Sophomore Late Model Driver Heads To One Of Favorite ACT Stops
EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. – Emily Packard would like for nothing better than to see her second career Late Model victory come in a historic event for the ACT Late Model Tour.
Packard, of East Montpelier, Vt., will join roughly 40 Late Model teams from around the region for the inaugural $140,000 ACT International 500 at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Sunday, July 21. Airborne was the site of Packard’s first career ACT Late Model Tour start last fall, and the racy half-mile track remains one of her favorite places on the Tour.
She’s hoping her comfort level on the bigger tracks will pay dividends this weekend.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Packard said. “Airborne has a lot of room. You can definitely do two-lane racing there, and there’s enough room to go three-wide, too. There’s more room, and it’s a lot deeper than a place like Thunder Road. We saw last week that three-wide can be a little risky on the smaller tracks.
“I just want to make the race and do the best we can this weekend – and have fun doing it.”
Packard has plenty of Late Model benchmarks on her resume already. Last season, she became the first female to start the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and in early June this year she became the first woman to win a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature event at Canaan Fair Speedway.
Through the first three races of the four-race Vermont State Championship Series, Packard sits fourth with a season-best finish of seventh at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt. – a track very similar in configuration to Airborne.
“I think this is the biggest race I’ve been a part of so far. It’s crazy,” Packard said. “The big deal is that it’s a lot of money on the line. It’s a two-day weekend, and the schedule is crazy. So much stuff going on. Three 100-lap segments – it’s like having three races in one day. It’s literally like three races packed into one weekend.”
Packard will be driving the No. 9x Northstar Fireworks/Berlin Optical Expressions Ford Fusion – a car that the driver and team are still getting accustomed to. This week, they tested the Ford at Devil’s Bowl in hopes of getting a little further ahead on the learning curve going into the International 500.
“I actually kind of like some of the things about it,” Packard said of the car, which debuted at Canaan earlier this season. “We still have a lot of learning to do with the chassis mostly. We were to the point with the other car that we knew it inside and out – but with the Ford, we’re still somewhat putting things in it and hoping and praying that it works the way we thought it would. I feel like we’ve done enough now where we’ve taken the time to figure out the adjustments to make.
“This weekend we’ll see if they put us in a good spot to be successful.”
There’s nothing Packard would like more than to collect the guaranteed $25,000 winner’s share this weekend.
“I’m super-excited about this weekend and really looking forward to it,” Packard said. “I went to my first Oxford 250 last year, and I was amazed at how big that was. But I think this is going to be bigger than the Oxford 250, I really do.”