Popular PASS Regular Goes Wheel to Wheel With Helliwell for Lead
The last time that the PASS Pro Stock (Super Late Model) Series visited the Lee USA Speedway, it was a wreckfest. Earlier this season, countless cautions flew and the track was in danger of hitting their curfew for that Friday night show. At the end of the night, veteran driver Tracy Gordon visited victory lane with a car that was missing half of the nose. He even said that he had considered dropping out of the race after getting caught up in an early wreck. Winning the race was more of an endurance test than a competition of speed.
On Sunday when the PASS teams returned to Lee, the story was almost very different. There were only five caution periods in the event and three of those were for single car incidents. Two drivers who had never won a PASS race before put on a classic mid-race battle for the lead and the car that ended up taking the victory lap at the end of the race had all of its body panels in the correct positions.
It also belonged to a very deserving first time winner. Richie Dearborn has been a faithful follower of the series over the past several seasons and the young driver has come close to winning, but until this weekend had not been the lead car at the end of the race. That all changed for him Sunday.
“It’s been a really long time coming,” said Dearborn. “Finally, we got one of these under our belts. Hopefully, there are more to come now. I don’t know what makes this thing go, but it was a rocket ship tonight. All that I do is sit behind the wheel and drive; these guys are the ones who put the car underneath me. I just climb in and try to do my best.”
While Dearborn had them covered up front and Helliwell was nursing his car to the end, some of the other PASS regulars had their hands full just staying in the top ten. Ben Rowe had an evil handling car all night and pitted for major adjustments with less than 50 laps to go. He ended up eighth.
The biggest situation of the night was a botched restart on lap 106 that led to damaged racecars by Johnny Clark, Cassius Clark, Larry Gelinas, Travis Kheil, Mike Rowe and Bill Rogers. Most of those guys held on to top ten finishes, but nobody was particularly happy with the way that things unfolded. A green flag was shown, then a yellow before the
Just past the 100 lap mark, Dearborn finally made an outside pass for the top spot stick.
“I got hung up for behind him there for a little while,” said Dearborn. “But I decided to go and went on the outside to pass him. I didn’t want to boot him out of the way. That’s not how I like to race. We finally won one and did it the way that we wanted to - not by dumping somebody or having it rain. It’s awesome.”
Dearborn did his best on Sunday. The win did not come easy for him. His main competitor, Wayne Helliwell, Jr., pulled away to the lead early on. Helliwell didn’t just lead, he ran away and hid from the rest of the field through the first half of the race.
Meanwhile, Dearborn was hiding in the bottom half of the top ten. Around halfway, he started to move aggressively through the field. He made a slick two-car pass into third place on lap 71 and caught Helliwell in traffic ten laps later. Dearborn led once for about a lap briefly before he too got caught in lapped traffic and settled into second place.
First time winner Dearborn (C) is joined in the top three by Tracy Gordon (L) and Johnny Clark (R) at Lee (Norm Marx Photo)
Helliwell faded on worn up tires after getting passed for the lead and faded to tenth at the finish. Still, it was an impressive run for the local driver who made his way up through the support divisions at Lee, as well as in various classes of racing at the nearby Star and Hudson Speedways.
“The car was going awesome at the beginning of the run and we seemed to overwork that right rear tire,” said Helliwell. “I was trying to slow them up the best that I could and keep it to the bottom. At that point, I could only hang on.”
cars got to turn one and a mess was the result. Some drivers were mad at the procedure and one was unhappy with a fellow competitor. Speed 51 will have more on their reactions later this week in PASS Leftovers.
Tracy Gordon ran smart race through the field and had a fast car at the end of the event. He had to settle for a second place finish though.
“We were the second best car and we ended up second,” said Gordon. “I told my guys that I was going to save my tires for the end. I kind of fooled around there and maybe I waited too long racing Benji (Rowe for second place). I never even saw the #33 (Dearborn) coming. He was fast anyways. I was hoping to get him in lapped traffic and take him to school a little bit, but I was so far back that by the time I got to the lapped traffic, he was gone. There wasn’t no schooling.”
Clark recovered from the restart fiasco to finish third and extend his point lead slightly. Larry Gelinas and Mike Rowe rounded out the top five.
The PASS Series returns to action on September 18th at the White Mountain Motorsports Park. The race will be held just up the road from the Nextel Cup weekend at New Hampshire and Speed 51 plans to have full coverage of all of races up north in two weeks.
The term "cautions breed cautions" was true on this late restart. (PASS Photo)
Dearborn leads Helliwell, Gordon and Johnny Clark. (Norm Marx Photo)