ACT
ACTion News 2/21/05
Race fans – think back for a minute, waaaaay back to Memorial Day 1993, opening day at Thunder Road. Mike Weeden, a veteran racer from Massachusetts, won his first and only ACT race that day on the original 33 year-old asphalt before a packed house. The Late Model Sportsman division, in its second year, saw Greg “Burger” Blake take the win. The V8-powered Street Stocks were morphed into the NAPA Flying Tigers, and the land yacht-sized Legends were the new “Tiger B” division.

But do you remember the first race for the brand new 4- & 6-cylinder Allen Lumber Street Stock division that day? There were eight backyard-stock cars in the show, including those of Buvy Gamache, Mike Clark, brothers Mark and Tim Martin, Tim Campbell (pictured left on opening day 1993), Corey Burgess, Doug Williams, and race winner Wayne “The Polish Cannon” Wojtyna. Gamache and Campbell were refugees of the Legend class, Burgess and Williams were regulars from Riverside Speedway across the Connecticut River, and Wojtyna was a feature winner in the Flying Tigers (now Sportsman) in 1992. Clark and the Martin boys had never seen a race track before. The whole field of cars, when you put all eight together, was worth probably $2,000 at best.

Those were good times and cheap race cars, and many more stars of the day hurried along soon after, including Terry Roy, Dennis Griffin, Dan and Jason Gibbs, additional Martins Jeff (brother) and Bob (father), Leo Dugan, Mike White, Ron St. Louis (this column writer’s father), and some other guys you might have heard of, like Joey “Berzerko” Becker, Pete Ainsworth, Cris Michaud, and – sigh – even Dave Moody. The racing was fun to watch, and a few times was very competitive and well-driven. The other times, however, were far from it, and at one point the Streets averaged 2.7 flips a night. They were fondly referred to as “The Crunch Bunch”, and provided fans with the destructive enjoyment that they craved.

As time passed by, the cars and drivers got slightly better, but were still very much in the “save your cans for a week and YOU can build a winning race car” realm of motorsports. A few new guys came along to the winner’s circle, like Jamie Fisher, Steve Mandigo, Mike “The Chickenman” Perdue, Ryan Dodge, John “The Birdman” Adams, Marcel Gravel, Archie Hodgdon, and Adam Maynard. By 1998, the cars became a bit faster. The roll bars still got plenty of work, though, and inversions were a-plenty. A host of new names led the way, including Mike “Beetle” Bailey, Kris Grout, Chip Grenier, brothers-in-law Bubba Hickory and Donat Premont, David Allen, William “The Weiner” Hennequin, Travis and Derrick Calkins, Tyler Cahoon, “Fast Eddie” Patterson, “Tommy Thunder” Smith, and the ever-popular Curtis “Curtis” Curtis.

A huge crop of rookies – 29 in all – entered the field in 2000, including Justin Hart, Kerry Henry, Ron Morrill, Jeff French, Renee Beede, Dawn Donahue, Matt Potter, and second-generation yellow flag creator, yours truly, Justin St. Louis. Cahoon was the champion that season, followed by Dan Nolin in 2001. During that 2001 season, second-generation racers Hart, Beede, Potter, “Lil’ Brendan” Moodie, Eddy Companion, Rookie of the Year Terry Pearce, Jr., and three or four other drivers age 21 or less combined for more than half of the year’s Top 3 finishes. High school sophomore Ryan Nolin led the way in 2002, winning the Tri-State Series championship for the Street Stocks in his rookie season, while Moodie copped the Thunder Road title on the final weekend of the season over Allen, Airborne Raceway Champion Jamie Rabideau, Rusty “The Logger” DeWees, and Potter.

Somewhere along the way, the Allen Lumber Street Stocks became a group of real racers, often going flag-to-flag with no crashes, and rollovers had become a rarity. While the entire field of the first race in 1993 was worth $2,000, now a single competitor might have paid that price for just an engine. Using those figures, the decision was made to introduce a track tire for the Street Stocks in 2003 and create the PowerShift Junkyard Warriors – almost a carbon copy of the original Streets back in 1993 – to create two distinctive types of entry-level racing.

Neither division has disappointed. With their colorful cars and characters, not to mention crazy convertible racers, the Warriors have been a ridiculously fun division for everyone involved – racers, officials, sponsors, and especially fans – and have taken on the new Crunch Bunch role. Meanwhile, the Street Stock division continues to mold drivers into becoming the future stars of Thunder Road and ACT at a still-relatively inexpensive level.

Joe Small, Travis Paquet, Nick Sweet, Alex Perkins, Steve Violette, Eric Johnson, Tim Potter, Patrick Underwood, Joel Hodgdon, Melinda Gervais, and Jeff Bousquet have been proven to be quite talented, and, based on what has been shown so far, could be very successful in the upper levels of the sport. Add in a solid group of drivers that are beginning to really come around – racers like Steve Longchamp, Jamie Benneig, Tim Pierce, Wanda Burnham, Gary Mullen, Jonathan Pierson, Anthony Spencer, and a gazillion others – and you’ve got a great pack of drivers that want to have fun and learn how to race.

Over the past twelve years, the Allen Lumber Street Stocks have produced some of the region’s best talent, and will likely continue to do so for years to come. Pay attention, folks, it’ll be worth it!

Did you know…?
• The average age of the Top 10 Thunder Road Street Stocks in 2004 was 28.1 years old. That number was 29.7 in 2003, 29.8 in 2002, 33.6 in 2001, and 35.6 in 2000. Are you noticing a trend?

• ACT Late Model racers Cris Michaud, Jamie Fisher, Joe Becker, and Tim Martin lead the list of Street Stock grads. Martin is the Street Stock division’s only two-time Thunder Road champion, and could take his first career Late Model win at any time. Late Model King of the Road Michaud and ACT Late Model Tour winner Becker were also feature winners in the Streets’ first season in 1993. 2003 Thunder Road Champion Fisher won a 50-lap, $1,000-to-win Street Stock feature in 1996, one of his four victories in the division.

• NAPA Tiger Sportsman drivers Chip Grenier, Josh Lovely, Pete Ainsworth, Adam Maynard, (Ainsworth #80 and Maynard #25 in 1997, right) Scott Payea, Skip Liberty, Ryan Nolin, Mike Bailey, and Brendan Moodie all scored wins in 2004, and share 18 Street Stock wins from seasons past. Nolin, Bailey, and Moodie are also past Street Stock champions.

It’s just about time to gear up for the annual car shows! ACT will have the Late Models of New Hampshire racers David Avery and rookie “Joey Pole” Polewarczyk, Jr. on display at Race-A-Rama in West Springfield, MA, Fri.-Sun. March 4-6. And don’t forget the 3rd annual ACT car show at the University Mall, Sat.-Sun., April 2-3! If you’d like to be a part of the U-Mall show, give us a call at (802) 244-6963, or e-mail justin@acttour.com.