Contributed by: ACT Staff
The 2004 ACT racing season started off in basically the same manner as 2003 ended – with reigning Late Model Tour Champion Jean-Paul Cyr (shown left) in the winner’s circle. Cyr captured the Merchants Bank Freedom Lynx 150 at Thunder Road, and went on to win again at White Mountain Motorsports Park in June. Brent Dragon took down the Ehler’s RV Spring Green 100 at Airborne Raceway, and later completed the Airborne sweep with the Leo’s Furniture Fall Foliage 150 in September. Canadian Patrick Laperle walked off with a win at Twin State Speedway, and was followed two days later by first-time winner Joe Becker at Thunder Road’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic.
Four of the next five events saw first-time winners, including Roger Brown, Shawn Martin, Dale Shaw, and Steve Fisher. Dave Pembroke took his third career Tour win at Riverside during that span, overtaking Laperle late in the going. Joey Laquerre won as the Tour returned to White Mountain with a 44-car field in August. Ontarian D.J. Kennington took the $10,000 top prize at the Lee USA Speedway New England Dodge Dealers National 150 in September, and Thunder Road Champion Cris Michaud won a nail-biter of a Milk Bowl over young up-and-comer David Avery to close out the season.
While Cyr may have only nabbed a pair of victories, his consistency was remarkable. In 14 events, the Milton, VT driver finished no worse than 11th, earning eight Top 5s along the way. Although he received constant pressure from Laperle and Dragon, suffice it to say the veteran put all the right pieces in their place, and brought home his fourth ACT Late Model Tour title. Dragon’s string of six Top 10s to close out the year helped him finish second for the third time in his career. Laperle came home third, ahead of 2003 runner-up Todd Stone, and the veteran Laquerre.
Thunder Road and Airborne Raceway benefited from a summer’s worth of fantastic racing in all divisions, from the Late Models to the PowerShift Junkyard Warriors. Cooper MacRitchie and “King of the Road” Cris Michaud took Thunder Road Late Model wins early and often (Michaud – 4, MacRitchie – 3), and were joined in the winner’s circle by Laquerre, Pembroke, Dragon, Eric Williams, Chad Wheeler, Trampas Demers, and former track champs Jamie Fisher and Phil Scott. Michaud’s Championship season raised the bar for Late Model racers as he took down a total of ten Top 5 finishes and garnered a mind-blowing average finish of 6.5 in 17 events. The Williamstown, VT racer locked up the title before the season-closing New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl, but put nothing on hold as he beat a 51-car field for his first win in the Vermont classic. Pembroke overtook Wheeler for the runner-up position on the final weekend.
The NAPA Tiger Sportsman division turned in consistent two- and three-wide action all season long at both race tracks, and enjoyed a total of 18 different winners, including six first-timers. Island Pond, VT’s Reno Gervais, perhaps better known as “The King of the Northeast Kingdom”, was one of only two drivers with a Top 10 finishing average after all 17 races. Despite missing out in the win column, Gervais’ efforts were rewarded with his second consecutive Thunder Road title, which he earned by a single point over young Scott Payea. Bill Sawyer of Milton, VT – the only driver to cop a win at Thunder Road and Airborne – used a methodical approach in his quest for the Airborne crown. Sawyer did most of the heavy lifting in heat and semi-feature races, and used a wheelbarrow full of bonus points to hold off five-time winner Robin Wood for the New York Championship.
Thunder Road’s Allen Lumber Street Stocks produced 14 winners in 18 events for the second year in a row, including four-time winner Eric Johnson of Randolph, VT. Joe Small, the Airborne Rookie of the Year in 2003, ran the full Thunder Road schedule in his Ford Escort, and put together 15 Top 10s to complete his Championship run. Small, of Milton, VT, held off Barre, VT youngster Nick Sweet’s two-win challenge by a scant eleven markers for the title.
The Airborne Renegades posted impressive numbers, as well, with 11 drivers earning a chance to “drag the rag” around the Plattsburgh, NY half-mile in 13 events. The Kiddie Korps brought the veterans to school on a number of occasions with Richie Turner, Tylor Terry, Shawn Duquette, and Joe Cobb – all 20-something or younger – taking home their share of hardware. All told, 17 year-old Turner was the Champion over “old-timers” Rich Agoney and Don Franklin.
The PowerShift Junkyard Warriors were their usual, colorful selves in 2004, led by Champions Ron Gabaree (Thunder Road) and “Crazy” Ed Doner (Airborne). Although they’ll arrive on the same stage to collect their awards, Gabaree and Doner took very different roads to get there. Gabaree figured nil in the win column, although he finished second three times, while Doner won Airborne’s opener and finale, and three more races in between.
In lieu of a “Did You Know…?” segment, let’s take a look at some of 2004’s most interesting numbers:
• 0 – The number of wins earned by 2004 Thunder Road Champions Reno Gervais, Joe Small, and Ron Gabaree.
• 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 – In succession, Thunder Road Warrior driver James Dopp’s car number, Booth Bros. “Cream of the Crop Award” count, feature win count, flip count, and final points position.
• 2 – The number of Airborne dirt/asphalt modified wins tallied by Mike Perrotte. Perrotte has leased the speedway and will run independently from ACT sanction in 2005.
• 2, 3, 7, 44, and 82 – Car numbers that won in three ACT divisions in 2004.
• 3 out of 4 – Cooper MacRitchie’s win streak in Thunder Road’s Late Model division.
• 3 out of 5 – Trevor Lyman’s win streak in Thunder Road’s NAPA Sportsman division.
• 5 – The number of times a convertible car won a Warrior feature.
• 5 – The number of wins scored by Airborne racers Robin Wood (Sportsmen) and Ed Doner (Warriors) in 2004, tops in ACT competition.
• 5.0 – Wood’s finishing average, the best among full-time ACT racers in 2004.
• 6 – In feet, the size of race winner D.J. Kennington’s trophy at the New England Dodge Dealers National 150 at Lee USA Speedway in September.
• 11 – The number of Allen Lumber Street Stock Champions at Thunder Road in the past 12 seasons.
• 13 – Mark Barnier’s Sportsman career win total. With his Ehler’s RV victory at Airborne, Barnier entered a six-way tie for first place all-time.
• 17 – The age of Airborne Renegade Champion Richie Turner.
• 29 – Thunder Road “headline division” Track Champions since 1960. Cris Michaud became the 27th different “King of the Road” in 2001, and backed it up in 2004.
• 40 – The number of first-time Thunder Road, Airborne, and ACT Late Model Tour winners in 2004.
• 60 – The age of Airborne Sportsman Champion Bill Sawyer. Sawyer has filed a full-season entry as an ACT Late Model Tour rookie for 2005.
• 76 – The number of Late Models that swelled the pit area for the New England Dodge Dealers National 150.
• 83 – The number of drivers to score a win in an ACT event in 2004, including all divisions and special events.
• 133 – The number of drivers to earn points on the ACT Late Model Tour in 2004.
• 1,565 – Laps completed by ACT Late Model Tour Champion Jean-Paul Cyr in 2004.
• 1,566 – Total laps run in ACT Late Model Tour competition in 2004.
• 5,000 – The number of dollars Todd Stone brought home to Middlebury, VT after winning the Remington Shootout in July.
• 11,530 – Including lap leader bonuses, the number of dollars Kennington brought home to London, ON after winning the New England Dodge Dealers National 150.
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