The final half of the inaugural $10,000 to win U.S. Pro Stock / Super Late Model National Championship Race at Seekonk Speedway (MA) had all the “wow” moments that Short Track fans live for. Hard racing, unexpected twists, and a finish straight out of a Hollywood script.
The first 100 of the 200-lap marathon went by relatively smoothly Wednesday night with former ACT Late Model champion Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. leading from the pole position straight through to the half-time break. When the race resumed for the final 100 laps after the sun had set, the tone of the race changed entirely.
With Florida’s Dalton Sargeant hugging the inside of the track, he would get the edge on Polewarczyk for the lead, but Polewarczyk would come back with a bump to the left rear to get back underneath and back to the top. While “Joey Pole” would rule the long runs, pulling out leads, lapped traffic and yellows kept the racing close and hard with Sargeant clashing with Pole on multiple occasions. As the laps wound down, Polewarczyk pulled out his biggest lead of the night over Sargeant, but with 10 laps to go a thin smoke trail appeared from the No. 97, and two laps later the car erupted in flames, eight laps short of the $10,000 top prize.
“No warning at all,” Polewarczyk told Speed51.com powered by JEGs of the fire. “Dalton and I had a pretty good race going. I got into him the first time early by accident, just barely. After that he jacked me up a few times, then I got into him a few times. We were having a good race, it was good hard racing. I finally found a line where I could separate myself from him. We were on cruise control there at the end. The lap before it caught on fire the pitch changed in the car. You get that old saying, your leading with a big race like that you hear everything in the car and this and that, I thought that’s what was going on. Obviously that wasn’t the case.”
Joey Pole’s early exit was a welcome sight for Sargeant who made the trip north to Seekonk with the Bond Suss Motorsports team.
“I was pretty happy,” he admitted. “I felt like we were really good for the first couple of laps, we even got around him. He roughed me up a little bit to get back by me. I roughed him up and he did the same. Some clean hard racing. He started to pull away from us a little bit. I don’t know how much we would’ve had for him, I was pretty happy when I saw him go. Maybe some bad karma.”
Sargeant would have a challenger after taking over the lead in the form of 2015 Granite State Pro Stock Series champion Derek Griffith, who battled with Sargeant for second position much of the first 100-lap segment. Sargeant had trouble clearing Griffith on the restart, but just after getting out in front, the caution came out again with six laps to go.
Sargeant would get clear off the line, but was unable to hug the inside as before, allowing Griffith to peek underneath over the final laps, tapping Sargeant’s left rear again and again to work him up the track. On the final lap Griffith got to the inside one last time with neither driver giving the other any room on the race track. Griffith drove hard into turn three and the two leaders made contact that forced them to slide sideways, allowing Tom Scully, Jr. to sneak past and claim the $10,000 victory.
For Sargeant, disappointment was apparent after coming so close to a spectacular victory, but he was able to hold his head high, already getting into the mindset for his next challenge.
“It’s a little hard to recall, just racing as hard as we could for the win there,” stated Sargeant. “I felt like we did everything we needed to. Rubbing is racing, at the end of the day it’s a bummer we got turned there coming to the checkered. I think we were a little bit ahead of him. It is what it is sometimes it’s just out of your control. I’m looking forward to heading to the Redbud 300 at Anderson this weekend and getting back on track.”
Griffith would be credited with second, but was critical of how rough the final laps ended up being between himself and Sargeant.
“It was a little rough there,” said Griffith. “I was on the outside, he was running me up a little bit. I was sailing it off in there trying to stay up and he tried to do what he had to do to keep me off him. That last restart the bottom opened up and I dove it in. It looked like he stopped to stay on the bottom and I just got into him a little bit to free him up. We raced real hard until the end. I was underneath him, came over the nose a little bit and that last lap I dove it into three with everything I had. We both came out a little sideways, the finish was the finish. I don’t like racing like that, I’m not really disappointed, but I don’t like racing like that. It was a tough race, and came down to the line. It was fun, probably a good show for the fans.”
Scully of West Warwick, RI, is a veteran of the Seekonk Pro Stock division, currently leading the 2016 points in search of his first season championship. He had run much of the race in the back and middle of the top 10. On the final restart, Scully managed to pass Derek Ramstrom for third spot and got right behind Griffith for the final laps.
Scully, who had won big Seekonk events in the DAV and in the Pro All Stars Series, was especially proud to win the race for the home guard, but also admitted he had never won a race in the fashion that he did Wednesday night.
“It was pretty exciting from my stand point,” said Scully. I saw them using each other’s doors up pretty good, that last corner they really locked up. I was looking at that checkered flag on that street there and we took it. If I didn’t win it, I wanted one of our home town guys to win it. We deserve it, we race here every week. That was a first, probably the only race I led that I won by leading 50 feet. I don’t know what to say, this is awesome.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com