By Gary Dutton
Photos by Miss Em's Photography Adventures
CLAREMONT, N.H. – Claremont Motorsports Park concluded its Championship Night event Friday with an enormous aerial fireworks display.
But, not to be outdone, Ben Poland put on a world class smoke show to celebrate his first-ever Late Model Sportsman championship at the Thrasher Road speedplant.
The 29-year-old star was one of five drivers officially crowned as the best of their division Friday. Rookie sensation Dylan Zullo topped the 2021 Pure Stocks, Haydon Grenier put an exclamation point on his Mini Stock crown by rocketing to his 12th victory lap of the summer, while both Street Stock blaster Dave Greenslit and 16-time Six Shooter dominator Dustin Thibodeau celebrated back-to-back championship seasons.
Jeremy Zullo led lap one of the Route 103 Auto LMS 50-lapper but Ryan Bell, chasing the $1,000 winner’s purse that awaited the winner of the night’s main event, took charge on lap six and set sight on the checkers. Three laps later, Poland – gunning for his tenth win of the season – rocketed into second.
But if Poland made a single miscalculation in his shining championship season, it was the one the Charlestown ace made in allowing former track champ Ricky Bly to move up to second on a lap-17 cone race restart. Letting the Sunapee speedster ahead of you, never works out well.
Back in second – he’d been there briefly on lap eight – Bly raced in Bell’s shadow until surging into the lead on lap 46 and then darted off to his fifth 2021 victory. And, in a show of class, he concluded his night’s victory lap by pulling along side the new champion and handing off the checkered flag to the man he’d so often gone wheel-to-wheel with this summer.
The R.E. Hinkley Oil Co. Street Stocks raced 39 laps Friday in honor of Ken Thompson, beloved long-time racer, father, and all-around great guy who had died a day earlier in a tragic highway crash. Pole sitter Trevor Rocke led the first four go-rounds, then giving way to Cody Schoolcraft, who dominated the rest of the way to earn his fourth 2021 victory lap.
With the white flag in the air on lap 38, the entire field pitted, leaving the checkers waving over an empty racetrack in Thompson’s memory. Some of the best racing of the night was staged in the battle for second between Dave Greenslit and Robert Hagar, with Greenslit prevailing
Schoolcraft’s win Friday was his second in as many events, while Greenslit’s six 2021 victories earned him his second consecutive championship at the storied third-mile oval.
Starting Haydon Grenier on the pole is never quite fair to the rest of the field but, due to a few late-season mechanical headaches, that’s exactly where the hometown hot shoe started in Friday’s In City Sugar Shack Mini Stock feature. And he then flew off into a different time zone to score the Championship Night victory.
Brayden Morrie, himself a two-time 2021 Mini Stock winner, would have needed both a late-race caution and a rocket launcher to knock off Grenier on Friday, and he got neither, finishing second on the night, just ahead of Ryan Carman.
Doug Nelson, aboard his Shaggin’ Wagon ride, led the first two laps of the LaValley Building Supply Pure Stock 25, then giving way to Carlos Grenier, who looked perhaps on his way to victory. Grenier’s good fortune, though, went completely sour, when his leading ride was ricocheted into the backstretch wall on lap 17.
Grenier’s demise set up an epic three-car battle for victory, between Travis Sykes, Zach Richardson, and Nick Houle, with Houle pulling out a thrilling last-lap blast to nip Sykes for the win. Nineteen-year-old rookie Dylan Zullo took the checkers in fifth, earning the 2021 Pure Stock championship with four feature wins and a boatload of top threes.
Friday’s Avery Insurance Six Shooter feature was billed as an epic bounty race, but that element went quickly out the window when repeat-champ Dustin Thibodeau was roughed up in a lap-one wiggle wobble in turn three.
Robert Shaw led all the way in this one, scoring his second win of the summer a country mile ahead of the pack. Bucky Thibodeau completed his late-season surge in second, and one-time 2021 winner John Thibodeau came home third.
CLAREMONT MOTORSPORTS PARK CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT TOP TENS
LATE MODEL SPORTSMAN: Ricky Bly, Ryan Bell, Ben Poland, Dallas Trombley, Jack McClay, Tyler Lescord, Matt Winter, Craig Smith, Steve Bly, Dustin Leoutskoas.
STREET STOCK 39-lap KEN THOMPSON MEMORIAL: Cody Schoolcraft, Dave Greenslit, Robert Hagar, Briana Akusis, Trevor Rocke, Jimmy Zullo, Andrew Brousseau, Clark Brooks, Kayleigh Eastman, Dennis Greenwood.
MINI STOCK: Haydon Grenier, Brayden Morrie, Ryan Carman, Pat Houle, Chris Judd, Richard Stockwell, Wayne Kendall, Mason Prouty, Sean Lantas, Dan Young.
PURE STOCK: Nick Houle, Travis Sykes, Zach Richardson, JD Stockwell, Dylan Zullo, Kyle Templeton, Nolan McClay, Drake Nelson, Andrea St. Amour, Amy Jaycox.
SIX SHOOTER: Robert Shaw, Bucky Thibodeau, John Thibodeau, Chooch Snide, Steve Miller, Lucas Bernatchy, Andy LaClair, Dustin Thibodeau, Marc Laroche.
2021 NASCAR ADVANCE AUTO PARTS TRACK CHAMPIONS: Ben Poland, Late Model Sportsman; Dave Greenslit, Street Stock; Haydon Grenier, Mini Stock; Dylan Zullo, Pure Stock; Dustin Thibodeau, Six Shooter.