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New England Notebook: Midsummer Classic Weekend takes over at WMMP, Hopkins wins Motor Mountain Masters

DJ Shaw (#60), Nick Sweet (#40) and Ben Rowe (#4) did double-duty at White Mountain Motorsports Park in this weekend's Midsummer Classic races. Shaw did the best of the three in Saturday's ACT feature won by Dillon Moltz, while Sweet topped Shaw on Sunday in the PASS feature. (Jeff Brown 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: MOLTZ DRIVES OFF ON OLD TIRES TO WIN $10,000 MIDSUMMER CLASSIC 250

Almost three years to the day after his last American-Canadian Tour victory, Dillon Moltz found his way back to an ACT Tour victory lane at White Mountain Motorsports Park. But this time, he did so in the season’s longest race, taking the $10,000 winner’s share of the second annual Midsummer Classic 250.

And the New Sharon, Me. driver did so on a single set of tires, even turning some of his fastest laps in the closing stint.

RECAP: Moltz outlasts ACT field for $10,000 Midsummer Classic victory

Moltz started sixteenth, picking his way to the top five by a lap-74 caution, which served as the race’s mandatory fuel stop. After battling DJ Shaw and Bryan Kruczek through the middle stages, a lap-158 yellow flag provided the opportunity many leaders had waited for to get fresh tires. While Shaw, early leader Ryan Kuhn and Nick Sweet came in for tires, Moltz and Kruczek remained on the track.

Kruczek and Jimmy Hebert battled past Moltz on the restart, but Moltz’s carefully-managed American Racers came back to him after a few laps, as he not only got past the frontrunners but proceeded to drive away from them in the final 67-lap green-flag cycle.

Hebert, who tried the same tire strategy in last year’s 250, was second with Jason Corliss climbing to third in the closing laps. Scott Payea, making his first ACT Tour start in 2020, was fourth, with Bryan Kruczek recording his best finish of a challenging year in fifth.

Shaw, who led the Tour points entering the weekend, was unable to make any ground on new tires, losing a lap and finishing tenth.

Reigning champion Rich Dubeau opted to skip the WMMP event on a somber note, following the passing of his brother and crew chief David. Saturday’s race was the first Tour event without Dubeau since his rookie season in 2015.

Still, a strong 34-car field arrived at the track for the fourth race of the pandemic-delayed season. Surprises in the field included four-time Pro All Stars Series North champion Ben Rowe, in his first Tour start since 2013, and Moltz, who had only run one other ACT event in 2020 since his runner-up finish in points in 2017. PASS regular Nick Sweet, a former ACT Tour champion, brought along car owner Eric Chase’s #40VT Late Model as well.

Rowe, in his first race in the all-new Tour car for Richard Moody Racing, ran well but dropped out early and finished 21st. Nick Sweet had pitted on lap 158 and was coming back through the field when a wayward lapped car clipped his left front, ending his night on lap 183. Rowe and Sweet would join Shaw in Sunday’s PASS race.

Corliss, Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. and Rowe won the evening’s heats, with Stephen Donahue and Jimmy Hebert picking up consi wins. Bryan Kruczek won the eleven-car B-feature, with Star Speedway regular Robby Gordon Douglas coming out on top of a physical battle with Scott Coburn for the last transfer position. As the checkers flew, officials penalized Douglas for aggressive driving, giving Coburn the transfer spot and sending the young racer home early. David MacDonald, Reilly Lanphear and Trent Goodrow also missed the field.

Ryan Kuhn was awarded the pole through the ACT plus-minus system. Derek Gluchacki was slated to start second, but after taking too long to answer the call, he was gridded at the rear with Christopher Pelkey inheriting the outside of the front row. Kuhn was dominant early on, but a lapped car threw a block on a restart that sent Kuhn backwards. The sophomore never recovered, finishing eighth after leading the first 65 laps of the race.

Jimmy Hebert’s second-place finish vaulted him to the top of the championship standings with a 15-point lead over DJ Shaw, who remains mum about his plans for an ACT Tour title chase. Kuhn sits third in points with Christopher Pelkey and Dylan Payea a distant fourth and fifth. Only 33 points separate Pelkey from tenth-place Bryan Kruczek, leaving plenty of time and plenty of opportunity for movement in the top ten.

With four races complete, eleven drivers have taken the green flag in all four, while another four have attempted all four events. Hebert is the only championship contender with a win thus far.

The ACT Tour heads north this Saturday to Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., racing at the track for the first time since former ACT Tour and Thunder Road veteran Joey Laquerre sold the track last fall. Saturday night’s Gardiner & June Leavitt 150 was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

PASS: SWEET WINS FOURTH OF THE YEAR IN MIDSUMMER CLASSIC 150

Only a few hours after the ACT Midsummer Classic 250 checkered flag had flown, the pits were re-sorted with a new array of haulers for Sunday afternoon’s half of the weekend double-feature. For the fourth time in 2020, the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Models were the featured attraction at White Mountain Motorsports Park.

And for the fourth time in 2020, Nick Sweet was celebrating a PASS victory at the race’s conclusion.

Sweet powered past DJ Shaw on a restart with eleven laps remaining to take his third win of the year at WMMP, his fifth PASS win on a quarter-mile track, and his seventh career win in the Super Late Model touring ranks.

RECAP: Sweet savors fourth PASS win of 2020 in Midsummer Classic

Before Sweet’s inevitable march to victory, it had been a Shaw-dominated afternoon on two fronts. Joey Doiron, driving a new Dale Shaw Race Cars chassis for car owner Wright Pearson, took the lead from polesitter Ben Ashline early. A mid-race caution closed the gap between Doiron and DJ Shaw, though, and on the restart Doiron’s car faded quickly, with Shaw and Sweet moving past to settle the lead between themselves.

Sweet kept Shaw honest, but the defending PASS champion broke free through traffic. Buoyed by the confidence of a Granite State Pro Stock Series win a week before, Shaw was hunting for his first PASS win in just over a year. A lap-131 caution gave Sweet a shot, but Shaw kept the points leader at bay until the final caution flew for Ben Rowe’s flat tire.

Shaw held on for second, his third runner-up result of the year, and all three coming to Nick Sweet.

Jeremy Davis, who earned a podium spot earlier in the year at WMMP, finished a strong third, with Ben Ashline fourth and Derek Ramstrom fifth in his own #35. Rowe charged through the field after a tire change to finish sixth after running in the top four all afternoon. Early leader Doiron finished a lap back in 11th.

Twenty-one cars made up a rather diverse field for the season’s seventh race. With Seekonk Speedway cancelling their Saturday-night card abruptly, Dylan Estrella, Tom Scully, Jr. and Craig Weinstein headed north, with Estrella making his second career PASS start. GSPSS rookie Cody LeBlanc made his PASS debut at his home track, a year after running Late Models on a weekly basis. Doiron, who had planned to run Pearson’s car in a GSPSS race to rest his own family team, was a surprise entry after running two races with another team at Oxford Plains Speedway. Anthony Constantino, who raced the night before in a Late Model at Bangor, Maine’s Speedway 95, made his second PASS start of 2020.

Little changed atop the PASS points standings, with Nick Sweet padding his points lead over Travis Benjamin and DJ Shaw. Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe round out the top five, with Gabe Brown not too far behind. Nine drivers have made every race thus far this season.

The next trip on the PASS schedule is a visit to Oxford Plains Speedway, the final points-paying tuneup for the teams before the Oxford 250. Nick Sweet is the defending winner of the prelude to the 250; Sweet’s fourth win of the season came at the series’ home track back in June.

MOTOR MOUNTAIN MASTERS: HOPKINS TAKES $10,000 WIN IN THIRD ANNUAL PLM EVENT

While points were on the line for drivers throughout New England, a number of drivers without the constraints of championships headed west for the third annual Motor Mountain Masters at the Jennerstown Speedway Complex. And after coming agonizingly close last year, Mike Hopkins dominated the Pro Late Model race’s second two stages en route to the victory, a $10,000 check and the trademark red sportcoat.

RECAP: Hopkins takes top honors in third annual Motor Mountain Masters

Hopkins swapped the lead with polesitter Albert Francis, but he was unstoppable after the race’s first stage break, with only fellow PASS veteran Derek Griffith challenging for the win. Griffith faltered late after another car made contact with him, but he held on for fifth at the line.

Devin O’Connell, running the #85 on his car as a tribute, finished seventh, while fellow Granite State Pro Stock Series contender Cory Casagrande limped home eighth after running in the top four late.

A number of other New England names had been on the entry list, but with the season’s point-paying schedules rearranged in the wake of the pandemic, many opted instead to stick with the regional championships over the road trip to western Pennsylvania.

Hopkins, who had the longest drive to Jennerstown, made his trip well worth it.

WEEKLY RACING: FARRINGTON, SANBORN TOP BUSY SLM WEEKEND WITH ACT CARS ON THE ROAD

Dave Farrington, Jr. took the lead from Scott Robbins and led the final sixteen laps of Saturday night’s Super Late Model feature at Oxford Plains Speedway, earning his second-straight feature victory in 2020. Shawn Martin was third. Brandon Barker finished eighth, with early-season PASS challenger Alan Tardiff tenth. Curtis Gerry’s eleventh-place result handed the track points lead to Farrington, who holds a one-point advantage in the season standings.

At Farrington’s usual weekly haunt, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, the few fans allowed to attend were treated to a thrill show as Trevor Sanborn held off a last-lap charge by Rusty Poland to win his second BRMS open Pro Series race of the year. Reigning Maine NASCAR champion David Oliver was third. Behind them, a smattering of drivers turned out to get some laps in prior to this weekend’s Granite State Pro Stock Series appearance at the track. Former PASS feature winner and BRMS graduate Garrett Hall was sixth, Seekonk Speedway standout David Darling was seventh, Ray Christian III was ninth and Joey Doiron tenth. Wyatt Alexander finished deep in the field and was left scrambling to get his car ready for the next week.

Nick Reno drove to victory at Wiscasset Speedway, becoming the track’s first Pro Stock winner of the season after a very late start.

While the region’s Super Late Models had a busy Saturday, tracks that hosted ACT-style Late Models were idle in deference to the big Tour show at White Mountain Motorsports Park. The sole exception was Connecticut’s New London-Waterford Speedbowl, which opened this past weekend after sitting idle through last season. The track’s reopening festivities included a Late Model feature that drew some of the Seekonk and Thompson regulars. Jason Palmer won the race with Ryan Lineham third, Ryan Morgan fifth, Tyler Tomassi seventh and Mike Benevides ninth in the 11-car field.

The popular class was back in action Thursday night at Thunder Road, though, with Stephen Donahue taking his second career T-Road Late Model win over a hard-charging Bobby Therrien. Christopher Pelkey, a few days removed from a strong run at WMMP, came home third. Jason Corliss finished fifth and took the points lead from Marcel Gravel, who went out early with suspension problems.

With last week’s announcement of racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, ACT-style Late Models have been added to the schedule for the Wednesday, September 2 show featuring the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. ACT Late Models have been a weekly staple at Thompson for the last few years.

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Granite State Pro Stock Series races this afternoon at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, in the series’ first visit to the track and their first visit to Maine since 2017.

The American-Canadian Tour will be in action at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. for the rescheduled running of the Gardiner & June Leavitt Memorial 150.

The Pro All Stars Series will race Sunday afternoon at Oxford Plains Speedway in their final preparation for the Oxford 250.

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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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