Tom Herzig's Trackside: Thunder Road plays host to ACT race
The second event of the 2013 American Canadian Tour, the 15th annual Merchants Bank 150, goes Sunday at Thunder Road. It will be interesting to see how upstarts Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, Vt., and Travis Fadden of North Haverhill fare after finishing 1-2 in the Governor's Cup at Lee USA.
The Lee win was Hebert's first on the tour in this his second year. Fadden held off Eddie MacDonald for the runner-up spot. MacDonald will drive the Grimm Construction/National Multiple Sclerosis Society No. 17 at Thunder Road Sunday after competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Denny Hamlin Showdown at Richmond International Thursday.
Brain Hoar, defending ACT champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Patrick Laperle finished 1-2-3 in last year's Merchants Bank 150. Qualifying for the race can get pretty fierce as the touring ranks get swelled by many capable Thunder Road regulars, who don't race the full ACT schedule such as 2012 track champion Nick Sweet and 2011 "King of the Road" Dave Pembroke. One former Thunder Road champion who won't be in action is Cris Michaud, who's recovering from a workplace/ladder accident.
The 42nd annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler takes place at Stafford Motor Speedway Sunday. Qualifying events are run Saturday. Racing on Sunday begins with a 40-lap SK Modified feature at 1 p.m. Entrants include Thompson Icebreaker winner Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., who is seeking his fifth Sizzler win, Ted Christopher in the Boehler No. 3, Donny Lia in the Mystic Missile No.4, 2012 Whelen Modified tour champion Doug Coby - winner of the F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September, 2012 tour runner-up Ryan Preece and Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon, Pa.
Pennink was well positioned to catch a break in the Valenti Modified Series Bond Auto Parts 100 Saturday at Monadnock and he did just that when a yellow with six laps to go brought Todd Patnode of Swanzey back to him. Patnode had taken the lead from Max Zachem on a lap 72 restart and looked to be home free until Steve Masse, winner of the Series opener at Waterford, spun out on the backstretch.
Pennink, who marveled in victory lane that Gary Casella's Roscoe Racing No. 25, "stayed the same the whole race," outgunned Patnode on the restart and held off a late bid from runner-up Tommy Barrett the high-schooler from Millis, Mass. Louie Mechalides came back up through the 25-car field after an early pit stop to reel in Patnode for third.
Barrett showed that he'd learned from last year's altercation with Jon McKennedy at Lee that earned him a suspension for rough-riding. Barrett dove underneath Pennink in turn two in a legitimate bid for the lead with three laps remaining, but when he washed up into Pennink on exit, he lifted.
The Valenti Modifieds put on a very good performance despite the absence of McKennedy and last year's Spring 10 winner Les Hinckley, who's been inactive since the passing of car owner Chuck Montville. There was plenty of action with numerous passes within the top five a lot of probing for position without a lot of cautions.
Mike Holdridge led the first 48 laps before Zachem got by him on the inside. Richard Savary held down the third spot, but soon came under attack from Patnode. Dana Smith of Newport, one of the several former Twin State competitors who competed, had a strong showing before getting collected in lap 73 pile-up along with Todd Owen, Anthony Nocella and others that brought out the red flag.
A good-sized crowd sat hoping the race would resume soon while the temperature continued to drop well below comfort level.
Brian Chapin of Palmer, Mass., won the Sportsman Modified feature, which started 18 cars, in the Palmer Trailer Sales No. 44. Chapin led the first 23 laps from the pole, gave way to Adam Norton for one circuit and then regained the lead with the same low line move that had cost him the lead to begin with. Norton finished second ahead of youngster Tyler Jarvenpaa, who drove the No.22 owned by Modified legend Ken Bouchard.
Craig Smith of Newport - another Twin State refugee - won a good two-car race with Eddie Brehio III to carry the Super Stock checkers. "We made a lot of changes and the car came to life for the feature, which was great," Smith said.
Several tracks in the region have practices and car shows planned before opening soon. Canaan Dirt Speedway opens on Friday, May 4. The following night, May 5, Star Speedway in Epping gets underway with a full card of racing and the Granite State Pro Stock Series holds an event at Canaan Asphalt that starts at 5 p.m.
Tom Herzig's Trackside column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at email@example.com.