Super Late Models

Northeast Late Model Round-up

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What was once an open weekend on New England’s short racing schedule was double-booked on Sunday by two of the Northeast’s premier late model tours, as the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Stars Series North teams returned to their home tracks for a pair of makeup races. And at the end of the day, familiar faces were celebrating rain-delayed triumphs.

ACT: Weather has plagued the American-Canadian Tour in 2017, with the season’s first three events rescheduled under the threat of rain and snow. The ACT Late Model Tour teams returned to Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, VT for the makeup date of the Merchants Bank 150, originally scheduled for April 30.

The race had a different complexion from when the teams practiced in late April. ACT founder Tom Curley had passed away on May 5, and new Thunder Road owners Cris Michaud and Pat Malone repaved the venerable track for the 2017 season. By way of a merger, even the race sponsor had changed; the rescheduled event was renamed the Community Bank 150.

Extreme heat and the fresh pavement combined to turn the 150-lap event into a battle for survival. Concerns about tires had prompted ACT officials to plan on a mid-race competition caution, but many teams struggled to make it that far. Bobby Therrien dominated the race, leading 126 of the first 128 laps before crashing hard into the turn-four wall.

Scott Payea, who barely made it back to the track after being involved in an early incident, inherited the lead from Therrien and battled Rowland Robinson, Jr. to the checkered flag. Dillon Moltz finished third, with 2016 Tour champion Nick Sweet fourth and Thunder Road regular Tyler Cahoon fifth. Only nine cars finished the race.

The race is Payea’s second win of 2017, but his first trip to victory lane this year (Payea was awarded the Spring Green 117 trophy after Jonathan Bouvrette’s car was disqualified). Since joining Rick Paya Motorsports for 2016, Payea has racked up five wins and thirteen top-five finishes in sixteen starts. Dillon Moltz, winner of the season opener at Lee USA Speedway, still holds the points lead over Payea and Therrien.

Eddie MacDonald, running a partial slate of ACT and PASS events in 2017, was among the entrants at Thunder Road. Eddie started 18th after winning the consi, but a flat tire and a second crash relegated him to 19th. Jonathan Bouvrette finished fifth in Saturday night’s Serie ACT opener at Autodrome Montmagny in Quebec, then hauled across the border to T-Road, possibly seeking redemption after being disqualified following an apparent win in the Spring Green 117 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in May. Bouvrette dropped out after a lap-51 incident and finished 21st.

PASS: Two states away, the Pro All Stars Series convened upon Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, ME for a late addition to the 2017 schedule. The PASS North teams had been scheduled for a highly-touted event at Geary, New Brunswick’s Speedway 660, part of PASS’ “Road To The Oxford 250” program that promised the race’s top American and Canadian drivers provisionals in August’s Oxford 250. Unfortunately, a poor forecast forced PASS and Speedway 660 to first postpone, then cancel the race when they could not find a suitable rain date.

With Sunday, June 11 open on both the PASS and OPS schedules, PASS organized a 150-lap event, retaining the “Road To The Oxford 250” provisional reward. A handful of teams used Saturday’s 50-lap weekly Super Late Model feature as a tune-up for Sunday’s race in hopes of claiming a guaranteed spot in the Oxford 250 field.

Sunday’s early favorite was not one of those drivers. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. won his qualifying race, started first in the feature, and set sail as the green flag dropped. The Hudson, NH racer put on a clinic reminiscent of April’s Speedway Homes 150, when he dominated early before losing an engine. This time, “Joey Pole” looked nearly untouchable, stretching his advantage to a straightaway as he lapped the field well into the top-ten.

A yellow flag with about sixteen laps remaining put Joey alongside South Berwick, ME’s Joey Doiron for the restart. Doiron had been closing in on Pole before the caution, and after battling door to door, Doiron cleared Pole with ten laps to go. Mechanical trouble for a lapped car brought the yellow out one last time, as Doiron was preparing to take the white flag. Doiron easily cleared Pole on the restart, and Mike Landry nipped Pole at the line to steal second place. Glen Luce finished fourth, with defending PASS North champion D.J. Shaw rounding out the top five.

Doiron’s win, his first PASS win since 2015, capped off a successful weekend, as he had driven to victory the night before in weekly competition at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, ME. Doiron, Landry and Polewarczyk now hold provisionals to August’s Oxford 250. The top three Canadian competitors – Cole Butcher in 19th, John Flemming in 21st and Lonnie Sommerville in 22nd – should also be in line for provisionals.

Glen Luce’s fourth place helped secure him the points lead over former champions Ben Rowe and D.J. Shaw. Neither of the top three drivers are committed to the full PASS North schedule.

The thirty-car field was a mix of championship hopefuls and visitors from their respective weekly tracks and tours. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racer Matt Swanson made his second start of 2017 in the #49 Dale Shaw Race Cars “house” car, finishing seventh. Beech Ridge regular Reid Lanpher, a winner in both his 2017 PASS appearances, finished tenth. 2015 PASS North champion Mike Rowe started second but faded early and fell victim to mechanical trouble. Competing with the Canadian Maritimes racers for long-haul honors were two entries from Fat Head Racing, for drivers Eddie Fatscher and Joe Graf, Jr. Graf’s #12 was unable to go the distance, and Fatscher only made two laps in the feature before parking his #51.

Absent from the PASS lineup was 2016 ACT Tour champion Nick Sweet. Sweet and his #40VT ACT team built a Super Late Model in the offseason, and had been in every PASS North event so far on a race-by-race basis. Sweet crashed hard at Thunder Road, though, and presumably the team had not been able to repair the SLM in time for Oxford. Sweet made the best of the situation by fielding his ACT car in this weekend’s Community Bank 150.

Returning to competition in Oxford’s Saturday night’s SLM feature was 2016 Oxford 250 winner Wayne Helliwell, Jr. The 250 victory was Helliwell’s last on-track appearance of 2016, and recently the New Hampshire racer discussed his battle through the offseason with multiple sclerosis. Helliwell and the Bernhardt Automotive #27NH team shook down their new-for-2017 SLM with a sixth-place run in the 50-lap feature, but the team opted not to stick around for Sunday’s PASS event.

COMING UP: The ACT Late Model Tour heads to White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH on Saturday night for their fourth race of the year, and hopefully the first that runs on its originally-scheduled date. PASS North teams race Sunday afternoon at Hermon, Maine’s Speedway 95 in the Hight Chevrolet/Buick/GMC 150. The Granite State Pro Stock Series is off this weekend in anticipation of their next race at Seekonk (MA) Speedway.

About Jeff Brown

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