Donnelly started sixth in the 18-car starting field on Saturday night and -- in typical Donnelly fashion -- moved to the upper lane to pick off cars one at a time and take the feature victory, his fifth of the year. The Piermont, N.H. racers insists that racing to the front is harder than he makes it look.
"It's not that easy," he laughed in victory lane. "Actually, I thought it might be easy [tonight], but the top wasn't as good as I had hoped and it took me a lot longer to get there."
Twenty-nine laps, to be exact, which, in fairness is a much longer span of time than the normal Donnelly march takes. In fact, at the race's first restart on lap 19, Donnelly was only in fourth place. He said that he didn't need the caution period to catch leaders Bryan King, Jack Cook, and Bob Shepard.
"That wasn't really a factor, I was getting [to the front] anyway," Donnelly said. "As the track wore down I knew my car was going to come in and I was hoping theirs would go away, and it worked out. It was coming around to me, so it was just a matter of time and just trying to be patient, not overdrive the car and keep it under me."
Donnelly made quick work of Shepard, taking third away from him two laps after the restart. Cook was next on lap 26, then King's lead fell on lap 29. From there, Donnelly was uncontested for the win, despite a final restart on lap 31 with four circuits remaining in the race.
Yet, with his fifth checkered flag of the season in hand, Donnelly insisted that winning in the style Bear Ridge fans have become accustomed to seeing him churn out isn't easy. Then he grinned, adding, "I'll bet it looks easy though."
Cook, of Moultonboro, N.H. finished a season-best second over Corinth driver King, and Shepard of West Topsham. Point leader Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H. finished a quiet fifth in the feature, nearly putting a lock on his third-straight Bear Ridge Speedway championship. Wayne Stearns, Siemons' closest title pursuer, suffered a mechanical failure that necessitated the lap 19 caution flag, finishing as the 18th and final car in the race. Unofficially, Siemons stretched his lead from 14 points to 35 over Stearns, with Donnelly third, 45 points behind. Only one championship event remains on September 26; Siemons will only need to start the feature race that day to clinch the title.
Matt Tanner of Stephenstown, N.Y. won the SCoNE 360 Sprint Car feature, a two-segment race, for his first Bear Ridge feature win. Tanner took advantage of a spin by leader Anthony Cain late in the second segment to take the lead and win the 15-lap dash. After a third-place showing in the first segment, Tanner was tied with Clay Dow, who finished second in each segment, at four points. Tanner was awarded the win based on his better final-segment finish. Shawn Lawler finished third overall, with Robby Bodwell fourth and Bruce Kimball fifth.
Melvin Pierson of Topsham earned his foruth Sportsman Coupe feature win in a three-segment race. Pierson and championship leader Josh Harrington, also of Topsham, battled for the third position in the final segment, which also ultimately proved to be the battle for the overall victory. Pierson finished third in the segment and held on for the overall win with seven points, with Harrington second overall at 10 points. King continued his strong night, matching his Modified finish in third place. Jason Horniak was fourth overall, with Jeremy Stygles fifth.
Dan Eastman of Thetford Center earned his 11th Limited Late Model win of the season in a three-segment race, posting finishes of first, first, and third. Will Hull of East Montpelier, the final segment winner, finished second overall. Shane Race, Jason Giguere, and Jeremy Hodge completed the unofficial top five, pending technical inspection.
Steve Bell of St. Johnsbury won a thrilling Fast Four feature, holding off Andy Johnson throughout the entire race, despite repeated attempts by Johnson to get by for the lead. Chris McKinstry made a rare Bear Ridge appearance, and joined Bell and Johnson late in the race to create a tight three-car battle for the win. At the finish line, Bell had his second win of the year, while McKinstry slipped by Johnson for the runner-up spot, a half-car length behind Bell. Kevin Harran was fourth with Wayland Childs fifth.
Tom Placey of Bradford grabbed his tenth Hornet feature win of the season, beating runner-up Bobby Bell and Mike Pittman, who led late in the going before finishing a career-best third. Karl Sheldon and Mike Chapin were fourth and fifth, respectively.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Upper Valley Stove Company Night
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford, Vt.
Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009
Pos.-Driver-Hometown (# - indicates rookie)
Bond Auto Sportsman Modified (35 laps)
1. Chris Donnelly, Piermont, N.H.
2. Jack Cook, Moultonboro, N.H.
3. Bryan King, Corinth
4. Bob Shepard, West Topsham
5. Gary Siemons, Orford, N.H.
6. Travis Shinn, Groton, N.H.
7. #Mike Dunn, North Haverhill, N.H.
8. Kevin Chaffee, Orange
9. Jason Sanville, Grafton, N.H.
10. Jason Gray, East Thetford
Wells River Chevrolet Sportsman Coupe (Overall finish)
1. Melvin Pierson, Topsham
2. Josh Harrington, Topsham
3. Bryan King, Corinth
4. #Jason Horniak, Bradford
5. Jeremy Stygles, Bradford
A Notch Above Automotive Limited Late Model (Overall finish)
1. Dan Eastman, Thetford Center
2. Will Hull, East Montpelier
3. Shane Race, South Strafford
4. Jason Giguere, Enfield, N.H.
5. Jeremy Hodge, Bradford
Journal Opinion Fast Four (20 laps)
1. Steve Bell, St. Johnsbury
2. Chris McKinstry, Thetford
3. Andy Johnson, Wilder
4. Kevin Harran, St. Johnsbury
5. Wayland Childs, Chelsea
KDD NAPA Hornet (15 laps)
1. Tom Placey, Bradford
2. Bobby Bell, St. Johnsbury
3. Mike Pittman, Corinth
4. Karl Sheldon, St. Johnsbury
5. Mike Chapin, Chelsea
SCoNE 360 Sprint Car (Overall finish)
1. Matt Tanner, Stephenstown, N.Y.
2. Clay Dow, Ossipee, N.H.
3. Shawn Lawler, Mason, N.H.
4. Robby Bodwell
5. Bruce Kimball, Lebanon, N.H.
(PHOTOS: 1. Chris Donnelly in Sportsman Modified victory lane; 2. SCoNE winner Matt Tanner. Photos by Justin St. Louis/VMM)