Story By: ACT TOUR – HICKORY, NC – Dover, NH’s Wayne Helliwell Jr. added another accomplishment to his long racing résumé by winning the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Hickory 125 on Friday, April 2.
The three-time ACT champion led all but two laps and survived multiple challenges from Herman, ME’s Mike Hopkins to win the series’ first event at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.
The victory was Helliwell’s 16th career ACT-sanctioned Late Model win, putting him in a tie for fifth-place on the all-time list. It came on the front end of an Easter weekend doubleheader at the historic 0.363-mile oval.
Helliwell earned the pole in qualifying under ACT’s “plus-minus” system and set the pace at the drop of the green. Behind him and Graniteville, VT’s Stephen Donahue, the field mixed it up early and often, with Lancaster, NH’s Jamie Swallow Jr. quickly slicing his way to the third spot.
After the first caution on lap 17 for Randy Cole Jr.’s spin, Hopkins entered the picture. Hopkins, a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) regular making his first ACT start, blew past Swallow Jr. and Donahue to take second. He then gave chase to Helliwell as the two left the pack behind them.
Entering turn 3 on the 33rd circuit, Hopkins dove inside Helliwell. The multi-time PASS winner led lap 34 by a bumper, only to see Helliwell surge back in front. The action was just as hot behind them, with Donahue all over Swallow Jr. for third and the rest of the top-10 dicing around the 0.363-mile oval.
A series of cautions between laps 50 and 56 drastically altered the running order behind Helliwell and Hopkins. As the leaders navigated lapped traffic with 50 laps complete, Reilly Lanphear got crossed up on the backstretch. Fifth-place Brooks Clark had nowhere to go and plowed into Lanphear, sidelining both for the night.
Another caution flew a lap later when Shawn Swallow spun entering turn one. During the yellow, Jamie Swallow Jr. pitted out of third and eventually retired for the night due to a broken sway bar mount. Hopkins stuck a radiator cap out front on the restart to lead lap 52 but couldn’t hold the outside line and saw Helliwell retake command.
The event’s fourth caution flew on lap 55 when Mike Mitchell and Jeff Marshall tangled in turn two. Calamity struck again a lap later when Donahue and Tom Carey III got together racing for the third spot. Carey spun and both went to the rear of the field.
The event then went green for the final 69 laps — but it was far from the end of the action. Hopkins was able to close on Helliwell whenever they got into traffic, which happened frequently over the final run. As late as the 15-to-go mark, Hopkins was right in Helliwell’s shadow with double-file lapped cars ahead. Every time, though, Helliwell made the right move, pulling away in the final laps for the victory.
Multi-time PASS champion Ben Rowe of Turner, ME was quiet most of the night before coming on strong late for a third-place finish. Carver, MA’s Trenton Goodrow had the best of his ACT career, passing Graniteville, VT’s Chip Grenier late for fourth. Grenier was the final car on the lead lap in fifth after the long green-flag run. Quinny Welch, Donahue, Tyler Cahoon, Derek Gluchacki, and Bobby Therrien completed the top-10.
The American-Canadian Tour is right back at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 3 for the second leg of the North Carolina doubleheader. The ACT Easter Bunny 125 is joined by the PASS Easter Bunny 150 beginning at 5:15pm.
Grandstand admission tickets are available at the gate. Fans can also watch live on Speed51.TV with a $24.99 pay-per-view.
HICKORY MOTOR SPEEDWAY — NEWTON, NC
Pos., Start Pos., Driver, Car #, Hometown, Laps
1. ( 1 ) Wayne Helliwell Jr. ( 27NH ) , Dover, NH , 125 Laps
2. ( 6 ) Mike Hopkins ( 15ME ) , Herman, ME , 125 Laps
3. ( 8 ) Ben Rowe ( 4ME ) , Turner, ME , 125 Laps
4. ( 5 ) Trenton Goodrow ( 31MA ) , Carver, MA , 125 Laps
5. ( 13 ) Chip Grenier ( 9VT ) , Orange, VT , 125 Laps
6. ( 19 ) Quinten Welch ( 78NH ) , Groveton, NH , 124 Laps
7. ( 2 ) Stephen Donahue ( 31VT ) , Graniteville, VT , 124 Laps
8. ( 15 ) Tyler Cahoon ( 38VT ) , Danville, VT , 124 Laps
9. ( 11 ) Derek Gluchacki ( 03MA ) , North Dartmouth, MA , 124 Laps
10. ( 3 ) Bobby Therrien ( 5VT ) , Hinesburg, VT , 124 Laps
11. ( 12 ) Tom Carey III ( 5MA ) , New Salem, MA , 124 Laps
12. ( 14 ) Aaron Fellows ( 29NH ) , Croyden, NH , 124 Laps
13. ( 4 ) Shawn Swallow ( 04NH ) , Lancaster, NH , 124 Laps
14. ( 9 ) Marcel J. Gravel ( 86VT ) , Wolcott, VT , 123 Laps
15. ( 20 ) Mike Kenison ( 3NH ) , Lancaster, NH , 123 Laps
16. ( 17 ) Randy Cole Jr. ( 55MA ) , Middleton, MA , 122 Laps
17. ( 25 ) Jeff Marshall ( 32NH ) , Gilman, VT , 122 Laps
18. ( 21 ) Peyton Lanphear ( 22VT ) , Waterbury, VT , 119 Laps
19. ( 16 ) Mike Mitchell ( 40RI ) , Cumberland, RI , 113 Laps
20. ( 26 ) Ryan Bell ( 8NH ) , Acworth, NH , 95 Laps
21. ( 18 ) Anthony Hill ( 8VT ) , Waterford, VT , 55 Laps
22. ( 23 ) Jesse Switser ( 10ME ) , West Burke, VT , 54 Laps
23. ( 27 ) Floyd Bennett Jr. ( 90NH ) , Guidhall, VT , 53 Laps
24. ( 7 ) Jamie Swallow Jr. ( 4NH ) , Stark, NH , 51 Laps
25. ( 10 ) Brooks Clark ( 68VT ) , Waitsfield, VT , 50 Laps
26. ( 24 ) Reilly Lanphear ( 45NC ) , Waterbury, VT , 49 Laps
27. ( 22 ) Mike Foster ( 39VT ) , Williston, VT , 42 Laps
Lap Leaders: Wayne Helliwell Jr., 1-33; Mike Hopkins, 34; Helliwell, 35-51; Hopkins, 52; Helliwell, 53-125. (4 lead changes among 2 drivers)
Time of Race: 54:46 Margin of Victory: 2.260 seconds
Cautions: 5 (laps 17, 50, 51, 55, 56)
Heat Winners: Derek Gluchacki, Tom Carey III, Chip Grenier
Consi Winner: Quinten Welch