Now that D.J. Shaw has found his way back to victory lane, he seems quite content to stay there.
The five-time Pro All Stars Series North champion picked up his second straight win Saturday afternoon in PASS’ portion of Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day festivities at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in anticipation of the 61st Vermont Milk Bowl.
After going winless for the season’s first eleven races, Shaw has momentum on his side with two races in quick succession remaining to decide the championship.
The Center Harbor, N.H. racer opened the season with a fresh look, a new sponsor, and plenty of potential, but failed to find his way to the winner’s circle while shadowing rookie Max Cookson in the points standings. At Spud Speedway one week ago, Shaw put the winless season to rest at last.
Vermont’s Jimmy Hebert, the 2020 American-Canadian Tour Late Model champion and a long-time Shaw customer, showed the way early on, but recent winner Gabe Brown took charge eighteen laps in as Hebert faded back a bit. Shaw moved forward from mid-field, taking second just before halfway, but Brown was well on pace to grab his second win in the last three races.
With fifty laps remaining, though, Brown felt a shock failing, allowing Shaw to close the gap and challenge for the lead. A caution for Trevor Sanborn’s flat tire on lap 108 staged Shaw alongside Brown for a restart, and Shaw was able to shake his protege free to drive to victory.
Shaw, who won at Thunder Road in 2017 and also has an ACT Tour win at the bullring last fall, earned his 29th PASS North checkered flag and his second of the season, giving him multiple wins in five of his last six PASS seasons.
Brown, despite the bad shock, held on for second, with seven-time champion Johnny Clark third. Hebert drove back from a midrace pit stop to finish fourth, a PASS career best, with fellow front-row starter Evan Hallstrom fifth.
Championship leader Cookson was uncharacteristically out of the chase all day, finishing sixth. Joey Doiron, back in his own car after engine issues at Spud, limped to a seventh-place finish, struggling with the handling on his mount most of the day. Sanborn was eighth, a lap down after his flat tire. Bobby Therrien and Brian Whalley exited the race early but rounded out the top ten.
Jeremy Davis and early retiree Dennis Spencer, Jr. closed out a twelve-car field, typical for PASS events at Thunder Road in recent years. The track has struggled to draw large car counts for the quick Super Late Models despite their presence at Thunder Road’s bigger weekends.
Shaw’s victory leaves him 59 points out of the lead with two races remaining on the schedule, a Friday-night tilt on October 13 at Oxford Plains Speedway followed by that Sunday’s unique PASS 400 main event. The season finale will run under rules similar to the Milk Bowl itself, with three 100-lap segments crowning an overall winner based on the lowest aggregate finish.
However, Shaw has to close that gap on Cookson, the two-time and reigning Oxford track champion and a consistent performer at the flat Maine oval. Only 63 points separate Shaw from Clark, Brown and Sanborn within the top five in points. A bad night Friday could make for a challenging Sunday, and Sunday’s unique format could leave the normally-consistent challengers reeling as they make a final play for the title.
But momentum will carry a team far, and with back-to-back wins entering the home stretch, Shaw has the momentum. Now, he only needs to find the fortune.
Pro All Stars Series North PASS SLM 150
Thunder Road International Speedbowl
1. (60) D.J. Shaw
2. (47) Gabe Brown
3. (54) Johnny Clark
4. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
5. (1VT) Evan Hallstrom
6. (39) Max Cookson
7. (73D) Joey Doiron
8. (44) Trevor Sanborn
9. (5X) Bobby Therrien
10. (02) Brian Whalley
11. (09) Jeremy Davis
12. (12) Dennis Spencer, Jr.