Wayne Helliwell, Jr. has raced practically everything there is to race at Lee USA Speedway (NH). A native of nearby Dover, New Hampshire, Helliwell cut his teeth racing at the 3/8-mile oval in Lee, New Hampshire. He raced four-cylinder cars. He raced Late Models. He even made quite a few laps around the track in a Small Block Supermodified.
Not only did he make starts in those divisions mentioned above, he also dominated them and won many feature events in each of them. The 38-year-old is a former track champion, as well as a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion for the state of New Hampshire. He has 20 recorded NWAAS wins at the track between 2008 and 2012, as well as numerous wins at the annual Oktoberfest event held at Lee.
Despite all of his success, there was one achievement the two-time American-Canadian Tour champion was missing from his impressive resume at Lee USA Speedway. That was a win in the prestigious Governor’s Cup 150, the season opening event at New Hampshire’s “Center of Speed.”
But after Sunday, that major achievement missing from his resume is missing no longer. Helliwell took the lead from defending Governor’s Cup 150 winner Eddie MacDonald for the final time on lap 118 of the 150-lap event and cruised to his first career American-Canadian Tour victory at this home track.
“It means a lot,” Helliwell told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “You grow up racing here and you’ve won just about everything there is to win here. This was the one that seems to have gotten away from us. It’s great to finally win this one with (car owner) Bruce Bernhardt and the whole team.”
Helliwell started Sunday’s race from the pole position after recording a plus-five plus-minus rating in his qualifying heat race. He led 88 of the first 92 laps before MacDonald made his charge and took over the top spot. From that point, it appeared as though it was going to once again be MacDonald’s day at Lee.
MacDonald extended his lead over the field while Helliwell tried to conserve his equipment, but also keep MacDonald within striking distance. The two battled side-by-side for a number of laps following a late restart before Helliwell took command of the top spot on lap 118 and never looked back.
“I thought we were done,” Helliwell said. “We had saved and saved so much at the beginning. I had kind of tried to whoa the whole field down and keep everybody at bay. I had looked out the rear view mirror and I saw Eddie pull to the outside lane. He still looked pretty strong. We had that restart and he just chugged on by. At that point, there really wasn’t that no sense in trying to race him because he was that much better. Low and behold, he started to whoa back down and we were still riding. We were able to pick him off.”
MacDonald, who has been a dominant force in ACT Late Model competition dating back to last year’s Milk Bowl at Thunder Road, seemed to be destined for another win after making a strong charge to the top spot on lap 93. But MacDonald’s worst enemy on Sunday may have been “Mother Nature.” With light rain falling and possible rain in the forecast, the Rowley, Massachusetts driver admitted he may have pushed it too hard during the middle states of the race.
“I think we burned it up too quick,” MacDonald said after the race. “We thought we may have an issue with the rain. It was drizzling pretty hard around halfway so I wanted to get to the front as fast as we could. We just burned up the right rear tire I think.”
Brad Babb, who started the race from the seventh position, turned in a very impressive run in the Joey Laquerre-owned No. 15vt machine to earn a runner-up finish. In the closing stages of the race, he reeled in Helliwell but didn’t have quite enough time to challenge for the win.
“I think I might have waited just a little bit too long, but I know how hard Lee is on tires so I tried to save it as long as I could,” Babb stated. “I can’t complain about second. The car is in one piece, it was fun and we came through the field quite a bit. It was a good run. “
2014 Serie ACT champion Alex Labbe made his way through the field to finish in the fourth position after starting 10th. North Haverhill, New Hampshire driver Travis Fadden contended up front all day before crossing the finish line fifth.
For Helliwell, his Governor’s Cup 150 win comes on a weekend when his Bruce Bernhardt-led team was forced to deal with a bit of adversity. Those looking at practice times from the first practice on Saturday afternoon would have seen the No. 27NH at the bottom of the speed chart. The reason: a problem under the hood.
In between practice sessions, the team diagnosed the problem as a faulty spark plug. They returned to the track for practice and instantly jolted up to the top of the speed chart.
“It’s something that we’re really not used to,” said of his team having to deal with some adversity during the weekend. “It basically just stemmed from us trying to be proactive from maintenance. Sometimes when you replace stuff with new stuff just because, it isn’t always the best thing. We learned our lesson and it was just a brand new spark plug that was bad. What are the chances? But we were able to rally back there on Saturday and it all worked out for a reason.”
Helliwell’s win comes just one week after one of the strongest performances of his career at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). The driver of the orange No. 27NH finished second in that season-opening event, and looking back he believes that race gave his team some momentum heading into Lee.
“Coming off of Oxford definitely gave us a lot of momentum because normally I don’t run well there,” he said. “To run as good as we did there and then come here, normally we sink like a ship the last 30 laps of this race, so I think we’re learning some stuff and hopefully it will continue on. So let’s see if we can’t keep this momentum going.”
A Trackside Now replay of the Governor’s Cup 150, including lap-by-lap updates, photos and more, can be found by clicking here. 51’s coverage from Lee USA Speedway throughout the weekend at Lee USA Speedway was presented by LARUE.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
ACT Governor’s Cup 150 Unofficial Results
Lee USA Speedway (NH) – April 26, 2015
|1||27nh||Wayne Helliwell, Jr.||150|
|9||97nh||Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.||150|
|13||28me||Rowland Robinson, Jr.||150|
|22||10ma||Tom Carey, Jr.||93|
|27||23me||Dave Farrington, Jr.||28|