This past weekend, Lee USA Speedway kicked off their 2019 race season with May Madness, a two day racing event featuring 8 different divisions and 9 different feature races over the course of the weekend. After Saturday’s racing festivities, the Late Model Sportsmen, Valenti Modified Racing Series, Steel Bodied Sportsmen, NHSTRA Mini Stock’s and the Granite State Pro Stock Series were slated to hit the track on Sunday for their feature events.
The Late Model Sportsmen division was the first division to take the track with their 50-lap feature. Last year’s Rookie of the Year recipient, Zach Nicholson, started the race in a borrowed car from his Davis Chassis Works teammate, Natasha Dyer. Unfortunately, Nicholson faced mechanical problems before the initial start of the race, having to be pushed off the track and never taking the green.
Once the field got rolling, Bill Helliwell took off with the early lead. Bobby Bailgeron was a rocket in the early laps, moving into the third spot over last year’s champion, Frankie Eldredge, on lap 3. Kris Miller and George Helliwell followed suit as Eldredge fell back to sixth on the leader board.
By lap 11, Bailgeron was all over Jimmy Russell for the runner-up spot. He took over the position that same lap, then setting his sights on Helliwell at the front of the field.
Kris Miller began to smoke on lap 13 and brought his car down to the pits. The #41 of Jimmy Ryder was also on the move, breaking the top 5 on lap 20. Frankie Eldredge faced trouble on lap 23 as he went around on the backstretch, leading to the first caution of the feature. Bailgeron shocked the crowd as he made the right turn into the pits under caution, failing to return to the track for the restart.
Jimmy Ryder went hard into the turn 1 wall on lap 24, collecting the #66k machine. The incident led to yet another mid-race caution.
Brothers George and Bill Helliwell restarted on the front row together and began battling it out for the top spot. Bill finally cleared him on lap 28, pulling away from the pack.
Bill Helliwell went on to secure the victory. George Helliwell, Jimmy Russell, Frankie Eldredge and Paul Palen rounded out the top five.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series was the next division on the agenda, with the first of two 50-lap twin features. Mike Willis, Jr. took off with the early lead in the first feature.
Young gun, Jacob Perry, was also on the move early, moving into sixth on lap 16. Jeff Gallup was also a man on a mission, making his way to Willis’ inside on lap 24, challenging him for the lead. Gallup took over that lap, pulling away from the field. By lap 35, there was a 2-car breakaway at the front of the field.
Andy Shaw nearly lost control on lap 40 in turn 1, allowing both Anthony Nocella and Jacob Perry to navigate their way around him. Nocella and Perry continued to battle it out for position for a handful of laps and the two collided on lap 46 in turn 1, leading to a late-race (and first caution of the feature) caution.
Both VMRS features had cone restarts, where drivers can elect which line they will use, committing to their chosen line before crossing a cone on the front stretch. This restart tactic allowed Andy Shaw to move up to fourth and Nocella back up to eighth for the restart.
Jacob Perry and Donnie Lashua made hard contact in turn 3 on the restart, collecting both Michael Douglas, Jr. and Matthew Mead. The incident led to an extended caution as Lashua’s machine was pulled away on a flatbed.
Anthony Nocella broke the top 5 on the restart, recovering from his late-race troubles. But, nobody was any match for Jeff Gallup at the front of the field. Gallup rolled into Victory Lane, collecting his first career Valenti Modified feature victory. Mike Willis, Jr., Dylan Rock, Andy Shaw and Anthony Nocella rounded out the top five.
After this feature concluded, the Steel Bodied Sportsmen made their debut with 2 competitors taking part in a 15-lap exhibition race. George Baldwin and Kyle Casper finished 1-2 in the exhibition. Nick Maniatis also went on to dominate the 50-lap NHSTRA Mini Stock feature.
For the second 50-lap VMRS feature, there was an inverted field based off of where drivers finished in the first feature.
Carl Medieros, Jr. made a bold move on the first lap, diving down to the inside of his competitors and taking over the track lead. Jeff Gallup was on the move once again, breaking the top 4 on lap 3. The #02 of Rollins came to a stop in turn 2 on lap 9, leading to an early-race caution.
Andy Shaw powered into the lead on the restart and Jacob Perry was also on the move, moving into the seventh spot after starting the feature at the tail-end of the field.
Anthony Nocella was in hot pursuit, making his way to the outside of Jeff Gallup for fifth on lap 16, taking over that lap. He advanced into fourth on lap 22, third over Sontag on lap 23 and eventually cleared Medieros for the runner-up spot on lap 26 and began closing in on Andy Shaw.
Medieros fell back to sixth on lap 35 as Sontag, Rock and Gallup all powered around him.
By lap 40, Nocella was all over Andy Shaw’s back bumper as the two drivers battled through lap traffic. There was a 2-car breakaway at the front of the field by lap 45, with the two drivers still neck & neck for the top spot. Nocella finally cleared Shaw for the lead on lap 48, using a lapped car to his advantage. Nocella powered to the victory, collecting yet another VMRS feature win. Andy Shaw, Dylan Rock, Jeff Gallup and Cameron Sontag rounded out the top five.
The inaugural May Madness event at Lee USA Speedway was a smash hit among both fans and competitors, with close, clean and competitive racing being showcased in all divisions.
Lee’s weekly racing series will begin on Friday, May 31st at 7:00 pm. We hope to see you there!
My Granite State Pro Stock Series race recap will be coming in a separate write-up. I like to break stories up when there is A LOT of content to cover. It makes it easier for both the reader and myself.