The longest season in New England, by far, is the racing offseason. For the drivers, teams and fans of the Granite State Pro Stock Series, that arduous offseason comes to an end this weekend. And to kick off another year of competition, the New Hampshire-based series will come full circle – returning to the track where it all started twelve summers ago.
Claremont Motorsports Park will unlock the speedway gates for the season this Sunday, April 24. The GSPSS headlines the New Hampshire oval’s 75th Anniversary Opening Day program with their 100-lap lidlifter, setting the stage for the nine-race season to come.
The unique third-mile in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley is a fitting venue for the series’ season opener. GSPSS President Mike Parks assumed promoter duties at Claremont in 2020, with the track becoming the de facto home of the GSPSS. And for the last three years, Claremont has hosted one of the richest events on the series schedule.
But the GSPSS’ history at Claremont goes back to 2011, when the track then called Twin State Speedway hosted the very first GSPSS-sanctioned race. Sixteen GSPSS events in all have been contested at Claremont, more than any other track. Veteran racers DJ Shaw and Ray Christian III have the most wins at the oval, with three apiece.
Reigning champion Gabe Brown swept both races at the track last year, picking up his first career win in July and closing out his title season with a walk-off win in October. Brown has moved on to new opportunities in 2022, leaving the door open for new stars to emerge among the GSPSS ranks.
Returning for his third year with the series is Casey Call, who hopes to rebound in 2022 after experiencing the full weight of the “sophomore slump.” The Legends graduate was met with misfortune at every turn last year, and he and his family team will be looking to put their full potential on display starting on Sunday.
Veterans and former feature winners Josh King and Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., by contrast, will try to add to their past success. King, last year’s title runner-up, has been hard at work at the track, taking advantage of early-spring races to fine-tune his mount. Renfrew already has a win in Street Stock competition and is searching for his second career GSPSS trophy.
Local favorite Luke Hinkley has come close to victory before at Claremont, with four second-place finishes at the track. Nothing would make the hometown hero happier than to secure a long-awaited GSPSS checkered flag at the track only a few miles from his shop. With finishes of third and second last year, Hinkley only needs to do one position better.
Hinkley’s toughest competition may come from 2019 GSPSS champion Joey Doiron, who opened his title season with a win at Claremont. The Berwick, Maine, racer won once last year in a limited GSPSS schedule, and will be hunting another trophy this Sunday.
Also hailing from the Pine Tree State are Nick Cusack and rookies Dan McKeage, Jr. and Ryan Ripley. Cusack, who raced at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway before the track’s closing late last year, purchased Gabe Brown’s winning car after last year’s season finale. McKeage, like Cusack, is a fellow Beech Ridge alum following the family path. Ripley found success in regional modified racing before making the move this year to a Pro Stock.
Dylan Estrella has established himself in the Pro Stock ranks at his native Seekonk Speedway, but Sunday’s feature will only be his third start in GSPSS competition. The former Seekonk Late Model track champ will try to improve on a seventh-place outing in 2020.
With Cusack and Estrella striving to establish themselves at the front of the pack, and other drivers like Jeremy Sorel and Sammy Gooden seeking to establish themselves as regular contenders, plenty of new faces are finding a home with the GSPSS this year.
Tickets are available exclusively at the gate Sunday for Claremont Motorsports Park’s 75th Anniversary Opening Day, with Key Chevrolet Buick GMC of Newport, N.H. presenting Twin 100s for the Granite State Pro Stock Series and NHSTRA Modifieds. Qualifying rounds start at 2:00pm with seven feature races to follow. Adult tickets are $25.00; senior tickets are $20.00. Children from ages 6-12 are only $5.00, and children five and under are admitted free.
-Story by: Jeff Brown/Granite State Pro Stock Series
-Photo credit: Rob Branning/GSPSS