PHOTO: Wayne Helliwell, Jr., celebrates his first career American-Canadian Tour victory in the 101.5 “The Fox” Spring Green 112 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

Takes first career ACT Victory

–by T.J. Ingerson

WEST HAVEN, Vt. — Wayne Helliwell, Jr., labeled himself the bridesmaid of the American-Canadian Tour. And perhaps rightfully so: since joining the tour full-time last season, Helliwell has finished second four times, but has been kept out of the winners circle. Three of those runner-up finishes have come at the expense of chief rival Brian Hoar.

But Helliwell and his Bruce Bernhardt-owned team had Devil’s Bowl Speedway circled. And on Sunday, Helliwell shed his bridesmaid title and scored his first career American-Canadian Tour victory in the 101.5 “The Fox” Spring Green 112.

“It feels awesome,” an ecstatic Helliwell said. “I thought we would have a good car here. But in the back of your mind, you just don’t know. It clicked today. I thought we had something after practice, and I just tried to stay calm and keep it to myself.”

Helliwell started third in the 112-lap main event, but Helliwell quickly fell back as the outside lane was given an early advantage. He stayed patient and made a move when the opportunity presented itself.

“It’s very easy to get frustrated really quick,” said Helliwell. “At the beginning, the inside lane just didn’t move. Everybody was just driving by on the outside. I saw Joey [Polewarczyk, Jr.] go by and I knew he started pretty deep. But that’s all it was, just patience and waiting and waiting. Finally, the outside lane opened up and I was able to get by two or three cars and slowly started picking them off again.”

Helliwell and Polewarczyk continued their patient charge through the field. Polewarczyk grabbed the lead from veteran Randy Potter on a lap 49 restart, only to lose it to Helliwell on a lap 58 restart.

Helliwell developed a comfortable lead over Polewarczyk after the restart and would hold it until a caution flag with 14 laps to go. Helliwell would get the advantage on the restart, but would be tracked the rest of the way by Polewarczyk, including a passing attempt with two laps remaining.

“The last restart with Joey, I knew I had to get the jump, and clear him, and I figured we could hold him off,” Helliwell explained. “I didn’t want to see that caution. He did his job, tried to rough us up a bit a little bit and get under. We were able to pull it off.”

“When the yellow came out, I thought ‘I should have no problem getting him now,’” Polewarczyk said. “But, he was smart on the restart. He fooled me. We were kind of playing games with each other. He went, then I went, then he went, and he got me. We had that 12-lap run there at the end and I backed off a little bit to get one, last good run at him. I really thought I was going to get him there. I got him on the outside with two [laps] to go, but there was no way he was going to lose that race. If I kept my nose in there, we both probably would have wrecked. We’re here with two top-two finishes, so it’s a good day.”

Although Polewarczyk settled for second, he was clearly happy for Helliwell, who has a connection with the Polewarczyk family.

“I grew up watching him; he use to drive my dad’s race cars,” Polewarczyk said. “I grew up in the garage watching him and wanting to be like him. To run a big race like this and come down to the wire like this, it’s kind of like a dream to be able to race him like that. He’s long overdue for this. I think he’s one of New England’s best drivers. He’ll race anything. It’s cool to be able to run with him like that.”

Last year’s Spring Green at Devil’s Bowl saw Helliwell’s day go bad before it even really began. Helliwell was involved in a heat race incident and found himself in the wetlands off the backstretch. The team was able to salvage a 22nd place finish. But returning to Devil’s Bowl and winning made it much sweeter for them.

“It feels unbelievable,” an ecstatic Helliwell said. “To come here and have this performance, after what happened here last year, is unbelievable. We didn’t even keep our notes from what we did accomplish here last year. I’m just really proud of the whole team and sticking with it week in and week out. I can’t say enough about them.”

Another young driver, Austin Theriault, came home third. Theriault, of Fort Kent, Maine started in the 20th position and charged to the front. Ray Parent of Tiverton, R.I., scored his career best ACT finish of fourth after starting 14th. Randy Potter, of Groveton, N.H., finished fifth after leading laps early in the race.

Eric Williams made his first appearance of the 2012 season and finished sixth. Ricky Rolfe, another early race leader, was seventh. Quinny Welch, Brent Dragon, and Luke Hinkley completed the unofficial top ten.

The point leader entering the race, the eight-time champion Hoar, fought to an 11th place finish after having a struggling day. With the win, Helliwell has unofficially taken the point lead from Hoar by 30 points.

“It’s huge,” Helliwell said about impact on the point standings. “[Brian] doesn’t have bad days. The last few seasons they have been rock solid. A bad for them is like a fifth. Today, for us to win and for them to struggle a little bit, hopefully it gives us a bit of a cushion for when we have a bad day and he wins. It goes both ways. But, today is an all-around unbelievable day.”

The American-Canadian Tour takes a week off before heading to Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine for the Armed Forces ACT 150.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — 101.5 “The Fox” Spring Green 112
American-Canadian Tour — Devil’s Bowl Speedway, West Haven, Vt.
Sunday, May 6, 2012

(# – denotes rookie)

1. (3) Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover, N.H.
2. (10) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H.
3. (20) Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Maine
4. (14) Ray Parent, Tiverton, R.I.
5. (7) Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H.
6. (22) Eric Williams, Hyde Park, Vt.
7. (4) Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Maine
8. (16) Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
9. (11) Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt.
10. (12) Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
11. (21) Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.
12. (6) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
13. (9) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt.
14. (18) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt.
15. (1) Todd Davis, Claremont, N.H.
16. (5) Mark Lamberton, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
17. (15) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.
18. (17) Joey Becker, Jeffersonville, Vt.
19. (8) Glen Luce, Turner, Maine
20. (2) Craig Bushey, Fairfax, Vt.
21. (31) Travis Fadden, North Haverhill, N.H.
22. (25) # Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown, Vt.
23. (28) Todd Patnode, Richmond, N.H.
24. (23) Jimmy Linardy, Somerville, Mass.
25. (30) Bruce Jaycox, Hartland, Vt.
26. (26) Derek Lynch, Warkworth, Ont.
27. (27) Hunter Bates, Middlebury, Vt.
28. (34) Jeffrey Labrecque, Jr., Rocherster, N.H.
29. (33) Spencer MacPherson, Carleton Place, Ont.
30. (29) Ben Ashline, Pittston, Maine
31. (24) Claude Leclerc, Lanoraie, Que.
32. (19) Rowland Robinson, Jr., Birch Harbor, Maine
33. (13) Eric Chase, Milton, Vt.
34. (32) # Dan Petronis, II, Mechanicville, N.Y.