2011 was a dream season for Wayne Helliwell, Jr. The New Hampshire driver won another track championship at Lee USA Speedway (NH) - his seventh career title at the facility. He also finished second in the ACT Late Model Tour point standings in his first full season as a touring driver. Weekly series victories at Waterford Speedbowl (CT) and Twin State Speedway (NH) were additions highlights of his year, as was a second straight Ford Blue Oval Challenge title.
With a season like that, it would be hard for things to get any better. But that is exactly what happened for Helliwell and his Bruce Bernhardt-owned team this past weekend as Lee hosted their biggest race weekend of the year - Oktoberfest. Helliwell ended his season on a winning note…times two.
Helliwell used both of the Bernhardt team's orange #27 Fords and captured both Saturday's Pro Stock (Super Late Model) and Sunday's Late Model features over the weekend. Both cars were built by Helliwell and his father, Wayne, Sr., to race as ACT-type Late Models, but one was converted over to SLM specs for this weekend's Pro Stock race.
“It's been an unbelievable weekend,” said Helliwell. “On Friday, we practiced and struggled with both the Late Model and the Pro Stock. We made some big changes on Saturday morning and both of those cars came to life. We were able to pick up the Late Model heat win, the Pro Stock heat win, the Pro Stock feature win and the Late Model feature win.”
Lee is a track with a deep family history for the Helliwells. Wayne, Sr. raced regularly at the track in the Pro Stock division and won countless races there. And Wayne, Jr. has been winning titles there since the late 1990's. This weekend though, the two latest victories for the family might have been overshadowed by a birthday party - held at the track of course.
“One of my daughters, Elizabeth, had her birthday this weekend,” said Helliwell, Jr. “She's 15 now, so we had all of the family over at the camper and had steaks and birthday cake. It has been unbelievable.”
The pair of victories over the weekend was just as meaningful for car owner Bernhardt as well. The area auto repair shop owner has logged plenty of time at the track - starting out as a crew member for New England racing legend Dave Dion (which explains the orange Fords that he now fields) and ending up as a winning team owner.
“This is huge for Bruce and I,” said Helliwell. “Especially for Bruce because he's never won at Oktoberfest before. So he's out of his mind. To just do this, we picked up a few sponsors this weekend who helped with tires and Schoenfeld Headers helped out with a new set of headers. So it helped having all those stickers on the car and it made for an overall great weekend for everybody.”
Helliwell's great weekend didn't just include a pair of fendered car victories either. He also finished third in Sunday's Small-Block winged Supermodified feature to cap off a very busy, and productive, weekend.
Wayne Helliwell, Jr. even strapped into a small-block Supermodified this weekend at Oktoberfest - he finished third. (51 Photo)
Wayne Helliwell, Jr. had to work for his Late Model victory at Oktoberfest. (Jamie Williams Photo)
The Helliwell family in victory lane after the Pro Stock feature. (Jamie Williams Photo)