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Wayne Helliwell Jr. won the Bond Auto Parts ACT Invitational in 2014 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (COURTESY)

Tom Herzig's Trackside: Monadnock, Claremont open this weekend


MONADNOCK SPEEDWAY opens this Saturday with the Valenti Modified Series Bond Auto Parts Spring Dash 100 as the main event. A full field of cars has already entered with more competitors likely. Monadnock’s weekly divisions will also be in action.

Woody Pitkat of Stafford, Conn., will begin defense of his 2015 Modified Series championship in the Dan Stebbins No. 52 — sponsored by All-State Asphalt, West County Equipment Rentals and Yankee Hill Machine.

Pitkat’s ride was driven with a good deal of success last season by Todd Patnode of Richmond. Patnode bought his own car for the upcoming season and projects as a likely contender for the Spring Dash win.

Pitkat finished third on the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driving for Buzz Chew Racing, an operation that is transitioning to the DIRTcar Big-Block Modified circuit this year. He competed in the Stafford’s Spring Sizzler last weekend in the Kevin Stuart No. 85 driven last year by Todd Szegedy, but was sidelined by an early accident.

“My crew chief Greg Felton knows Dan Stebbins well and he got the deal going,” Pitkat said. “It will be fun racing with a new team. Four of my guys will be with me. I know the car was a good one last year and I know Dan has another new Spafco chassis car on order.”

“Monadnock’s an interesting place to race,” Pitkat said. “You can go hard through turns 1 and 2. The banking holds you. I use a lot of brake in 3 and 4. That end of the track is tricky. I’ve had some chances to win there, but I never have. The track owes me one.”

This season will be the 50th year of racing for Modified Series founder and president Jack Bateman, who will be bouncing around on two new knees while he watches Donnie Lashua wheel his No. 117.

The Modified Racing Series returns to Monadnock July 2 and Aug. 20.

Monadnock will host the opening event of the 2016 NorthEast Race Cars and Parts Tri-Track Open Modified Series, a.k.a. the Bull Ring Bash, on Saturday, June 11.

Seekonk Speedway and the Tri Track Open Modified Series present the Original 13th Annual Mid Summer $10,000 to win event June 29 with a rain date of June 30.

Thunder Road in Barre, Vt., begins its 57th season Sunday with the Merchants Bank 150 for the American Canadian Tour Late Models.

Defending ACT champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover, a Merchants Bank 150 winner in 2014, trails Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg, Vt., by two points with two events in the books. Helliwell edged out Ray Parent of Tiverton, R.I., for second place coming off the final turn in Lee’s Governor’s Cup 150 on Sunday. Race winner Scott Payea of Milton, Vt., has many Tour races on the high banks under his belt and could go back-to-back at the Road.

Three-peat Thunder Road Late Model champion Derrick O’Donnell, formerly of North Haverhill, now resides in North Carolina and is a crew member on Ryan Newman’s Sprint Cup team. He won’t be a threat to Helliwell, Payea, Eddie MacDonald or Therrien, but Thunder Road regulars Nick Sweet, Cody Blake, John Donahue and Jason Corliss are apt to be. Same goes for East Montpelier’s Emily Packard, whose car is being prepped this year by Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and Joe Sr.

The Northeast Mini Stock Tour showed up 26 cars strong for the Lee USA opener. Zach Audet of Skowhegan, Maine, won the feature followed by Nick Maniatis of Hooksett, Heywood Herriott of Gorham, Emerson Cayer of Contoocook and Jacob Rheaume of Rochester.

Opening night at Claremont (Friday, 7 p.m.) is Mike Richardson Memorial Night. The R.E Hinkley Super Streets will turn 50 laps in the main event on a race card, including the Domino’s Modifieds, Lavalley’s Limited Sportsmen and the 4-cylinder Wildcats.

Doug Coby of Milford, Conn., wired the field at Stafford’s Spring Sizzler. Szegedy, Rowan Pennink, Timmy Solomito and Justin Bonsignore finished 2-3-4-5. The next stop on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is at New London-Waterford Speedbowl Saturday, May 14.

Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, Vt., opens for the 49th time Saturday, May 7. This Saturday, the 15th annual Upper Valley car show takes place at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon. Participants will then head to the track for a test and tune session.

Legion Speedway in Wentworth, which will go racing on Friday nights this year, has a practice scheduled for this Saturday and plans to open Friday, May 6, with the Sprint Cars of New England (SCoNE) on hand.

Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at tomherzig@hotmail.com.

On Track This Weekend

Claremont Speedway: Friday 7 p.m.

Beech Ridge (Me): Sat. 3 p.m.

Monadnock: Sat. 5 p.m.

Thunder Road (Vt): Sunday 1 p.m.
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