Tom Herzig's Trackside: Lee USA Speedway ready to start season Sunday
LEE USA Speedway, which began racing on the present-day one-third mile oval 30 years ago, gets its 2014 season underway Sunday with the Governor’s Cup 150 for American Canadian Tour Late Models. The undercard includes the Northeast Classic Lites and the Amsoil Nelcar Legends Tour. Post time 1 p.m.
Over the years, the ACT race at Lee has been a good one with full fields and multiple lead changes. Last April, Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, Vt., got a breakout season started with a win in the Governor’s Cup at the wheel of a Dale Shaw chassis car. Hebert went on to finish third on the Tour overall behind champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Joey Polewarczyk Jr.
Hebert’s season took a hit, literally, when he blew a tire during a practice session at Loudon. The car was back in Shaw’s shop for some time while Hebert rolled out an older Thunder Road car.
ACT is back on American Racer tires this season with Goodyear having pulled out of short track racing. Among the New Hampshire drivers expected this weekend, in addition to Helliwell Jr. and Joey Pole, are Travis Fadden of North Haverhill, who finished second last year in the Patten’s Gas No. 16 (as per the late, great Stub Fadden) after starting on the pole – Derry native Ben Lynch, and from the Claremont area, Todd Davis, Luke Hinkley and Aaron Fellows.
Other ACT notables include multi-time champion Brian Hoar, Brent Dragon, Maine drivers Travis Stearns, Rowland Robinson Jr. and Glenn Luce, ACT Série Quebec runner-up Alex Labbe of St. Albert, Que., and Lee’s own Eddie MacDonald.
Hoar will pilot a brand new car built by owner Rick Paya with Goss Dodge (Vt.) dealership sponsorship. Hoar does not plan to run a full schedule and contend for another title this season, but he’s a threat to win every ACT race he shows up for. “We’re pretty excited to be going racing this weekend,” Paya said. “We missed the set-up by just a little at Lee last year and finished 9th.”
There will likely be several new Dale Shaw cars at Lee, including one driven by 2013 Rookie of the Year Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg, Vt. “This has been my busiest winter ever,” Shaw said. “Last year, the only brand new chassis I sold was Hebert’s. This year, I’ve built 14 ACT cars.”Adam Giacomozzi, the racing plumber from Marshfield, Mass., will open defense of his Northeast Classic Lites title Sunday. The Classic Lites, a.k.a. Dwarf cars, are sponsored by EKeys4Cars.
The Amsoil Nelcar Legends are returning to Lee after a three-year hiatus. Matt Bourgoine of Newport, Maine, is seeking a three-peat season. Legends president Brett Alexander is projecting a 20-car-or-so field. The Legends are powered by 1200cc Yamaha engines and they run on treaded spec tires. The Classic Lites have a full suspension package and race on slicks powered by 4-cylinder motorcycle engines.
The Modified Racing Series is slated to begin its 2014 schedule at Waterford Speedbowl Sunday. Defending champion Rowan Pennink will debut a new Gary Casella No. 25 car. Pennink led a lot of laps at Thompson’s Icebreaker last weekend in his own NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car before getting sidelined after a bout with the frontstretch wall.
“I enjoy racing at Waterford,” Pennink said. “There’s a lot of grip and it gets really racy. You can have a two-lane race there.”
Pennink notes that the Whelen Modifieds and the MRS Mods are quite similar — the biggest difference being the tire rules. “With the Whelen cars, you can beat up a set of tires, pit and put on some more,” he said. “In the MRS races, you’re going 100 green flag laps and you’ve got to run the same tires you qualified on in your heat.”Justin Bonsignore won the Whelen Modified Icebreaker 100 at Thompson. Mike O’Sullivan of West Springfield, Mass., held off Larry Gelinas and Thompson regular Jeff Connor to take the checkered in the Granite State Pro Stock Series opener.
New Hampshire native Andy Seuss took the lead from pole-sitter Danny Bohn on the first lap and fended off Kyle Ebersole and George Brunnhoelzl III in a seven-lap sprint to win the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour 150 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway last weekend.
The Pro All-Star Series opener at Oxford Plains has been postponed until April 26. The PASS Super Late Models will be at the Star Speedway opener May 10.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.