Story By: JEFF BROWN / GRANITE STATE PRO STOCK SERIES – HERMON, ME – Travis Benjamin has traveled to New Hampshire to pick up his first two wins with the Granite State Pro Stock Series to open the 2023 season. When the Maine veteran makes his play for a third-straight win on Saturday, the schedule will be coming to him.
Speedway 95 rolls out the red carpet for the GSPSS this Saturday night for the first of two races this summer at the Hermon, Maine third-mile.
The GSPSS’ tradition of racing in the Pine Tree State dates back to 2016, when series win leader D.J. Shaw won at Wiscasset Speedway in the first and only visit so far to the coastal Maine oval. A race at Oxford Plains Speedway the following summer was won by Maine’s own Garrett Hall. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway welcomed GSPSS in 2020, then hosted a pair of races in 2021 before the track’s surprise shuttering, with home-track favorites Wyatt Alexander, David Oliver and Corey Bubar shutting out the touring regulars.
Speedway 95 is the fourth Maine oval to host the GSPSS in its twelve-year history and the easternmost facility ever on the series’ schedule. This weekend’s race is not only a milestone for the series, but for the speedway as well, as it marks the return of touring Pro Stock/Super Late Model action to the track after a four-year hiatus. Derek Griffith, the 2015 GSPSS champion, drove to victory that afternoon in 2019.
Benjamin finished sixth that day, and his experience at Speedway 95 makes him a favorite to claim a long-awaited first win at the track. The Belfast, Maine veteran has nineteen Pro Stock starts at Speedway 95 dating back to 1997, with eight top-five performances despite not finding victory lane. After opening the season with back-to-back checkered flags, the decorated racer is an easy favorite to go three for three.
Also bound for Bangor for their third starts of the season are Brandon Barker and Evan Beaulieu, neither of whom have Pro Stock laps around Speedway 95, but make up for a lack of experience with an abundance of tenacity. Beech Ridge winner David Oliver sits fourth in points and will be on the hunt for his second career GSPSS win.
Two drivers who do bring experience to the table are locals Gary Smith and Mike Hopkins. Smith, a veteran racer and promoter, has won all across the state. Hopkins has focused on racing in the Southeast recently, with two big wins this year already. Ben Ashline, a regular winner in Wiscasset Speedway’s biggest annual events, is another driver short on GSPSS experience but with plenty of talent to break through.
Rookie Garrett Lamb and veteran TJ Watson, both of whom were at Star Speedway, will return for their second starts of the year at Speedway 95. Nick Cusack returns to GSPSS for his first start of the year Saturday, along with Charlie Buxton and Barry Poulin.
Not surprisingly, the entry list has a distinctly Maine flavor, with Wiscasset regular Kevin Douglass leading a contingent of local racers that includes Nick Jenkins, Brian Lancaster, Miller Buzzell and Jet Decker. Indeed, the only driver on the roster not to hail from Maine is Cory Casagrande, who plans to make the long trip from Connecticut to race with the GSPSS.
A $3,000 winner’s purse awaits the victor of Saturday’s Speedway 95 debut, with plenty of bonus money on hand for the fastest cars in qualifying. R&R Race Parts NH has extra cash for the fastest two cars in time trials, while Earnest Performance and K&B Auto of Ellsworth, Maine will reward the top three finishers in each qualifying heat. Heat winners will also receive five gallons of Sunoco Race Fuel.
New venues are always an equalizing force, and while plenty of drivers bring an apparent advantage along to Speedway 95, Saturday’s feature is the perfect opportunity for an unexpected face in victory lane.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series’ twelfth season continues Saturday at Speedway 95 in Hermon, Maine. The GSPSS headlines the program with its 100-lap main event, with the R&R Race Parts NH Street Stock 75 and Speedway 95’s Cagerunners rounding out the evening’s schedule. Practice begins at 4:45pm with heat races to begin at 7pm. General admission tickets are $20; senior tickets are $15, children are $10, and kids five and under are admitted free.