Tom Herzig's Trackside: Winning weekend for Granite State drivers
May 30. 2018 10:42PM
On Track This WeekendLegion Speedway: Friday, 7 p.m.
Lee USA Speedway: Friday, 7 p.m.
Claremont: Friday, 7 p.m.
Bear Ridge (Vt.): Saturday, 6 p.m.
Monadnock: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Speedway 51: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Star Speedway: Saturday, 6 p.m.
White Mountain: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Hudson Speedway: Sunday, 1 p.m.
GRANITE STATE racers Mike Willis Jr. of Grantham and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson landed in victory lane at prominent regional short track events over the holiday weekend.
Willis stayed mistake free in the closing laps of the $6,000-to-win Tri-Track Open Modified Series Ron Bouchard Auto Parts 100 at Claremont Speedway with heavy hitters Ryan Preece and Matt Hirschman hot on his tail.
Polewarczyk Jr. came out on top in the Pro All Star Series Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic 150 at Thunder Road despite having to pit to replace a flat tire.
Willis was driving the Spirit of Alaska Wilderness Adventures/Legacy Landscaping No. 83 on what is essentially his home track. He pulled the pole in a redraw after finishing third in his heat and was paired on the front row of the 27-car field with wily veteran Les Hinckley of Windsor Locks, Conn.
After two early cautions, Hinckley and Willis opened up a sizeable lead, but a third yellow on lap 23 bunched the field back up. Hirschman, who swept the four-race series in 2017, was in third alongside former Valenti Modified Series regular Mike Holdridge. Ron Silk of Norwalk, Conn., and Russ Hersey of Swanzey occupied row three while top contender Preece pitted for adjustments and returned at the rear.
A key moment came on lap 42 when Waterford Speedbowl SK Lites and Legends champion Dana DiMatteo crashed into the fourth turn wall. Hersey and Willis, who had been dicing for fourth, pitted under yellow leaving Hinckley, Hirschman and Silk as the top three.
It wasn’t until a lap 80 caution, when Holdridge got crossed up by a lapped car slowing with a flat tire, that Preece and Hirschman pitted for their allowable tire change. Silk, now at the point in Bob Horn’s No. 50, stayed out on the track as did Hinckley, Todd Patnode, Westminster, Mass., teenager Sammy Rameau and Rowan Pennink, who rose to third, fourth and fifth. Willis sat ninth.
Then the complexion of the race changed. Five cautions ensued between laps 80 and 94, and Silk found himself on hardened tires trying to hold off Willis as Preece, Hirschman and Tommy Barrett (from 27th) closed in. Willis first nosed ahead with five laps left. After Willis and Silk touched wheels exiting the fourth turn on lap 97, Willis sped off to a two car-length victory and the biggest win of his career.
“This is huge!”, exclaimed Willis hoisting the winner’s trophy in victory lane. “To come home and win against the best like this. We really got this car rolling. When they (Preece and Hirschman) pitted, I knew I was at a disadvantage. I have to thank Mike Parks of Troyer (Race Car Chassis) for all the help he’s given us.”
Preece won the Stafford Spring Sizzler shortly after a headline grabbing NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway for Joe Gibbs Racing, which earned him a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. “The restarts really helped me get in the right lane in the right spots, but Mike had a winning car tonight,” he said.
Barrett finished fourth, just ahead of Silk, who lamented the cautions saying, “I think I could have won if it had stayed green. Positions 6-10 went to Matt Galko, Woody Pitkat, Patnode, Pennink and Hinckley.
The next Tri-Track Open Modified Series event is at Seekonk Speedway on Wednesday, June 27.
Polewarczyk’s win came on the Thunder Road high banks where, as a high schooler, he began a path to an eventual American Canadian Tour championship.
Joey Pole has won the Oxford 250 and the ACT Invitational at NHMS, but he hadn’t won at Thunder Road since the 2010 Vermont Milk Bowl.
Polewarczyk dedicated his win to the late Tom Curley. “He would be real proud to see all of this,” he said. “He really helped my career. It means a lot”
After being a lap down at one point, Polewarczyk’s Cigar Perforator/Riveteyelet.com No. 97 took the lead from eventual third-place finisher Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg, Vt., on lap 101. Reid Lanpher, 20, of Manchester, Maine, was the runner-up. DJ Shaw followed Therrien home for a fourth-place finish.
“We struggled in practice and in the heat race,” Polewarczyk told Vermont Motor Magazine editor TJ Ingerson. “But our guys never quit. We changed everything you could change before the feature started. It was risky.”
“I came to this track back in 2004 and ended up in the wall about 19 times,” Polewarczyk added. “We’ve come a long way.”
Cody Blake of Barre, Vt., won the ACT Late Model 100-lap portion of the Thunder Road card. Scott Dragon and Trampas Demers were second and third.
The American Canadian Tour is at Speedway 51 in Groveton Saturday for the Caron Fabrication 151.
Lee USA Speedway opens its regular season Friday night. The schedule features the Don Coster Memorial 35 for the Tri-City Line-X Ironman division which has several competitors with close family ties to Coster including Troy, Zach, Randy and Brandon Washburn.
Joey Doiron of Berwick, Maine, won the Granite State Pro Stock Series Triple 35’s competition at New London/Waterford Speedbowl. Devin O’Connell of Madison, Conn., won the final segment and was second overall.
Star Speedway has the North East Mini Stock Tour and the NE Classic Lites in this Saturday plus an extra feature to make up after battling rain most of the night.
Robert Tucker held off Adam Pierson to win the Sportsman Modified feature at Bear Ridge.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at email@example.com.