The 2016 season opener may have been postponed by two weeks however the competition garnered the extended off season bringing 27 tour style mini stocks to the Lee USA annual Governors Cup race. Veterans of the NEMST lead the way throughout Saturday practice with lap times approaching mini stock record speeds.
On Sunday the cars were unloaded and prepared for a single practice session before lining up for the 3 heat races. In practice the 19 driven by Zach Audet of Skowhegan hounded the 42, former Toby Wells car, that was purchased in the offseason by Jarrod Soucy an NEMST rookie. Other notable front runners were two-time champion Emerson Cayer, 2015 Rookie of the Year Haywood Herriott, Nick Maniatis, Matt Sonnhalter, and Mike Parker.
The heat races ran caution free with the teams of Nick Maniatis, Matt Sonnhalter, and Haywood Herriott. Nick Maniatis drew the invert chip of 3 rows following NEMST procedures and setting up a thrilling feature line up. 2 of the fastest cars in the field Jarrod Soucy and Mike Parker would make up the front row for the largest starting field in NEMST history.
As the race started Soucy lead the first circuits before being taken over by the Acura Integra of Zach Audet who would never look back. Intense battles through the top 5 surrounded the first 13 laps until the caution flew for the spinning car of Dylan Cabral. On the restart Audet once again took command with Mike Parker and Matt Sonnhalter battling hard and causing both vehicles to retire from competition with mechanical failures. In the next handful of laps Soucy, and both King brothers also faced day ending mechanical failures.
On lap 35 the sliding car of Shaun Waites started a chain reaction crash involving Kale Billings, Cris King, and Kodi Sabins resulting in hard contact between Sabins, Billings, and the outside retaining wall. Both drivers were able to walk away from the crash however both vehicles will need extensive chassis work before returning to action.
The final restart saw an all Acura front row with Audet and Herriott facing off for the first time. Audet would take the advantage and Nick Maniatis mounted a challenge to Herriott that last 5 laps before Maniatis overtook 2nd place with 10 laps remaining. Maniatis would set chase to Audet but did now have enough time to run down the only Maine car in the field. Audet would secure his 3rd all time NEMST feature win and second at Lee USA Speedway. Maniatis, and Herriott finished off the podium while Emerson Cayer charged from a 24th starting position finished 4th and Jake Rheaume rounded out the top 5.
The NEMST is back in action for their only Road Course appearance of the season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Saturday April 30 for their 2nd race of the 2016 schedule. Please visit www.northeastministocktour.com for additional information