Column By: AMY HARROP / RPW – OXFORD, ME – With a Pro All Star Series/American-Canadian Tour doubleheader, Oxford Plains Speedway was the place to be on Sunday afternoon. Rain showers dampened some of Sunday morning practice, but all of the racing action went off without a hitch.
The Pro All Star Series Modifieds returned to the track on Sunday, with Ben Tinker looking to regain his spot on the throne after losing the spot to Patrick Sullivan last weekend at Lee USA Speedway last weekend.
Jairet Harrison held off Ben Tinker for the win in the first 10-lap heat, with the two coming to the checkered flag side-by-side. Matty Sanborn returned to the track for qualifying in his father Randy’s #2 modified. Gary Shackford stole the lead while Justin Drake powered from the rear to the runner-up spot on lap 4. Matty Sanborn was making moves, making his way from the rear to third place by halfway. Drake and Sanborn had strong performances, but it was Shackford that took home the second heat win.
When it came time for the 40-lap feature, last week’s victor, Patrick Sullivan, had troubles on lap one. His sudden slow-down held up Bruce Helmuth and the rear half of the field on the opening lap while Jairet Harrison sped off with the lead.
Ben Tinker was on the move early, stealing the runner-up spot from Gary Shackford on lap 6. The following lap, he was at Harrison’s door, battling for the top spot. After racing side-by-side for a handful of laps, Tinker finally grasped the lead on lap 11 and began pulling away from the field.
By lap 11, there was a 3-car breakaway in the front of the pack, with the leaders taking off from the rest of the field. Gary Shackford made his way back to the front, reeling in Ben Tinker for the lead on lap 21. He then took back the lead from the inside line on lap 23.
After losing grip on the lead, Ben Tinker descended back to third place in the field. Josh Hedges took a spin on the backstretch on lap 31, bringing out the first caution of the day. Under caution, Randy Sanborn came to a rolling stop on the backstretch before the field went back to green. This led to the initial restart being called off as Sanborn was pushed to the pits.
Gary Shackford took off again as the green flag waved, but Tinker was on his heels, trying to reel him in during the closing laps. Tinker was able to close the deal, resulting in Gary Shackford getting his first PASS victory of the season. Justin Drake, Bruce Helmuth and Jairet Harrison followed, rounding out the top five.
26 Pro All Star Series SLM drivers were in attendance on Sunday, meaning that no-last chance race was required and that all drivers would make it into the 150-lap main feature.
Racing great Kelly Moore returned to the track for competition on Sunday, as did Maine native and Kyle Larson’s spotter, Derek Kneeland. Kneeland’s travels from Charlotte back to maine didn’t go off without a hitch, as he had two different flight cancellations. While he boogied to the track from Logan Airport, Brandon Barker practiced and qualified the car. This was also young gun Austin Teras’ first PASS event in the #29 car.
Scott Robbins started on the pole for the first 15-lap heat, with TJ Brackett on the outside pole. Brackett got the jump on the restart, pulling away from the field. Pulling a double header himself, Justin Drake followed suit, quickly making his way into the runner-up spot. By lap 5, DJ Shaw had cut the field in half, climbing up to the fourth spot. TJ Brackett proved strong, pulling away with the heat victory.
With Reid Lanpher, Eddie MacDonald (who was also pulling double duty) and defending PASS champion, Travis Benjamin, as the top 3, you could say that heat 2 included some heavy hitters. Curt Gerry, a dominant force in the Pro All Star Series, started the heat at the tail of the field. There was a top-3 breakaway in the early laps, but Curt Gerry had climbed up to fourth by lap 6. Ben Rowe retired his car early in the heat, bringing his #4 car down to the pits on lap 6. Reid Lanpher managed to hold everyone off, running away with the heat victory.
Derek Griffith flew into the early lead in the third and final heat, with Scott Robbins quickly filing into the runner-up spot behind him. In the early laps, Garrett Hall was the only driver daring to use the upper line to advance position, making his way around Glen Luce for the third spot on lap 4. While the leaders pulled away, Glen Luce, Scott McDaniel and John Peters made it a 3-way battle for the fourth spot. While Luce lost some ground, Scott McDaniel got the spot and beat John Peters to the line. Derek Griffith sailed away with the heat victory.
With the field set, it was time for the second 150-lap race of the day. Heat 1 winner, TJ Brackett, pulled away with the early lead. PASS rookie Austin Teras took a spin on lap 18 in turn 2, bringing out the first caution on the day. Glen Luce and John Peters were among the drivers that elected to pit under the first caution.
Reid Lanpher got a great jump on the restart, pulling into the lead. TJ Brackett wasn’t letting it go easily, pulling back next to Lanpher on the following lap. After battling it out for a handful of laps, Lanpher regained control of the lead on lap 25. Curt Gerry was on the move behind him, making his way into the top 5 on lap 36. Glen Luce and Stephen Murphy got into each other on lap 38 in turn 3, bringing out another caution.
Garrett Hall was on the charge on the restart, making his way into the runner-up spot as Curt Gerry advanced position to fourth place behind him. Curt Gerry was on a mission, making his way to the outside of TJ Brackett for the third spot on lap 44. He advanced position the following lap, then setting his eyes on the #94 of Garrett Hall for the runner-up spot. On lap 48, he used the outside line to his advantage, making his way around Garrett Hall for the position. DJ Shaw took a spin on lap 50 in turn 4, bringing out another caution.
Curt Gerry and Reid Lanpher restarted on the front row, with Lanpher getting the edge as he pulled away with the lead. Tim Brackett took a spin on lap 56 in turn 2, bringing outyet another caution.
As Reid pulled away with the lead once more, TJ Brackett shot to the outside and attempted to steal the runner-up spot from Curt Gerry. Gerry managed to hold him off and continued his charge to the front, challenging Reid Lanpher for the lead on lap 65. The two battled side-by-side for a handful of laps before Curt Gerry gained control of the lead on lap 74. By lap 78, the leaders began lapping the tail of the field.
Working the high line in lap traffic, Lanpher managed reel Gerry back in within two car lengths by lap 100. Scott Robbins took a trip through the dirt in turns 1 and 2 on lap 109, bringing out the first late-race caution.
Curt Gerry held onto his lead on the restart, but Reid Lanpher was still on his tail. The leaders took off running as the field battled it out behind them. Ryan Robbins scathed the turn 1 wall on lap 115, retiring to the pits as the field stayed green. By lap 125, the two leaders had a full straightaway lead over the third place car of Garrett Hall. By lap 140, Curt Gerry had used lap traffic to his advantage, making it a 6+ car length lead over Reid Lanpher.
While navigating his way through slower lap traffic on lap 145, lap car Ben Rowe put Reid Lanpher into the turn 4 wall. The move was seemingly payback for some hard racing last week at Star Speedway. The move ruined Lanpher’s chances of a late-race charge for the win and resulted in Ben Rowe being disqualified from the race.
Kelly Moore took a spin in turn 4 on lap 146, leading to another late-race caution.
Curt Gerry jetted off on the restart, flying into his fourth straight victory at Oxford Plains Speedway. Travis Benjamin, TJ Brackett, Garrett Hall and Reid Lanpher followed, rounding out the top 5.
This was Curt Gerry’s fourth straight win at Oxford Plains Speedway, but also his fifth straight Pro All Star Series victory. Gerry celebrated with his family and friends in Victory Lane, basking in the glory of achieving straight dominance over the last five PASS races. Gerry’s team had a long night after the victory, having to pull their motor to send it to Dyno and running out of fuel in their truck just five miles away from the speedway. Victory doesn’t come without struggles along the way, right?
You can catch the next Pro All Star Series race at Speedway 95 in Hermon, Maine on Sunday, June 17th. See you there, and don’t forget to get out and support your local short track!