Travis Benjamin and Patrick Laperle cashed in at two of the season’s highest-paying short track races over the weekend.
Benjamin, from Morrill, Maine, chased down rising star Austin Theriault amidst lapped traffic in the closing laps of the Oxford 250 to record his second straight win in that storied event. Laperle outlasted two-time Thunder Road Late Model champion Nick Sweet in an epic final 15-lap door-to-door duel in the ACT 200 at Airborne.
With contingency dollars thrown in, Benjamin raked in over 27 grand. ACT’s release put Laperle’s take at $26,800. As the ACT runner-up, Sweet pocketed $8,700. By several neutral accounts, the Oxford crowd was “decent” bolstered by a late Sunday walk-up. The car count topped 60.
There were 29 Late Models at Airborne and attendance was so-so — ACT’s big purse race is in its second year and it doesn’t bring the old-timers out of the woodwork the way the 250 does — but Laperle and Sweet saved the day for most.
The ACT event was a segment race (50-75-75). The word on the street, so to speak, was that more than a few teams stayed away for that very reason. Laperle, Sweet and ACT points leader Joey Polewarczyk Jr. entered the final round in a three-way tie for the lead at five points apiece.
Polewarczyk Jr. finished third overall, but he was out of contention early in the last segment after getting whacked in the right front by a car bouncing off the fourth turn wall in heavy traffic. When Sweet and Laperle made it back to the front, you didn’t have to be good at math to figure out that they were going at each other for the whole enchilada.
“It was awesome to have a race like that with Nick Sweet,” Laperle said. “We never touched each other. He is a great racer.”
Another high-dollar seasonal highlight, Wednesday’s final round of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series at Seekonk Speedway, will likely have drawn draw a big crowd and a big open-wheel turnout before this column goes to press. The $10,000-to-win race is bolstered by the NEMA Midget Boston Louie event.
Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn., won the Valenti Modified Series Lincoln Tech 80 at Stafford after swapping the lead with Tommy Barrett Jr. The next VMS Modified event is at Waterford Speedbowl Aug. 9.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series makes its debut tomorrow night at Lee USA. Larry Gelinas of Buxton, Maine, is the Series leader, 33 points up on Matt Frahm of Hampstead and 37 points ahead of Dillon Moltz of Waterford, Conn.
Last Friday at Lee USA, 40 members of the El Camino Owners Associated turned out for a burnout contest. That’s a car count to be proud of, but remind me, what was the point of an El Camino? A utility coupe you say? Go to church on Sunday, carry the pigs to market on Monday?
Anyway, rookie Kyle Sawyer of Kingston became the seventh different winner in seven Benson Lumber and Hardware Supermodified events. Lance Barthelemy of Fremont was the runner-up with Jake Stergios of Candia third. The Prime Storage and Warehouse Late Model Sportsmen ran two features and Alby Ovitt of Somersworth swept them both.
Sawyer took the lead early in the Arco Excavators of Kingston No.5 in the Supermodified feature and never gave it up.
“He started up front and drove away,” his father, car owner and crew chief Bill Sawyer, said. “It was maybe a little boring by racing standards, but it was thrilling for us. He drove well and we were lucky that weren’t any cautions.”
Sawyer spent two years in a Hobby Stock before taking on a Supermodified. “We bought a running car from Jon Booth last year and we’ve had a lot of help from Jim and Jamie Timmons of Timmons Racing,” Bill Sawyer said.
“We’re very happy to be racing at Lee,” Sawyer added. “Red MacDonald’s a strong supporter of this division and he’s there every Friday congratulating the winner and seeing how everybody’s doing.”Todd Patnode of Richmond padded his Sportsman Modified point lead with a win at Monadnock.
Granite State Mini Sprint drivers Lauren Boisvert of Bristol (500cc) and Rich Crooker (600 cc) were among the winners at Bear Ridge.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at email@example.com.