Brandon Atkins had one of the most promising runs of his young racing career come to an abrupt end Saturday night at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, New Hampshire.
The 2014 American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Rookie of the Year seemed destined for his first career ACT win before contact with Eddie MacDonald battling for the race lead on lap 116 of the 150-lap event sent Atkins spinning in turn two. MacDonald would be penalized for his role in the incident and Atkins would wind up being parked by ACT officials for retaliating under caution.
With two strong cars eliminated from contention, current ACT points leader Wayne Helliwell, Jr. pounced on the opportunity when he inherited the lead for the ensuing restart. “The Punisher” pulled away from fellow championship contender Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. on what would be the race’s final restart to win his third event of the 2015 campaign.
“I’m telling ya, I haven’t worked that hard in a long time,” Helliwell told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “This was definitely a difficult place to get around with how they ground the outside lane. It was definitely a hard fought race and we came out on top tonight.”
Atkins, who took the lead from polesitter Mike Ziter on lap 100, led the way until the lap 116 incident with MacDonald. The two raced side-by-side for a number of laps before MacDonald attempted to pull a crossover move in the middle of turns one and two. When attempting to make the move, MacDonald made contact with the right rear of Atkins’ No. 4NY machine sending him spinning in front of the field.
“He just dumped us,” Atkins said of the incident. “That’s Eddie MacDonald for you. That’s ‘The Outlaw.’ That’s how he races. I knew as soon as I saw his ‘Outlaw’ in the mirror than that was going to be the result. Almost anytime we’re around him, that’s what happens.”
MacDonald believed that the incident between the two drivers was nothing more than a racing incident and apologized for the contact that sent Atkins spinning.
“We had a pretty good battle going and I just couldn’t hang on the outside, so I went to make the crossover move to tuck in behind him or try to go to the inside,” MacDonald explained. “It seemed like he may have slowed up in the center and I just kind of got into him. I feel bad. I really didn’t mean to spin him around.”
Atkins displayed his frustrations with MacDonald under caution by making contact and squeezing him into the frontstretch wall. As a result of his actions, ACT officials sent Atkins to the pit area for the remainder of the event.
“I actually went up to apologize to him, wave to him and say that I didn’t mean to do that,” said MacDonald. “I guess he was a little mad and I guess I don’t blame him.”
Helliwell, the eventual race winner, was riding in third at the time of the incident between Atkins and MacDonald. Sitting behind the wheel of his Bruce Bernhardt-owned No. 27NH, the Pelham, New Hampshire driver had one of the best views possible of the contact between the two leaders.
“It looked like Eddie was running the outside lane and tried to do the crossover and I think that Brandon just kind of slowed down, I think he was a little tight through the center,” Helliwell stated. “I’m sure Eddie didn’t mean it, it was just one of those deals and I hate to see it for both of them.”
Polewarczyk, a three-time winner already in 2015, sliced and diced his way to the front from the 11th starting position to claim the runner-up spot. Travis Stearns of Auburn, Maine proved to be the only driver able to consistently work the outside with success and that paid off with a third-place finish. Polesitter Mike Ziter and White Mountain Motorsports Park regular Oren Remick completed the top-five.
Helliwell’s win on Saturday night will help the two-time ACT champion to extend his lead in the championship standing, but not by much. With Polewarczyk charging to finish second, the two drivers will enter next Saturday’s event at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) with just a slim margin separating them.
“We’re still first and second,” Helliwell said with a laugh. “(The win) carries the momentum into the next place. We know he’s already won at Oxford once this year, so we have our work cut out but its good momentum heading into Oxford.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
American Canadian Tour 150 Unofficial Results
White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) – June 20, 2015
|1||27NH||Wayne Helliwell, Jr.||150|
|2||97NH||Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.||150|
|17||07ME||Arthur Heino, Jr.||150|
|20||28ME||Rowland Robinson, Jr.||148|