Waterbury, VT — The New England Late Model Challenge Cup (NELMCC) standings continue to shuffle as the regional weekly racing championship enters the month of July. Although Mother Nature wiped out most of the Challenge Cup action on Independence Day weekend, one participating track was able to get its program in, which allowed its drivers to roar up the rankings.
In a race against the rain, Vermont’s Thunder Road was the winner on Thursday, July 1, completing its 54-lap Late Model Firecracker 54 without a hitch. As such, nearly all the 12 NELMCC racers in attendance made significant gains in the race for the $5,000 top prize plus awards from Port City Racecars/Crazy Horse Racing, ARBodies, and Five Star Race Car Bodies.
Danville, VT’s Tyler Cahoon used his 11th-place finish to move up to third place in the overall Challenge Cup standings. The veteran now trails only East Providence, RI’s Gerry DeGasparre Jr. (Seekonk Speedway) and Raymond, NH’s Alby Ovitt (White Mountain Motorsports Park) are now ahead of Cahoon. Both DeGasparre and Ovitt finished on the podium at their respective tracks the previous weekend, helping them stay one-two.
Cahoon actually started the season racing weekly at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park. With White Mountain running its first point-counting event on May 8 and Thunder Road having to wait until June 4, Cahoon used the time to make five WMMP trips, racing alongside his dad Stacy.
Those starts did more than just give him additional Challenge Cup events for his “Pick 10”. They also helped his team learn about the new Hoosier racing tire that most American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Model tracks switched to for 2021. As a result of that extra seat time, Cahoon sits fifth in Thunder Road points and has become the second driver to reach 10 Challenge Cup starts. He now gets to spend the rest of the season improving on his overall score. With five events where Cahoon has totaled 20 points or lower, there is certainly room to gain ground.
In a recent interview, Cahoon noted that if his team achieves their goal of a top-three points finish at Thunder Road, it will require constantly coming from the back — which would mean plenty of “passing points” under the Challenge Cup point system. Each Thunder Road event so far this year has exceeded the 18-car “full field” requirement; should this continue, there will be many more opportunities to rack up big single-event scores.
Barre, VT’s Jason Corliss and Graniteville, VT’s Stephen Donahue are the other most prominent Thunder Road names in the Challenge Cup ranks. Corliss, the current Thunder Road point leader and two-time defending track champion, is now sixth overall for the NELMCC. His five starts are the fewest of any driver in the current top-11. However, Corliss has earned at least 33 points for each start, with two scores of 50 or more. His 42.6 points per event is easily the highest average, setting him up well to be a contender later this year.
Donahue also has been on the move the last two weeks. He won the Thunder Road Late Model feature on June 24, then charged from 15th to finish 3rd last Thursday. That pushed Donahue up to eighth overall. This is even though, in two of Donahue’s seven Challenge Cup starts (5 at Thunder Road, 2 at White Mountain), he only took home the minimum two points. Should Donahue continue racing weekly, it is likely those two events will be replaced by much higher scores.
The rest of the top-10 is filled with names that have become familiar to Challenge Cup followers. A pair of White Mountain Motorsports Park regulars, Candia, NH’s Jimmy Renfrew Jr. and Groveton, NH’s Quinny Welch, are fourth and fifth. Seekonk Speedway racer/Challenge Cup renegade Mark Hudson of Norton, MA is seventh. Two cross-border stars in Gilman, VT’s Jeff Marshall and Graniteville, VT’s John Donahue — Vermonters who race weekly at White Mountain — complete the top-10. St. Johnsbury, VT’s Kasey Beattie is the highest Late Model rookie in 11th.
If Mother Nature is willing, a good card of Challenge Cup action is on tap for the days ahead. Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park has a 25-lap, $1,200-to-win Late Model feature this Wednesday, July 7. The following night, the Late Models of Barre, VT’s Thunder Road go 50 laps in the final tune-up for the Vermont Governor’s Cup featuring Ryan Preece.
On Friday, July 9, both New Hampshire’s Claremont Motorsports Park and Lee USA Speedway have a full Late Model card. Saturday features a 60-lap feature at North Woodstock, NH’s White Mountain Motorsports Park and a regular-distance show at Winchester, NH’s Monadnock Speedway.
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.