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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —Wayne Helliwell Jr. and his two race teams pursued an aggressive 2012 race schedule in New Hampshire. They competed at two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks with different top divisions.
Helliwell captured his third consecutive NASCAR state championship and first track championship at Canaan (N.H.) Fair Speedway out of the Late Model division. Although he placed second in the small block Supermodified point race at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway, the result of the two-track campaign elevated his position in the series national standings to 14th from 153rd in 2011. Helliwell’s overall racing record for the season included 16 wins, 26 top fives and 29 top 10s in 31 starts.
At Canaan, Helliwell was dominant with 13 wins in 17 starts. Tommy Tombarello Jr. won the Lee championship by 25 points over Helliwell. Tombarello, who also won the track title in 2010, recorded three wins, 12 top fives and 14 top 10s. Helliwell’s Lee record was three wins, 10 top fives and 13 top 10s.
The tide of the Lee championship chase turned on July 6. Tombarello posted finishes of first and second while Helliwell didn’t finish the first feature and didn’t start the second.
“On a double feature night at Lee I got hit at the start of the feature. It damaged the radiator. It couldn’t be repaired and we couldn’t find one to replace it,” Helliwell said.
The radiator on his open-wheel Supermodified is located outside the body panels behind the left front tire.
“We put out a great effort and held onto second in Lee points,” Helliwell said. “Tommy and his team had a great season and they earned the championship.”
New to Helliwell’s weekly schedule this year was Canaan Fair Speedway, a track that joined the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for 2012. The track features Late Models as its NASCAR Division I, the same division in which Helliwell won consecutive Lee titles 2009-10.
“We raced at Canaan once or twice in the past so we thought we knew what the car needed to run up front,” Helliwell said.
“The two teams I drive for have grown over the last few years,” Helliwell said. “Canaan joining NASCAR this year finally made it possible for us to race at two tracks to see what we could do in national points. I hope more teams will try it.”
Ed and Bobby Witkum of Witkum Brothers Racing field the small block Supermodified Helliwell drives at Lee. Bruce Bernhardt fields the Late Models in which Helliwell won championships at Canaan and the American Canadian Tour this year.
While Late Models and Supermodifieds are two completely different types of race cars, Helliwell says there are similarities. When Lee switched its NASCAR Division I from Late Models to small block Supermodifieds starting in 2011, Helliwell adapted quickly and won the track and state championships.
“The tracks are similar in size (Lee is .375-mile while Canaan is .333-mile) so the set-ups for the cars are close to each other,” Helliwell said. “Canaan has newer asphalt so it has more grip. My driving style suits both tracks. You just have to be smooth on and off the gas. The biggest difference with the Supermodified is when you’re closing on someone it takes the air off the nose wing and the car pushes. Lap times in small block Supers run about 1.5 seconds faster than a Late Model.”
The Late Models run on eight-inch Goodyears while the small block Super rides in 10-in Hoosiers.
Helliwell is a second generation driver. His dad Wayne Sr. is his spotter today, but raced at area tracks and won a Street Stock championship in 1983.
“I grew up going to the tracks with dad,” Helliwell said. “Someone gave me an old street car and I was getting it ready for demolition derbies. Dad said I had to race it. It lasted three features before the engine blew.”
Helliwell moved up to Late Models in 1993 and won his first championship, then stepped up to Pro Stocks in 1996. He went back to Late Models and won another championship in 1999. He switched teams and won another Late Model championship in 2001. He then raced in touring Late Models and Modifieds for couple of seasons before returning to Lee. He built his own car and won Lee’s Late Model Sportsman championship in 2008, moved back to Late Models in 2009, then Supermodifieds in 2011. Helliwell said he will not defend his Canaan championship in 2013 to focus on his teams’ efforts at Lee and the ACT tour.
Helliwell operates Helliwell Motorsports, a chassis car building and repair company. He’s also a professional fire sprinkler system installer. He and his wife Jill have three daughters, Britany, 17, Elisabeth, 16, and Brooke, six.
Helliwell was honored for his track and state championship at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 7.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 16 were counted toward their states and national point totals, and
the champions are decided on overall point total. Once a driver reaches 18 starts, their total would increase incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.
Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.
Helliwell in his NASCAR Late Model at Canaan (N.H.) Faior Speedway. Linda Matheson photo