Northern Stars Invitational Weekend Highlights
Superior International Motorplex
Northern Stars Invitational Race Weekend Highlights
Superior International Motorplex held the Northern Stars Invitational on the weekend of Friday Sept. 14th and Saturday Sept. 15th, 2018. Sunday was planned as a rain date, but that was not needed as the weather was fantastic with daytime temperatures hitting the mid to high 20’s and the evening temperature being similarly warmer than normal for this time of year.
During the weekend we honoured three special people from the local race community that have recently passed away:
MICHAEL PARSONS passed away on August 16th, 2016 at the age of 56.
Superior International Motorplex track promoter Donnie Varcoe said, “Michael Parsons was involved in racing since the days of racing at old track on 5th line (1980’s). He raced the number 73 in those days and the same number when he raced his Super Late Model at Laird Raceway in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He was helped by his father good old Bud Parsons, who was known locally for his engine building skills. The Parsons were involved in racing a long time in this area.”
ED WELLWOOD passed away on May 20, 2018 at the age of 42.
Varcoe said, “Ed Wellwood was a drag racer that had lots of friends in the racing community. Ed was a local trucker and heavy duty mechanic that worked for his family business H. Wellwood and Sons. Other members of Ed’s family have raced and are still racing. His Uncle Dick, and John Hayes raced in the Laird Factory Stock division for years. His two cousins, Jerry and John Ross are currently racing at Superior Motorplex and other area tracks.”
RONALD ARMSTRONG passed away earlier this month on Sept. 4th
Varcoe said, “Ronnie Armstrong was a long-time supporter of local short track racing. He was on the racing teams of Roddy Speers, and Brent Palumbo. Most recently he was helping one of his nephews – Jay Palumbo - as a team member. Ronnie was well liked by the racing community.”
DAY 1 - FRIDAY EVENING
Friday night we held a qualifying session, a fast car dash, and two heats in each of our four divisions.
Northern Fencing Super Late Models
We saw 8 late models out qualifying. Chase Wilson was fast qualifier in the #4 with a time of 14.299 seconds around the 1/3 mile. The Late Model Dash was won by #61 Dustin Jackson, #50 Rob Hiiemaa was 2nd, #100 Ron Raynor 3rd, and Wilson was 4th.
In their first heat, there were 12 Late Models taking the green, including Keith King – out for the first time this season, and brothers Ted and Shawn Ritchie. Also in the race, but not being officially scored was Tyler Parsons in the #95 Rally McQueen car; this was Tyler’s first time driving a Late Model. The race began with a couple of early cautions due to cars spinning at the back of the pack. Keith King led the first half of the race with Dustin Jackson, Rob Hiiemaa and Josh Ware challenging. Rob Hiiemaa pulled up front on lap 6 and led to the end to take the checkered. Josh Ware took 2nd, Dustin Jackson 3rd, Zak St. John was 4th.
In their second heat later on after intermission, there were 11 cars to start. George Wilson was driving the #4 car for his son Chase, to “shake it down”. Chase thought that there might have been an issue in the earlier heat. On the first lap, it looked like there was going to be a disaster as cars were three wide at the front coming into corner 3; there was a bit of bumping but all cars emerged from corner 4 and the race continued. Near the completion of lap 2, cars driven by Ted and Shawn Ritchie along with the car driven by Zak St. John got together in corner 3 & 4 and brought out a caution. Shawn Ritchie left the track. On the restart lap, caution came out again, with Ron Raynor tagging Keith King on corner 3. King left the track with possible damage. Dustin Jackson had the lead on the restart, with Josh Ware, Wilson, and Jake Irwin in single file behind, until lap 8, when Irwin slid and spun through corner 4 to bring out the third caution of the 10 lap race. Eight cars were left on the track to restart. Jackson maintained his lead to win over Ware, followed by Wilson, Hiiemaa, St. John, Ron Raynor, Irwin, and Ted Ritchie.
Superior Truck Repair Michigan Modifieds
Eight Modifieds qualified at the beginning of the night with Josh Ware being fast qualifier with a time of 15.115 seconds. Jay Palumbo who was out of the action for most of the season with a broken arm, returned for the final race weekend. Mark Laakso won the fast car dash over Ware, Palumbo, and Mark Porpealia.
In their first heat, consisting of 8 cars, AJ Daniels held the lead for the first half of the 10 lap race until he was passed by Jay Palumbo. Jay maintained the lead for the last half and took the win, over Daniels. Laakso finished 3rd, Kevin Oicle 4th, Mark Porpealia 5th, Michael Carbone 6th, Josh Maitland 7th, and rookie driver Donny Davidson from Wawa.
Eight cars took the green in the second heat, missing was Maitland, but added was Randy Lapossie in the #88. The 10 lap race was fast and caution free. Kevin Oicle led all laps and took the checkered. Mark Laakso was challenged for second by Jay Palumbo a number of times through the race, but Palumbo just couldn’t get past and had to settle for 3rd. Daniels took 4th, Porpealia 5th, Carbone 6th, Lapossie 7th, and Davidson 8th.
Northland Autobody Factory Stocks
Six Factory Stocks qualified earlier in the evening with #08 Daniel Bibeau setting fast time with 16.188 seconds. Jamie Fox in #51 won the dash, with #67 Jarritt Varcoe 2nd, #01 Jerry Ross 3rd, and Bibeau 4th.
In their first 10 lap heat, Ross led the first lap then Varcoe moved up to take over, and eventually took the win. The race went caution free and at the end Ross had slid to 3rd behind Varcoe and Bibeau. Fox finished 4th, Jacob Heimonen 5th, and Corey Carbone 6th. This was Carbone and Heimonen’s first time out this season.
In the second heat, Heimonen led the first three laps, then was passed by Bibeau. Bibeau took advantage and opened up a 10 car length lead on the rest of the field by the end to take the win. The order behind him at the finish was Fox, Varcoe, Heimonen and Ross, all close together, with Carbone about 5 car lengths behind.
Great Lakes Bus Tours Factory Fours
Four cars were out for qualifying in the Factory Four division. Rob Wagner was fast car with a time of 17.901 seconds. Meghan Hayes in her #77 car was out for the first time this season. The dash was won by Wagner, with Hayes 2nd, Jack Lannigan 3rd, and rookie Kaleb Foster 4th. The four qualifiers were joined by latecomer Andrew Premo for their two heats.
Both heats were won by Wagner, with Hayes 2nd. Lannigan finished 3rd in heat 1, 4th in heat 2; Premo the opposite of Lannigan, 4th in heat 1, and 3rd in heat 2. Kaleb Foster was 5th in both heats.
The night was capped off with a School Bus Race consisting of 8 busses
DAY 2 - SATURDAY AFTERNOON
Saturday afternoon we held our memorial feature races. Opening ceremonies where held shortly after 3 pm with Annette Bouchard singing national anthems.
Northern Fencing Super Late Models
The first race of the day was the Michael Parson’s Memorial Super Late Model Race. Thirteen cars hit the track to turn 73 laps, with a caution at the half way mark to refuel. Michael Parson’s car number was 73, hence the 73 lap race.
The race had a clean start but on the second lap caution flew as Jake Irwin in the #21 slowed and stopped on the backstretch. Leaders on the restart were Keith King, Dustin Jackson, Rob Hiiemaa, Ron Raynor, and Josh Ware. Caution flag waved again before another lap was complete with a spin by one of the cars at the back of the pack in corner 3. Keith King led the first 14 laps of the race, with Josh Ware and Dustin Jackson pressing hard behind. As he came up the front stretch at the beginning of lap 15, King suffered either a tire or steering failure and nearly ran off the track. He maintained control, avoided bringing out a caution and exited the track, leaving Ware in charge. A lap and a half later though, caution flew after Ron Raynor stopped motionless inside the backstretch. Raynor was able to restart.
At this point, with 15 laps complete, 8 cars remained on the track. Ware was leading with Jackson, Hiiemaa, and Chase Wilson behind. The racing continued with cars in the same order until lap 27 when caution flew again. This time it was Ted Ritchie in the #46 spinning through corner 4. The race restarted and the cars remained in the same order with Ware leading Jackson by 3 or 4 car lengths. Lap 30 saw the caution fly again, with Raynor stopping on the backstretch. Raynor left the track before the restart. Cars were cautioned down at the completion of lap 35 for an on track fuel stop.
After the fuel stop, racing resumed and progressed. Ware and Jackson remained within about 10 car lengths of each other, but were opening up a lead on the rest. On lap 67, the pair were about ¾ of a track ahead of third and fourth place Hiiemaa and Wilson, with Jackson having closed the gap on Ware to just a car length. Caution then flew as Zak St. John slid high and spun out of corner 4. This brought the group back together for the final laps of the race.
Jackson and Ware completed another lap then Ware went a bit high on the backstretch and Jackson took the opportunity to run up inside. Jackson’s nose was past Ware’s door when they entered corner 3, but Ware failed to leave room and the pair spun through corner 3. Ware was sent to the back – which was position 4 (the three cars behind him were lapped previously). Five laps remained. On the restart, caution came out again, this time is was Chase Wilson at the entry of corner 1. His car veered and then he was hit by one of the cars following. It looked at the time like it might have been a tire blowing, but post race we learned that there was a steering breakage. That left 5 cars on the track. Jackson had a great restart. Ware worked his way around Hiiemaa, but by then Jackson had a good lead and Ware just didn’t have time to catch up and challenge. Jackson took home the $2000 to win. Ware finished 2nd, Hiiemaa 3rd, Zak St. John 4th, and Shawn Ritchie 5th.
At the end of the race, drivers were presented trophies on the front stretch with the Parson’s family.
Superior Truck Repair Michigan Modifieds
The Michigan Modifieds were originally scheduled to do a two part 66 lap race as the Ed Wellwood Memorial. Officials recognized that because of delays in previous races, we were running short of time so the race was cut to a single 25 lap event. This race was the final race of the day, prior to the School Bus race, and the much anticipated demo derby.
The race started with 10 cars and caution flew immediately after the green. Flagman Ron Schmidt didn’t like the start. Kevin Oicle was high on the track into corner 1 and caused a bit of a pileup behind him. The second attempt was a bit better but Oicle looked like he was still having problems. A.J. Daniels led the first couple laps, with Mark Laakso right behind. Josh Ware was moving up to take over first but the caution flew as Kevin Oicle spun in corner 1. Oicle left the track. On the restart, Ware got past Daniels in a lap to take the lead then began to open it up. As the race progressed Jay Palumbo was working at getting past Laakso and Daniels then caution flew again with a spin in corner 3 & 4 by Josh Maitland.
The race resumed and once again, Ware was opening a lead. Just past the half way point in the race, Ware had opened up a quarter track lead on the three cars fighting for second; Daniels, Laakso, and Palumbo. The three went three wide down the backstretch; Palumbo decided to slow. Daniels went into the corner too fast and spun up the track putting him to the back on the restart. Palumbo restarted second, Laakso third.
A few more laps were put in the books with Palumbo working hard to keep up with Ware, when Laakso slid up and off corner 2 into the weeds. He was done for the race. Mark Porpealia inherited 3rd place. The laps wound down and the race finished with Ware taking the win, Palumbo 2nd, Popreallia 3rd, Daniels 4th, and Randy Lapossie 5th.
The Wellwood clan came out on the front stretch with the top three finishers receiving their trophies and had a group photo taken.
Northland Autobody Factory Stocks
The Factory Stock race was also planned as a twin race totaling 73 laps. Since only 6 cars were available to race, the event was cut to 25 laps. Even though there were only 6 cars starting, the race was exciting with cars and drivers being pretty evenly matched.
Jacob Heimonen led the start of the race, with Jarritt Varcoe challenging a couple times, Jerry Ross right behind and Jamie Fox and Daniel Bibeau in the mix too. On lap 8, Jon Diodatti slipped up the track and it brought out the caution. Racing continued with the 6 cars tightly packed. On lap 11, Bibeau attempted to go inside of leader Heimonen on the backstretch and dropped below the white line. On lap 12, Fox went into corner 3 hot and piled into the left rear of Bibeau bringing out the caution. Fox’s car was badly damaged and he left the track, leaving 5 cars. At the restart, Heimonen went a bit high down the backstretch, Bibeau was outside, and Jerry Ross moved inside – they were three wide into corner 3, but somehow they got through, with Ross now in the lead. Ross and Bibeau opened a lead. Bibeau was working hard and nosed into Ross. At that point, flagman Schmidt brought out the black flag for Bibeau. Bibeau ran a couple more laps until Schmidt was forced to fly the yellow. (Post race the flagman advised that Bibeau was given the black for aggressive driving, Bibeau was seen nosing into cars a couple times prior to dropping below the white line and at least once afterwards – the flagman obviously reached his limit of patience.) At the end of the race, it was Ross that was the victor, Varcoe finished 2nd, Heimonen 3rd, and Jon Diodati 4th.
Great Lakes Bus Tours Factory Fours
The Factory Fours were initially scheduled to complete two 33 lap twin features, in honour of Ed Wellwood, but since only 5 cars showed at the event, one feature was cut from the program. In their race, Meghan Hayes led the first 4 laps then was passed by Rob Wagner. The race ran caution free for the full 33 laps. Rob Wagner took the win, Hayes 2nd, Andrew Premo 3rd, Jack Lannigan 4th, and Kaleb Foster 5th.
Racing was followed up by an 8 School Bus Race. Busses went three wide on the front stretch, with not enough room to get around the corner in that formation, one bus ended up in the bush off corner 2 (normally corner 3, but the busses run backwards for safety reasons).
The day, and the season was capped off by a metal crunching demolition derby.
SEE YOU NEXT SEASON!
Article Credit: Tom Stephenson
Submitted By: Tom Stephenson