51's Northern Exposure Compiled by Mike Twist
Protecting the Home Turf, Beating the Young Guy, Tuning Up for the 250 and More
SOMMERVILLE AIMS TO PROTECT HOME TURF IN NBIS PASS SHOW
When the PASS North teams head to New Brunswick International Speedway this Saturday, one name might stand out a little bit above the rest when you are handicapping names.
“We had good luck last year in the 250 and we’ll change our set-up a little bit because of the American Racer tires. But I’m still confident that we’ll have a good run.”
But don’t consider Lonnie Sommerville the favorite in the race. Even though he won last fall’s NBIS 250 at the track and knows the place very well, he doesn’t believe that in such a talent-rich field that there is such a thing as a “favorite”.
“There will be 15 guys who will be in contention to win there,” said Sommerville. “I think that Rollie MacDonald is going to run it. There will be a handful of Maritimers there who can win it too. It will be a good race.”
And then there are the PASS North regulars like Ben Rowe, Mike Rowe, Johnny Clark and Travis Benjamin.
“It’s going to be tough because those guys are on their game no matter where they go,” said Sommerville. “Even if they have never been some place, they are good.
Sommerville should be right among that group though.
“I haven’t that much fun in quite some time,” Hammond said. “That’s what these cars are all about. You can pitch ’em sideways. It’s good, hard racing, and the competition is unreal. We just put this car together in the last couple of weeks, and it’s a pleasure to drive.”
The next three cars in line have combined for 13 OPS championships in a variety of divisions. Chasing Rowe across the stripe were Spencer and opening-night winner and series point leader Ricky Rolfe.
Rolfe raced after making a beeline to the track from Bangor, where he attended his daughter’s college graduation Saturday afternoon.
EXPERIENCE BEATS YOUTH AT T-ROAD
Youth was unable to overcome experience in the Casella Waste Management Mother’s Day 100 at Barre’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl on Sunday afternoon. Hometown driver Nick Sweet, 21, led the first 58 laps from his outside pole starting position and looked to take his second NAPA Tiger Sportsman win of the season, but veteran Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier had other plans. Laquerre, 64, and a winner at Thunder Road in five different decades, moved underneath Sweet to take the lead on the 59th circuit and drove to the victory.
Travis Adams in victory lane at Oxford. (OPS / Trudy Marshall Photo)
“We would’ve had a podium finish last week, but the distributor came apart and I was too stupid to figure it out,” Wentworth said. “I was going to push the thing out in the woods, and Mitch Green (of Crazy Horse Racing Engines) said he’d fix it for me."
Hammond has returned to his old neighborhood in a partnership with Ron Charpentier Jr. He won his heat race by virtue of Dave MacDonald’s technical disqualification and led the opening lap of the feature before Spencer seized command for the remainder of the first half.
It was Hammond with more staying power down the stretch, finishing an impressive third by less than half a car length over no less than OPS legend, seven-time track champ and three-time TD Banknorth 250 winner Mike Rowe.
“That’s what I told ’em on the radio: ‘We brought home hardware, boys, and we had to hold off Mike Rowe, to boot,’ ” Hammond said.
Hammond’s streak of five seasons without an OPS feature win appears ready to go by the boards in a matter of weeks.
And having a good run at NBIS is very important to the native of St. John’s, New
“That place is pretty neat because it is only an hour from our home. When we go to
Halifax, there aren’t as many people cheering us on in the grandstands, but when we
go to Fredericton, it is always jam-packed and full. They’re great fans.”
ADAMS THE TOP DOG AT OXFORD
Even with Travis Adams boxed into his seventh starting position for the opening stages of Saturday’s 20-lap Oxford Networks Late Model feature at Oxford Plains Speedway, it was apparent that the 2003 and 2006 track champion had the car to beat.
He didn’t take long to prove it, using a banzai, three-wide maneuver the inside to put
his Dacata Repair/River Valley Grill #03E on the leader board. And it was only a matter of time before Adams reeled in early leaders Brad Hammond, Dennis Spencer Jr. and Don Wentworth before setting sail to his 18th career victory in the headline class.
The scramble for the next six spots made the ensuing Strictly Stock encounter appear tame by comparison, but Adams turned up the wick and left behind his rivals by more than three seconds at the conclusion.
“What a race! That right there is the car I want for the TD Banknorth 250,” said the 29-year-old Adams. “That thing was awesome tonight.”
Wentworth rocketed from the outside on a lap 19 restart to snag the lead from Spencer, but a certain neon green machine was a foreboding flash in his rear-view mirror.
“That was a ball until Travis got there. He kind of took the fun out of it for me,” said Wentworth. “The kid’s got it hooked up.”
Fast from the blocks this spring after two vicious wrecks and at least one semi “retirement” over the last two seasons, Wentworth says he was again painfully close to parking the E.A. Smith Plumbing and Heating/K&K Excavation #63 for at least a week or two.
Sommerville's #23 car. (51 Photo)
Gary Caron walked away from this wild wreck in the Late Model feature at Thunder Road (ACT Photo)
Lonnie Sommerville (C) chats with Ben Rowe's team at the recent Speedway 95 PASS North show. (51 Photo)
But it wasn’t that easy.
Laquerre and Sweet put on a close-quarters, crowd-rousing battle for the win for the remainder of the race, and nearly crashed on the final lap. Sweet made contact with Laquerre’s rear bumper entering Turn 3 on the last lap, sending Laquerre into a slide. As Sweet slowed to allow Laquerre to regroup, third-place man Craig Bushey of Cambridge squeezed into the fray. Laquerre, Bushey, and Sweet finished the race side-by-side in tight formation, bringing the Thunder Road faithful to their feet in a chorus of cheers.
“That was a dramatic ending,” said Laquerre in victory lane, “but I’m glad I won.” Laquerre won the Casella Waste Management 100 in 2006 as well.
“I wasn’t going to wreck (Joey), I just wanted him to know I was there,” said a
“That was wild,” said a surprised Bushey, who had been running solidly in third place, but many car-lengths behind the leaders. “I still don’t really know what happened.”
Brendan Moodie of North Wolcott finished fourth. Brian Delphia won a tight battle for fifth with Duxbury neighbor Kris Grout. Grout finished sixth ahead of Matt Potter, Mark Barnier, Chris Chambers, and Pete Ainsworth, unofficially.
Joey Becker scored his third career victory in a 50-lap Late Model division battle worthy of its own headlines.
The Jeffersonville driver grabbed the lead from Mike Bailey on a lap 8 restart, and survived another restart near the halfway mark to secure his win in his Richard Green Trucking Ford Taurus. Rich Lowrey of Charlotte made an impressive drive from 15th on the grid to finish in second place after passing early frontrunners Bailey and Trampas Demers.
Dave Whitcomb of Essex Jct. and Eric Williams of Hyde Park turned in a sensational performance of their own, racing side-by-side for nearly 30 laps for the third position. Williams, on the inside lane, nipped Whitcomb at the finish line by about a half car-length. Dave Pembroke of Montpelier finished fifth. Bailey, Cris Michaud, rookie Chip Grenier, John Donahue, and Jamie Fisher rounded out the unofficial top ten in order.
Rookie Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg scored his first career win in the Allen Lumber Street Stock feature. Therrien held off a hard-charging Jason Corliss of Plainfield and Tommy “Thunder” Smith of Williamstown for the victory.
Lloyd Blakely and Gary Mullen rounded out the top five finishers. Bunker Hodgdon of Wolcott won the Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior main event over Brett Pierce and David Whitcomb of Elmore.
Linda Godfrey of Essex Jct. was the winner of the special “Mama’s Race” for race fan
The Late Model division is one of the best in the country. Veteran Rick Gentes has become the driver to beat in the early part of the season. But, with competition coming from the likes of Corey Hutchings, Conrad Cote, Steve Landry and many others, the run for the 2007 Thompson title should be exciting all season long.
Keith DeSanctis, Ed Puleo, Ernie LaRose and Larry Barnett lead the charge in the Limited Sportsman ranks. The Thompson Modifieds and Mini Stocks are also talent-filled divisions. Fans find that racing in these divisions is both highly competitive and exciting.
Pit gates open at 3 PM for Thursday night racing. Practice begins at 4 PM with grandstands opening at 4:30 PM. Qualifying gets underway at 5:30 PM with the first feature slated for just about 6:30 PM. Once the racing hits the speedway, it’s virtually non-stop action for the next three hours. Fans love Thompson Speedway’s dedication to provide a very fast-paced race program and the family prices and free parking that go with it.
A TASTE OF THE PAST AT NHIS
From Wednesday, May 16 to Sunday, May 20, history will come alive as legendary racing machines from around the world gather to compete at the Seventeenth Annual Vintage Celebration at NHIS.
On Wednesday, May 16 and Thursday, May 17, many of the most famous Midgets, Sprint Cars, Champ Cars, Roadsters, and NASCAR stock cars will fill the Speedway’s 1.058 mile oval. Fans will have the opportunity to meet and talk with the drivers and car owners who wrote early racing history.
From Friday, May 18 to Sunday, May 20, the 1.6 mile road course at NHIS will challenge veteran competitors from the world of roadracing. The action will be friendly, but fierce as these vintage sportscars, formula cars, and motorcycles compete for bragging rights.
To add to the excitement and beauty of the celebration, “The Elegance Invitational” will showcase some of the finest automotive restorations in the world on Saturday, May 19.
Gates will open every day at 9:00 a.m. General admission tickets are $10 per day, with children age 11 and under admitted free. Tickets will be available at the Speedway Main Gate each day of the show. Admission to the infield is available for an additional $10 per day. For further information on this event, please call Guest Services at (603) 783-4931.
Thursday Night Thompson Thunder has become a fan favorite due to the large fields of racecars and the extremely fast paced program. Fans are usually headed home by about 9:30 PM after enjoying a full card of racing from all six exciting divisions.
The Sunoco Modifieds are the featured NASCAR Whelen All American Series division. Just about everyone who is anyone in this division heads to Thompson for Thursday night competition. Leading that list of outstanding drives is the defending NASCAR Division IV Champion and defending Thompson International Speedway Champion, Woody Pitkat. Joining Pitkat are exciting drivers like Todd Ceravolo, Jimmy Blewett, John Blewett, III, Keith Rocco, Tom Cravenho, Jr., Kerry Malone, Bert Marvin and many more. These drivers have fans on the edge of their seats week in and week out at the high banked, super fast Thompson Speedway.
Thompson’s Pro Stock division also boasts an impressive roster. Jeff Connors, Les Rose, George Bessette, Mike O’Sullivan and Jeff Zuidema are only some of the incredible Pro Stock drivers that make Thompson their Thursday night home.
mothers. Godfrey drove the #57 Junkyard Warrior normally driven by Mark LaFleche for the victory. Lynn St. Louis of St. Albans and Kim Hart of Barre finished second and third, respectively.
Thunder Road’s 48th season of exciting stock car racing action continues with the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic 100 for the headline Late Model division on Sunday, May 27. Green flag racing is scheduled to begin at 1:30pm.
THOMPSON THURSDAYS ARE COMING UP
A brand new season of Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) gets underway on May 24th at the Thompson International Speedway in Thompson, CT. The popular weekly race program will present six divisions of NASCAR Whelen All American Series racing Thursday nights well into the month of September.
Joey Laquerre takes his victory lap. (ACT Photo)
There is plenty of wild action in all of the divisions at Thompson. (Jamie Williams Photo)