Waterbury, VT — After going back and forth for much of the summer, the ACT New England Late Model Challenge Cup (NELMCC) now has a clear frontrunner. Barre, VT’s Jason Corliss has asserted himself as the leader for the $5,000 top prize, putting some distance between himself and the pack over the past two weeks.
Thanks to his fifth win of the season at Thunder Road this past Thursday, Corliss now has a whopping 60-point lead over his nearest contender, Candia, NH’s Jimmy Renfrew Jr. As such, he’s in the catbird seat for the biggest slice of the $17,200 point fund pie. Contingency raffles are also on the line from Port City Racecars/Crazy Horse Racing, ARBodies, and Five Star Race Car Bodies.
The gap Corliss has opened comes just as the weekly Late Model racing season begins to wind down. Thunder Road, the home track of Corliss and fifth-place racer Christopher Pelkey, has just two point-counting Challenge Cup events remaining in 2021. New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park — the home track of Renfrew along with third-place Quinny Welch and fourth-place Jeff Marshall — has three events left where drivers can earn points. The same goes for Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway, which sixth-place Gerry DeGasperre Jr. calls home.
Corliss’s challengers can take solace in one other thing besides the additional “home track” race left on their calendars. Simply put, there is little room left for Corliss to improve his total. All his scores currently being counted under the “Pick 10” NELMCC system are for at least 33 points. Even the win last weekend only netted Corliss a 14-point gain, as he replaced a 32-point score with a 46.
Conversely, the drivers trying to run Corliss down all have some space to work with. Renfrew, Welch, and Marshall all have at least two scores of 30 or lower counting towards their total. White Mountain has exceeded the 18-car “full field” at every event this year, so podium finishes — especially from deep in the field — would greatly aid their Challenge Cup chances. Pelkey has reached the fifth spot despite a 20 and an 18 still in his count. He also will be trying to run Corliss back down for the Thunder Road point lead.
DeGasparre could be the sleeper. He spent many weeks leading the standings before hitting a lull for most of August. The multi-time Seekonk champion finally snapped out of the doldrums last Saturday by grabbing his first win of the season, which replaced a 10 with a 44 in his overall score. DeGasparre still has a 14 and a 27 anchoring his total, which are easily replaceable if he keeps running well.
Seventh-place Stephen Donahue and eighth-place Kyle Pembroke, two Thunder Road racers, are other potential dark horses. Both have been hot-and-cold this year, but their hot runs have kept them in the mix. Pembroke, for example, has four scores of at least 40 points. However, he also has a 2 and 10 weighing him down, while Donahue has a 10 and 12. Two strong runs on September 10 and 17, the two final point-counting events at Thunder Road, could at least move them into the overall top-five.
The battle is on for the final two points in the top-10 — the last spots that pay a point fund check. Although Raymond, NH’s Alby Ovitt hasn’t run a Challenge Cup race since July 24, he is still hanging on to ninth place overall. Danville, VT’s Tyler Cahoon has the 10th spot, but he is only seven points ahead of his dad Stacy. Wolcott, VT’s Marcel J. Gravel and Brendan Moodie, St. Johnsbury, VT’s Kasey Beattie, and Norton, MA’s Mark Hudson are among the others still in the hunt.
Although Waterford, VT’s Andy Hill is not in contention for the top-10, the last two weeks were still significant for him. On August 20, he became the latest driver to reach 10 Challenge Cup starts. As such, Hill now qualifies for the end-of-season Port City Racecars drawing. One lucky driver who made at least 10 starts will receive a brand-new ACT chassis from Port City. Maine racer Mike Hopkins has driven the Port City “house car” to a win and three top-five finishes in a part-time ACT Tour schedule, showing the value of this Challenge Cup prize.
The coming Labor Day weekend will be a relatively quiet one on the Challenge Cup schedule with several participating tracks running non-point special events. That could be a boon for the drivers and tracks who are running eligible features. The schedule opens on Friday, September 3 with New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway running double features and Claremont Motorsports Park holding a regular weekly show.
Saturday, September 3 is highlighted by the Leaf Peepers 100 at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park. Connecticut’s New London-Waterford Speedbowl has The Racing Guy Don Caddick Memorial Late Model 50 on the card. Monadnock Speedway will run a regular Late Model Sportsman feature.
Thunder Road and Seekonk Speedway have given the weekly Late Models the week off for Labor Day. They will next compete on September 10 and 11, respectively. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park has a Challenge Cup Late Model feature coming up September 15 while Hudson Speedway next has the Late Models racing on September 19.
Fans and drivers can follow along with the New England Late Model Challenge Cup all season at http://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.