Tom Herzig's Trackside: Helliwell Jr. captures ACT Fall Foliage 200
DESPITE SOME anxious moments late in the American Canadian Tour Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway, Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover won the ACT Late Model championship for the second year in a row. Helliwell Jr. was running third behind race winner Alex Labbe of St. Albert, Quebec, and his closest rival for the 2013 crown, Joey Polewarczyk Jr., when he got turned by Brian Hoar and hammered by oncoming traffic with 14 laps remaining.
Before you could say Ernie Gahan, the 1950s-60s legend from Dover, Helliwell’s 41-point lead was melting, but he managed to regroup and nurse his torn-up EKeys4Cars No. 27 around well enough to stay on the lead lap for a ninth-place finish. Polewarczyk Jr. wound up second in the race and on the Tour (14 points shy of Helliwell).
This weekend a large field of ACT Late Models will gather at Thunder Road for the 51st People’s United Bank Milk Bowl. ACT has announced that all segments of the Milk Bowl will revert to 50 laps as was the tradition for decades. In recent years, the final two segments have been 75 laps apiece, Also, the race will be run on American Racer tires, which have already been named as the 2014 replacement for Goodyears.
Helliwell, a fan of the longer segments, a second ACT trophy headed for the mantle, a dinged up race car and no American Racer inventory, has opted, citing sponsorship considerations, to take a pass on the Milk Bowl. Presumably, he’ll make it, one way or the other, to Riverside’s 200-lap, $10,000-to-win Fall Brawl Saturday, Oct. 19.
The Milk Bowl also pays $10,000-to-win. ACT Invitational winner Eddie MacDonald, three-time winner Patrick Laperle, Thunder Road champion Derrick O’Donnell of North Haverhill, last year’s winner Dave Pembroke and 2010 winner Joey Pole are among the entrants.
The Valenti Modified Series is at Seekonk Speedway Saturday as a part of the 10th annual Anthony Venditti Fall Classic. Rowan Pennink is the series leader.Donny Lia, last seen getting the boot from Todd “I don’t drive like that” Szegedy in the third turn on the final lap in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 100 at NHMS, won the Carquest Fall Final at Stafford over the weekend. Doug Coby was second with Pennink third. Ryan Preece struggled to a 17th-place finish and will take a 26-point lead over Coby into the World Series at Thompson Oct. 20.
The Strictlys were fogged out Saturday at Star. The race will be made up at Star’s famed Halloween Howler Oct. 26.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery from leg surgery to ISMA driver Russ Wood.Mikayla Duval of Manchester wired the field for her first Thunder Lights win at Hudson. Max Chaput of Nashua finished second. Mikayla Lord of Dracut, Mass., was third. Jen Lord of Lowell, Mass., picked up her second Roadrunner win after leaders Billy Osborne and Ricky Fissette locked bumpers.
This Sunday Hudson’s Outlaw champion will be decided with double points on the line. It’s pretty much down to two buddies, Todd Warren of Sterling, Mass., and Kevin Kephart of Rutland, Mass., who are six points apart. Both drivers have three wins. If they end up in a deadlock points-and-wins-wise will promoter Bob Webber start looking up second-place finishes or name co-champions? Stay tuned.
Racing at Hudson is a family affair for the family of Kevin Kephart. His father, Kenneth, used to run at Westboro Speedway and his brother Keith has won multiple titles racing on the ice in Jaffrey. They’re both on the crew along with brother-in-law Mike Simpson, Kevin’s wife, Michelle, and daughters Victoria and Olivia. Victoria sings the national anthem — you get the idea.
Kephart drives the No. 79 sponsored by Bonner Sheet Metal of Worcester and KMD Mechanical.
“Todd and I are good friends,” Kephart said. “We’ve both had our best season. I’ve never won an asphalt title in 14 years of racing. We’ll just go out and race and celebrate afterwards either way.”
DJ Shaw won the 150-lap finale at Oxford Plains. Shaw took the lead with 17 laps to go after a lap-130 restart led to some three-wide racing at the front between Cassius Clark, Joey Doiron and Scott Mulkern. Clark and Doiron began the day tied for the point lead. By finishing third behind Shaw and Mulkern, Clark became the 2013 PASS champion.
R.I.P. Rene Charland. The Holyoke, Mass., native started racing at Riverside Park in Agawam, Mass., in 1949. He was inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 1998. Charland was a cigar-chomping prankster, who was equally fast on dirt or asphalt. He won everywhere from Fonda and Utica-Rome to Norwood and the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Keene. He once finished third behind David Pearson and Richard Petty in a Grand National race at Islip, N.Y. Charland won an unprecedented four NASCAR National Sportsman championships from 1962-65.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.