Since its founding in 2012, the Granite State Pro Stock Series has built up a tradition of great racing across the State of New Hampshire and even beyond. This Labor Day weekend, the Series is continuing to build upon the new tradition with what the GSPSS is billing as its own unique marquee race at one of its very first tracks, Claremont Speedway.
The western New Hampshire oval will host the inaugural Rocky Ridge 150 this Sunday night, with a boosted purse on the line for all those entered. With extra money and prestige on the line, everyone is gunning for the win, including current points leader Cory Casagrande, who is furiously seeking an end to his quest for his first GSPSS feature win.
“I hope this is the race. I feel like I’m saying that every time we go out. I’m just thankful we’ve had a consistent car. We’ve only finished outside the top five once this season. But I’m getting sick of saying ‘It’s another top five’. I want to get a win for sure,” Casagrande told Speed51.com.
While having the points lead this late in the season would make many drivers very satisfied, it means very little to the Stafford, CT driver, who will be missing two of the final six 2018 races to celebrate his brother Kyle’s upcoming wedding. But even if he was still in the points chase, a race win is still above all.
“It’s always been about race wins. That’s the main goal, nothing’s changed.”
But this Sunday will be a challenge if Casagrande wants the win, with the race being significantly longer than what he’s used to.
“There’s a little more to it, 150 laps. That’s a race-and-a-half for us. You can’t change tires unless they’re flat, so you have to be conservative, but it’s tough to be conservative if there’s a long green flag run. Track position is key in these races. We want to time trial well and start up front and stay right there.”
But of all the places to run an extended race, Casagrande is happy it’s at Claremont.
“I love it. It’s one of my favorite tracks to go to. It’s got a lot of grip, it’s very unique with two very different corners that are not even close to the same, and you drive them differently. It’s not like any place we race at. That’s what makes it fun.”
With Casagrande sitting out the two rounds at Monadnock and Thompson (weather pending), fellow Connecticut driver Devin O’Connell is the de-facto championship leader.
It has been a dream season for the former Legend Car standout, who celebrated his first career GSPSS win at Hudson Speedway (NH) in July, coupled with multiple podium runs. It’s a season that has far exceeded expectations following a nightmare rookie campaign in 2017.
“It’s gone significantly better than I expected, especially after how rough last year was. We knew we had fast cars and we’d be more competitive. It’s awesome having a win and as many podiums as we do.”
Claremont is also a personal favorite track of O’Connell’s, but he has not had the best of luck there in his first two appearances, something he wants to turn around Sunday.
“It’s been a good track for us, we’ve just had bad luck there. The beginning of the year we went up there without doing much preparing or testing during the offseason. Unfortunately, when we got to race day there was an issue with our brakes. Last year we got into a wreck, so hopefully third time’s the charm.”
Even with the extended distance and fatter purse, O’Connell is just treating it as another day at the office as he sets his sights on getting ahead in the championship race.
“It’s probably as good as any other race, we have a competitive car. We’ve just got to go and do as we always do, it’s just 50 more laps. I’m going to go for the best finish we can, and if we can win we’re going to go for it. We’d love to win it, but we’re still points racing and we’ve got to keep the finishes coming.”
O’Connell has plenty of pursuers in the title hunt, with the closest threat being Maine’s Joey Doiron. The former PASS North winner has made a splash in his first fulltime year in the GSPSS, winning in May at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. But disaster struck in early July at Lee USA Speedway with Doiron losing both the points lead and his best car to a mid-race accident.
We’ve been slowly catching back up after Lee, it’s hard because we were leading heading into that race and it ended up being a 45 or 50-point swing in that race. We’ve had to dig out of the hole a little bit, but we’re getting back into it.
After clawing back into the points race, Doiron is going to Claremont with his primary car back in working order and a big race under it’s belt.
“We learned a lot the last few weeks and finally got the car back from the Lee wreck and it ran really good at Oxford last week. We brought what we thought was the best car there even though it hadn’t been raced and it ended up working pretty good there.”
After coming so close at Claremont in May, Doiron is hoping to finish the job in September, while putting himself in position to win a title.
“Claremont is not my favorite track, but it should be a good show. Every time we go to the track we have a chance to win. We’ll see. We’re going to try and make a few adjustments when we get there as far as what we raced with the first time. We’ve just got to stay out of trouble.”
Race fans can watch the inaugural Rocky Ridge 150 at Claremont Speedway live on Speed51.com’s Summer Thunder broadcast for free as a premium subscriber to the Speed51 Network. Click here to join now
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos