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PASS Publishes Preliminary 2023 Super Late Model Schedule

A streamlined sixteen-race itinerary for 2023 promises to alleviate some of the travel costs that plagued New England’s top Super Late Model racers this season.

Oxford Plains Speedway will again serve as the cornerstone of PASS' schedule in 2023, with six feature events including August's Oxford 250 and the season-ending PASS 400 Weekend in October. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The pieces are falling into place for New England’s touring racing calendar in 2023.

Pro All Stars Series officials released a preliminary schedule for their touring Super Late Models and PASS Modifieds, giving a bit more definition to next year’s racing outlook.

And while some details have yet to be finalized, racers can begin to plan for the season ahead.

The new PASS itinerary has been explicitly crafted with travel in mind. In a press release, series president Tom Mayberry acknowledged the need for breathing room on the schedule for teams to prepare between events. “We really tried to keep an eye on the travel as we made the schedule,” he said. “We are very happy with a streamlined 2023.”

The resulting schedule is similar to this year’s, yet feels pared back in subtle ways. Eighteen individual races are booked for the season, but only sixteen are likely to count toward the PASS North championship, two fewer than the ambitious 2022 schedule.

The two “wildcard” races are the season openers, with PASS kicking off its year in North Carolina in mid-March. Hickory Motor Speedway will host PASS and the American-Canadian Tour Late Models for back-to-back doubleheaders on Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18. This year’s Friday feature will be run under the “St. Patrick’s Day 150” moniker instead, with Saturday’s race maintaining PASS’ Easter Bunny 150 tradition.

The Hickory doubleheader opens the PASS National Championship schedule, while the PASS North schedule begins in earnest with the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. The series’ fast start continues two weeks later with the third Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where PASS and ACT will headline a busy Saturday of short-track racing on the “Magic Mile.”

April 23 marks the first of six races at PASS’ home venue, Oxford Plains Speedway in western Maine. After another week off, PASS rejoins the ACT Tour at Vermont’s legendary Thunder Road International Speedbowl. For the first time since 2019, PASS will run two races at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement,” helping to open the season for the historic quarter-mile.

Lee USA Speedway returns to the PASS calendar in 2023. Joey Doiron picked up the win in the series’ last visit to “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed” in 2021. (STS/Jeff Brown)

White Mountain Motorsports Park hosts the first of three PASS visits on May 20, with the touring cars featured on the New Hampshire oval’s opening day. The series returns to Oxford for the sixth race of the season on June 4, but the rest of the month of June is a clean slate, offering opportunities for teams to prepare for the summer rush and for PASS to potentially fit in a rain date.

The season resumes on July 2 with the annual trip to Spud Speedway in Caribou, Me., a race that serves as a regional fundraiser for the food banks of Aroostook County. A third visit to Oxford awaits on July 9, this time as part of a Sunday double feature with the ACT Tour.

Next on the schedule is the annual summer stop at WMMP, but instead of running on the track’s typical Saturday evening, the entire program has been moved to Friday, July 14. July’s event shares a weekend with the annual NASCAR Cup Series visit to nearby NHMS. The Saturday schedule at NHMS regularly ends close to dusk, well after WMMP’s post time, leaving fans little time to drive north for a nightcap. A Friday-night feature allows fans to add short track racing to their weekend plans, while also giving racers more freedom to be fans themselves on Saturday and Sunday.

A busy month ends with PASS’ only weeknight show of 2023 and the series’ only visit to the commonwealth of Massachusetts, with Seekonk Speedway hosting the big-dollar Bay State Classic on Wednesday, July 26. Eventual champion Ryan Kuhn won last year’s race, pocketing $10,000 and establishing himself as a title threat.

An early-August bout at Oxford Plains Speedway serves as a final tuneup for the next race on the schedule, the 50th Annual Oxford 250 on August 27. The late-summer weekend has worked well for PASS and the 250 for several years, and this year’s gold anniversary will carry on the modern tradition for the region’s richest Super Late Model race.

Four more races remain on the calendar to determine the PASS champion. After a one-year absence, Lee USA Speedway returns to the PASS schedule with a Sunday race on September 10. The date is intriguing; since 2020, Lee has been trying to establish the Freedom 300, a multi-division event featuring a Pro Stock/Super Late Model open-competition race, as an annual event. Lee has not announced its complete 2023 schedule, but it seems unlikely the track would host two features for the same class on the same weekend. Therefore, PASS could become the main attraction of the 2023 Freedom 300.

PASS teams up with ACT for the next two dates on the schedule. ACT’s Fall Foliage 200 at WMMP will again feature the PASS Super Late Models for their own 150-lap contest, with this year’s one-day program planned from the start. A condensed schedule also seems to be in mind for Thunder Road’s annual Vermont Milk Bowl two weeks later. After years of anchoring Friday’s program, PASS will now race on Saturday along with qualifying rounds for Sunday’s $10,000-to-win Late Model showdown.

The season ends at home with the return of the PASS 400 Weekend at Oxford Plains Speedway for the first time since 2019. Hosted for years by the now-defunct Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, the PASS 400 Weekend was anchored at the time by a 300-lap Super Late Model feature, the longest PASS North event of the year. Oxford’s 2019 PASS 400 featured a more-routine 150-lap main event, which is the more likely strategy for the 2023 finale. Season-ending features for the PASS Modifieds, New England Supermodified Series and other divisions will round out the 400-lap feature program.

Some details have yet to be confirmed, chief among them the breakdown of PASS’ National Championship schedule and the North/South loyalty bonuses introduced for 2021. The season-opening events at Hickory Motor Speedway are the only races explicitly earmarked as National Championship events so far, and PASS will likely designate a subset of marquee races from the rest of the year to comprise the National Championship.

The omission of Thompson’s Sunoco World Series, as with the previously-announced ACT Tour schedule, is particularly noteworthy. PASS and ACT co-sanction racing at Thompson, and while ACT-rules Late Models will surely have a feature at the World Series, there is no weekly or non-touring Super Late Model alternative. The result is a gap not only on the PASS schedule, but on a World Series card that includes most of New England’s oval-track disciplines.

PASS has explicitly blocked out the weekend as a makeup date “if necessary,” which lends itself to speculation that the World Series could be added back to the PASS itinerary at a later date, particularly if another race is rained out altogether.

Perhaps PASS is also concerned about forcing teams into back-to-back-to-back camping weekends at Thunder Road’s Milk Bowl, Thompson’s World Series, and the season-ending PASS 400 Weekend. All three weekends are about the end-of-year party almost as much as they are about the racing. Three of those in a row flies in the face of reducing travel costs for teams, even if one is a home game of sorts.

The end result is a sixteen-race PASS North schedule that, while still the most ambitious touring regimen of New England’s three Late Model/Super Late Model series, sticks just a bit closer to home than last year’s itinerary.

Missing from the new schedule is the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, which hosted the season finale in 2022. The race was PASS’ first visit ever to the track in a late-season addition to the schedule. (STS/Jeff Brown)

It is easy to criticize the new schedule because it lacks the diversity of a series that, for many fans, serves as a spiritual successor to NASCAR’s long-defunct Busch North Series. Gone are last year’s events at Stafford Motor Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Thompson and Seekonk are down to one event each. A second date at Thunder Road seems risky given the struggles of filling fields in past events there. Nine of the season’s sixteen PASS North events will be split between two tracks, Oxford and WMMP.

But even upper-echelon racing in New England is a blue-collar affair. The stresses of the travel-heavy schedule were evident in this year’s points chase, with only three teams attempting every PASS North race. Reschedulings, postponements and personal commitments away from the track took series stalwarts like Johnny Clark and DJ Shaw out of the title hunt before halfway, and a negated drop-race rule eliminated an anticipated mulligan for others. Travel expenses, record fuel costs, and the scarcity of parts all conspired to make touring racing a challenge for PASS’ family-owned, family-backed operations.

By contrast, at least 36 cars took the green in all but one of Oxford’s PASS features in 2022, reflecting Maine’s healthy base of Super Late Model competitors. Oxford is one of only four New England tracks that have a Super Late Model or Pro Stock class. Two of the four, Maine’s Wiscasset Speedway and Lee in New Hampshire, are a little more than an hour from Oxford. Lee, in its first year of a revived Pro Stock class, drew nearly thirty entries for September’s Freedom 300, many of those taking advantage of a touring off-weekend.

The fourth, Seekonk, has a strong weekly Pro Stock class of its own. But while that bolsters the PASS fields at Seekonk, few of those competitors venture to the quick Connecticut tracks, too.

A slimmer schedule, then, makes sense for many PASS’ regular competitors. And by eliminating four of the longest road trips, two of which fall late in the season when budgets are stretched thin, PASS makes it easier for those on the fence to step up from running most of the touring races to running all of them.

And that makes for a better championship battle not just in October, but throughout the year.

DATETRACKLOCATIONSERIESLAPSWINNER
March 17Hickory Motor SpeedwayHickory, NC150
March 18Hickory Motor SpeedwayHickory, NC150
April 1Thompson Speedway Motorsports ParkThompson, CT75
April 15New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayLoudon, NH50
April 23Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford, ME150
May 6Thunder Road International SpeedbowlBarre, VT150
May 20White Mountain Motorsports ParkNorth Woodstock, NH150
June 4Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford, ME150
July 2Spud SpeedwayCaribou, ME150
July 9Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford, ME150
July 14White Mountain Motorsports ParkNorth Woodstock, NH150
July 26Seekonk SpeedwaySeekonk, MA150
August 6Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford, ME150
August 27Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford, ME250
September 10Lee USA SpeedwayLee, NH150
September 16White Mountain Motorsports ParkNorth Woodstock, NH150
September 30Thunder Road International SpeedbowlBarre, VT150
October 15Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford, ME150

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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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