YEAR OF THE DRAGON: Brent Dragon Sets Sights on 1st ACT Championship

MILTON, Vt. — The goal is simple for a driver who carries a surname synonymous with stock car racing in the region. Brent Dragon wants to win the ACT Late Model Tour championship in 2010.

“It’s been that way for the last 25 years it seems,” Dragon said recently.

This year, though, there is even more optimism coming from the Dragon race shop than in offseasons past. For starters, Dragon finished the 2009 season as one of the hottest Late Model drivers in New England, winning three times after June 1 and finishing fifth in the final ACT standings.

Dragon, who has been on the tour since its inception 18 years ago, has three times been the ACT bridesmaid. He’s started more ACT races than any driver in history and owns nine career victories on tour. The son of Beaver Dragon and nephew of Bobby Dragon, Brent believes that last year’s strong finish could lead to this year finally being his year.

“This will be the first year in about six years that we haven’t started with a new car,” Dragon said. “We were really good from about midseason on last year, and we have our notes to go back to this year.”

Those notes should translate into a stout race car. With a chance to win both the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway and the prestigious Milk Bowl at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, as well as being one of the first invitees to the inaugural ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September, Dragon was among Late Model racing’s elite performers a year ago.

To help his No. 55 team clear the hurdle and finish the job with more wins and that elusive championship, Dragon’s employed the help of noted northeast crew member Buster Bean. Though it’s not full-time help at the shop, Dragon believes delegating responsibility to crew members other than just himself will pay off.

“We already have a good tire guy in Steve More, too, so Steve’s moved into the crew chief role for us now,” Dragon said. “Buster’s going to work with us and help us on that end if we have questions.

“I used to do everything myself, but it’s just gotten to a point where it’s harder to do that. It started to work better with Steve taking over some of that responsibility last year. We’re looking forward to having Buster now and Steve as the crew chief and then all of the same guys back again on the crew.”

Dragon plans to run the complete 14-race ACT schedule, as well as open Late Model events like the Oxford 250 and the Milk Bowl, as well as the Showdown at Chaudiere (Que.) 200 and the ACT Invitational at NHMS. Toss in select ACT Castrol Series races north of the border, and Dragon expects a busy summer to top out with 22-24 races.

But the most important of the races on such a tight schedule are the first ones. The ACT Late Model Tour features five races in less than a month’s time from April 18-May 16.

“You’ve absolutely got to start the year off right,” said Dragon, a three-time Late Model champion at the old Airborne Speedway. “We always seem to start off slow, and it always seemed to be because we were starting off the year with a new car — and you’ve really got to start off those first two or three races really good.

“I haven’t. I haven’t done that for years. We always seem to get going later in the year — but hopefully because we finished so strong last year and we’re bringing back the same car with all those notes to work from, we should be pretty close (to a winning setup) when we get to the track.”

Get off on the right foot, and Dragon could finally hoist that ACT championship trophy high overhead.