Since winning the Oxford 250 in August 2016, Wayne Helliwell, Jr.’s appearances with the familiar orange No. 27NH have been scattered. During that time, Helliwell has battled health issues while he and his team have also been battling their own race cars. Now, with 2018 on the horizon and with Helliwell in good health, he and the Bruce Bernhardt team are ready to take on the new season with a new goal.
Helliwell and the Bernhardt squad have set their sights set on winning a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Pro Series championship at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. While Helliwell has cited many reasons for running weekly at the Scarborough, Maine oval, the biggest came as an opportunity from the team’s sponsor.
“It started because our primary sponsor, EKeys4Cars, just opened a new store just seven miles down from the speedway. We figured it would be a good opportunity for us to have his name in and around there and spread the word,” Helliwell told Speed51.com.
Beech Ridge is a track that has maintained a solid car count of Super Late Models on a weekly basis in the Pro Series division. The track also features some of the toughest drivers in the region, including 2017 Oxford 250 winner Curtis Gerry and defending division champion Reid Lanpher, who Helliwell is eager to take on.
“They always have had a good car count up there, they always seem to have counts from 18 to the mid-20s,” Helliwell stated. “They put on a good show; it should be a fun and tight battle all season long. Anytime we’ve been there for tour racing the track always seems to breed great side-by-side racing.”
This will be the first season since 2012 that Helliwell has run for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship. That year he won the Late Model title at the now-defunct Cannan Fair Speedway (NH) after winning back-to-back titles the previous two seasons at Lee USA Speedway (NH) in the 350 Supermodifieds.
Though Helliwell has never picked up a win at Beech Ridge, it is a track that has dug into his heart. He is excited to be able to race in front of the fans he has gained in Maine, while he is hopeful that his home state fans from New Hampshire will take an opportunity to check it out.
“I’ve been 50-50 there, sometimes we are really, really good and sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot. But as for the track as a whole, I love racing there,” Helliwell explained. “It’s become one of my favorite tracks, so I’m looking forward to being there all year. It’s only an hour from my house so it’s good for me and it’s good for the family.”
For anyone worried that he will be giving up on running any touring races, worry not. Helliwell is planning to run a to-be-determined amount of races in both the Pro All Stars Series and the Granite State Pro Stock Series. His other big goal for 2018 is winning a second Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) in August.
The biggest challenge remaining is to get all the gremlins out of the team’s newest car, something that Helliwell feels running at Beech Ridge will help to accomplish.
“I think it will help us sort our new car out. To keep the car setup for one track will help us learn more about it. I’ve got high hopes for the season. I’m feeling better and we want to do more racing this year. This is a good way to start.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Lindsay Ellison Photography