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New England Notebook: Belsito capitalizes with GSPSS win at Hudson, ACT juggles schedule

Gabe Brown vs DJ Shaw, Hudson 2020
Gabe Brown (#47) and DJ Shaw (#60) were late entries in last Sunday's GSPSS-sanctioned Gate City Classic at Hudson (N.H.) Speedway. Understudy Brown finished sixth while Shaw dropped out a few laps from the end. (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.

GSPSS: BELSITO PUTS IT ALL TOGETHER IN GATE CITY CLASSIC

Ever since taking the checkered flag in September’s D.A.V. Fall Classic at Seekonk Speedway, Angelo Belsito has been atop the Granite State Pro Stock Series speed charts. And in the two first races of 2020, the Auburn, Mass. native spent a fair amount of time in the top three. However, despite being in the top spot in the closing laps in both races, Belsito only had a third-place finish to show for his efforts.

Last Sunday night at Hudson Speedway, Belsito outdueled the hometown favorite and held off a challenger on a three-race winning streak to win his second GSPSS race in the annual Gate City Classic 100 at Hudson (N.H.) Speedway.

RECAP: Stars align for Belsito in GSPSS Gate City Classic victory

Belsito started ninth after the pre-race redraw, but made quick work of the field as he chased down early leader Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., the defending race winner. “Joey Pole” was faster on restarts, but on lap 37 Belsito kept the veteran driver honest, getting past Polewarczyk to take a lead he would never relinquish.

Even as Belsito pulled away, he managed his equipment, trying to save something for a potential late-race restart. But with an incident-free sprint to the finish, Belsito only had to navigate a minefield of lapped traffic to keep Polewarczyk and Ray Christian III at bay.

With three laps left, a lapped car slowed down the frontstretch and drifted high to exit the track in turn one, cutting directly in front of Belsito and a pack of lapped cars. Fortunately, they cleared the pitting car without incident, and Belsito was free to coast home to the victory.

Ray Christian III slipped past Polewarczyk with forty laps left and ran down Belsito in traffic, but was unable to get himself in position to make a move, finishing not too far behind in second. Polewarczyk, whose car loosened up in the final run, held on for third. Despite starting the year with three top-five runs, Pole’s winless streak mirrors his first three GSPSS outings, all of which he won.

Wayne Helliwell, Jr. was fourth at the line, with Devin O’Connell fifth. Gabe Brown, a last-minute entrant to the field, finished sixth with Jake Matheson seventh. Nick Lascuola, making his first GSPSS start since October, finished eighth. After an early dust-up that sent both drivers to the rear, Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. and Cory Casagrande rebounded to round out the top ten.

Joey Doiron, who was fast in practice, pulled off the track shortly before halfway, finishing 20th and putting a dent in his title-defense efforts. The reigning GSPSS champion managed only one finish outside the top ten in 2019, and will have to redouble his efforts to contend for the championship.

After strong starts to the year, rookies Casey Call and Cody LeBlanc fell back to earth at Hudson. Call finished 17th, with LeBlanc sliding into the turn-three wall early in the going and finishing 22nd. For LeBlanc, Hudson marks the first time the 2018 North East Mini Stock Tour champion has not finished in the top ten in a GSPSS race.

Twenty-three cars turned out at Hudson, with Luke Hinkley skipping the event despite sitting fifth in season points. Former series champion Barry Gray turned his car over to son Adam for Hudson. O’Connell and Renfrew returned to the series after one-week absences. Four-time Pro All Stars Series champion DJ Shaw joined teammate Gabe Brown at Hudson; despite multiple pit stops, Shaw was able to drive back into the top five before his day ended with overheating issues just 23 laps from the finish. Shaw was ultimately scored last on the rundown, though not assigned the “disqualified” tag others have been assessed earlier in the year.

While official points have not been released, Ray Christian’s second-place run should keep him in the lead, sixteen points ahead of Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. three races into the year. Angelo Belsito will leapfrog Hinkley and Cory Casagrande, and possibly Joey Doiron as well, to move solidly into the top four in points. Polewarczyk has not run a championship program in any series in several years, but he sits as Christian’s strongest competition unless the Groton, Conn. driver suffers heartbreak in one of the upcoming races. Eleven drivers have scored points in all three races so far.

The next GSPSS event is a trip back home to Claremont Motorsports Park in western New Hampshire. The Friday-night 100-lapper will be the last tuneup at the series’ home track before September’s $10,000-to-win Granite State Nationals.

SCHEDULE CHANGES: ACT REACTS, REVISES SCHEDULE WITH NEW T-ROAD AND RIVERSIDE DATES

Mother Nature and an enduring pandemic had equal hands in reworking the American-Canadian Tour schedule this past week.

With the remnants of an early-season tropical storm working up the Eastern seaboard, ACT officials opted to postpone last Saturday’s Gardiner & June Leavitt Memorial 150 at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., making the call before teams had left for the track. The race has been rescheduled for Saturday, August 15. Riverside opted to go on with their weekly racing program.

A few days later, Tour officials announced the postponement of the Bay State Classic ACT-PASS doubleheader at Seekonk Speedway later in July. Massachusetts’ restrictions for out-of-state visitors and fan attendance are still prohibitive to a major touring event, and ACT and PASS officials are looking for another opportunity in 2020 to run the double feature.

In lieu of the midweek visit to the Cement Palace, the ACT Tour will make a Sunday visit to Thunder Road International Speedbowl to run the Community Bank N.A. 150. The annual spring visit to the Tour’s home venue was postponed due to Vermont’s own restrictions, and will be the first of two 2020 visits to the speedway.

The Pro All Stars Series worked in its own makeup race for the Bay State Classic, with a visit to Riverside Speedway this coming Friday night. A potential race for July 31st was earmarked on PASS’ schedule but has since been removed.

Despite the challenges of pandemic mitigation and widely-differing state quarantine guidance, all three regional tours have been dedicated to getting their respective racers a full season’s worth of touring action.

WEEKLY RACING: TAYLOR BACK IN FRONT AT OXFORD, WINS SECOND FEATURE OF 2020

With the ACT Tour originally scheduled to be at Riverside Speedway, White Mountain Motorsports Park opted not to run their weekly ACT-rules Late Models. Once the Tour cancelled, Riverside elected to go forward against the forecast predictions, running their own weekly Late Model feature. Corey Mason was victorious over point leader Shawn Swallow and Jeff Marshall.

Oxford Plains Speedway moved its own weekly feature to Sunday under the threat of weather, with a 100-lap Super Late Model feature anchoring the program. Jeff Taylor, exemplifying the ages-old racing adage of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” led all 100 laps in a wire-to-wire victory against a stacked 26-car grid. Taylor, of course, is the owner and architect of Distance Racing Products. PASS veteran Ben Rowe finished second, with Dave Farrington third. Eddie MacDonald finished fourth in yet another shakedown for the Oxford 250. Defending track champion Curtis Gerry was sixth. Other PASS racers in attendance included Garrett Hall (9th), Mike Rowe (12th), Dan Winter (17th) and Brandon Barker (18th). With Beech Ridge Motor Speedway still preparing for its opening weekend, Farrington was one of many Pro Series regulars working the bugs out before racing returns to their home track.

Jason Corliss took home his second win of 2020 in the 41st Vermont Governor’s Cup 150, a weekly Late Model long-distance feature at Thunder Road this past Thursday. Corliss, Scott Dragon, Bobby Therrien, Trampas Demers and Tyler Cahoon completed an all-Thunder-Road top-five sweep with a number of outside visitors in town for the long-distance show. Ryan Kuhn (9th), Bryan Kruczek (12th) and Derek Gluchacki (18th) were among the ACT Tour regulars taking a shot at weekly Thunder Road honors. Twenty-four cars were in attendance, with Wayne Helliwell, Jr. not making it to the green flag.

UPCOMING EVENTS

For the first time this season, all three of the region’s touring series will be in action this weekend. The Pro All Stars Series kicks off the weekend with a Friday-night visit to Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. for 150 laps.

The Granite State Pro Stock Series will race Friday evening as well, with 100 laps at Claremont (N.H.) Motorsports Park in store as a final shakedown before the Labor Day weekend’s Granite State Nationals.

The American-Canadian Tour’s third race of 2020 will get underway Sunday with a visit to the legendary Thunder Road International Speedbowl, in a delayed running of May’s Community Bank N.A. 150.

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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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