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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - New Hampshire’s Helliwell family is well known for winning races in championships in the Northeast and this year another Helliwell added his name to the record books.
Dave Helliwell, from Pelham, New Hampshire, captured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I super modified track championship at New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway this year during his rookie season in the class.
He is just the latest racer in his family to have success at Lee USA Speedway. His father, Wayne Helliwell and his three brothers George Helliwell, Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Bill Helliwell have all been successful at Lee USA Speedway. Now Dave Helliwell can proudly say the same about himself.
Helliwell said that the opportunity to race in the premier division at Lee USA came about thanks to a partnership with his boss at his day job, Rick Silva.
“My boss, Rick Silva, he actually used to be involved in racing with a friend way back in the heyday at Westboro Stadium in Westboro, Massachusetts,” Helliwell explained. “I was actually leaving sticky notes around his office. I would draw a picture of a super modified and I would tell him all the time, ‘Hey, Rick, we need to get one of these.’
Eventually Helliwell convinced Silva to partner with him and the pair worked together to build a super modified program for Lee USA Speedway. It was a major step for Helliwell, who previously raced a dwarf car in the region.
“I had sold the dwarf car I was driving and I had some money I could put together,” Helliwell said. “I actually didn’t have a garage to put together a car like this. My boss was nice enough to lend me his garage at his house.
“He gave me a place where we could build the thing. In the winter we just did it. We made it happen and come spring time we had a real, real nice piece.”
After spending several weeks fine tuning his race car, Helliwell prepared for opening night at Lee USA Speedway. His goal, he explained, was simply to finish the race. He ended up doing far better than that.
“I just wanted to finish the race, stay out of trouble and don’t get in anybody's way. We went out there and we were at speed and we were competitive,” 26-year-old Helliwell said. “We were coming up through the pack and we were making moves and we were real good.
“I thought we can only get better from here.”
Helliwell was right. After a fifth-place finish on opening night he kept the momentum going, scoring finishes of 10th and third before earning his first super modified victory in the fourth race of the year on June 17.
“I hit victory lane and I was so excited,” Helliwell recalled. “It was like I just hit it big on a scratch ticket. I’d watched my brother (Wayne Helliwell Jr.) win so many times in a super modified there. Entering the season, I never would have thought in my wildest dreams I’d be doing this well this fast.”
Helliwell went on to score three more victories alongside 14 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes in 17 starts to capture the track championship at Lee USA Speedway by 25 points over Moe Lattime.
“I just went out with the mindset of respect the track, respect the competitors and just go out and run your race. Stay clean and stay out of trouble hopefully things will pan out,” Helliwell said. “For those 17 weeks I just didn’t want to go in over my head. I just wanted to bring it home in one piece. It just worked out.”
The championship made him the second member of the Helliwell family to win a NASCAR track championship at Lee USA Speedway, joining Wayne Helliwell Jr. as a NASCAR champion.
“In our family, there are a lot of trophies kicking around and a lot of big checks sticking up on the wall,” Helliwell said. “If I don’t do good on race night, I have to come home and explain to my brothers and my father why I didn’t do good. The urge to win is so high and now I’ve got a championship in my rookie year. And not just a local championship, it’s a NASCAR championship.
“It’s a big to-do.”
Helliwell has already begun planning for the 2017 season. He’ll have a new car to drive after agreeing to take over the super modified fielded by Ed and Bobby Witkum, the same car Wayne Helliwell Jr. drove to the track championship at Lee USA Speedway in 2011.
Given the success he had in 2016, Helliwell said he can’t wait to get started on 2017.
“I’d love to see what next year brings, but as far as a rookie season goes, it just could not get any better,” Helliwell said. “I just feel like 2017…I’ve got a good feeling that we can go out there and take another stab at another NASCAR championship.”
In 17 starts at Lee USA Speedway, Helliwell scored four wins, 14 top fives and 17 tops to finish 25-points ahead of runner-up Moe Lattime. Courtesy of Rich Hayes, Lee USA Speedway photographer