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New England Notebook: PASS shakes up mid-season schedule, Helliwell steals WMMP glory

PASS Star 150 5/2019
With temperatures expected to approach 100°, a Tuesday-night PASS feature at Star Speedway was called off earlier this week. A replacement date has not been confirmed. (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.

PASS NORTH: SUMMER HEAT, TIMING SHAKE UP MID-SUMMER SCHEDULE

In a span of forty-eight hours, two separate announcements put a hold on two of the next three events on the Pro All Stars Series North calendar, forcing teams into a quick adjustment of their plans leading into the Oxford 250.

The first move was made Monday, when PASS and Star Speedway announced that Tuesday night’s PASS 200 would be postponed. With temperatures forecast to reach 100°, and the heat index similarly excessive, officials from both the sanctioning body and the track decided to call the race early. A new race date will be selected, but has not yet been announced.

Indeed, temperatures at the scheduled start time for heat races still hovered in the mid-nineties.

PASS attempted a midweek show at Star two years ago, running as a Thursday-night preamble to New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s July NASCAR weekend. Rain on Thursday forced the feature to be postponed to Star’s usual Saturday night, impacting both fan and competitor attendance.

The second announcement came on Tuesday, with PASS’ Tom Mayberry and Speedway 51 promoter Dick Williams postponing the tour’s appearance at Speedway 51 in Groveton, N.H. on August 10th. The feature at the track in New Hampshire’s Great North Woods had already been postponed from its original May date due to rain.

Williams cited the timing of the rescheduled event, noting its close proximity to the Oxford 250, and expressed a desire to ensure the best possible show both for Speedway 51 and the 250 two weeks later. Given that the date of the 250 was a known quantity, the rationale seems a bit odd.

PASS quickly filled the vacancy on the schedule with a race at Oxford that Sunday, August 11th, giving teams a final race-trim shakedown before the 250.

Skeptics have noted that there is a major Pro Late Model race scheduled the same weekend at Jennerstown Speedway in western Pennsylvania. With the $10,000-to-win event catching the eye of a few PASS teams, perhaps PASS and Speedway 51 wanted to eliminate a potential conflict. However, a Sunday-evening points race still poses an issue for traveling teams, as the distance between Jennerstown and Oxford would be difficult to cover.

Based on last year’s pre-250 PASS shows at Oxford, the Sunday event will likely draw better than nearly any other track in the area, so the move will likely prove to be a win for the sanctioning body, particularly to build momentum heading into the 250.

WEEKLY RACING: HELLIWELL PICKS UP GOVERNOR’S CUP WIN AT WMMP, GERRY FINDING HIS OXFORD 250 FORM

Thunder Road International Speedbowl reached the midpoint of its season last Thursday night, with Kyle Pembroke holding off three-time winner Scott Dragon for his second feature win of the season. Despite finishing second, Dragon moved to the top of the heap in a tight five-way race for the season championship.

A week before welcoming the American-Canadian Tour Late Models for their longest feature of the year, White Mountain Motorsports Park hosted the 150-lap New Hampshire Governor’s Cup for its Late Model program. Vermont’s Joel Hodgdon spent a mid-race stint at the head of the field and looked like a surprise winner. But overheating problems took Hodgdon out of contention and handed the lead to a visiting Wayne Helliwell, Jr. Helliwell, who had been knocked out of a few races this season with mechanical gremlins, held on for the victory against Stephen Donahue and Jesse Switser. Oren Remick and Quinny Welch rounded out the top five. Helliwell’s appearance itself was a surprise; he and car owner Bruce Bernhardt only made the decision Friday evening to attempt the race.

Oxford Plains Speedway’s Saturday-night features are starting to look a lot more like Oxford 250 season is in play. Curtis Gerry outdueled veteran Tim Brackett and sophomore Austin Teras for his third feature of the season, padding his points lead in the process. Gerry has wins in the last two PASS-sanctioned events at the track as well. Former PASS semi-regular Kyle Desouza, now calling North Carolina home, finished fourth, with Alan Wilson fifth. Jeff Taylor (eighth), Jake Johnson (ninth), and Reid Lanpher (20th) were among the non-regulars in the field.

Veteran Mike Rowe won his third feature of the year at Beech Ridge, beating Travis Buzzell and Nick Cusack for the checkers. Rowe sits fifth in the standings, with David Oliver nursing a lead over Dave Farrington and Trevor Sanborn.

Seekonk Speedway celebrated a ninth different feature winner in its Late Model class in 2019, with Bobby Tripp holding off Mark Hudson and Dan Johnson for the win Saturday night. Charlie Rose, one of Star’s regulars, returned to Seekonk with a seventh-place finish in the 18-car feature. Variety was not the order of the day in the Pro Stocks, with David Darling winning his fifth race of the year over Dylan Estrella and Ryan Vanasse. Darling and Estrella have each won two of the last four weekly features at the Cement Palace.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

The touring teams of both the American-Canadian Tour and the Pro All Stars Series are heading north this weekend.

The ACT Late Models return to action for the first time in a month with Saturday night’s Midsummer 250 at White Mountain Motorsports Park. The longest race of the year promises a $10,000 winner’s check.

The PASS North teams will head to Caribou, Maine’s Spud Speedway, racing Sunday afternoon in the second annual Firecracker 200. The Super Late Models will run 150 laps with the PASS Modifieds taking part in a 50-lap support event.

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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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