Hickory, NC — Dover, NH’s Wayne Helliwell Jr. pulled a clean sweep of the first American-Canadian Tour (ACT) trip to North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway by winning the Easter Bunny 125 on Saturday, April 3. Helliwell took the lead from New Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III in lapped traffic on the 44th circuit and was unstoppable down the stretch to double up after his victory in the Hickory 125 the night before.
It was the 17th ACT-sanctioned Late Model win for the three-time ACT Tour champion. Although he has only run a partial schedule in recent seasons, Helliwell has proved to still be a threat every time he shows up, earning four ACT victories within the last calendar year.
The going was tougher for Helliwell this time around as he had to come from 10th on the starting grid. Herman, ME’s Mike Hopkins, fresh off a podium finish in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Easter Bunny 150, led the field to the green flag. Hopkins led the first 10 laps before Danville, VT’s Tyler Cahoon dove to the inside. Cahoon was able to stick his nose out front for three circuits before Hopkins rolled back around him.
However, Hopkin’s second stay at the front didn’t last much longer than the first. After taking it easy early, outside polesitter Tom Carey III roared to life, diving inside Hopkins on the front stretch as they completed lap 26. Although Carey at first had to crack the throttle for a lapped car, he drove back underneath Hopkins to take the top spot on lap 27. The hesitation for the slower machine would prove an unfortunate omen.
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As the leaders sorted it out, Helliwell was passing cars left and right. He moved into the second spot on lap 34 and chased down Carey as they weaved through traffic. With 43 circuits complete, the duo caught a pair of cars. Carey went high entering turn one to pass the first car, but the second car drifted into his path exiting turn two, and Helliwell took advantage to seize the lead down low.
A trio of cautions came out in short order to slow the pace. The second yellow on lap 56 was the most calamitous, as Cahoon got sideways in traffic exiting turn four to trigger a multi-car melee. Cahoon soldiered on after the crash, but Shawn Swallow, Derek Gluchacki, and Aaron Fellows were forced to retire with major damage.
After Quinny Welch caught the turn 2 wall a couple laps later, Helliwell and Carey drove off from the pack. Carey appeared to be the only driver who might have anything from Helliwell. However, luck was again not on Carey’s side, as he slowed with a flat left-front tire on lap 71 to bring out the fourth yellow.
From there, it was all Helliwell at the front. Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe had moved up to third by the time the final caution flag flew on lap 104 for Jamie Swallow Jr.’s spin. But while Rowe slid into second on the restart, Helliwell was in another zip code, turning on the jets to become a multi-time Hickory Motor Speedway winner.
Rowe followed up his third-place finish on Friday night with a runner-up trophy on Saturday. Carey bounced back from his flat tire to put on a dazzling duel with Candia, NH’s Jimmy Renfrew Jr. for third place over the final dozen laps. Renfrew, whose team was up until 4:00am on Saturday repairing their car in a hotel parking lot, edged Carey at the finish line.
Hopkins faded to fifth on the final run. Marcel J. Gravel, Stephen Donahue, Chip Grenier, Trenton Goodrow, and Swallow Jr. completed the top-10.
The ACT Late Model Tour begins its 2021 point-counting season at Loudon’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 17. The inaugural Northeast Classic features $5,000-to-win events for the ACT Late Models, PASS Super Late Models, and Tour-type Modifieds. The EXIT Realty Pro Truck Challenge, 8-Cylinder Street Stocks, and North East Mini Stock Tour are also on the card.
Qualifying begins at 11:00am with features at 1:30pm. Admission is $30 for adults and $10 for kids ages 12 and under. Visit http://www.acttour.com/
HICKORY MOTOR SPEEDWAY — NEWTON, NC
EASTER BUNNY 125
Pos., Start Pos., Driver, Car #, Hometown, Laps
1. ( 10 ) Wayne Helliwell Jr. ( 27NH ) , Dover, NH , 125 Laps
2. ( 4 ) Ben Rowe ( 4ME ) , Turner, ME , 125 Laps
3. ( 14 ) Jimmy Renfrew Jr. ( 00NH ) , Candia, NH , 125 Laps
4. ( 2 ) Tom Carey III ( 5MA ) , New Salem, MA , 125 Laps
5. ( 1 ) Mike Hopkins ( 15ME ) , Herman, ME , 125 Laps
6. ( 5 ) Marcel J. Gravel ( 86VT ) , Wolcott, VT , 125 Laps
7. ( 12 ) Stephen Donahue ( 31VT ) , Graniteville, VT , 125 Laps
8. ( 21 ) Chip Grenier ( 9VT ) , Orange, VT , 125 Laps
9. ( 11 ) Trenton Goodrow ( 31MA ) , Carver, MA , 125 Laps
10. ( 22 ) Jamie Swallow Jr. ( 4NH ) , Stark, NH , 125 Laps
11. ( 9 ) Joey Laquerre ( 15VT ) , E. Montpelier, VT , 124 Laps
12. ( 23 ) Jeff Marshall ( 32NH ) , Gilman, VT , 124 Laps
13. ( 20 ) Brooks Clark ( 68VT ) , Waitsfield, VT , 124 Laps
14. ( 3 ) Tyler Cahoon ( 38VT ) , Danville, VT , 123 Laps
15. ( 15 ) Anthony Hill ( 8VT ) , Waterford, VT , 123 Laps
16. ( 18 ) Jesse Switser ( 10ME ) , West Burke, VT , 122 Laps
17. ( 25 ) Reilly Lanphear ( 45NC ) , Waterbury, VT , 121 Laps
18. ( 26 ) Floyd Bennett Jr. ( 90NH ) , Guidhall, VT , 79 Laps
19. ( 24 ) Mike Foster ( 39VT ) , Williston, VT , 71 Laps
20. ( 17 ) Mike Kenison ( 3NH ) , Lancaster, NH , 62 Laps
21. ( 16 ) Quinten Welch ( 78NH ) , Groveton, NH , 58 Laps
22. ( 13 ) Bobby Therrien ( 5VT ) , Hinesburg, VT , 58 Laps
23. ( 6 ) Derek Gluchacki ( 03MA ) , North Dartmouth, MA , 56 Laps
24. ( 8 ) Shawn Swallow ( 04NH ) , Lancaster, NH , 56 Laps
25. ( 7 ) Aaron Fellows ( 29NH ) , Croyden, NH , 56 Laps
26. ( 19 ) Mike Mitchell ( 40RI ) , Cumberland, RI , 40 Laps
27. ( 27 ) Ryan Bell ( 8NH ) , Acworth, NH , 20 Laps
Lap Leaders: Mike Hopkins, 1-10; Tyler Cahoon, 11-13; Hopkins, 14-26; Tom Carey III, 27-43; Wayne Helliwell Jr., 44-125. (4 lead changes among 4 drivers)
Time of Race: 59:21 Margin of Victory: 3.683 seconds
Cautions: 5 (laps 54, 56, 58, 71, 104)
Heat Winners: Joey Laquerre, Wayne Helliwell Jr., Trenton Goodrow
Consi Winner: Shawn Swallow