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Sweet flexes SLM muscle in second 2020 PASS win

Nick Sweet Oxford 250 2019
Nick Sweet shows the way early in last year's Oxford 250. The Vermonter has taken a liking to the storied Maine oval, with a PASS win last August and his victory in Sunday's Coastal Auto Parts 150. (Jeff Brown archive photo)

When ACT Late Model veteran Nick Sweet made the leap to a Super Late Model in 2017, it seemed like the two-time Thunder Road track champion had found the challenge he was looking for. Since then, it seems that the Barre, Vt. racer has figured it out.

Sweet took the lead late in Sunday’s Coastal Auto Parts 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway, and held on for his second Pro All Stars Series North win of 2020.

Starting 11th courtesy of his win in the season opener at White Mountain Motorsports Park, Sweet drove into the top five only twenty-five laps into the race. But for the first hundred laps, the show belonged to local racer Corey Bubar, who looked like he was on track to score his first career PASS victory in an upset.

Bubar, a regular at nearby Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me., took the lead from polesitter Curtis Gerry early on, leaving the former Beech Ridge track champion and reigning Oxford Super Late Model champ to fend off charges from Dave Farrington and Eddie MacDonald. MacDonald, a multi-time PASS feature winner, took second from Gerry with 45 laps complete, but Bubar was able to use lapped traffic to keep “The Outlaw” at bay.

Sweet joined the top-three battle shortly after halfway, using the lapped car of Andy Saunders as a pick to move to second. On lap 105, Sweet tried to play lapped traffic to his advantage again, but Bubar was able to hold onto the lead as a yellow flag flew for Josh Childs’ spin in turn one.

MacDonald pressured Sweet and Bubar for the top spot on the restart, but Sweet moved to the high line, getting back past MacDonald and taking the lead from Bubar on lap 113. Travis Benjamin followed Sweet’s lead to advance to second.

Fresh off his second-place finish in the American-Canadian Tour half of the afternoon’s double-feature, DJ Shaw put the moves on Benjamin with fewer than ten laps remaining. The defending PASS North champion secured the runner-up spot, but Sweet drove away from Shaw in the closing laps to earn his fifth career PASS North win.

Sweet, who won the 2016 ACT Tour championship, debuted his Super Late Model that following April as he and Mad Dog Motorsports moved to PASS competition full-time. A crash six races into the season destroyed the team’s new car and sidelined them for the rest of the season. A blown motor two laps into the 2018 season was a preview of things to come, as the team struggled to crack the top ten all year.

That fall, though, Sweet broke through in a big way, scoring a dominant win at Thunder Road in the PASS prelude to the annual Milk Bowl. A third-place finish in the season finale at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway built momentum for a 2019 campaign that yielded wins at Oxford and Thunder Road and ten top-ten finishes in sixteen starts. Despite missing a race for a family commitment, Sweet ended the year fifth in points.

DJ Shaw, the only driver to perform double-duty, earned his second second-place finish of the afternoon and matched his best PASS outing in three starts so far. Three-time and defending Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin finished a promising third, with Jake Johnson coming on strong in the closing laps to place fourth. Eddie MacDonald finished fifth.

Maine’s Scott McDaniel was a career-best sixth, ahead of PASS veterans Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark. Ryan Robbins climbed from the back of the field to finish ninth, while early leader Bubar rounded out the top ten.

Eighteen of the 33 starters finished on the lead lap, while 25 cars saw the checkered flag a week after attrition decimated the field at White Mountain Motorsports Park. Championship hopefuls Garrett Hall and Gabe Brown had uneventful days in the middle of the field. Local favorite Gerry pitted from the top five with only 45 laps to go, parking his car shortly afterwards.

Gerry, Josh Childs, Dave Farrington and Sweet earned heat race wins, with Gabe Brown and Johnny Clark prevailing in the two consis.

Last year’s title runner-up, Derek Griffith, was not in attendance, as he turns his focus to an opportunity in racing’s big leagues. Strong runs for Shaw and Benjamin, plus Sweet’s victory, will likely make them the early favorites for the title. With most of the PASS schedule still pending changes in pandemic recovery, it may take several weeks to sort out the true contenders to derail Shaw’s run at a third-straight PASS North championship.

The pursuit of the 2020 season commences Friday night at White Mountain Motorsports Park, which will host its third PASS race of the season as part of a two-night doubleheader with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. With tracks in New Hampshire still limited on fan capacity for public events, live streaming coverage will be available for purchase through Northeast Sports Network.

Unofficial Results, PASS North Coastal Auto Parts 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway:
1. (40VT) Nick Sweet
2. (60) DJ Shaw
3. (7) Travis Benjamin
4. (15MA) Jake Johnson
5. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
6. (14) Scott McDaniel
7. (4) Ben Rowe
8. (54) Johnny Clark
9. (36) Ryan Robbins
10. (12) Corey Bubar
11. (23) Dave Farrington, Jr.
12. (44) Rusty Poland
13. (72) Scott Robbins
14. (81) Dan Winter
15. (9T) Alan Tardiff
16. (94) Garrett Hall
17. (60B) Tim Brackett
18. (M3) Brandon Barker
19. (32) Derek Ramstrom
20. (29S) Trevor Sanborn
21. (50) Jeff White
22. (47) Gabe Brown
23. (10) Kate Re
24. (99) Ben Ashline
25. (80) Andy Saunders
26. (24) Mike Rowe
27. (1) Kyle DeSouza
28. (7G) Curtis Gerry
29. (3C) Josh Childs
30. (75) Gary Smith
31. (21) Joey Doiron
32. (15) Mike Hopkins
33. (18) Michael Scorzelli
DNS (61) TJ Brackett

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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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