DJ Shaw Overhauls Derek Griffith for Championship
Mike Hopkins hauled all the way from Hermon, Maine to take on the field for the Pro All-Star Series at the Haunted Hundred. But he had to scramble up from mid-pack in the 29-car field to challenge for the lead. The front row featured Seekonk locals Dylan Estrella at pole position with 2018 Late Model champ Ryan Kuhn, who also is 2019 Rookie of the Year on the American-Canadian Tour.
It took Hopkins two-thirds of the race to grind his way to the front to challenge Kuhn, who had taken the lead after several laps worth of debating the issue with Estrella. With the lap count in the nineties, a door-to-door between Estrella and Ben Rowe was blocking Hopkins from Kuhn. When Rowe had finally outrun Estrella, Hopins went directly to work and as they rolled up to the 2/3 mark on the race, he had second and Kuhn in his sights.
Kuhn worked to hold him off but Hopkins prevailed and went on for the win with Kuhn garnering second. Reid Lanpher grabbed third, just ahead of Rowe and Gabe Brown, who rounded out the top five.
DJ Shaw rolled into Seekonk eight points down to Derek Griffith for the PASS championship. Shaw’s eighth place finish on an afternoon that did not run at all well for his opponent, was sufficient to grant him the top spot in the division for 2019. Griffith was out of the race with one lap remaining after suffering body damage that had metal dangling and smoking up his inside rear tire, forcing him into a frontstretch spin. He retired at that point and fell to 20th.
At the start, Estrella shot ahead by a half-car but Kuhn stayed alongside and Ben Ashline slide into third with Fred Astle, Jr. dueling outside Rowe. Estrella pulled away with Kuhn giving chase and Ashline settling to third. Rowe grabbed fourth and Ryan Lineham slid under to duel with Astle. Ashline settled in on Kuhn’s bumper. Five laps in, and the field was already stringing out.
As Estrella crossed the line into lap eight, Mike Mitchell went pitside under green and retired.
Kuhn moved in on the leader’s bumper and ducked underneath on lap ten. He had the lead to himself one cycle later. Estrella settled in for the chase with Ashline at his back. Rowe and Lineham rounded the top five. Joey Polewarczyk looked under Lineham then drove through into fifth
By Lap 12, Kuhn had a six-car lead.
Ashline began troubling Estrella’s bumper on lap 16. Two laps later and Kuhn was navigating lapped traffic. Ashline cleared Estrella and began to encounter the same lapped vehicles. Twenty-five laps in, some bumpertag between Angelo Belsito and Wayne Helliwell, Jr. saw Belsito take a spin and caution flew. Shaw immediately made for the pits for work, which put Griffith ahead of him.
Kuhn and Estrella lined up again with Ashline and Lanpher behind them. JP Josiasse and Rowe were next, followed by Joey Pole and Lineham. Kuhn shot to the front across the stripe and Ashline ducked under Estrella. Joey Pole did the same to Lanpher while Craig Weinstein got alongside Lineham. Kuhn went out to a four-car lead. Lanpher fell back and Weinstein jumped onto Rowe’s bumper while Freddy and Ryan ran side-by-side behind them.
By lap 32, they were strung out once again.
Kuhn began putting distance on the field and by lap 38, he was six cars to the good over Ashline. Estrella continued in third, chased again by Lanpher. Meanwhile, Dave Darling was moving up from the middle and got under Lineham into ninth.
` Lap 50 saw Jake Johnson spin in turn four. A host of competitors made for the pits. They set up for the restart with Ashline outside Kuhn. Pole and Darling were now row four with Weinstein and Alan Tardiff behind them. Griffith was outside Weinstein in row six
Kuhn had the lead again in turn two while Estrella went under Ashline into second. Rowe and Lanpher dueled behind them. Joey Pole made his way under Hopkins while Lineahm dueled under Tardiffe. Lap 55 saw Kuhn with a three car lead and Darling battling Lineham side-by-slde.
But on lap 65, caution flew again as Dan Winter spun on the back stretch. This brought Kuhn and Estrella together again. Gabe Brown had come up to engage with Darling in row five, while Shaw and Griffith sat side-by-side behind them. On the break, Kuhn took a nose then pulled away with Estrella settling on his bumper. Rowe and Hopkins gave chase. Ashline and Weinstein fought over fifth and Lanpher pursued. Weinstein fell back and Darling got under him then took over seventh.
At the halfway point, Lineham was shooting under Pole as the front stayed in the same order. Eighty laps in and Griffith was eighth on Darling’s tail with Weinstein following. Brown was just ahead of Tardiff. Kuhn’s lead over Estrella was now seven cars. He pushed the gap to twelve by lap 86, but caution struck again.
The restart saw Rowe and Hopkins behind Kuhn and Estrella. Griffith was eighth and Shaw was twelfth. On the green, Kuhn escaped again, Estrella dropped , Rowe grabbed third and Hopins followed. Rowe got under Estrella as Kuhn manufactured a four-car gap. Hopkins watched for an opportunity. Rowe grabbed second and Hopkins followed him through then began to work on his bumper.
Lap 100, two-third through saw Hopkins past Rowe and Estrella running fourth. Now Belsito spun out of turn two and they lined for the restart again.
This time, Kuhn shared the front with Hopkins. Kuhn nosed out at the line then they were door to door again. He nosed away again and took the lead in turn three. Rowe and Estrella were dueling infront of Ashline and Darling. Griffith was working outside Lanpher. Griffith shot forward and was almost past Ashline and tried to drop, catching his left rear on the latter’s nose. Griffith’s tire shot off the wheel and caution flew as traffic ducked around his spin.
The lap 104 restart saw Kuhn and Hopkins at it again. Kuhn regained the lead and Hopkins settled on his bumper. And stayed there, working it over well. But he ducked underneath on lap 111. They hacksawed the lead over the next few laps until Hopkins took the front on lap 117. Kuhn was not done and drooped under Hopkins. But Johnson spun in turn four on lap 118. In the chaos, Griffith, who had been working up to challenge shaw again, took a hit which tore off his driver’s door and it was dragging. He stayed out to continue the chase.
Hopkins nosed away again and Rowe got under Kuhn, who dropped and went back into second. Hopkins built a two-car lead in the meantime. But Griffith’s left rear was smoking from metal contact and on lap 127, he spun down the front stretch. He pitted.
Again Hopkins and Kuhn ran wheel-to-wheel on the green with 22 laps remaining. But Hopkins took the front again. Rowe and Lannpher followed Ashline, Darling, Estrella and Brown in tow. Lanpher got under Rowe and took over the spot. Darling ran up on Rowe’s high side. Hopkins was three cars up with thirteen laps remaining.
A hard grind to the finish followed with Hopkins taking the checkers, five cars up on Kuhn.
And Lanpher edged Rowe for the third spot on the podium.
Shaw was present for his championship trophy and summed up the day he and Griffith had suffered with, “We both had terrible days. But his was worse than mine.”
Rounding out the top ten came Tardiff in sixth, followed by Ashline, Shaw, Eddie MacDonald and Travis Benjamin.