WATERBURY, Vt. – The inaugural New England Late Model Challenge Cup presented by American Racer is already shaping up to be one of the biggest stories of the Northeast stock car racing season.
With several weeks still left to register, the entry list is already a who’s-who of late model racers in the region, with drivers such as Scott Dragon, Quinny Welch, and Wayne Helliwell Jr. signed up for the program’s first season.
The first season of the Challenge Cup is expected to be the start of a long-running program to reward the grassroots weekly racer. Five tracks in four different states are slated to participate with more than 60 qualifying late model events scheduled at these tracks. From this long list, registered drivers will take their 10 best results using a special point system based on finishing position, car count, and cars passed.
The season-long New England Late Model Challenge Cup presented by American Racer champion is guaranteed a minimum of $3,000 on top of their weekly winnings. With a total point fund that now exceeds $12,000 and season-ending contingency prizes posted by Crazy Horse Racing, Port City Race Cars, ARBodies, and Five Star Race Car Bodies, there are plenty of reasons for even more drivers to sign up before the April 24 deadline.
Multiple drivers from all five tracks have already put in their names to contend for the crown. Currently, Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl and White Mountain Motorsports Park lead the way in sheer volume with several clear favorites in the title chase.
Quinny Welch and Scott Dragon headline the early entry list among Northern New England racers. Welch won his fifth straight White Mountain Motorsports Park late model title last year and eighth overall while finishing in the top-five in every event. Dragon, meanwhile, has won two of the last four Thunder Road Late Model championships and collected a track-high four victories in 2019.
Several other racers from these two tracks figure to be contenders. Cody Blake tied Dragon for the most top-five finishes at Thunder Road last year and also has been impressive in occasional visits to White Mountain Motorsports Park, giving him a viable second option to pick up points. Stacy Cahoon is a five-time White Mountain Motorsports Park champion while his son Tyler is coming off a bounce-back season at Thunder Road.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott has entered the Challenge Cup as the three-time Thunder Road champion comes off his best season in years. Oren Remick won two features at White Mountain Motorsports Park last year and is always a contender at the track. Stephen Donahue, Andy Hill, and John Donahue are among the other drivers who have accepted the challenge.
Southern New England will also have a strong presence. The two biggest name in the region to join the Challenge Cup are Helliwell and Woody Pitkat. Helliwell, a three-time American-Canadian Tour champion and former Oxford 250 winner, is a true wild-card in the New England Late Model Challenge Cup season. With past success at all the participating tracks, one could see the orange No. 27NH show up to chase Challenge Cup points anywhere on any given night.
Pitkat, on the other hand, could be a sleeper for the title. The modified standout is also a top Late Model racer in his own right, winning the 2002 Late Model championship at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway and nearly winning it again last season. The track is participating in the New England Late Model Challenge Cup, and the program gives Pitkat an incentive to branch out in 2020.
Mark Jenison should also be a factor in the overall standings. The veteran finished top-five in points at both both Thompson Speedway and Massachusett’s Seekonk Speedway in 2019, showing multi-track versatility that could be vital under the Challenge Cup system. Teenager Derek Gluchacki finished runner-up in Thompson Speedway points and also had a podium finish at Seekonk.
Mark Hudson was a Seekonk winner last year and is already a Challenge Cup winner this year. He and Randy Cole Jr., a Star Speedway regular, each won two free American Racer tires as part of a drawing for early entrants. Star Speedway will also be represented by Jay Sands.