-by Justin St. Louis

A recent poll of stock car racing media members and veteran observers was conducted by Speed51.com, a national short track racing news website, asking panelists to predict the future and pick the Top 10 point drivers across ten of the top touring divisions in the United States. The American-Canadian Tour’s Late Model Championship series was part of that poll, and it should probably come as no surprise that perennial ACT King Jean-Paul Cyr was ranked number one.

In fact, according a blurb opening the feature, Cyr was the only driver in the entire poll the be ranked first or second by every panelist that took part in the survey.  It should be noted that the ten series included four nationally-traveled tours (the NASCAR Camping World Series, USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, CRA Super Series and ASA Late Model Challenge Series), as well as the regional ASA Midwest Tour, New England-based NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and its southern sister series, and the northern and southern tours of the Pro All Stars Series (PASS).  This was heavy stuff, concerning legendary drivers like Bobby Gill, Gary St. Amant, Mike and Ben Rowe, Steve Carlson, Mike Stefanik, and Ted Christopher, and region-specific-but-nationally-respected stars like Eddie Hoffman, Nathan Haseleu, Matt Kobyluck, and Junior Miller.

All that said, it’s therefore rather impressive the Cyr received as many nods as he did from the poll.  Cyr has won the last five ACT Late Model Tour titles and has a dozen wins during that time.

Joey “Pole” Polewarczyk was ranked second overall, indicating that the youngster is expected to make some headlines this year.  Brent Dragon, third in ACT Late Model Tour points in each of the last three seasons, was ranked third again by the Speed51.com poll, one spot better than his Milton, VT neighbor and last year’s runner-up for the title, Scott Payea.

Despite not being expected to run the entire schedule, Patrick Laperle was ranked fifth overall.  Seems the Canadian impressed some folks in his three stateside appearances last year.  More on him in a minute.  TD Banknorth 250 winner “Rocket” Roger Brown placed sixth with New Smyrna Speedweeks winner Eric Chase seventh. Randy Potter, Donald Theetge, and Ryan Vanasse completed the Top 10 in order.


Laperle, the Série ACT Castrol Champion, was named the “Best Northeast Touring Racer” during the “Speedy Awards” presentation at the second annual SpeedwayEXPO in West Springfield, MA last weekend.  He beat out some major competition to win the award in Brett Hearn, Donny Lia, Ben Seitz, and Chris Perley.

In case you’re not familiar with those names, here’s a crash course: New Jersey veteran Hearn has been one of the leading men of dirt racing for 25 years.  He owns over 500 feature wins, six Mr. DIRTcar Modified titles (including 2007), and was recently named the Eastern Motorsports Press Association (EMPA) Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year.  Already in 2008, he has victories at Volusia County, FL and Hagerstown, MD, and was the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals co-champion at Volusia County during Speedweeks.

Long Islang, NY native Lia dominated the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2007, driving Bob Garabarino’s famous “Mystic Missile” to six wins and an easy stroll to the series’ title.  His record was impressive enough to land him a full-time ride in the Craftsman Truck Series this year.

Seitz, of Pocasset, MA is the Northeast Midget Association’s answer to Jean-Paul Cyr.  Seitz has won the last four NEMA titles on the strength of 14 victories in 54 combined starts.  Even more impressive are his 41 top-five finishes over that time period, most often while starting at the back of the tough NEMA pack.

Perley is the dominant force of the International Supermodified Association (ISMA), taking a record 11 ISMA victories last year and ten the year before.  “The Rowley Rocket,” another Massachusetts native, is a four-time ISMA Champion, the all-time wins leader, and was the inaugural recipient of the SpeedwayEXPO “Best Northeast Touring Racer” award last year.

Suffice it to say that Laperle a little overwhelmed to have own the award.

“What an honor,” he said on Monday.  “I found out that I had been nominated a while ago, and when I saw who I was up against, I sort of forgot about it because I didn’t think I would have a chance to win.  It means a lot to me to be thought of that highly as a race car driver.”

SpeedwayEXPO, organized by the staff of Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated magazine, opened the doors for race fans to nominate their choices for “Speedy Award” winners in 11 categories.  Speedway Illustrated Editor (and True Value Modified Racing Series driver) Karl Fredrickson explained that the winners were chosen by a combination of fan votes and staff discussion.

“Patrick deserved to win the Best Northeast Touring Racer award,” Fredrickson said.  “He and his family team are hard workers, good racers, and fun people to be around.  Speedway Illustrated would like to congratulate Patrick Laperle on his success.”

Fredrickson also said he plans on bringing his #41 Modified to Thunder Road for the 100-lap TVMRS event at the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic on May 25.

Speaking of which, Thunder Road was also honored at SpeedwayEXPO by winning the Speedy Award for “Best Weekly Show.”  Thunder Road’s low-on-cost, high-on-fun Thursday night schedule was chosen for the honor, following up Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway last year.  Other tracks nominated in 2008 were Thompson (CT) Int’l Speedway, All-Star Speedway in Epping, NH, and the Albany-Saratoga Speedway dirt track in Malta, NY.

Thunder Road’s prestigious Chittenden Milk Bowl was nominated for “Best Individual Promotion” as well.  Other nominees with ties to ACT and Thunder Road included NAPA Tiger Sportsman Champion Nick Sweet (“Break-Out Racer of the Year”), Mike Rowe (“Long Haul Award”), and Roger Brown and Travis Adams (“Best Weekly Racer”). Congratulations to all the other Speedy Award nominees and winners, and on behalf of the staff at Thunder Road, thank you to our fans and the staff at Speedway Illustrated!


Did you know…?

-We mentioned Karl Fredrickson and the True Value Modifieds coming to Thunder Road on Memorial Day weekend.  Did you know that the last time open-wheeled modifieds raced at Thunder Road was 1965?  NASCAR, the track’s sanctioning body at the time, allowed the overhead V8 mods to run weekly against the hometown flathead coupes, and the mods dominated.  Ernie Reid, André Manny, Jean-Paul Cabana, and Dick Nephew split victories during the first six events of the ’65 season, but Thunder Road dropped the modifieds in mid-June due to their unfair advantages in horsepower and handling.

-The closest any of the Thunder Road coupe drivers ever came to beating the Modifieds was second place, three times.  Ronnie Marvin, the first “King of the Road” in 1960, was the runner-up to Manny after leading 16 laps on May 23; hometown favorite Tony Colicchio lost the Memorial Day Classic on May 30 to Cabana after taking the white flag as the leader; and Harold “Hard Luck” Hanaford ran second to runaway victor Nephew on June 24, the last race the mods ran.  “The Yankee Flyer” Mike Osborne, another Barre driver, also came close, but blew his engine a half-lap away from the win on June 6, coasting home in fourth place behind Cabana, Manny, and Colicchio.

-Hanaford turned in the best average finish for a flathead car against the modifieds, at 4.83 over six starts. Doug Ingerson battled to a 5.50 average over four starts, while Colicchio had a 6.50 in four starts.  Russ Ingerson turned in a 7.00 average over six starts, with Osborne at 7.00 and Paul Martel at 7.75 in their four starts each.

Send comments and questions to media@acttour.com!