WALPOLE, N.H. – As the Granite State Pro Stock Series opens the book for this year’s 57th Star Classic Weekend at Star Speedway, the tome of the touring series’ 2022 season will close as its last chapter goes to press.
“The Place To Race” is the place to wrap up the eleventh full season of GSPSS competition, with Friday evening’s Ty Cooper 100 headlining a night of racing that kicks off the Epping, N.H. speedway’s biggest event of the year.
The Star Classic is the track’s annual tribute to big-block Supermodified racing, the breed of competition that inspired Bob Webber, Sr. to purchase Star Speedway in 1980. Saturday evening’s Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125 is the only New England stop of the year for the International Supermodified Association.
The GSPSS has long been a part of the Star Classic festivities, but Friday’s program marks the fourth year that the series has headlined its own “Fendered Friday,” opening a three-day program with thirteen divisions scheduled to take to the quarter-mile oval. And for the first time in series history, the GSPSS champion will be awarded at Star after the checkered flag falls.
This year’s champion has already been decided, with Joey Doiron clinching his second title two weeks ago at Hudson Speedway. Doiron, who won his first title in 2019, has finished no worse than fourth all year, winning twice in a commanding championship performance. Doiron joins 2013 and 2017 titlist Mike O’Sullivan as the only two-time GSPSS champions so far.
But even though the big prize has already been won, there is still plenty at stake from the drop of the green.
Doiron, after all, is the defending winner of the Ty Cooper 100. The veteran racer from Berwick, Maine, started his title celebration a week early with a $10,000 win in Sunday’s Freedom 300 at Lee USA Speedway. Nothing would cap off Doiron’s second title season better than a big walk-off win.
Bryan Kruczek, winner of the last two spring outings at Star, will be the biggest obstacle in Doiron’s path to a third win. Kruczek races for track owner Bobby Webber and is always quick in front of the home crowd. After finishing second to Doiron at Lee twice this year, Kruczek will be looking to score big at home to open the weekend for the Webber family.
While all eyes are on Doiron and Kruczek, Nick Cusack could be poised to play the role of spoiler. The Beech Ridge Motor Speedway alumnus sits second in points with two podium finishes at quarter-mile bullrings this summer. Armed with reigning champ Gabe Brown’s car from last year, Cusack would love to close out his rookie year in Star’s brick-paved victory lane.
Dylan Estrella and Jeremy Sorel are locked in a battle for third in the year-end standings, with Estrella holding the edge. The Seekonk Speedway track champion has been consistent all year, while Sorel’s stronger runs have been offset by some tougher finishes. Both drivers will have their eyes on the top five to build momentum for next year.
One driver with momentum already on his side is Jimmy Renfrew, Jr., who picked up his long-awaited second win two weeks ago at Hudson Speedway. Renfrew cut his racing teeth at Star and earned his first GSPSS win in 2018 in the prelude to the Star Classic. Fifth in points after a mid-summer break, Renfrew’s goal is to keep the train rolling.
Keen Parts 150 winner Casey Call finished third to Renfrew at Hudson, but Star has not been as kind to the young racer. Call finished sixth at Star in his rookie year and will look to improve on that Friday night.
Luke Hinkley returns to the fold Friday after a tough night at Claremont in August. Four of Hinkley’s last five trips to Star, including his runner-up finish in May, have ended in the top five. The only position Hinkley has yet to finish in is first.
Making his Star debut Friday is Dan McKeage, Jr., who finished tenth in his first GSPSS start at Claremont in April. The 2022 season has been a big leap for the young McKeage, but Friday will bring him to a track where his father, a Beech Ridge weekly veteran, finished on the podium way back in 2007.
Vermont’s Josh King finished second in last year’s Hedges Excavating 100, and the former Monadnock winner has his eye on his fourth GSPSS start of the season. Bobby Frappier had an impactful debut at Star in May, and will be looking for a better night out in his fifth start of 2022. Charlie Buxton returns after a crash at Lee in July set his summer racing back
Friday’s lineup also promises a number of drivers returning to the GSPSS after some time away. Travis Benjamin will suit up for car owner Peter Petit after playing the role of coach through the year to young racer Isaac Bevin. Benjamin has a few starts in GSPSS trim, but has yet to win in the series.
Rusty Poland last suited up for a GSPSS race when qualifying for cousin Derek Kneeland at Lee in July. Poland will jump back into his own car, “Caroline,” Friday night for his first GSPSS start since last fall. Poland and “Caroline” have been quick at Star before and will try to avenge last year’s late-race fireworks.
Star Speedway racer Randy Cole returns for his third GSPSS start after making his debut last fall. Both of Cole’s prior starts have come at his home track, with a best finish of 12th last September. Veteran Bobby Cabral, whose only GSPSS win came back in 2012, finished 11th in both Star races last year and will make his first series start of 2022.
Rhode Island’s Vinnie Arrenegado, Jr. has raced at Star before, but Friday marks his Pro Stock debut at the track. Arrenegado has tested the touring waters in 2022 after earning Seekonk Speedway’s Late Model track championship last year.
Also making his series debut Friday night is Trevor Krouse. Krouse and his family acquired a car from 2016 GSPSS champion Barry Gray, and the 2021 NELCAR Legends champion will make the next step of his young career at Star, on a weekend where he will also try to seal another NELCAR championship.
Even with the title battle in hand, myriad stories and opportunities converge at Star, a staple venue that has given GSPSS fans plenty to talk about in recent years. As the late summer sun sets over the backstretch, there will be no better place to be than the bleachers and the beer garden to take in the final GSPSS showdown of the year.
Star Speedway proudly welcomes the Granite State Pro Stock Series back to “The Place To Race” to kick off the 57th Annual Star Classic Weekend on Friday, September 16. The GSPSS Ty Cooper 100 headlines a night featuring Star’s K-COB Slingshots, Six Shooters and Pure Stocks. Gates open at 3:30pm, with heat racing to start at 6:30pm. Tickets are available at the gate for $22.00 for the night, or buy a three-day ticket for $65.00 and enjoy thirteen feature races through the weekend, including Saturday’s IMSA Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125, the second 350 Supermodified Dennis McKennedy Memorial 60, and Sunday’s Modified Racing Series 100-lap feature.
For more information on the Granite State Pro Stock Series, visit www.gspss.net or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
-Story by: Souza Media
-Photo credit: Rob Branning/Granite State Pro Stock Series