Just as the grass was starting to peak out from underneath the snow in the Northeast region, Mother Nature landed a haymaker one week ago. Winter Storm “Stella” really wasn’t that “stellar” for short track racing fans in the region, dumping up to two feet of snow on many race tracks.
But have no fear, the season will soon be here. Actually, it will be here in just over one week when the Icebreaker gets underway at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT).
While there was still some snow remaining on the 5/8-mile Connecticut oval earlier this week, track officials have planned an open test session for this weekend. With that, all signs point to a bright green light shining on the 2017 season on April 1-2 at Thompson.
Each year, the annual Icebreaker event serves as the official kickoff to a new racing season. With the ground-pounding Modiifeds from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the fast Super Late Models from the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) in attendance, race fans are sure to get their money’s worth.
ACT NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR’S CUP DECISION TO BE MADE SOON
The latest batch of snow showers has created some concern over the American-Canadian Tour’s season-opening race at Lee USA Speedway (NH). A photo posted on the track’s Facebook page Tuesday afternoon showed the 3/8-mile still covered in white snow.
Track officials have indicated that they will be deciding next week on whether or not the track will be ready for the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup on April 9.
NORTHEAST RACERS HEADING SOUTH TO ORANGE COUNTY
At least three Northeast racers will be making their way south to Orange County Speedway (NC) this weekend for the PASS Orange Blossom Special. Four-time PASS National champion Ben Rowe, New Hampshire’s Derek Griffith and Maine’s Dave Farrington are all expected to make the trip.
The race, which is the first race on the “Road to the Oxford 250,” will see one driver earn a guaranteed starting spot for the $25,000-to-win race.
Race fans will be able to watch the race via a live pay-per-view broadcast right here on Speed51.com.
HELLIWELL FOCUSING ON PART-TIME SLM SCHEDULE
One of the Northeast’s biggest Late Model stars won’t be competing for a championship in 2017. Last year’s Oxford 250 winner Wayne Helliwell, Jr. and his Bruce Bernhardt-led team plan to compete in select Super Late Model races this season.
Helliwell and Bernhardt have been busy over the offseason building a new SLM from the ground up. When Bernhardt says from “the ground up” he means it, too. The only thing purchased by the team was a front clip. From there, all the work is being done in Bernhardt’s race shop located in Pelham, New Hampshire.
And no, don’t think that their winning Oxford 250 car from last year is going anywhere. They still have it and they’re ready to make it a two-time Oxford 250 winning car this season.
The dynamic duo hope to make their first start of the season, and their first since their Oxford 250 win, on April 22 when the Pro All Stars Series visits Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
THE FUTURE OF THUNDER ROAD
One of the most talked about news items during the offseason has surrounded the future of Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont. Track owners Ken Squier and Tom Curley have made it no secret that the track is on the market, but the two owners have stressed that they will not sell the track unless the perfect deal is in place to protect its future.
As the season draws closer and closer, many wonder if Thunder Road will be opening under new ownership in May. But regardless of whether the track is sold or not, a full schedule of racing will take place at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” in 2017.
NEWLY UNIFIED NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR TAKING SHAPE
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season officially kicked off last Saturday at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC), and with the start of the new season a handful of questions were answered.
Bob Garbarino’s legendary No. 4 Mystic Missile was absent from Myrtle Beach, indicating that he does not have plans to run the full schedule.
After a strong podium finish, we also found out that two-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Andy Seuss is hoping to chase the full schedule if all goes well moving forward.
Four-time NWSMT George Brunnhoelzl III didn’t show up to Myrtle Beach. The driver known as “GB3” plans to race the NWMT events at his home track of Riverhead Raceway (NY), as well as other select events in the Northeast region.
NEW SCHEDULE AND NEW FACES FOR ACT
A new-look schedule putting a significant focus on tracks in the Twin States of Vermont and New Hampshire won’t be the only thing “new” for the American-Canadian Tour in 2017. It appears that a fresh group of new faces will be joining the tour full-time this season.
2016 Thunder Road champion Scott Dragon will start the year with intention of running the full tour schedule with car owner Richard Green. Another one of Thunder Road’s rising stars, Jason Corliss, will also hit the road this season and attempt his first touring series schedule.
Connecticut driver Ray Christian III, who made select ACT starts last season, also plans to tackle the full schedule this season.
BIGGEST YEAR YET FOR GRANITE STATE PRO STOCKS?
The Granite State Pro Stock Series will be looking to make the year 2017 its best yet.
Series founder Mike Parks will be stepping out of the driver’s seat this season and will focus on putting more time into promoting the series. He will also step into the race director role, hoping to bring consistency to the tower at each race this season.
In addition to that news, the biggest news of the offseason came when the series announced it would be competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as part of the New England Short Track Showdown in July.
OXFORD 250 ENTRIES ALREADY FLYING IN
Drivers have wasted no time getting their entries submitted for the 44th Annual Oxford 250. Twenty-three drivers have already mailed in their entry forms as of March 19.
Six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark was the first to submit an entry for the race. Among others, he is joined on the list by defending track champion Tim Brackett, Ben and Mike Rowe, two-time race winner Travis Benjamin and defending race winner Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
A full list of the early entries can be seen by visiting www.proallstarsseries.com.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com