PHOTO: Former Sprint Cars of New England champion Chris Donnelly took the with four laps remaining to win the season opening race. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

Chaffee, O’Hearn Canaan weekly winners

–by T.J. Ingerson

CANAAN, N.H. — Clay Dow ended last season’s Sprint Cars of New England season on a tear. The Barnstead, N.H., driver took the Triple Crown Weekend special event, and won at Legion Speedway. That performance appear to have carried over into the new year, as Dow looked well like a lock to take the SCoNE season opener at Canaan Dirt Speedway after 20 laps.

On lap 21, Dow took the outside grove to get around lap car Bob Giuliani, who was on the bottom of the track. Dow found no grip at the top of the speedway, allowing former series champion Chris Donnelly to sneak past and take the lead. That would be all Donnelly would need and would take the first Sprint Cars of New England race of the season.

“After I took the lead, I settled in and wasn’t going to let him by,” the Piermont, N.H., racer Donnelly said. “I would have done the same thing [Dow] tried. Heck, I even tried [to get around the lap car on the outside] and I couldn’t get by. [Dow and I] were pretty even and the car took off halfway into the race.”

Dow had opened up a lead after a lap 4 restart, but Donnelly began slowing chipping away at it, able to take advantage of Dow’s misfortune.

“Looking back on it, I wish I didn’t try to go high,” Dow said. “I knew [Donnelly] was there.”

Dow, of Barnstead, N.H., settled for second place while defending series champion Dan Douville, of Bridgewater, N.H., was third. Jim Lowery, Jr., of Tilton, N.H., and Tyler Rich, of Lyme, N.H., completed the unofficial top five.

Anthony Cain and Shawn Berry finished sixth and seventh. Asphalt modified racer Andy Seuss began his second season of sprint car racing with an eighth place finish. Jake Williams and Bob Giuliani completed the top ten finishers.

Twenty-four sprint cars attempted to qualify for the series’ opening event, forcing series officials to send six cars home. Veteran driver Lacey Hanson appeared to be one of the qualifying cars, leading the last chance qualifier B-Main, but suffered a mechanical failure and spun out in turn 3 with four laps to go. She did not qualify.

Kevin Chaffee did double duty at Canaan Friday night, winning the 20-lap non-point counting Papa Z’s Modified feature in wire-to-wire fashion. Chaffee, of Fairlee, started on the pole by virtue of his heat race win and never surrendered the lead. Travis Barker, of Thetford, Vt., was second. It was an all Scarborough battled for third, as the brothers Joey and Jake, both of Brandon, Vt., raced to the line for the final podium spot. Joey edged out Jake, while Ryan Avery, of Campton, N.H., completed the unofficial top five finishers.

Derek O’Hearn grabbed his second straight Beard Drain & Sewer Super Street feature win. O’Hearn, of Campton, N.H., took advantage of a late race restart to get past then-leader Mark Brown. Brown, of Rumney, N.H., was second, with J.P. Vaillancourt, of Campton, N.H., third. Jason Giguere and Robbie Williams completed the top five finishers.

The Sprint Cars of New England are back in action next weekend at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, Vt., for a Memorial Day Weekend event on Saturday, May 26. Canaan Dirt Speedway races Friday, May 25, with a full card for Optical Expressions of Berlin night.

Sprint Cars of New England — Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H.
Friday, May 18, 2012.

(# – denotes rookie)

1. (3) Chris Donnelly, Piermont, N.H.
2. (1) Clay Dow, Barnstead, N.H.
3. (7) Dan Douville, Bridgewater, N.H.
4. (4) Jim Lowery, Jr., Tilton, N.H.
5. (5) Tyler Rich, Lyme, N.H.
6. (1) Anthony Cain, Fairfax, Vt.
7. (8) Shawn Berry, Center Ossipee, N.H.
8. (12) Andy Seuss, Hampstead, N.H.
9. (10) Jake Williams, Center Tuftonboro, N.H.
10. (15) Bob Giuliani, Middletown, N.H.
11. (6) Matt Robie, Hill, N.H.
12. (17) # Curt Bradshaw, Schenectady, N.Y.
13. (14) Shawn Lawler, Mason, N.H.
14. (16) Brandon Valley, Center Ossipee, N.H.
15. (9) Bruce Kimball, Lebanon, N.H.
16. (18) Kevin Chaffee, Fairlee, Vt.
17. (13) Mark Cole, Lebanon, N.H.
18. (11) Tunk Berry, Center Ossipee, N.H.
Did Not Qualify: Randy Wimert, Falmouth, Maine; # Chris Downs, Meredith, N.H.; # Butch Valley, Jr., Hollis, N.H.; Lacey Hanson, Orwell, Vt.; # Eldon Townes, II, Weare, N.H.; Will Hull, East Montpelier, Vt.

Papa Z’s Modifieds (20 laps)
1. Kevin Chaffee, Fairlee, Vt.
2. Travis Barker, Thetford, Vt.
3. Joey Scarborough, Brandon, Vt.
4. Jake Scarborough, Brandon, Vt.
5. Ryan Avery, Campton, N.H.
6. Randy Howe, Lebanon, N.H.
7. Tim Tucker, Northfield, Vt.
8. T.C. Forward, Lyme, N.H.
9. Jason Sanville, Grafton, N.H.
10. Toby Stark, Canaan, N.H.

Beard Drain & Sewer Super Streets (20 laps)
1. Derek O’Hearn, Campton, N.H.
2. Mark Brown, Rumney, N.H.
3. J.P. Vaillancourt, Campton, N.H.
4. Jason Giguere, Lebanon, N.H.
5. Robbie Williams, Plainfield, N.H.