Lee, NH – Lee USA Speedway owners and promoters Red and Judy MacDonald are getting ready for their 30th consecutive season operating “New Hampshire’s Center of Speed”, and dozens of teams are busy in their shops doing their cars to prepare for the Friday night regular season opener on May 27th.
The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Lee USA will once again be headlined by the EKeys4cars Supermodifieds, with the R & R Public Wholesalers “The Tool Store and More” Late Model Sportsmen, David’s Race Cars and Components Hobby Stocks, Tri-City Line-X Ironman, and MLM Diagnostics Pure Stock divisions rounding out the weekly program.
Defending and four-time (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015) Super Modified champion Tommy Tombarello Jr., of Haverhill, MA will once again be the man to beat in the Supers, coming of an impressive five-win season that brought him to the title once again last year. Tommy wrecked hard on championship night in 2015, but his team has been hard at work and will have the champ ready to go for the opener.
Among the drivers looking to knock him off the throne will be Northfield’s Leslie Keyser, runner-up in 2015, and a multi-time feature winner himself. Fremont’s Lance Barthelemy, Kingston’s Kyle Sawyer and Moe Lattime, and 2015 Oktoberfest feature winner Mike Murphy of Groveland, MA are all expected to compete as well.
Murphy’s brother P. J. is working on a deal that would put him in the field and create quite a sibling rivalry in the open wheel ranks, and “Hollywood” Dave Helliwell is rumored to be making his debut this season as well. Another hot rumor pairs 2011 and 2013 championship owners Ed and Bobby Witkum and their always-competitive machine with 2014 driving champ Jake Stergios. Only time will tell.
Defending champ Jay Sands of Hampton is expected back to defend his Late Model Sportsman title, and with tons of bonus money available for this year‘s top gun, Exeter’s Jimmy Russell would like nothing better than to improve on his runner-up 2015 finish. Russell’s a perennial feature winner, and fell just short of the championship in 2015.
That might be easier said than done, because Grant Aither’s been hard at work all winter putting together a new Late Model Sportsman for a full out assault in 2016, and he’s been there before. Although he’s only been running a part-time schedule in recent seasons, Aither’s already got the 2009 and 2010 championship trophies sitting on his mantle.
Others expected to be contenders this year are Stratham’s Frankie Eldredge, who was a three-time winner last season, veteran Ricky Porter of Epping, 2013 champ Niko Maniatis of Hooksett, and sophomore competitors George Helliwell and Steve Paquette. Richard Glaubon and Kris Miller are among the rookie competitors who’ve already thrown their hats into the ring.
As always, it will be a solid mix of veterans and newcomers in the Hobby Stock ranks, where Raymond‘s Dennis Dumas came out on top last season. Pelham ace Paul Palen, Jim Piaseczny, Manchester’s Billy Clement, Jr., Zac Fraser of Nottingham, two-time champ Patrick Tanguay, and Midnight Motorsports teammates Brian DeStefano and Dave MacDonald of Tewksbury, MA have all visited victory lane before and are looking to make a return trip to the winner’s circle in 2016.
Newcomers Travis Nevers, Dale Philibote, and Steve McDougal have already added their names to the roster, and several more entries are expected between now and the season opener.
The entry-level Ironman and Pure Stock ranks continue to grow, with 2015 Ironman champ Troy Washburn preparing to defend his title, with one of the toughest challenges expected to come from his cousin Zach, a three-time winner last season.
Hannah Shaw, 2013 champ Travis Hollins, and 2015 Oktoberfest feature winner Christin DeStefano have signed on as well. No official word has been received from the world-renowned Red Cup Racing bunch, but you can usually count on at least a couple of entries from that team to add to the excitement.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Rob Carleton is looking to expand to a two-car team in the Pure Stocks, though defending two-time champ Jesse Tellier of Pelham has not yet announced his intentions for 2016. Zachary Nicholson is the first among the freshmen who will compete in the Pure Stocks.