When DJ Shaw’s father Dale won his only NASCAR Busch North Series championship in 1994, he managed the feat despite not winning a race through the season.
On the cusp of his fifth Pro All Stars Series crown, the younger Shaw no longer has that weight hanging over him.
Shaw seized the lead on a lap-42 restart and kept big-track specialist Eddie MacDonald in his rear-view mirror en route to his first win of the 2020 PASS season in Sunday’s Super Late Model main event, as part of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing.
“Two in a row at Thompson’s pretty sweet,” Shaw said in victory lane. “We were winless coming in, and I had this one circled on the calendar.”
Shaw started out front, survived a mid-race scare from MacDonald, and coasted home to his twentieth PASS North win in front of the Connecticut oval’s half-capacity crowd.
“[MacDonald] got me there in lapped traffic,” Shaw said, “and I actually learned a little bit following him.”
The Center Conway, N.H. driver started alongside Maine’s Brandon Barker for the 75-lap feature. When Barker’s car stumbled on the start, Shaw took off with the lead, building a quick advantage over MacDonald and a surprising Mike Scorzelli.
MacDonald, winless in the PASS ranks since last June’s New England Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, was looking to end his own winless streak at a very familiar venue. MacDonald began chipping away at Shaw’s lead as the two closed in on lapped traffic.
“The Outlaw” made his move on lap 24, diving to the inside line in turn one while a lapped car slowed down Shaw. Shaw slipped back to second while MacDonald, the winner of last fall’s Granite State Pro Stock Series bout at Thompson, drove off with the race lead.
After a long run of green-flag racing, Scorzelli spun in turn four, drawing the race’s first caution on lap 42 and erasing MacDonald’s lead over Shaw. A spin by Daryl Stampfl on the restart reset the grid, with MacDonald lining up on the inside for the green flag.
Shaw used the high line to his advantage, jumping out to the lead while MacDonald found new challengers in Derek Ramstrom, Ray Christian III and Johnny Clark. MacDonald battled the three black cars and ultimately shook them free, reclaiming second place.
But Shaw had built a respectable lead, and while MacDonald distanced himself from the third-place battle, he could not close in enough to make a run at Shaw for the win.
Shaw’s victory was his first PASS win since last August, at Spud Speedway in northern Maine. Shaw won last year’s PASS visit to Thompson at the season-opening Icebreaker in April.
MacDonald notched his best run of the year, and a satisfying rebound from an early crash in the GSPSS-sanctioned Oktoberfest feature at Lee USA Speedway last weekend. MacDonald was the second native of Rowley, Mass. to score a runner-up finish on Sunday, with Christopher Perley opening the afternoon with a second-place finish in the ISMA Supermodified feature.
GSPSS title hopeful Ray Christian III drove a strong race to finish third, his best outing with PASS this season and matching his career best from last season. Derek Ramstrom finished fourth, with Oxford 250 winner Johnny Clark rounding out the top five.
The back half of the top ten included a series of feel-good stories, starting with Ben Rowe, who shook off recent big-track struggles to post a solid sixth-place finish. Seventh was Cory Casagrande, who started deep in the field after being wrecked out of his qualifying heat on Saturday. Casagrande’s team thrashed to rebuild the rear end of the car, even returning to their shop to pick up spare parts to finish the job. Gabe Brown started last after a pre-race weight penalty, but finished eighth. Brandon Barker rebounded from transmission trouble to finish ninth. And rookie Kate Re started fifth, then drove a smart race to come home with her first top-ten finish in a Super Late Model.
Shaw’s win cements his status as the late-season championship favorite with two races left on the schedule. Not that the four-time and defending champion has been out of the mix this year. Shaw has managed a more-than-respectable title defense, with only two finishes outside the top ten and five second-place finishes. Four of those runner-up results came to Vermont’s Nick Sweet, who leads the series with five feature wins. The fifth was to Joey Doiron, who fields cars built at Shaw’s family operation.
Sweet, whose title hopes were torpedoed by back-to-back engine failures late this summer, was not at Thompson. Doiron was in the pits working with Gabe Brown.
Remarkably, Shaw’s win was the first victory for any of New England’s three reigning touring Late Model champions in their respective series. American-Canadian Tour champion Rich Dubeau was winless before going on hiatus after the untimely passing of brother and crew chief David in August. Doiron, last year’s GSPSS champion, remains winless in a part-time capacity. But like Doiron, Shaw has an extracurricular win, picking up a GSPSS trophy this summer at Monadnock Speedway.
Shaw will attempt to put the finishing touches on two championship battles this weekend at Oxford Plains Speedway. The American-Canadian Tour Late Models will settle their season Saturday afternoon with 150 laps, followed by the first of two PASS Super Late Model features for the weekend. Sunday’s second leg of the PASS doubleheader will crown the champion.
Unofficial Results, PASS Sunoco World Series 75 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park:
1. (60) DJ Shaw
2. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
3. (93CT) Ray Christian III
4. (35) Derek Ramstrom
5. (54) Johnny Clark
6. (4) Ben Rowe
7. (7CT) Cory Casagrande
8. (47) Gabe Brown
9. (88) Brandon Barker
10. (10) Kate Re
11. (47M) Kelly Moore
12. (7) Travis Benjamin
13. (18L) John Lowinski-Loh
14. (39) Nick Lascuola
15. (99) Ben Ashline
16. (18) Mike Scorzelli
17. (1) Daryl Stampfl
18. (40RI) Mike Mitchell
19. (14C) Anthony Constantino
20. (22RI) Mark Jenison
21. (14) Scott McDaniel
DNS (21NY) Brandon Turbush