-by Justin St. Louis
Many fans of northeastern short track stock car racing have been wondering: “When will someone else win the American-Canadian Tour title?” Jean-Paul Cyr has had a stranglehold on the championship since 2003, and has been the face of ACT for the last half-decade.
The heir-apparent may be here in the form of Scott Payea. The 26 year-old, who happens to be from Cyr’s hometown of Milton, VT, earned his second ACT Late Model Tour victory of the year, the fourth of his career, and increased his point lead over his cross-town rival at Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut on Saturday night. Payea’s win was also his fifth top-five finish in six ACT events this year.
“It’d be nice to win the title, it’s my goal to eventually win it,” said Payea after the Waterford win. “But for now we just keep going to the next race to see what happens. We’re having fun right now, and everyone on this team is enjoying what we’re doing.”
Can you wait for Thursday night at Thunder Road? Because we can’t! Ferguson Waterworks kicks off the 49th season of Thursday night stock car racing tradition at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” at 6:30pm. A full card of ACT Late Models, NAPA Tiger Sportsmen, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Power Shift Online Junkyard Warriors is on tap, along with the annual visit by the New England Antique Racers. General admission is just $9.50 for adults, $3 for kids (6-12), and just $20 for a family of four!
Also on Saturday, the Série ACT Castrol gets back into gear with the Coors Light 100 at Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée-Jonction, QC. They say Chaudière is like Québec’s version of Thunder Road – beautiful scenery, great crowds, and lots of side-by-side action… sort of a “can’t miss” isn’t it? Post time is 6:30pm.
A nice surprise awaited the American-Canadian Tour staff as they rolled into Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday morning – a whopping 38 Late Model teams were in the pit area intending to run the Nutmeg State 100. The field was expanded from 26 starters to 30 to accommodate the larger-than-expected turnout, and the racers didn’t disappoint.
Without the benefit of power steering, Donald Theetge drove from ninth (last) in his heat race to finish fourth, transferring into the feature race and earning an event-high “+5” handicap to start on the pole. That Theetge was able to turn a lap was something of a surprise, as his Auto Frank et Michel/le Centre Honda #80 Chevrolet battled severe power steering issues throughout the day. The “plus/minus” pole was his second of the season and the third of his career. Bruce Thomas, Jr., the 2007 Waterford Speedbowl Track Champion, earned a “+4” in his heat start alongside Theetge.
There was plenty of passing in the Nutmeg State 100 as well, as half of the top ten finishers started outside the top ten, including 8th-place finisher Jonathan Urlin. The Ontario rookie passed 16 cars from his 24th-place starting position for his best career ACT Late Model Tour finish.
Thomas and ACT point leader Scott Payea waged a sensational back-and-forth battle during the middle stages of the race. In fact, the lead changed hands five times in six laps just before and just after the halfway point before Payea finally took over for good. From there, he sped to his second win of the year. Thomas was second over former ACT Champion Brad Leighton, who made his first main event start of the year. Waterford jack-of-all-trades Ron Yuhas, Jr. finished fourth in his ACT debut, just ahead of another hard-charging rookie, Nick Sweet. For good measure, Yuhas also finished sixth in the SK Modified 35-lapper and sixth in the 30-lap non-points Late Model
feature that night.
First-year ACT Late Model Tour driver Mark Hudson of Norton, MA missed qualifying for the Nutmeg State 100 by just one position, but made up for it later in the night by notching a career-first victory in the Waterford 30-lap Late Model main. It was his third “weekly” event of the year at Waterford Speedbowl; his other two finishes were 10th-place runs (May 10 and May 31). He also finished 13th in a regular show at Lee USA Speedway on May 30.
That brought to mind an idea, one that we’ll do our best to keep track of throughout the summer – We’re going to start a little “ACT Tracker” in this column space, keeping an eye on the ACT fraternity in weekly events at tracks throughout the region. Also in action in the weekly event at Waterford were ACT’s Mark Anzalone, Jr. and Jim “Scruffy” Linardy, who finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Thunder Road regular Chip Grenier did a little moonlighting at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday as well, taking 5th in the weekly Late Model division’s 50-lap main event.
Stay tuned this year as we keep watch on our racers!
Did you know…?
-ACT rookies Nick Sweet and Jonathan Urlin made some major strides at Waterford: With Sweet’s 5th-place effort, he jumps from 17th in points into a three-way tie for seventh overall with Ron Henry and Donald Theetge. Jonathan Urlin, with an 8th-place result, jumps from 27th in points to 18th.
-The ACT Late Model Tour has now seen 94 drivers compete so far this season. Drivers that made their first feature event start of the year at Waterford were: Bruce Thomas, Jr. (2nd), Brad Leighton (3rd), Ron Yuhas, Jr. (4th), Joe Curioso (24th), Richard Staskowski (26th), Allen Coates (28th), Tim Jordan (29th), and Ed Reed, Jr. (30th).
-With 38 cars attempting to qualify at Waterford Speedbowl, the 2008 season’s average attendance through six events (halfway already!) is a whopping 42.2 cars per event, up from an average of 38.6 cars per event at this time last year.