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BUMP STOPS: Helliwell, Horsepower and Hot Shoes

Friday, August 17, 2012
Photo: Travis Barrett/GWC

It's Wednesday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

AS GOOD AS the ACT Late Model Tour championship battle has promised to be over the second half of the season with four drivers involved in the dogfight, one has to wonder if Wayne Helliwell Jr. has any interest in a slugfest.

Helliwell dominated the ACT 100 at Sanair Super Speedway in Quebec last weekend, not only continuing this storybook season that's seen the No. 27 win everywhere he goes – even places he's never been before – but also beating up on the other heavies on the Tour.

To wit: Helliwell won on Sunday, with his two closest championship pursuers, Brian Hoar and Austin Theriault, finishing right behind him.

“This is my first time at Sanair, and my first time winning a Canadian race, so that makes it special,” Helliwell told Vermont Motorsports Magazine. “We really had no expectations coming, just wanted to stay competitive. It was a huge points day for us, and that’s what we are really pumped about.”

With only three races to go in the ACT season, Helliwell has a 30-point lead over Theriault. But it might as well be 300 points. 

“I watched them really pour it on at the end. I just had to stay calm and keep my car in shape,” Helliwell said. “They are really battling me in points, too. We needed to keep them behind us.”

Since a win in the third race of 2012 – at Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt. – Helliwell has paced the ACT field. He's won three of the seven races this season, posted two other Top-5 finishes and only once finished outside the Top-10 – and that was way back in May.

Helliwell has only gotten stronger as the season has gone on. Not only has he taken control of the ACT chase, but he's also in the hunt for a Top-10 finish in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings. He's been filling his off-weekends from ACT with Late Model races at Canaan Fair Speedway and small-block Supermodified events at his home track of Lee USA Speedway.

He has 12 wins and 19 Top-5 finishes in 23 NASCAR-sanctioned starts this season.

THE SPEC ENGINE program on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will get a tweak when it heads back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next month.

NASCAR announced that the tapered spacer in the spec engine will be reduced in order to help limit some of the spec engine's horsepower.

Ron Silk used the spec engine when the Tour last visited the Magic Mile in July, winning the pole and running at the front of the field for most of the afternoon in the Town Fair Tire 100. He eventually finished second to Mike Stefanik in the second-closest finish ever at New Hampshire.

“It’s a restrictor plate,” Whelen Modified Tour director Chad Little told RaceDayCT.com. “It helps with fuel distribution because the manifold on the Spec Engine is stock. The manifold on the built engines have been massaged and worked and stuff. We were concerned about fuel distribution, we didn’t want to burn up a motor with the stock manifold.

“It will take away some horsepower. That was the result of just watching the race. We got data from our dyno and the other place we get data is from the race track. We were able to watch at New Hampshire. We said we would watch it and evaluate it after the race. I think everyone kind of overreacted. We were able to go back and talk about things and pull it back a little bit. If it needs another adjustment, we’ll do that, maybe it will need a bigger one, maybe it needs a smaller one. We’ll keep watching it.”

SPEAKING OF THE Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire, the F.W. Webb 100 at the track on Sept. 22 will be broadcast live on SPEED.

The live television broadcast is a nice little bonus and all, but really – isn't the beauty of the Modified racing at New Hampshire seeing it live???

JUST TO REWIND a little bit and take a look back at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East stop at Iowa Speedway on August 3, it was a pretty impressive weekend for the regulars in the series.

Not only did Corey LaJoie rebound from a run of bad luck with an emphatic victory in the blazing Iowa heat that night, but three K&N Pro Series regulars also made fantastic starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event the next night.

Darrell Wallace Jr., Brett Moffitt and Ryan Blaney all finished in the Top-10 in the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa – with both Moffitt and Blaney making their series debuts.

There continue to be questions about the K&N Pro Series' lack of traction with fans, particularly in the northeast – where the series grew out of the old Busch North Series and some strong New England ties. The familiar refrain from race-goers is “but I don't know any of these guys.”

The fact is, though, that the K&N Pro Series continues to produce talent that rises to the next level. Not only are Wallace, Moffitt and Blaney the most immediate proof of that, but they're hardly alone.

Two of the Top-7 drivers in the current Nationwide Series point standings – Austin Dillon (fourth) and Cole Whitt (seventh) – are graduates of the K&N Pro Series, and the most sought-after Sprint Cup Series free agent as of now is Joey Logano, the 2007 East Series champion.

Not every driver to roll through the K&N Series is going to eventually make it to the Cup or Nationwide level. But by the same token, not every driver to roll through baseball's Double-A Eastern League is going to make it to the Major Leagues, either.

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the duck pad thai, and don't forget the tip your waitress. Mumford and Sons are here, so stick around.

– TB