BRADFORD — It’s hard to call Chris Donnelly a rookie. With countless track championships in a career spanning more than 25 years, Donnelly took on a challenge by strapping into lightweight, high-powered Sprint Car for the first time.

The experiment was a success.

Donnelly, of Orford, N.H., posted his third victory of the year in the Sprint Cars of New England regular season finale on Saturday night at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, wrapping up the championship and rookie titles in the process.

Donnelly had clinched the championship after placing third in his heat race, but ran hard in the 25-lap main event in an attempt to go out on top.

The road wasn’t an easy one for Donnelly, who started 12th — he was involved in a skirmish on lap three with Lacey Hanson that broke the a shock off his car and damaged the top wing.

“It was a real handful. It broke the left-rear shock off when [Hanson] went over the side and smashed the wing up,” Donnelly said. “I just found a smooth place to run and hung on from there.”

Donnelly did much more than “hang on” during the season. In fifteen starts, he was on the podium ten times.

“[The year went] much, much better than either I or anybody else ever expected,” said Donnelly, who also won the first two Sportsman Modified events of the season at Bear Ridge. “I figured it would take a long time to get used to these things but they kind of suit me. I like to scare myself a little at the end of the straightaway and that’s what you can do with these. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of racing, not a lot of banging, and I’m into that, too.”

Donnelly said that he may continue to race his Si Allen-owned Sprint Car in other series, but isn’t looking too far into the future.

“Si said that we can do whatever we want. If we want to go run somewhere we can. I don’t know, I’m just kind of enjoying the moment right now,” Donnelly said. “We’ve had a lot of fun this year and it’s just been good having some time off with the limited schedule and everything else. Everything has kind of worked out this year, much better than I could have hoped.”

Donnelly reveled in his championship, but laughed at being reminded of his rookie crown. He battled fellow Modified veteran Dan Douville for both titles.

“Nobody should ever call me a rookie, but if they want to give it to me, I’ll take it,” he laughed. “Dan and I are both rookies, but we’ve both got a lot of time in dirt Modifieds and open wheel cars. To consider either one of us a rookie is a little strange but it was fun racing with him and a lot of these guys.”

Douville, of Concord, N.H., turned out a memorable performance to finish as the runner-up to Donnelly in the Bear Ridge finale. Douville tangled with Robby Bodwell on lap one and flipped his car onto its side; he continued once the car was righted, but was involved in the crash with Hanson and Donnelly on lap three. From there, he blazed a trail through the pack, taking over second place on the far outside lane in a three-wide move past Nick Berry and Shawn Lawler on lap 15.

Lawler finished third with Donny Sharp and Allen fourth and fifth, respectively. New Yorker Floyd Billington finished sixth in his SCoNE debut, followed by Kevin Chaffee, Shawn Berry, Bodwell, and Dalton Varney.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Swenson Insurance 25
Sprint Cars of New England — Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford, Vt.
Saturday, August 21, 2010

(Pos.-Driver-Hometown)
# – denotes rookie

1. # Chris Donnelly, Orford, N.H.
2. # Dan Douville, Concord, N.H.
3. Shawn Lawler, Mason, N.H.
4. Donny Sharp, Jr., Grafton, N.H.
5. Si Allen, West Windsor, Vt.
6. Floyd Billington, Jr., South Glens Falls, N.Y.
7. # Kevin Chaffee, Orange, Vt.
8. # Shawn Berry, Ossipee, N.H.
9. Robby Bodwell, Sanford, Me.
10. # Dalton Varney, Effingham, N.H.
11. Matt Shuart, Walkill, N.Y.
12. Nick Berry, Ossipee, N.H.
13. Mark Cole, Lebanon, N.H.
14. Bruce Kimball, Lebanon, N.H.
15. Lacey Hanson, Orwell, Vt.
16. Tunk Berry, Center Ossipee, N.H.

Did Not Qualify: Rob Shuart, Walkill, N.Y.