-by Justin St. Louis
The 2010 racing season started quite a while ago in this neck of the woods. Vivid, teeth-chattering memories of the opener at Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut still swirl in this writer's head like so many windblown snowflakes that fell during the drive up Interstate 89 on the journey home that March night. New England has been racing for two solid months now, and even we wintry Vermonters have enjoyed one form of on-track action or another since the first Thunder Road practice in mid-April.
But for all intents and purposes, this weekend is the big beginning.
Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the most celebrated in motorsports, whether it's the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, or the grind of weekly short tracks around the country. For the first time this year, all three Vermont speedplants will be open this weekend, and -- along with the well-timed 90-degree weather -- we can all welcome the arrival of the summer racing season.
If you can't find something to do at a race track this weekend, well, you're not trying very hard.
Congratulations to Jerry Richards and the management at Devil's Bowl Speedway for such a successful opening event on the new asphalt. The crowd was one of the largest in the speedway's 44-year history, and the racing was competitive and exciting, with lots of side-by-side racing. Dave Pembroke and Mike Bruno put on a great show for the win, and Grant Folsom even did his part by getting upside down on the frontstretch in front of the packed grandstand.
We're looking forward to rest of the season at Vermont's fastest half-mile.
From the "Beating A Dead Horse Even Deader" file: Is it totally ironic that Patrick Laperle won the Série ACT-Castrol opener at Autodrome St-Eustache last weekend? Wasn't that the place where he decided after the season finale that he was so frustrated that he was done racing with ACT for a couple years?
What's so intriguing about Laperle is that he simply can't stay away, and that's only a good thing. He may butt heads with Donald Theetge or Tom Curley or whomever, but that's because Laperle has such an obvious fire-in-the-belly for competition and winning.
Last Saturday's win may have been as important for Laperle personally and mentally as it was for his career numbers. It also qualified him for the second annual ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. Patrick Laperle is back, folks.
Not that he ever really went anywhere anyway.
Here's a tip: If you're a betting person and you like dirt racing, put your money on Ryan Avery this year. Dude is cleaning house.
With low car counts and little growth over the past several seasons, officials at White Mountain Motorsports Park in New Hampshire disbanded the Super Street division over the winter and adopted the rulebook from Thunder Road's Tiger Sportsman class, creating the new Super Sportsman division for 2010.
Of the 15 drivers that raced in the inaugural feature on Saturday night, only one -- Gary Griswold -- has been a regular weekly competitor at White Mountain, and he finished 14th. The rest were Thunder Road regulars or drivers that plan to compete mainly on the four-race ACT Tiger Sportsman Series.
White Mountain is not only a beautful and scenic place to visit, it's a competitive, well-run race track that deserves good support divisions. (The headline Late Model class enjoyed a 26-car field with only a few outside visitors.) Here's hoping that the Super Sportsman field last weekend wasn't just a fluke.
Not only did Chris Donnelly win two features at Bear Ridge on Saturday, he won one the features using two different cars. While we're not totally sure how that's legal, we do marvel at it.
Donnelly finished second in the first leg of a two-segment feature at the season opener on May 15, but r rain postponed the second segment to last Saturday. In the interim, he was presented an offer he couldn't refuse and sold his only car. Donnelly found himself in a bind for the May 22 event, though, as his Wicked Racing Products business was the presenting sponsor and he wanted to compete in the event.
With a quick phone call, he borrowed a car from Tom Forward and drove from the rear to finish second in the second segment. With a low score of four points, Donnelly was declared the winner. Not sure we've ever seen anything like that before.
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Brandon's Don Scarborough finished fifth in the Modified feature last Saturday, with Milton's Bill Sawyer third in the Sportsman race. Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax was third in the Renegades with Milton's Larry Underwood fifth.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Mike Bruno of Bomoseen took his second-straight Modified win on Friday night with Brandon's Don Scarborough fourth. Middlebury teen Hunter Bates won the Sportsman feature.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Chris Donnelly of Orford, N.H., swept both Sportsman Modified features on Saturday night, followed by Thornton, N.H.'s Ryan Avery and Jason Gray of East Thetford in the first race and Travis Shinn of Groton, N.H., and Fairlee's Adam Pierson in the second race. Bradford's Jason Horniak won the first Sportsman Coupe feature over East Corinth's Melvin Pierson and Topsham's Josh Harrington, while Pierson beat Chris Carbee of South Ryegate and rookie Shane Race of South Strafford in the second race. Newbury's Jeremy Hodge took his frist career Limited Late Model win over Will Hull of East Montpelier and Tyler Stygles of Bradford. Josh Sunn of White River Junction swept both Fast Four races, with Danville's Danny Doyle and Andy Johnson of Wilder finishing second and third once each. Bobby Bell of St. Johnsbury won the Hornet race over Bradford's Tom Placey and Mark Harran of St. Johnsbury, while Dawn Woodward of Corinth beat her neighbor, Melissa King, and St. Johnsbury's Misty Bell in the Hornet Queen race.
Big Daddy's Speedway (Rumney, N.H.): Tyler Stygles of Bradford won the Super Street featrue on Sunday, and Josh Sunn of White River Junction was the Mini Stock runner-up.
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Rookie Dan Eastman of Thetford Center was third in the Sportsman Modifed feature on Friday and took over the point lead. Josh Sunn of White River Junction won the Mini Stock feature, and Dakota Stender of Tunbridge won the Bandit feature.
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Kevin Menard of South Royalton was sixth in the first of two Pro Stock features on Saturday, and Mendon's Chris Wilk was third in the second race. Jamie Hodgdon of Ascutney was the Pure Stock runner-up with North Springfield's Rory Merritt fifth. Bobby Prior of White River Junction was fourth in the Outlaw Mini feature. Ascutney's Tyler Lescord won the Bandit feature over Mike Parker of Bradford.
Devil's Bowl Speedway (West Haven): Dave Pembroke of Middlesex beat Bomoseen's Mike Bruno to win the "Thunder at the Bowl 100" Late Model event on Sunday, with Tracie Bellerose of Gorham, N.H., third. Don Miller of Wells won the Sportsman feature over Clifton Park, N.Y.'s Fred Proctor and Hunter Bates of Middlebury. Milton's Cody Benoit won the Renegade feature over Jon Miller of Malta, N.Y., and Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax, and Miton's Chad Brown beat Garry Bashaw of Lincoln and Russ Downing of Hartland to win the Bomber Warrior race. Andy Smith of South Glens Falls, N.Y., won the Duke Stock race.
Modified Racing Series: Ascutney rookie Joey Jarvis was 15th in the East-West Showdown 100 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday, with uncle Dwight Jarvis of Ascutney 18th. Rowan Pennink of Huntington Valley, Pa., was the winner.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Josh King of Vernon was 17th in Saturday's Modified feature. Putney's Dana Shepard was ninth in the Super Street feature. Joe Rogers of Ludlow finished fifth in the Mini Stocks with Mike Metcalf of Westminster ninth.
PASS North Super Late Models: Steven Legendre of Danville finished eighth in Saturday's event at White Mountain Motorsports Park, and Milton's Scott Dragon was 15th. Johnny Clark of Hallowell, Me., was the winner.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Dan Sidney of St. Johnsbury won the Outlaw Sportsman feature with Davey Ofsuryk of Newport Center fourth. Michael Smith of St. Johnsbury was fourth in the Super Stock race, and Doug Duprey of St. Johnsbury was third in the Street Stocks. Howard Switser of West Burke was third in the Dwarf Car race with Anthony Young of Beecher Falls fourth.
Sprint Cars of New England: Sunday's event at Big Daddy's Speedbowl was cut short due to a racing accident.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Dallas Trombley of Rutland finished fourth in the Late Model feature on Friday night. Chris Wilk of Mendon was the Super Street winner with Russ Davis of Cavendish third. Pittsford's Kyle Davis won the Strictly Stock feature over David Greenslit of Waitsfield and Jacksonville's Kaitlin Stone.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Stacy Cahoon of St. Johnsbury was the Late Model runner-up on Saturday with Bernie Lantagne of McIndoe Falls third. Graniteville's Chip Grenier won the Super Sportsman feature over Derrick O'Donnell of Bradford and North Wolcott's Brendan Moodie.
Friday, May 28
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 6:45pm (Regular Event)
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 7:00pm (Regular Event)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 7:30pm (Regular Event)
Saturday, May 29
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 5:00pm (Modified Racing Series)
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford -- 6:00pm (SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 6:00pm (NEMA Midgets)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 5:00 (Regular Event)
Sunday, May 30
Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. -- 4:00pm (Granite State Mini Sprints)
Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven -- 2:00pm (Modified Tri-Track Series)
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre -- 1:30pm (Modified Racing Series)
Granite State Mini Sprints: Sun., May 30 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. (4:00pm)
Modified Racing Series: Sat., May 29 -- Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. (5:00pm)
Modified Racing Series: Sun., May 30 -- Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt. (1:30pm)
Modified Tri-Track Series: Sun., May 30 -- Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven, Vt. (2:00pm)
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Sat., May 29 -- Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C. (ABC/2:00pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sun., May 30 -- Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C. (FOX/5:45pm)
Pro All Stars Series: Sat., May 29 -- Concord Speedway, Concord, N.C. (7:00pm)
Série ACT-Castrol Edge: Sat., May 29 -- Autodrome Montmagny, Montmagny, Qué. (6:00pm)
Sprint Cars of New England: Sat., May 29 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford, Vt. (6:00pm)