Helliwell Collects $10,000 ACT Prize

0
73
Wayne Helliwell Jr. collected a $10,000 top prize for winning Saturday's ACT event at White Mountain Motorsports Park. (Mark Alan Sumner Photo)
Wayne Helliwell Jr. collected a $10,000 top prize for winning Saturday's ACT event at White Mountain Motorsports Park. (Mark Alan Sumner Photo)

NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. – Wayne Helliwell Jr. was in the right place at the right time to score the victory and the $10,000 top prize in the American-Canadian Tour Midsummer 250 at White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday.

Helliwell took the lead with four laps remaining after Jimmy Hebert and Scott Payea tangled on a restart, then held off a last-lap bid by Stephen Donahue for the win.

Helliwell’s sudden rise to the top spot was just the latest twist in a race that was full of them. The three-time ACT champion had been running in the top-five through the late stages, but Hebert seemed to have the race in hand as the laps wound down – a feat made even more impressive by going the whole way on the same four tires.

Trent Goodrow spun in turn two to bring out the event’s 11th caution on lap 246. The yellow allowed Payea – who had already led 40 laps after starting 23rd – to draw to Hebert’s outside. The first two attempts at the restart were waved off, and on the third try, the lead duo got together entering turn two. Payea spun and both drivers were sent to the rear. That put Donahue and Helliwell on the front row for the restart, and when the green flag waved again, Helliwell made the outside groove work to grab his 12th career ACT win.

Donahue was the dominant driver early, taking the lead from polesitter Scott Dragon on lap four and staying out front for more than 70 laps. A competition caution for a fuel stop on lap 75 closed the field back up, and after the caution came back out three laps later for Jonathan Bouvrette’s spin, Quinny Welch drove past him to take the top spot. During the caution, ACT point leader Rich Dubeau was one of a handful of drivers to change tires as strategy began to play itself out.

Donahue and Welch swapped the lead twice more after another pair of quick cautions before the field settled into a long green flag run. Welch, the WMMP Late Model point leader, proceed to lead 87 straight laps before Mark Jension hit the turn-two wall on lap 170 to bring out the sixth caution. During that yellow, all lead-lap cars except for Hebert, Dubeau, and Adam Gray came to the pits for tires. At that point, Hebert was the only driver in the field still on the same tires he started with, and he assumed command for the restart.

Hebert led the next nine laps until another yellow flew for Gray’s turn-two crash. The outside had been the place to be on restarts all night, and this time, it was Payea’s turn to ride the rim, completing his drive to first after needing to qualify through the B-Main. Payea led the next 40 laps, but on the race’s next restart at lap 219 for Jesse Switser’s spin, Payea succumbed to the inside curse as Donahue took the lead back.

During this time, Hebert had hung with the leaders even on his old tires. As Donahue and Payea diced for the point, Hebert saw a chance and made a daring three-wide move into turn three with 22 laps to go. Just seconds after Hebert crossed the line in first, Corey Mason spun in turn two to bring out the ninth caution, locking the pass into the record books. Mason was subsequently disqualified from the event for intentionally hitting another car under the caution.

All the while, Helliwell was lurking. The veteran started 15th and spent the first two-thirds of the event hanging around the back half of the top-10. Once the mass tire stop occurred on lap 170, he started creeping closer and closer to the front. Helliwell broke into the top-three for the first time on lap 206 and bounced between the third and fourth spot for the next 40 laps, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

That opportunity finally arrived with four laps to go. Hebert had managed to make the inside work on a lap-236 restart from a debris caution, but Goodrow’s spin put Hebert and Payea side-by-side one more time with Donahue and Helliwell right behind. The contact between the leaders opened the door for Helliwell, and while Donahue tried to sneak back through in the final corners, Helliwell brought home the win. It was Helliwell’s second straight victory at WMMP after taking the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup the week before.

Donahue earned an ACT career-best second-place finish. Jason Corliss was quiet most of the night but also took advantage of the late tangle to come home third. Scott Dragon took fourth with Dubeau rounded out the top-five.

The finish:

Wayne Helliwell Jr., Stephen Donahue, Jason Corliss, Scott Dragon, Rich Dubeau, Quinten Welch, Ryan Kuhn, Scott Payea, Joel Hodgdon, Jimmy Hebert, Dylan Payea, Christopher Pelkey, Trent Goodrow, Adam Gray, Mathieau Kingsbury, Matt Anderson, Scott Coburn, Cody LeBlanc, Jesse Switser, Jonathan Bouvrette, Mark Jenison, Bryan Kruczek, Shawn Swallow, Cody Blake, John Donahue, Corey Mason.