ACT
ACTion News 11/30/04
Schedules, rulebooks, news, new events, and the Airborne Raceway deal have created a bit of an early off-season buzz around the region. ACT released the Thunder Road Speedbowl, Late Model Tour, and brand spankin’ new “Tiger Tour” schedules last Wednesday, and the racing community has been talking about them ever since. An expanded 19-event Thunder Road schedule will see action from the last weekend in April to the first weekend in October – the longest stretch in the track’s history. Included in those 19 events are the Late Model Tour’s Merchants Bank Freedom Lynx 150, 42nd annual New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl, and the hot-off-the-presses Labor Day Classic “Super Series” 150, paying a cool Ten Large to the winner.

The Labor Day race will be run under the same format of the New England Dodge Dealers National 150 held at Lee USA Speedway in September 2004, with a total purse of over $50,000. Remember that the Lee USA race hosted 76 of the top Late Model teams from seven states and two Canadian provinces, and not everyone showed up that wanted to. We’re guessing early that this will be a race to watch. Also new for 2005 is the New England Dodge Dealers Governor’s Cup 100, which will kick off Barre Homecoming weekend on Thursday, July 28. The Governor’s Cup was one of Thunder Road’s biggies back in the 1970s, and was a mainstay at Catamount Stadium in the 1980s. The race will not be a part of the ACT Tour but will count for Thunder Road weekly points, just like the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. Former winners of the Governor’s Cup include Robbie Crouch, Bobby Dragon, Stub Fadden, and Jamie Aube.

Speaking of Lee USA, the ACT Late Model Tour will open its season on April 23/24 at the New Hampshire 3/8-mile for the first time in 2005, and will return for the Super Series National 150 on September 25. Lee USA is one of three Granite State facilities on the Tour in 2005, the other two being White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock (on June 11) and a much-anticipated return to Canaan Fair Speedway on June 26. Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway (May 21), Seekonk (MA) Speedway (August 13), and Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh, NY (September 11) will each host an event as well.

Airborne has been making its share of waves lately, too. The 50 year-old Lake City speed plant has been fostered out to native New Yorker Mike Perrotte in a multi-year agreement with an option to buy. ACT purchased the facility in 1990, laid down a coat of asphalt, and has been the head of operations since. While car counts, spectator attendance, and morale have been on the rise over the last two seasons, the deal was not one to turn down. Perrotte, who was himself an Airborne Modified champion in 1986 and promoter in 1988, plans to “keep things the way they are,” running the Sportsman, Renegade, and Junkyard Warrior divisions on the asphalt surface. Also on tap for weekly events will be a dirt/asphalt Modified division, like the cars Airborne fans got to see twice during the 2004 season. The ACT Late Model Tour will visit Airborne on September 11 for the 34th annual Fall Foliage 150, while the Tiger Tour will begin the new Perrotte-led regime on May 7 with the Spring Green 100.

Yes, we said “Tiger Tour” and “Spring Green 100” in the same breath. The new eight-race series for the Sportsman cars will begin in grand style at the historic event. Could Airborne champs Bill Sawyer or Jason Bonnett be the next to add their names to a list of Spring Green winners that includes Beaver Dragon, Dave Dion, Brian Hoar, and Jean-Paul Cyr? The Spring Green will be the first of four 100-lap races on the Tiger Tour, with the other three at Canaan Fair Speedway (May 14), Thunder Road (June 23), and White Mountain (August 20). Canaan will also host 50-lappers on June 26, July 23, and August 6. The winner of each Canaan event will be awarded an automatic berth into the season-closer, a 50-lap contest at Lee USA, held in conjunction with the ACT Late Model Tour Super Series event on September 25. Several teams have already reported ultra-positive feedback, and we’re already hearing rumors of a possible return by 2002 and 2003 Grand Slam Series champion Craig Bushey, who ran a limited schedule while coaching Dick Lowrey’s efforts in 2004.

Now that we’re on the topic of returning drivers, Danville, VT’s Travis Calkins has reportedly purchased a former Dave Pembroke Sportsman car and will make his way back to the Barre high banks in 2005. Calkins, you may remember, is one of three racing brothers (Derrick and Dustin are the others), and was one of Thunder Road’s most promising young talents a few seasons ago. His previous stint behind the wheel landed him the 1999 Allen Lumber Street Stock Rookie of the Year title, the same honors in the NAPA Sportsman division in 2001, and the runner-up points position in 2002.

Georgia, VT’s Ryan Nolin has struck a deal to drive for ACT Late Model Tour competitor Eric Chase in 2005. At just 18 years old, Nolin’s resume is already impressive – the youngster won the 2002 Street Stock Tri-State Series championship in his rookie season, and was the Sportsman Rookie of the Year the following season. Nolin won a pair of Sportsman features in 2004, and will look to battle rival Scott Payea for the Late Model freshman crown.

Did you know…?

• Chuck Beede is the only driver to have won a Thunder Road championship in both the NAPA Tiger Sportsman and Late Model divisions. Beede was the 1985 Sportsman “King of the Road”, then reigned from 1992-94, the first three years of the Late Model division. Former Sportsman champs that have yet to score Late Model crowns include Eric Williams (1994), Cooper MacRitchie (1995), and Dave Pembroke (1999).

• Jamie Fisher is the only former Thunder Road Late Model Rookie of the Year to have later won a championship. Fisher was the 1999 Rookie of the Year, and then beat Phil Scott in a tie breaker for the 2003 track championship. Former top rookies that have come up nil in the title chase include Eric Williams (1995), Cooper MacRitchie (2001), and Dave Pembroke (2000). Funny how that worked out, no? Williams and Pembroke have each finished second in final standings, including Williams’ heart-breaking single-point loss to Brian Hoar in 1999.

• The Milk Bowl purse has undergone quite a few changes over the years. Larry Demar of Hardwick, VT captured all three segments of the 1967 Milk Bowl to take the overall win, and took home a whopping $250. By comparison, 2004 winner Cris Michaud never managed to lead a lap, but still won $3,225 in 2004, almost 13 times what Demar won.

As we’ve talked about in the past couple of weeks, rules are now finalized for all divisions – that includes Airborne – and are now available. The ACT Banquet of Champions is scheduled for January 15, 2005 at the Sheraton-Burlington Hotel & Conference Center. Tickets are $30 each, and include a delicious multi-course dinner, plus the always entertaining dance moves of some of ACT’s finest, including but not limited to Reno Gervais, Patrick Laperle, and Jeremy Dewyea. All the banquet info you need is just a phone call away at (802) 244-6963. Check out the hour-by-hour progress at www.acttour.com and let us know what you think – email vtss3@aol.com.