Jon McKennedy, of East Chelmsford, MA, played his usual waiting game making tire maintenance a top priority, battled through a failed power steering pump on lap-30, then took the lead from race leader Russ Hersey on lap-79, to go on and win the 100-lap Valenti Modifed Racing Series first ever race at Groveton, New Hampshire’s, Speedway 51 Saturday night.
17-cars took the green flag from Chief Starter Tim Bennett with Mike Willis Jr, of Grantham, NH, leading the opening lap with reigning series champion Woody Pitkat, of Sturbridge, MA, taking the lead on lap-2 and holding it until the 23rd circuit when a hard charging Hersey drew the interest of fans. Hersey looked to be heading home to Swanzey, NH, as he opened a sizeable lead over second place driver McKennedy and the rest of the field.
A lap-43 caution flag brought Hersey back to the rest of the field with McKennedy, cruising in second place saving his tires and arm strength for the late stages of the event. McKennedy led laps 44- through 47.
Todd Patnode of Richmond, NH, made his presence known as he took the lead on lap-48 and held it until lap 53. Hersey suddenly blasted into the lead on lap 54 and appeared to be the car to beat as he again took off on the field but McKennedy reached Hersey and went by leading lap-80 through 100.
McKennedy, tired from the heat and humidity of the day and wrestling a car for 70-laps, spoke about his 47 minutes of work. “We had a real good car at the start. Most of the race I rode around fourth and fifth. The front cars the beginning of the race and towards the middle half were running hard and at one point a straight-away ahead and I was thinking to myself why.”
“With the cautions we were able to close up from a straight-away behind and go by them. Everything worked out. The car was fast all day. We had issues earlier in the day. We ran over a piece of asphalt and blew the nose off the car putting us a little behind but the crew worked hard to get us ready. The car was hard to steer but everything worked out,” said the three-time series champion.
McKennedy becomes the third different driver in three races to win this season. The victory was his 16th career VMRS win, his last was in September of 2012
Patnode, still getting accustomed to the Troyer chassis he purchased off season, was solid and finished second followed by Mike Holdridge, of Madison, CT, who made it up to third, slipped back to sixth and at the checkered flag got the podium finish.
Pitkat and Rob Richardi Jr, of Easton, MA, rounded out the top five.
Colbey Fournier, Willis, Hersey, George Sherman, and Brandon Dion, finshed the race sixth through tenth.
Heat winners were Pitkat and Chris Pasteryak.
The race, slowed by 4-caution flags, was completed in 47 minutes.
Next Event : Seekonk (MA) Speedway June 4, 2016
Race Summary :
Speedway 51 Groveton NH
Quarter Mile-High Banked (asphalt)
May 28, 2016
Caution Flags (4) Laps, 20,28,43,80
Time of Race : 47:06:997
Best Lap Time: Russ Hersey 12.485
Best Speed : 72:087 (Hersey)
Margin of Victory: 2.683
Lap Leaders: Willis (1) Pitkat (2-23) Hersey (24-43) McKennedy (44-47)
Patnode (48-53) Hersey (54-79) McKennedy (80-100)
Unofficial Order of Finish : (1) McKennedy (2) Patnode (3) Holdridge (4) Pitkat (5) Richardi (6) Fournier (7) Willis Jr (8) Hersey (9) Sherman (10) Dion (11) Lashua (12) Seidell (13) Rock (14) Pasteryak (15) Medeiros Jr (16) Mead (17) Smith
Canaan, NH. – Ever since the announcement the Valenti Modified Racing Series was heading to the Great North Woods of New Hampshire in 2016, many have embraced the thought of visiting a popular racetrack they had never seen, never raced on, or only heard or read about. This weekend the opportunity to race at Speedway 51 in Groveton, New Hampshire becomes a reality.
The ground-pounding modifieds, never before seen by many northern New Englanders, will be going the distance of 100-laps as part of the season opening event Saturday, May 28, presented by NAPA.
Reigning VMRS champion, Woody Pitkat, of Sturbridge, Mass, fresh off a strong runner up finish at Stafford (CT) Speedway last Friday, recalls going to the then Riverside Speedway as a child.
“I’ve been up there when I was probably 10 or 12-years old. My great grandmother had a house up there and we went to the races once or twice, explained Pitkat.”
Pitkat furthered, “That’s one of the things I like about this series like last year for me going to Claremont and Beech Ridge and a neat challenge like this will be. I like getting on the Internet and try to learn as much as you can about the tracks. Walk the track when you get there. A lot of people have said it’s a real nice place. Looking forward to it.”
In addition to Pitkat, other champions who will make the trip Saturday include three-time series Champion, Jon McKennedy, of East Chelmsford, MA, a 15-time series winner. Two-time Champion Chris Pasteryak, of Jewett City, CT, an 11-time series winner who won the series opener at Monadnock Speedway in April.
Grantham, New Hampshire’s Mike Willis. Jr, another strong finisher at Stafford, is expected, as is Todd Patnode, of Swanzey, NH. Russ Hersey, of Swanzey, Matt Mead, of Richmond, NH. and Dana Smith, of Sunapee, NH.
18-year old Brandon Dion, of Taunton, Colbey Fournier, of Berkley, George Sherman, of Framingham, Carl Medeiros of Westport, Roy Seidell, of Easthampton, and Rob Richardi, of Easton, lead the Massachusetts contingent.
Mike Holdridge, a two-time series winner from Madison, CT, looks forward to the challenge of competing at a new venue.
That has been the general consensus among those making the trek.
A new challenge, curiosity, and knowing that a legendary race track has been brought back to life – by a racer.
Built in 1964, the quarter mile oval has gone through a major revamping by new owner Joey Laquerre, a New England Hall-of-Fame member and Thunder Road racing legend. The last two years Laquerre has made major improvements to the facility.
Series founder Jack Bateman visited the track this week. “Very impressed with the facility. Joey and his staff have done a wonderful job. They just paved the pit area. I think our fans who make the trip and our competitors will be pleasantly surprised.”
Qualifying races start at 5:30 PM on Saturday
Speedway 51 is located on Brown Road in Groveton, NH.