IT’S LOOKING like Lee USA Speedway is going to catch a break and have decent weather for the 28th annual Haffner’s Oktoberfest event this weekend. More than 300 cars across 14 divisions will compete at the Seacoast oval with feature events scheduled for Sunday beginning at noon. Saturday’s action includes qualifying races plus the Classic Lites feature and the first half of the two-segment Ironman Super Series event.
Open-wheel Oktoberfest divisions include the Valenti Modifieds, the Benson’s Lumber & Hardware Small Block Supermodifieds and the NEMA Midgets. Anthony Nocella, a 20-year-old NEMA Midget regular and civil engineering student from Woburn, Mass., strapped into a Modified and won at “my favorite track” — Seekonk Speedway last time out.
Rowan Pennink leads the Valenti Modifieds by 90 points. John Zych Jr. leads Todd Bertrand by 17 points in the NEMA title fight.
Laticrete International of Bethany, Conn., a longtime racing supporter, has put its name on the Modified 100 and boosted the purse considerably including a $500 bonus for the winner. One driver who won’t be competing for the extra dough is Todd Annarummo of Swansea, Mass. Annarummo, who pocketed 10 grand for an Open show win at Seekonk in July, destroyed his car in a vicious bout with the concrete wall at the “Cement Palace” Saturday.
Among the Small Block Supermodified entrants are 2013 track champion Tommy Tombarello, runner-up Mike Netishen, Sparky MacIver of Sandown and Jake Stergios of Candia. Stergios was recently named NASCAR’s New Hampshire Rookie of the Year after compiling 10 top-five finishes and a win. Jake’s brother, P.J., who built the car and crewed for Jacob Dore’s Modified at Loudon, splits time with Jake on the NEMA Lite circuit.
The Late Models should be out in force trying to spoil ACT champion Wayne Helliwell’s homecoming and earn a guaranteed spot in Riverside’s $10,000-to-win Fall Brawl next Saturday. Helliwell Jr. is already in the Brawl, having won a special event at Canaan.
Not to be confused with Oktoberfest, Canaan’s last hurrah on dirt — “OctoberFAST” goes next Saturday the 19th. The event features a $2,500-to-win Modified 100 that will finalize the starting lineup with a redraw, a $2,000-to-win SCoNE 360 Sprint car 30-lap main event and a $1,000-to-win Sportsman Coupe event, plus support divisions. Chris Donnelly of Piermont, the 2013 Bear Ridge Sportsman Modified champion, has a healthy point lead over Dan Douville.
The decisive Outlaw title race at Hudson was rained out. Todd Warren and Kevin Kephart will square off at the Pumpkinfest event next weekend along with Thunder Lights, Rookies, Roadrunners, V-6 Modifieds and Enduros.
Hometown favorite Nick Sweet won the 51st Milk Bowl at Thunder Road. Track officials worked hard and succeeded at getting the race in despite cold and wet conditions, but paid a price at the gate. By the time Sweet and the Milk Bowl “Queen” — an Ayrshire named Daisy — arrived at the podium, it began to rain so hard it washed the milk off Sweet’s race suit and fast as he gulped it out of the bowl.
Sweet had combined finishes of 6-8-4 for a winning score of 18 points worth $10,000. Brian Hoar (1-16-5=21) was the runnerup. The weather added some suspense in that 2013 Thunder Road champion Derrick O’Donnell of North Haverhill — the low point man after two rounds — crashed out early in the final round.
The field circled the track under yellow for many a lap two different times to beat back the heavy mist before the third segment had reached the halfway mark. Had the rain won out, O’Donnell would have been rescued. “I tried to do too much,” he admitted afterwards.
It was the first Milk Bowl win for Sweet, who at 29, has been the Late Model track champion twice and won every other major race at Thunder Road at least once.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Track This Weekend
Lee USA: Saturday, 2 p.m. and Sunday, noon