-by Justin St. Louis

It looks like the American-Canadian Tour will have a pair of talented rookies making a full-time go of it in 2008.  Nick Sweet of Barre, VT and Tyler Cahoon of Danville, VT will each tackle the Tour, giving further developmental credential power to the NAPA Tiger Sportsman and Allen Lumber Street Stock division at Thunder Road.  In case you missed it, Sweet put together a three-win season to take the Sportsman title at Thunder Road last year, while Cahoon, the 2000 Thunder Road Street Stock Champion, is a multi-time winner at White Mountain Motorsports Park.

In our recent Top 25 poll, Dave Moody said this of Sweet: “(In 2007) he dominated a division that is just about immune to domination… You can't usually look at a kid this young and say, ‘He's going to be great,’ but with Sweet, it's a no-brainer.”  A winner at five tracks in four states already, it’s likely that Sweet will (at least by the Central Vermont fans that have come to depend on his back-to-front charges in Sportsman and Street Stock events) be expected to rival the remarkably veteran-looking rookie seasons of Scott Payea in 2005 or Jamie Fisher in 1999.

Adding a bit of a fun twist to the story is that Sweet sold his Sportsman car to Street Stock Champion Bobby Therrien.  In his first full year in a stock car, 20 year-old Therrien won six Thunder Road features and the track and rookie points titles.  He’ll now join his big brother, Tommy, in the Tiger Sportsman ranks with a proven car underneath him and a few thousand people wondering aloud if he can pick up in 2008 where he left off in ‘07.

Cahoon should be fun to watch, as well.  The second-generation racer is making a self-admitted big jump, and is hoping to enjoy some of the success his father, Stacy, has tasted in ACT waters during his long career.  But as much as Tyler, 26, looks up to his father, his eyes were on Randy Potter last year.  Having grown up watching Stacy race against Potter at tracks in Vermont and New Hampshire, he saw the fun and success Potter’s close-knit team had in ACT, and wants to try his hand at it.  Tyler has raced against (and often beaten) Potter at White Mountain, and has made the occasional ACT Late Model Tour qualifying effort at Thunder Road, White Mountain, and Oxford Plains Speedway.

“I can’t wait to see what Nick Sweet will accomplish on the Tour,” said ACT President Tom Curley.  “He has shown a lot of potential, and he has great role models to learn from in the many successful drivers that have come through our system.  I tip my hat to Tyler Cahoon and his team for making the decision to race the Tour, as well.  One of the highlights of my season last year was seeing Tyler’s team effort trying to make the field at the Milk Bowl and at Oxford.  I think a lot of people will be watching both of these young drivers pretty closely.”


Our printing deadline comes a couple of days early, but rest assured, by the time you read this column, three American-Canadian Tour drivers will either be at or nearly at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway for the 42nd Annual World Series of Asphalt Racing.  Speaking with Hudson, NH driver Joey “Pole” Polewarczyk on Monday, the youngster said he is “ready to go,” just buttoning up the truck and trailer for the ride.

“We’re excited, we’re leaving Tuesday and can’t wait for the first practice on Thursday,” he said.  “It’s going to be a long week, it’s a lot of travel and a lot of racing, but we’re confident it will go well.”

Apparently, the excitement is shared down south.  Thirty-three drivers have pre-entered the “Crate/ASA-type Late Model” division that Polewarczyk and Vermont drivers Eric Chase and Ryan Nolin will be competing in, making it by far the largest field of the seven classes competing at the World Series.  New Smyrna Speedway officials have added an extra event to the schedule for the division, bringing its total number of outings to eight over a period of nine days.

The Crate/ASA cars are essentially ACT Late Models with a slightly more powerful engine.  The American Speed Association (ASA) runs these cars in the Midwest and Southeast with a “spec” crate engine program very similar to ACT’s.  Incidentally, those ASA tours are powered by Torco Racing Fuels, which has become the Official Racing Fuel of ACT and Thunder Road.  Torco’s mission is to become the fuel of choice for all spec engine Late Model series in the U.S. and Canada.  Polewarczyk and Chase have each installed the ASA crate engine into their cars.  (Chase and Nolin, teammates on the ACT Late Model Tour, will be sharing driving duties night-to-night.)

Also on the World Series card are Tour-type Modifieds (think True Value Modifieds, NASCAR, and Race of Champions Tour cars), SK Modifieds (very similar to Tour Mods, they’re the cars that run weekly at tracks like Waterford, Thompson, Stafford, and Wall Stadium), Super Late Models (like a Pro Stock in New England), Late Models (we’re not really sure, but we think that’s a cross between a Super Late Model and an ACT-type car), Florida/IMCA Modifieds (like the low-slung dirt cars of the Midwest, but on asphalt), and Pro Trucks (again, we’re not really sure about the rules, but we do know that they are trucks).

Drivers have entered from half of the 50 U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and even Scotland.  The long haul award, besides Scottish driver Gordon Moody, goes to Darrell Midgley of Sidney, British Columbia, a short hop from Vancouver.  Florida is a long way from Canada to begin with, but Mr. Midgley will be traveling over 3,200 miles each way, and with two race cars – a Crate/ASA car, and a Super Late Model.  Racing takes place every night from Friday, Feb. 8 to Saturday, Feb. 16.  The only night off for the Crate/ASA division will be Sunday, Feb. 10.

Good luck to Joey Polewarczyk, Eric Chase, and Ryan Nolin!  The ACT website (www.acttour.com) will have updates on the trio throughout the World Series, so stay tuned!


Did you know…?

-Tyler Cahoon won the Allen Lumber Street Stock title at Thunder Road in 2000 without finishing a race.  In fact, he never finished second, either, and was third just one time after the winner was disqualified!  But Cahoon was smooth as silk the entire season, with five Top 5 finishes and eleven Top 10s.  On the night he finished third, he started in 30th place… and the race was only 20 laps long!  He was also the championship runner-up in 1999, taking three second-place finishes that year.  In fact, as good as Cahoon was in his Street Stock days at Thunder Road, he never did carry a checkered flag.

-Twelve times in the modern era (since 1982) has a driver won a Thunder Road championship without winning a race during the season.  They happened as follows: 1992 – Don LaHue (NAPA Tiger Sportsman); 1995 – Cooper MacRitchie (Sportsman); 1996 – Phil Scott (Late Model) and Ricky Dennis (Sportsman); 2000 – Tyler Cahoon (Allen Lumber Street Stock); 2001 – Dan Nolin (Street Stock); 2002 – Joe Steffen (Sportsman); 2003 – Reno Gervais (Sportsman); 2004 –Reno Gervais (Sportsman), Joe Small (Street Stock), and Ron Gabaree (Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior); 2006 –Chad Wheeler (Late Model).  Note Reno Gervais won back-to-back titles with winless seasons.

-An ACT-sanctioned series championship has been won five times with the champion not winning a race during the year, and pay attention to these names: 1997 – Ricky Dennis (Tiger Sportsman Series); 1998 – Jason LaHue (Street Stock Tri-State Series); 2002 – Phil Scott (ACT Late Model Tour); 2006 – Chuck Beede (Sportsman); 2007 – Jean-Paul Cyr (Tour).  There’s something to be said for Ricky Dennis, Phil Scott, and the LaHue family in terms of their consistent finishes; Dennis and Scott each won a track title and a series title while going winless, as did the father-son LaHue boys, with father Don teaching young Jason the ropes.

Comments, questions, and all that jazz are gladly welcomed at media@acttour.com!