Beech Ridge Motor Speedway hosted a larger than life “Super Saturday” event this past Saturday, featuring all Thunder and NASCAR Nite divisions in addition to a big 150-lap Granite State Pro Stock Series event.
Last year, Wyatt Alexander took the crown in the event. This year, 23 competitors showed up in attempt to knock Alexander off the throne. Among those drivers were multiple Oxford 250 winner, Travis Benjamin, and Bryan Kruczek, who has proven successful at many tracks along the East Coast.
Making his first career Super Late Model start was Chasing the Checkered driver, Charlie Sanborn. Charlie made his SLM debut earlier this year in the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway. The weekend unfortunately didn’t end as anticipated, but Charlie and the #1 team showed up to Beech Ridge on Saturday for their second SLM outing with two big goals in mind: to learn and to take notes that will allow the team to continue to grow in the future.
The GSPSS competition kicked off with time trials for all 24 competitors, where each driver took two laps around the track to log speeds and lap times. The time trial results determined the starting lineups for the 3 heat races.
Garrett Hall topped the leaderboard in time trials with a 15.119 lap time while Joe Pastore, Dave Oliver, Rusty Poland and Wyatt Alexander rounded out the top five.
Once the heat lineups were set, Garrett Hall pulled away with the early advantage in the first heat as Rusty Poland followed in succession. Brandon Barker was also on the move in the closing laps, going door to door with Gabe Brown for third before taking over the spot. Garrett Hall maintained his edge, capturing the heat victory as Rusty Poland and Brandon Barker rounded out the top 3.
Joe Pastore took off with the early lead in the second qualifying heat. Corey Bubar was also on the move early, at Travis Benjamin’s door challenging for third on lap 3 before taking over the spot the following lap. Bill Rodgers followed in Bubar’s footsteps, taking on Travis Benjamin for fourth on lap 6.
The two drivers battled it out before Bubar pulled ahead with the advantage just two laps later. Joe Pastore was off and away in the closing laps, capturing the heat victory as Wyatt Alexander and Corey Bubar rounded out the top 3.
Dave Oliver pulled ahead with the early lead in the third and final qualifying heat. Trevor Sanborn was also on the move early, making his way to Bryan Kruczek’s door on lap 3, challenging for the runner-up spot as Alan Tardiff and Donnie Colpritt, Jr. battled it out for position behind them.
After battling it out for a handful of laps, Trevor Sanborn took sole possession of the runner-up spot on lap 7. Alan Tardiff won his own battle further on back, beating out Donnie Colpritt, Jr. for third with two laps to go. Dave Oliver held strong in the closing laps, capturing the heat victory as Trevor Sanborn and Alan Tardiff rounded out the top 3.
Following the qualifying heats, the top 3 drivers from each heat did a redraw to determine their starting positions for the feature. This landed Rusty Poland on the pole for the 150-lap main event.
Rusty Poland pulled ahead with the early lead over Joe Pastore in the feature. Trevor Sanborn, a favorite to win, blew up in smoke on lap 3 before retiring to the pits. The event resulted in an early caution and a heartbreaking end to the day for the #29 team.
Rusty Poland initially held a slight advantage on the restart, but Joe Pastore was quick to steal it away. Dave Oliver was also on the move, making his way to Rusty Poland’s door on lap 15 and challenging for the runner-up spot. Poland managed to hold onto it as Bryan Kruczek began to power his way through the field, breaking the top five.
Dave Oliver reignited the battle for the runner-up spot on lap 31, making his way to Rusty Poland’s inside door before taking over the spot two laps later. By lap 41, Oliver was riding on Joe Pastore’s coattails, hungry for the top spot. The two drivers continued the chase in the coming laps and began to navigate lap traffic on lap 50. Oliver was able to cut into Pastore’s lead, reaching the rear quarter of the #20 machine a handful of laps later.
While battling it out for position mid-race, Brandon Barker and Bill Rodgers made hard contact on lap 63 in turn 3. Rodgers went careening into the turn 3 wall backwards, impacting the wall at full force. The incident led to an immediate red flag. The back half of Rodgers’ #53 machine folded, leaving a twisted mess of sheet metal as fans held their breath waiting for a sign from Rodgers. The emergency speedway services crew began tending to Rodgers, who was thankfully able to climb out of his car with assistance before he was rolled into the ambulance.
Rodgers has since reported that he is home from the hospital safe, yet bruised up and sore. Rodgers’ car is unfortunately unsalvageable, but the fact that he is still here with us is truly what matters at the end of the day.
Once the carnage cleared, Joe Pastore pulled away with the lead once again on the restart. Bryan Kruczek was on the move yet again, advancing to fourth on lap 72. After an up and down outing at the track, Travis Benjamin came to a slow on lap 94, retiring to the back pits.
Dave Oliver stayed glued to Joe Pastore’s heels in the laps following the restart, eventually pulling up to his back bumper on lap 105. Three laps later, the two leaders found themselves approaching lap traffic once again. After a strong showing all day, Corey Bubar took a spin on lap 113 in turn 4 after battling it out for position with Garrett Hall. The incident led to a late-race caution.
Dave Oliver found the restart to be the perfect time to strike as he powered into the lead over Joe Pastore. Garrett Hall was also on the move in the closing laps of the feature, advancing to fourth over Bryan Kruczek on lap 136. Rusty Poland continued to show strength to the finish, staying glued to Joe Pastore’s back bumper, challenging for the runner-up spot as the laps were winding down.
Dave Oliver maintained his edge to the finish, capturing the feature victory and a big $3,000 paycheck. Joe Pastore came home in second as Rusty Poland followed, picking up his best career finish to date in a Super Late Model. Garrett Hall and Bryan Kruczek rounded out the top five.
Oliver thanked his friends and family in Victory Lane and even gave props to his fellow competitors, Pastore and Poland. He also noted that “home track advantage” came into play, allowing the three drivers to sweep the podium.
In his first career SLM start at the track, Charlie Sanborn came home in 14th place and on the lead lap. The night was truly bittersweet for the #1 Sanborn Racing Enterprises team and the small team that could is looking forward to making more strides in the near future.
Congrats to Dave Oliver on his big win, Joe Pastore on another podium finish and Rusty Poland on his career best finish. Continue to put in that hard work and keep your head up, Rusty. The best is yet to come!
Catch the next night of Super Saturday racing action this coming Saturday, June 19th. The racing action kicks off at 4:00 pm.
Continue chasing the checkered and support your local short tracks. I hope to see you soon!
Cover photo credit goes to Jamie Williams at Finish Line Photography!