PHOTO: Chris Donnelly celebrates his $1,000 payday after winning the Spencer Rocke Memorial Classic at Canaan Dirt Speedway (T.J. Ingerson/VMM Photo)

— by T.J. Ingerson

CANAAN, N.H. — Chris Donnelly nearly saw his chance at winning the 40-lap Spencer Rocke Memorial Classic at Canaan Dirt Speedway eliminated before the field got to the backstretch. The Piermont, N.H., veteran started on the outside of pole sitter Kevin Chaffee, but Chaffee drove into turn one on the first lap too hot and slid up into Donnelly, and nearly ended both of their races.

But Donnelly’s veteran demeanor prevailed, as he used patience to set up the race winning pass on a lap 15 restart to win and take home the $1,000 winner’s check.

After Chaffee and Donnelly tangled in turn one, fourth place starter Ryan Avery jumped to the early race lead. The Thornton, N.H., racer was chased, however, by Chaffee, Donnelly, and 2011 Canaan track champion Randy Howe. Each would put extreme pressure on Avery, and at times going three wide as they tried to make a pass for the lead. A caution on lap 15 put Donnelly on the outside of Avery, which enabled him to make the race winning pass on the restart.

“I knew what [Chaffee] did wasn’t intentional. I saw him push up into me,” said Donnelly. “The race was 40 laps. I just had to wait and see if the car was good. I knew we would be fine, and it was. We made it back through.”

The race would then be marred by cautions, which allowed Avery, Howe, and young Joey Scarborough all a chance to perform the same magic on Donnelly that had given him the lead. Donnelly, however, proved to be too strong and was never under much of a threat on the restarts.

“I didn’t know who was there. It seemed like every time we lined up someone else was beside me,” Donnelly explained. “Actually, I thought the cautions were a help for me. The car went away a little bit the longer it ran. Once we got down to nine to go, I felt we were good. I was getting shoved around on the starts, guys were getting pretty impatient. I just maintained where I needed to be on the bottom, and made it to the end.”

A pair of 2011 track champions chased Donnelly to the line, with Canaan’s Howe, of Lebanon, N.H., second and Bear Ridge Speedway Modified champion Adam Pierson third. Pierson, of Fairlee, started 14th in the 22-car starting field, and nearly took second from Howe on the final lap. Scarborough, of Brandon, was fourth while Avery completed the unofficial top five.

Canaan racers Travis Shinn and Jason Giguere were sixth and seventh, respectively, while Chaffee, Troy Gray, and Robbie LaCroix completed the top ten.

Derek O’Hearn won the Super Street portion of the Spencer Rocke Memorial Classic in their 25-lap feature. O’Hearn, of Campton, N.H., started last and took the lead shortly before halfway from Bear Ridge rookie racer Jordan Fornwalt, then held off a late challenge from 2011 Canaan champion Ryan Christian. Christian, of Canaan, N.H., was second while Fornwalt, of Bradford, was third. Robbie Williams, of Plainfield, N.H, and 2011 Bear Ridge Limited Late Model champion Tyler Stygles, of Bradford, completed the top five.

Armand Boucher, of Grafton, N.H., won the 20-lap Bandit feature over Doug Boucher and Bill McKee. Russ Christian won the 12-lap Late Model feature.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Shaker Valley Auto/Spencer Rocke Memorial Classic
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H.
Friday, October 6, 2011

Pos.- Driver-Hometown

Papa Z’s Modifieds (40 laps)
1. Chris Donnelly, Piermont, N.H.
2. Adam Pierson, Fairlee
3. Randy Howe, Lebanon, N.H.
4. Joey Scarborough, Brandon
5. Ryan Avery, Thornton, N.H.
6. Travis Shinn, Groton, N.H.
7. Jason Giguere, Lebanon, N.H.
8. Kevin Chaffee, Fairlee
9. Troy Gray, Fairlee
10. Robbie LaCroix, Canaan, N.H.

Beard Sewer & Drain Super Streets (25 laps)
1. Derek O’Hearn, Campton, N.H.
2. Ryan Christian, Canaan, N.H.
3. Jordan Fornwalt, Bradford
4. Robbie Williams, Plainfield, N.H.
5. Tyler Stygles, Bradford

NAPA Dirt Bandits (20 laps)
1. Armand Boucher, Grafton, N.H.
2. Doug Boucher, Canaan, N.H.
3. Bill McKee, Campton, N.H.

Mirror Lake Rod & Custom Late Models (12 laps)
1. Russ Christian, Canaan, N.H.
2. Brian Sousa, Dorchester, N.H.
3. Mike McClay, Holderness, N.H.