PASS NORTH: GRIFFITH SURGES LATE FOR THIRD WIN OF YEAR AT WMMP
New England’s racing focus was directed toward central New Hampshire for the weekend, with NASCAR’s top touring series making their annual visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But with all eyes on Loudon, the Pro All Stars Series was more than happy to play the undercard. The ninth race of the 2019 schedule was only a short drive north of the one-mile oval, at the quarter-mile White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock.
An early-summer heat wave had promised hot temperatures all weekend, with thermometers creeping to the century mark Saturday afternoon. The hot weather kept at least one team away from the track; Jeremy Davis’ team announced on Facebook that they would sit out the race due to the extreme heat.
With quiet evenings at a few local tracks, though, sixteen cars were able to assemble at WMMP. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., fresh off a win at the quarter-mile Hudson Speedway the previous Sunday, was in the pits for his third PASS attempt of the year. Derek Ramstrom and Reid Lanpher were there, as well as Beech Ridge regular Dan Winter. Brandon Barker was in his own #88 entry. Seekonk Speedway’s Craig Weinstein and Connecticut’s Dillon Moltz helped to round out a competitive lineup.
Points leader Garrett Hall won the first heat race in the afternoon, with Derek Ramstrom winning the second. Ramstrom and Travis Benjamin would lead the field to green, with Hall among the drivers nudged into the back half of the field for their early-season wins.
Ramstrom showed the way for the first five laps of the race before Travis Benjamin moved into the top spot. For the first half of the race, Benjamin’s red and black #7 looked like the car to beat. The two-time PASS North champ had struggled through 2019 so far, recording only five top-ten finishes after placing second in points and winning twice a year ago. A win could keep Benjamin in title contention, and would surely erase some of the year’s frustrations.
But stalking Benjamin from behind was Joey Polewarczyk. The Hudson, N.H. driver closed the gap on Benjamin with a yellow flag just after halfway, and took the lead away on lap 80, leaving Benjamin to fight off Dillon Moltz and Nick Sweet for second.
Pole’s advantage disappeared just as quickly, though, with a spin by Garrett Hall bringing out a caution flag with 39 laps to go. Dillon Moltz and Derek Griffith lined up behind Polewarczyk for the restart. Nine laps later, Griffith made his move, taking the lead and bringing Moltz with him as Joey Pole fell back to third.
Benjamin’s promising start ended with a bang only eighteen laps shy from the finish, bringing out another caution and allowing the field to close up on Griffith. Unlike Benjamin and Polewarczyk, though, Griffith had staying power in the final laps. Stretching his lead to nearly a second in the final run, Griffith cruised to his third win of 2019. The win is Griffith’s eighth career PASS North victory in his fourth full season on the tour.
Dillon Moltz held on for second place, his best run at the wheel of a PASS car. DJ Shaw charged into third late in the race, earning his first top-five finish since a four-race top-two streak to open the season. Polewarczyk was fourth, with Ben Rowe overcoming a series of problems to round out the top five. Nick Sweet, Bobby Therrien, Reid Lanpher, Derek Ramstrom and Gabe Brown completed the top ten finishers.
Twelve cars were on the lead lap at race’s end, with Craig Weinstein finishing just ahead of Garrett Hall. Evan Hallstrom was a lap down in 13th. Travis Benjamin, Dan Winter and Brandon Barker all exited the race early, unable to make the distance.
Garrett Hall’s poor run coupled with top fives for his closest competitors cost him the points lead, as DJ Shaw now has a five-point advantage in the season-long standings. Nick Sweet sits a short distance back in third, with Derek Griffith fourth and Ben Rowe a not-too-distant fifth. One hundred points separate Shaw from seventh-place Travis Benjamin, so a race with a deep field (like the Oxford 250) could still result in a tremendous points shakeup.
Once again, the tight confines of a quarter-mile oval inspired Reid Lanpher and Travis Benjamin to bring out their ABC-bodied cars for a likely slugfest. Only six teams had newer Gen-6 bodies at WMMP, with winner Derek Griffith one of six ABC-bodied entries in the top ten.
The Pro All Stars Series North teams get an extra weekend to prepare for the next race on the schedule, a rare weekday show at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway. The Tuesday-night 200-lapper is another race with an Oxford 250 provisional in store. Teams will have to turn their equipment around quickly after Tuesday’s event for a show the following Sunday at Caribou, Maine’s Spud Speedway.