Tom Herzig's Trackside: Dover's Helliwell begins defense of his ACT title
AMERICAN CANADIAN Tour Late Model champion and Dover resident Wayne Helliwell Jr. begins defense of his 2012 ACT title in his backyard Sunday at Lee USA Speedway's 2013 opener - the Governor's Cup 150.
Gov. Maggie Hassan's staff has confirmed that she will attend. She's to be commended for supporting the Speedway and local short track racing. Promoter Bob Watson says he's honored and confident that the governor is in for an entertaining event.
ACT has told Watson it has 38 cars pre-registered for the race. "It would be nice to have a New Hampshire driver win it," he admitted. Helliwell Jr. and Hudson's Joey Polewarczyk Jr., a prior Governor's Cup winner, are pretty apt to be there at the end.
Helliwell Jr. has turned thousands of laps at the seacoast oval. Current plans call for him to compete there once again on Friday nights in a Small Block Super Modified - some of the time at least.
Car owner Bruce Bernhardt and the EKeys4Cars Unique Ford No. 27 team, which includes Wayne Helliwell Sr. as its spotter, also has one eye peeled on the Série Castrol - ACT's north-of-the-border Late Model series that blankets Quebec.
In addition, Helliwell Jr. has been invited to compete in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Speedway Thursday, April 25. The Showdown serves as a fundraiser for the Denny Hamlin Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis and it helps raise funds and awareness for the Denny Hamlin Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab. Whether or not Helliwell Jr. lands a competitive car in time to race at Richmond, it's an honor to be invited. But ... first things first. For all his success at Lee, Helliwell Jr. has never won the Governor's Cup. He finished second to Brian Hoar last year. The race included a long run under green until Polewarczyk Jr. came off the second turn too hot and got into leader Eddie MacDonald with 20 laps to go.
Unlike last year's race, which had a six-tire rule that allowed for a two-tire change somewhere along the way, Sunday's race is a four-tire, finish-with-what-you-started deal.
"It's a tire management race," Helliwell Jr. said. "Lee is slick and tough on tires. You need to stay on the lead lap. We're going to bring a car that we've run at Lee once before."
Defending Lee USA Late Model Sportsman champion JR Baril of Haverhill, Mass. will also be in action this weekend. The Late Model Sportsmen are slated to go 50 laps. Baril drives the Family Cabs/Swings 'N' Things No.88 for car owner Brian House.
Baril is thankful to have a big crew (his dad Phil, Al Castro, Larry Cartier, Carl Jedson, Fred Colby, Eric Robinson and Josh Rutherford). "I got off to a good start last year, won the opener and several other races and had a great time," Baril said. "This year will be an even better year for the Sportsmen. Several good racers are planning to run full-time, including Grant Aither, Ryan Green, Jimmy Russell and Bill Ahern. They'll have me up on the wheel every night."
"We have limitations on the number of tires you can buy and race with on a given night," Watson said. "We have the administration of the rule pretty well down. I think the word is out and it will help our car count over time."
Steve Masse of Belchertown, Mass won the Valenti Modified Series opener at Waterford. Masse took the lead from Todd Annarummo with three laps left and survived one final restart. The Modified Series opens Monadnock Speedway next Saturday.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series begins its season on the Thompson Speedway (Conn.) Icebreaker card Sunday. Matt Frahm of North Salem will pilot the No. 14 machine that Bobby Cabral drove to the title in the Series' inaugural season last year. Bobby Baillargeon of Kingston - the 2012 Runner-up, and veteran Barry Gray of Belchertown - winner of last year's Series finale at Monadnock, head up the field.
On Sunday, April 28, Stafford Speedway (Conn.) plans the 42nd annual Carquest Spring Sizzler for NASCAR Whelen Tour Modifieds. Thunder Road (Vt.) gets its season started the same day with the 15th annual Merchants Bank 150 - event No. 2 on the ACT schedule.
Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, Vt. is set to begin its 46th season Saturday, May 4. Adam Pierson of East Corinth, VT is the defending Bear Ridge DIRTcar Sportsman Modified champion.
Tom Herzig's Trackside column appears each Thursday during the racing season. Email him at email@example.com.