Story By: JEFF BROWN / GRANITE STATE PRO STOCK SERIES – WALPOLE, NH – Reigning champion Gabe Brown played the role of the ringer to a tee at Claremont Motorsports Park in the Granite State Pro Stock Series season opener two weeks ago.
But, when the New Hampshire-based touring series rolls into Star Speedway this Saturday, the GSPSS regulars will be looking to walk away with a win for themselves.
Saturday’s Hedges Excavating 100 is the second bout of the season for the traveling Pro Stocks and the first of two visits to “The Place To Race” in 2022.
Built on the grounds of the former Star Brick Yard, one of several brickyards in the almost-coastal town of Epping, N.H., Star Speedway has a rich racing history dating back to the 1960s. Known as a haven for open-wheel action from midget cars to winged Supermodifieds, Star has a deep fendered legacy as well, having hosted the stars of the NASCAR Busch North Series in the 1980s and 1990s.
Star joined the GSPSS schedule in 2012 and has hosted the series fourteen times in all. The most recent visits have produced some of the series’ most electrifying finishes, whether its Ray Christian’s bump-and-run on Joey Doiron in 2019, or Joey Polewarczyk’s door-to-door duel with Derek Griffith a year later.
In plenty of those skirmishes, the spoils have fallen to drivers with local expertise – drivers like Joe Squeglia and Bryan Kruczek.
Kruczek won last May’s Hedges Excavating 100 and will be striving for a repeat performance on Saturday. The hard-charging Newmarket, N.H., racer drives for Star Speedway owner Bobby Webber, Jr., making last year’s win a truly local affair. Kruczek came up one spot short of a second win in last fall’s Star Classic feature, and the home-track favorite will be hard to beat on Saturday.
Besting Kruczek in last fall’s Star showdown was 2019 GSPSS champion Joey Doiron, whose clean and calculated style is clear. Doiron finished third at the GSPSS season opener at Claremont Motorsports Park, and the veteran will be gunning for another win at Star in his black #73 Ford.
But Kruczek and Doiron will have to face another driver with plenty of Star success to brag about. Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. was a fresh-faced rookie when he claimed his first GSPSS win at Star in 2018. The teenager bounced back from a tow out of the puckerbrush to score his first touring win in only his fourth series start. Saturday’s race is a big opportunity for Renfrew – back with GSPSS full-time for the first time since 2019 – to score that second feature win.
Finishing second to Renfrew that evening was John Peters, who returns to Star after a long absence to resolve some unfinished business. Peters now calls North Carolina home, giving him the longest tow of any driver in the field. But the Maine native holds New England’s racing community close, chartering a family racing scholarship this year in memory of his father, “Grand National Greg” Peters.
Cory Casagrande, like Peters, has found success at Star in the past, despite not having raced there since 2019. Casagrande, who finished second last year at Stafford Motor Speedway in his native Connecticut, broke through with his first Pro Stock victory last summer, but is still seeking his first GSPSS win.
Also seeking a first series win is Luke Hinkley, who comes to Star with runner-up honors in his last two GSPSS races. Hinkley was fourth last fall at Star and has top-five finishes in three of his four GSPSS starts there. Vermont’s Josh King, second to Kruczek in the spring, will draw on that performance to chase his first series win since 2017.
GSPSS newcomers Dylan Estrella, Nick Cusack and rookie Ryan Ripley turned in promising runs at Claremont, and all three will look to build on their performance in the season opener as they take on a new track for the first time. Jeremy Sorel and Sammy Gooden, who were left longing for more from their Claremont visit, get to hit the reset button on slow starts to the season.
Local veteran Bobby Baillargeon leads the charge among local dark-horse picks, with both of his GSPSS wins coming at the quarter-mile Hudson Speedway. Randy Cole, one of Star’s weekly Late Model contenders, made his GSPSS debut last September and is slated to make his second series start Saturday. And Late Model Sportsman graduate Bobby Frappier looks forward to his touring debut as he makes the move to Pro Stocks in 2022.
With plenty of local knowledge in the field, those who have honed their skills elsewhere may seem at a disadvantage. But victory never comes easy on Star’s close quarters, and lap ten’s nonchalant nudge may be paid back with the white flag in the air.
Tickets are available at the gate for Saturday’s Hedges Excavating 100, with Star’s weekly divisions rounding out an action-packed program that kicks off at 4:00pm. Adult tickets are $22 each, or take advantage of Star’s “Pack the Track” promotion and buy two tickets for $30. Kids 10 and under are free and so is parking.