Story By: JEFF BROWN / GRANITE STATE PRO STOCK SERIES – LEE, NH – In its first two races of 2022, the Granite State Pro Stock Series has been the star attraction. But as the series travels to Lee USA Speedway for its third event of the season, it finds itself among elite company.
The GSPSS serves as the featured fendered attraction for Saturday evening’s inaugural Granite State Derby presented by USA Insualtion, part of the two-day May Madness opening weekend at “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed.” And for the first of two dates this year, the GSPSS will race alongside the stars of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in their own 100-lap contest.
Only a short drive from the seacoast, Lee USA Speedway is a storied venue that has welcomed legends from Dale Earnhardt to Bentley Warren through its gates. Designed as a dirt tri-oval in 1964, Lee was paved a year later and reconfigured in 1984 to today’s traditional oval layout. Lee’s first Oktoberfest that fall set track attendance records that still stand today. Lee has hosted nearly every major touring series in New England, plus national curiosities like the American IndyCar Series and the Stock Car Connection.
And since 2014, Lee has welcomed the Granite State Pro Stock Series as well. GSPSS’ twelve appearances at Lee have run the gamut from standalone summer appearances to anchoring the final day of Oktoberfest. This weekend is the second time, and the first since 2019, that GSPSS will race under the May Madness banner.
With Pro Stocks returning to Lee’s roster of weekly divisions in 2022, Lee is the only track on the GSPSS schedule that sanctions its own Pro Stock class.
Repeat performances have been the story of this GSPSS season so far. Reigning champion Gabe Brown opened the season with his third straight win at Claremont Motorsports Park. At Star Speedway, Bryan Kruczek duplicated his winning drive from last May’s visit to the Epping, N.H. quarter-mile.
This weekend, Kruczek will try to go two-for-two in 2022, as he and the Bobby Webber Racing team have made a last-minute call to head to Lee. Kruczek was a force in Lee’s Late Model Sportsman ranks last year, though he still seeks a touring win at the track.
Luke Hinkley, meanwhile, is looking for more than a repeat performance. The Claremont, N.H., veteran has finished second in the last three GSPSS races and leads the points standings, but Hinkley is eager to break through for his first series win. Hinkley’s recent results have set the bar high for his first visit to Lee since 2019.
Second in the standings is Joey Doiron, who has found highs and lows at the track not far from his Berwick, Maine, home. Doiron won at Lee in 2019 en route to the GSPSS title, and picked up another Super Late Model win last May. Tire management is critical at Lee, and Doiron’s experience and patience make him a favorite.
Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. has plenty of his own Lee experience to draw from. The youngster dominated Street Stock action at the track in 2020, but he found speed in a Pro Stock too, finishing third in that year’s Oktoberfest feature and second the year before. A jumped restart kept Renfrew from challenging for the win at Star, and a win at Lee would go a long way to avenge that error.
GSPSS rookie Dylan Estrella finished seventh at Lee’s Oktoberfest in 2020, improving on an eleventh-place run in that fall’s open-competition Freedom 300. The former Seekonk Speedway ace looks to build on that run on Saturday. Casey Call led 46 laps in last fall’s Oktoberfest, and the third-year driver will try to back up last year’s strong start with a strong finish.
Four drivers have won twice at Lee in GSPSS competition, but only Brandon Barker will try to go for a third this weekend. Barker wheeled Wright Pearson’s car to victory in 2018’s Oktoberfest, then picked up another win in 2019’s May Madness headliner, winning both the shortest and longest GSPSS features at Lee to date. The Mainer has a weekend doubleheader in store, as he will head west for another race Sunday afternoon.
Barker and Doiron head up a long list of Pine Tree State peers, many with ties to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Rookie Nick Cusack is gunning for his first top-five finish of the year at Lee. Corey Bubar, last August’s GSPSS Beech Ridge winner, was fourth in last year’s Oktoberfest. Ryan Green picked up a second-place finish at Lee last year and will put that experience toward a matching performance in GSPSS trim. Dan McKeage, Jr. finished tenth in his series debut at Claremont and returns for another start in his family’s “Naughty 40” entry. And Charlie Buxton, who made his first GSPSS starts since 2017 last fall, will return for his first start of 2022.
Josh King, by contrast, is the sole Vermonter in the lineup for Saturday’s race. King has fit in a lot of racing on the road this year, but he returns to the GSPSS in search of his first series win since 2017.
Derek Gluchacki will follow Barker’s lead, racing for Rollie Lindblad on Saturday before traveling to another race Sunday. In three GSPSS starts for Lindblad, Gluchacki has yet to finish outside the top ten.
Local veteran Bobby Baillargeon, North Country newcomer Sammy Gooden, and Pro Stock rookie Bobby Frappier are looking for brighter days after being knocked around a bit at Star. And Jeremy Sorel, who ended last season on a high note with a sixth-place finish at Claremont, will be hoping for a reversal of fortune after a challenging start to the season.
One driver, however, comes to Lee with a clean slate. Isaac Bevin will make his GSPSS debut Saturday, a crucial step as he makes the move from Legends cars to full-sized stock cars. The Kentucky teen is racing for Maine’s Petit Motorsports, with a team of decorated veterans guiding his racing education.
Saturday’s race is the first of two visits to Lee this year, and with July’s Friday-night showdown promising $10,000 to the winner, May’s early-season shakedown has a special significance for amateurs and experts alike. The lessons learned Saturday evening may decide who comes home with the big payday in two months’ time.
Lee USA Speedway and JDV Productions are proud to welcome fans to the inaugural Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation on Saturday, May 21. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Granite State Pro Stock Series headline a full day of action including Pro 4 Modifieds, NEMA Lites, and the NHSTRA Mini Stocks. Qualifying begins at 2:45pm with feature races kicking off at 3:30pm.