-by Justin St. Louis

At the risk of sounding like we know what we’re talking about, we’ll predict a warm spring, parking lots that aren’t soggy, and the images of eight-foot-high snow banks becoming merely a memory.  This, of course, will lead to fantastic openings at race tracks across the northeast, pit areas jam-packed with race cars, grandstands overflowing with screaming fans, and action on the asphalt like you’ve never seen before.

Those snow banks are still sitting outside the window here at American-Canadian Tour headquarters in Waterbury, VT, and the mercury in the thermometer is still barely visible.  But the joke’s on them – spring IS coming, and so is the racing season.

In fact, pre-season practice sessions are set to begin in a matter of weeks.  Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl is clear of snow (and has been for a while, now) and will hold its first practices on the weekend of Sat./Sun., April 5/6 from 2pm until dark, both days.  Admission is $15.

New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway, which hosts the ACT Late Model Tour’s season opener on Sun., April 20, will have its annual “Test And Tune” on Sat., April 12 and Sat., April 19, 8am–5pm on both days.  (By the way, ACT strongly recommends that Late Model teams attend at least one of those sessions, as there will be a very short, limited practice session on the day of the race.)  Price is $20 for Lee USA’s Test And Tune.

Other ACT-affiliated tracks holding pre-season practices include the following:

Thunder Road (Barre, VT) – Tue., April 15, 4-7pm (Late Models ONLY), and Wed., April 23, 4-7pm (Late Models, NAPA Tiger Sportsmen, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, Power Shift Warriors) – $10 both days

Oxford Plains Speedway (Oxford, ME) – Sat., April 19, 8am – $15 with ACT or OPS license, $20 without license

Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, NY) – Sat., April 26 and Sat., May 3 – check track’s website for details

Autodrome St-Eustache (Laval, QC) – Sat., April 26, 10am-8pm – $10, ACT license MANDATORY for pit entry

Capital City Speedway (Ottawa, ON) – Sun., April 27 – check track’s website for details

White Mountain Motorsports Park (N. Woodstock, NH) – Sat., May 10, Car Show 10am-1pm, practice 1:30-4:30pm

Kawartha Speedway (Fraserville, ON) – Fri., May 23, 2-8pm – $5

More details about pre-season practices will be forthcoming as they are made available.


The final Speed51.com “51 Awards” were handed out on Monday, and one of our local photographers, Leif Tillotson, finished in the third AND fifth places in the “Photo of the Year” category.  Tillotson’s third-place entry was titled “Kiss the Cow,” which, you could probably guess, was of Chittenden Milk Bowl winner Patrick Laperle’s smooch of Dickens, the 2007 beauty queen.

The fifth-place photo, entitled “Wild Ride at Thunder Road,” captured NAPA Tiger Sportsman rookie Tim Potter in a mid-air bout with the Turn 1 wall and Kevin Campbell on Ferguson Waterworks Night.  Neither Potter or Campbell were injured, but photos of their spectacular wreck were seen far and wide during the ’07 season.

Congratulations to Leif Tillotson, and thanks to him and all of our track and area photographers for their skills and quick reflexes throughout the years!


On the heels of losing one of its colorful characters in “Mr. Wonderful” Dan Benoit last week, comes the news that Thunder Road has lost another legend.  Henry “The Frozen Logger” Montandon of Waits River, VT passed away at his home on Friday, March 14 at the age of 72.

Montandon scored the biggest victory of his career at Thunder Road in the 1963 version of what is now the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200.

“That victory was a bit of an upset, and it still means a great deal to me,” said car owner and long-time friend Lloyd Hutchins.  “Henry was a sweet man with a good sense of humor.  He was full of one-liners, and everyone loved him.”

A woodsman by trade, Montandon was successful in open-wheeled coupes and the full-bodied Flying Tiger cars of the 1960s, winning often at Thunder Road, Pines Speedway in Rumney, NH (now known as Legion Speedway), and Northeastern Speedway near St. Johnsbury, VT.  His competition included the likes of Vermonters Chester T. Woods, Johnny Gammell, Clem “Desperate” Despault, “The Kentucky Colonel” Tom Tiller, Bobby and Beaver Dragon, and Lennie “Tiger” Stockwell; New Hampshire speedsters Ronnie Marvin, Harold “Hard Luck” Hanaford, Ingerson brothers Russell, Douglas, Leland, and Donald; and four-time NASCAR National Champion Rene Charland of Massachusetts.

Montandon competed into the 1990s and was a frequent visitor to Thunder Road and other New England tracks in recent years with Hutchins and their fully restored pink-and-white #76 coupe racer.

“Henry helped Thunder Road become what it is today,” said Ken Squier, the track’s founder.  “The impact he had on stock car racing in and around Vermont during the early years will never be forgotten.”

In era of characters, “The Frozen Logger” was indeed a character.  He will be missed.


Did you know…?

-In 1966, the first year that the Flying Tigers took center stage at Thunder Road, Henry Montandon was one of the hottest drivers during the final month of the season.  In the final three events of the year, Montandon came from the back of the pack to finish second, first, and fourth.  In the race he won, Montandon was driving a Ford borrowed from Butch Bixby, and with Russ Ingerson in tow, gave the nameplate its only 1-2 finish of the season at Thunder Road.

-Dan Benoit authored the most dominant single season in the history of the American-Canadian Tour sanctioning body.  In 1993, while under sanction from ACT, Airborne Speedway saw Benoit win 14 of 18 feature events in the Flying Tiger “B” division and take an easy stroll to the championship.  He also won one of his four starts at Thunder Road that year.  Benoit earned five career wins in what is now the NAPA Tiger Sportsman division, three wins in the former V8 version of the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and the 1997 M&M Beverage Enduro at Thunder Road.

-The ACT Late Model Tour season opener at Lee USA Speedway on Sun., April 20 will be the first of two
doubleheaders with the open-wheel True Value Modified Racing Series in 2008.  Each series will race 100 laps at Lee USA, and will then meet up again at Thunder Road on Sun., May 25 for the 46th Annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic.  Modified cars have not been to Thunder Road since 1965!  The two series also paired up at Lee USA in 2006 – Ben Rowe won the ACT portion of the show, while three-time TVMRS Champion Kirk Alexander won the race for the “ground pounders.”

Keep checking the websites at www.acttour.com and www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com to stay up-to-date on all the latest racing news!  Feedback is welcome at media@acttour.com.