fourth and Ben Rowe a not-too-distant fifth. One hundred points separate Shaw from seventh-place Travis Benjamin, so a race with a deep field (like the Oxford 250) could still result in a tremendous points shakeup.
Once again, the tight confines of a quarter-mile oval inspired Reid Lanpher and Travis Benjamin to bring out their ABC-bodied cars for a likely slugfest. Only six teams had newer Gen-6 bodies at WMMP, with winner Derek Griffith one of six ABC-bodied entries in the top ten.
The Pro All Stars Series North teams get an extra weekend to prepare for the next race on the schedule, a rare weekday show at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway. The Tuesday-night 200-lapper is another race with an Oxford 250 provisional in store. Teams will have to turn their equipment around quickly after Tuesday’s event for a show the following Sunday at Caribou, Maine’s Spud Speedway.
IWK 250: CASSIUS CLARK KEEPS TROPHY IN IWK 250 “REPEAT”
While many of his contemporaries were racing or watching racing back in New England, Cassius Clark was locking down a victory in one of the biggest races in the Canadian Maritimes, making him one of the most decorated racers in the region.
Clark, the 2013 Pro All Stars Series North champion, turned in a dominant performance to win Saturday night’s IWK 250. The long-distance race, hosted at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and sanctioned by the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Series, is one of the biggest events in the Maritimes. Since 2007, the race has served as a fundraiser for the IWK Health Centre, a hospital in the Nova Scotia capital of Halifax.
Clark was flagged as the winner in last year’s IWK 250, but he and two other competitors were disqualified later that week for carburetor infractions. The controversial decision handed the win to former NASCAR racer Kenny Wallace, in attendance as the year’s guest “celebrity” driver.
This year, the Maine racer put on a clinic, leading 209 of the 250 laps and lapping all but four other cars en route to victory. Jonathan Hicken finished second, with Craig Slaunwhite third. Donald Chisholm and points leader Dylan Blenkhorn rounded out the top five. Wallace, the only other driver in the field from the United States, was ninth in his second year racing the “CAT Car for Kids” for locally-based team Nova Motorsports. Reigning Pro Stock Tour champ Cole Butcher was 11th in the 32-car field.
Clark is the first driver to earn victories in the Maritimes’ three 250-lap Pro Stock events, completing a regional triple crown. The veteran racer, driving for Nova Scotia legend Rollie MacDonald’s King Racing team, has become recognized as a long-distance pro.
Clark will return to Maine in August, crossing the border with King Racing with a goal of securing his first Oxford 250 victory.
LOCAL RACING: ANOTHER CLARK WINS GOVERNOR’S CUP, RENFREW GOES BACK TO BACK AT STAR
Thunder Road International Speedbowl opened the race weekend with the annual VP Racing Fuels Vermont Governor’s Cup, a 150-lap feature for the track’s Late Models. Brooks Clark and Nick Sweet turned the feature into a duel, swapping the lead throughout the event before Clark took the top spot for the last time with an outside pass with six laps to go. Sweet held on for second, spoiling a bid at a record fifth Governor’s Cup win, with Trampas Demers third. Cody Blake was fourth and Jimmy Hebert fifth, one of only a couple Tour drivers to enter the event. NASCAR star Christopher Bell, in a team car to Nick Sweet, was ninth in his first visit to Thunder Road. Vermont Governor Phil Scott finished eighth before joining the victory celebration in his firesuit.
White Mountain Motorsports Park’s weekly Late Models ran as an undercard Saturday to the visiting PASS North SLMs, with Quinny Welch taking his fourth feature win of the year. With two straight wins at WMMP, Welch is quickly building an advantage toward an eighth track championship.
Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. went back-to-back at Star Speedway, winning his second straight feature in the track’s Late Models. Jeramee Lillie and Erick Sands completed the podium, with points leader Josh Hedges fourth. Star’s 350 Supermodifieds also took to the track for the Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 40, with Mike Collins winning the feature. Former Super Late Model aces Bobby Timmons and Brad Babb were eighth and tenth in the 17-car field.
Vinnie Arrenegado took his second feature of the year in Seekonk Speedway’s weekly Late Model program. In Seekonk’s Pro Stocks, Dylan Estrella outraced Tom Scully, Jr. and Dave Darling for his second win of the year. Ryan Kuhn, winner of the previous week’s Late Model feature, instead rolled out his Pro Stock entry, finishing seventh in the main event.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE
The Pro All Stars Series North teams are off for the weekend, but head to New Hampshire Tuesday evening for a 200-lap weeknight event at Star Speedway in Epping. The event is yet another opportunity for a driver to earn a provisional for August’s Oxford 250.