Ovitt, Renfrew Still in Hunt Despite Mother Nature Altering July Schedule
Alan Ward photo
Waterbury, VT — The fourth different driver of the year has taken over the lead in the New England Late Model Challenge Cup (NELMCC). Barre, VT’s Jason Corliss, the two-time defending Thunder Road track champion, has combined outstanding performances with good weather fortune to seize the top spot in the season-long standings.
Corliss now has 300 points following his victory in the Essex Equipment Vermont Governor’s Cup at Thunder Road Speedbowl last Thursday, July 15. The 46 points he earned slingshot him past Raymond, NH’s Alby Ovitt, who had overtaken East Providence, RI’s Gerry DeGasperre Jr. just one week before.
Ovitt, like every other driver at his home track of White Mountain Motorsports Park, spent the weekend on the sidelines due to the second rainout in three weeks. That kept his total at 289, which is 11 behind Corliss. Another White Mountain regular, Candia, NH’s Jimmy Renfrew Jr., sits third with 267 points.
For Corliss, it has been a machine-like drive to the top. In just seven eligible Challenge Cup events, Corliss has three wins. He is averaging 42.9 points per event with two outings of 50-plus points. Those efforts have made Corliss the runaway leader for a third straight Thunder Road championship. Now he paces the field in the regional Challenge Cup fight, too.
However, he can’t relax just yet. Ovitt and Renfrew are very much contenders thanks to strong finishes and full White Mountain fields. Ovitt’s resume includes six top-three’s and five 40-plus point performances. His one “dud”, a four-point effort on May 29, will likely be dropped by season’s end in the NELMCC “Pick 10” format. Renfrew has two wins and leads the White Mountain Late Model weekly standings.
Longtime Challenge Cup point leader DeGasperre has dropped back to fourth after an extended break. The last three weeks at DeGasperre’s home track of Seekonk Speedway have seen two rainouts and a scheduled week off for the Late Models. As such, the multi-time Seekonk champion has not run a Challenge Cup–eligible event since June 26. The Seekonk weather finally looks good for this Saturday, which should let DeGasperre get back on track.
The rest of the top-10 consists of Quinny Welch, Tyler Cahoon, Stephen Donahue, Jeff Marshall, Mark Hudson, and Christopher Pelkey. Hudson traveled to New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway with last weekend Seekonk rainout, but was unable to post a qualifying score. Pelkey had an uneventful Governor’s Cup at Thunder Road but won the week before to move up the standings.
One other driver to keep an eye on is Montpelier, VT’s Kyle Pembroke. The Thunder Road regular is having a feast-or-famine year. He’s posted two wins and came from 20th to 4th in last week’s Governor’s Cup, netting him a season-high 44 points. However, Pembroke also has scored the minimum two points in three different events. If he can become more consistent, there are seven point-counting events left at Thunder Road for Pembroke to erase those low scores and make a Challenge Cup run.
Racers have eight chances to earn Challenge Cup points this coming weekend. Thursday, July 22 is the 75-lap Times Argus Midseason Championships at Vermont’s Thunder Road. On Friday, July 23, New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway has round two of their N3 Triple Crown Series. There is also a weekly feature at New Hampshire’s Claremont Motorsports Park.
On Saturday, four participating Challenge Cup tracks go green. New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park has the 100-lap New Hampshire Governor’s Cup. Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway is running a 35-lap “Power 5” Late Model event. Regular features are on the card for Connecticut’s New London-Waterford Speedbowl and New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway. The weekend wraps up with a 30-lap Late Model Sportsman feature at New Hampshire’s Hudson International Speedway on Sunday, July 25.
Fans and drivers can follow along with the New England Late Model Challenge Cup all season at www.acttour.com/nelmcc. There, they will find the latest point standings, the full point fund payout, the Challenge Cup point system, and much more.