Waterbury, VT — The final scenes are being staged in the inaugural American-Canadian Tour (ACT) New England Late Model Challenge Cup. Although the championship picture has cleared up, plenty can still be decided in the race for more than $17,000 in point fund money plus contingency prizes from Port City Racecars, ARBodies, and Five Star Race Car Bodies.
The leader for the $5,000 top prize remains Barre, VT’s Jason Corliss. The veteran recently clinched his third straight track championship at his hometown track of Thunder Road. With five weekly wins and a full field every time out, Corliss was able to amass 431 points in his 10 best starts.
That puts him 24 points ahead of Gilman, VT’s Jeff Marshall, who came from behind to win the White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) Late Model championship. A torrid late-season stretch, which saw Marshall amass 39 or more Challenge Cup points in 5 straight starts, gave Marshall 407 points on the season.
Marshall would have to go on the road to try and catch Corliss. Thunder Road and White Mountain, along with five other tracks participating in the Challenge Cup, have completed their point counting seasons. A pair of Connecticut tracks, New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT) and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT), are the only ones with Challenge Cup-eligible events left on the calendar.
There is still drama left in the Challenge Cup, though. One thing to watch is if anyone can steal a spot the final top-10 and earn a point fund check. With the remaining events all being in Southern New England, that gives the best opportunity to racers in that region such as Franklin, CT’s Ryan Morgan and Lisbon, CT’s Charles Bailey III.
Morgan, who led the standings early, took much of the summer off from Challenge Cup competition. However, he has been on fire recently. He won a weekly feature at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 15, which solidified his track points lead. Three nights later, he carried the checkered flag at New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
Another top-five finish at Waterford this past weekend gives Morgan 261 points in nine starts. That puts him 56 points behind 10th-place Tyler Cahoon. Between Waterford and Thompson, Morgan has three more chances to add to his total. Regardless, Morgan’s next Challenge Cup start will qualify him for the raffle that awards a new ACT chassis from Port City Racecars.
Bailey, meanwhile, has been competing regularly at both Thompson and Waterford throughout the year. With 16 starts under his belt, Bailey currently sits 18th with 188 points. While getting to 10th seems a daunting task, three of his “Pick 10” scores are 15 or less. With a few good performances, Bailey still has a puncher’s chance.
The rest of the top-10 is dominated by Thunder Road and White Mountain regulars. Candia, NH’s Jimmy Renfrew Jr. and Groveton, NH’s Quiny Welch, who finished second and third in White Mountain points, sit third and fourth in the Challenge Cup. Renfrew seems the most likely to try and score more points. He already made one trip to Thompson this season. With both Late Model and Street Stock Open events on the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing schedule — two events in Renfrew’s wheelhouse — it seems a good bet he’ll be there again.
Although Graniteville, VT’s Stephen Donahue ended the Thunder Road weekly season in a slump, he took advantage of the Challenge Cup format by running the final three White Mountain events. The points he netted there moved him up to fifth in the Challenge Cup standings. After taking the month of August off, Raymond, NH’s Alby Ovitt returned to White Mountain with a bang, winning the season finale to put himself sixth for the Challenge Cup.
Graniteville, VT’s Christopher Pelkey, who finished second in Thunder Road points with three wins, is one point behind Ovitt in seventh. East Providence, RI’s Gerry DeGasperre is currently the highest-ranked Southern New England driver. He had a long stint atop the Challenge Cup ranks before a late-season skid dropped him to eighth.
Montpelier, VT’s Kyle Pembroke had a hot-and-cold season at Thunder Road. The hot weeks, which included five outings with 40-plus points, were enough to get into the clubhouse at ninth overall. Danville, VT’s Tyler Cahoon, who made 20 starts between Thunder Road and White Mountain, rounds out the top-10 just four points ahead of Wolcott, VT’s Marcel J. Gravel.
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.