LateModel

Late Model drivers battle for position during an auto racing event.

One of the biggest American-Canadian Tour races of the year is just around the corner.

The $10,000-to-win Midsummer Classic 250 at White Mountain Motorsports Park on July 31 is circled in red on the calendar for fans and Late Model racers alike. Tom Carey III, Mike Hopkins, Jimmy Hebert, Quinny, Welch, Ben Rowe and Wayne Helliwell Jr. are just a few of the stars gearing up for the big event.

The longest points-counting event on the schedule has more than $47,000 in posted awards up for grabs. It will take place at a track that gains popularity every year among both weekly and touring drivers.

“White Mountain is one of my favorite places to race,” Hopkins said. “It’s like a mini-Bristol — you get to race it. At (some tracks), you’ve got to slow down to go fast. But at White Mountain, you go fast to go fast. It has the banking, and it’s racy. And it’s just an all-around cool place.”

In four ACT-sanctioned starts, Hopkins has established himself as a contender every time he’s out on the track. The reigning Pro All Stars Series National Champion is in his first year driving the “house car” part-time for Port City Racecars. At each event, he has started fast and stayed fast.

A wire-to-wire win at Oxford Plains Speedway last Sunday was the exclamation point. Hopkins also finished runner-up in the Caron Fabrication Spring Green at White Mountain and posted a pair of top-five finishes in non-points events at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.

“Those guys work their tails off,” Hopkins said of his Port City team. “Their technology and their production down there (in North Carolina) is second to none — it’s as good as anybody’s. Going into any race, the preparation is top-notch and as good as anything you could ever ask for. Communication between me and the guys has been key. Gary (Crooks) is a racer at heart, so he knows what he’s got to do and what he wants to do right from the start.”

Hopkins will have to be at his best to hold off many of the ACT’s top talents. Carey III is the points leader, while defending champion Jimmy Hebert is another driver who won’t back down easily. They’ll both be tough to beat with $10,000 on the line. Rowe and D.J. Shaw have each turned thousands of laps at White Mountain between Super Late Models and Late Models. They’re part of a fierce ACT championship battle as the season’s second half beings to heat up quickly.

Welch is an eight-time track champion who will try to keep the big check local. No weekly Late Model racer has won an ACT Tour race at White Mountain, and a driver like Welch is the perfect candidate to change that. Helliwell Jr., the 2019 Midsummer 250 winner, is planning to take his crown back after an illness forced him to withdraw from last year’s race.

Barre’s Jason Corliss, who has finished third in both Midsummer 250s, will try to bring home a first-place trophy this time around. Corliss won Thursday’s Governor’s Cup event at Thunder Road to extend his weekly points lead at the Barre track.

Another threat is fourth-generation racer Ryan Olsen, who was the opening-night winner at White Mountain earlier this year. Those drivers will go up against Tour stars Derek Gluchacki, Stephen Donahue, Shawn Swallow, Dylan Payea and sisters Reilly and Peyton Lanphear sisters in a Late Model showdown that has become a crown jewel of the ACT schedule.

“I always tell everybody that it doesn’t matter if it’s in a wheelbarrow or a race car — winning never gets old,” Hopkins said. “The ACT Tour is very well-established. It’s fun, they’ve got a lot of good incentives to race, the purses are good, and there’s a great caliber of drivers and cars. We had 29 cars at Oxford, and there was probably 15 of them that could have won that race at any given point. It shows that what they’re doing is obviously working.”

The action will begin at 5:30 p.m. for the Midsummer Classic 250. The track’s Flying Tigers, Strictly Stock Mini’s and Kids Trucks complete the card. Admission is $25 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and $50 for a family of four (two adults, two children).

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