Contributed by: ACT Staff
The early excitement level among the teams in Airborne Speedway and Canaan Fair Speedway’s Tiger Sportsman divisions, coupled with the 40+ teams in Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl’s weekly NAPA Tiger Sportsman class has reached a fever pitch. The five-track, eight-race series has also sparked the interest of teams from other divisions – including the ACT Late Model Tour – to sign up for competition.
Second-generation Airborne Speedway stalwarts Jason Bonnett of St. Albans, VT and Robin Wood of Plattsburgh, NY lead the charge of early full-season entrants, along with former Late Model, Tiger Sportsman, and Vermont State Champion Chuck Beede of Williamstown, VT. Bonnett (blue #79, left), a second-generation racer, was the 2003 Airborne Champion, while former Late Model racer Wood (#61, left) was the Airborne Tiger Sportsman runner-up in 2004 with five victories, more than any other ACT competitor in any division. Beede is a 25-year veteran, and was the 1985 Thunder Road and Vermont State Tiger Sportsman Champion. He went on to win three consecutive Late Model titles at the Barre, VT track from 1992-94. Late Model veteran Joey Laquerre also has a Sportsman car in his garage and is expected to file a full-season entry soon.
Chris Gendreau of Waterbury Ctr., VT, Ray Stearns of East Corinth, VT, and Tiger Sportsman rookie Rich Watson of Milton, VT have also filed entries. Gendreau was voted by his peers to receive the 2004 “Most Improved Driver” award, and took his first win on Vermont State Employees Credit Union Night at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in August. Stearns began his Thunder Road career in 1998, and was a 100-lap event winner on the former Grand Slam Series for the Sportsman cars in 2002. Watson is a veteran of the Renegade and Allen Lumber Street Stock divisions, and has two Street Stock victories to his credit.
Bonnett and Wood have high hopes for the Tiger Tour. “I plan to challenge for the title,” Wood said confidently.
“It’ll be fun this year, racing against Chuck Beede, Joey Laquerre, and whoever else shows up,” Bonnett commented. “I’ve watched those guys since I was a kid, and to beat them for a big win or for the championship would really be special.”
“Bring ‘em on!” said Stearns (right). “I don’t think it will matter if the Late Model guys have won races and championships – these aren’t Late Models. I think the Sportsman regulars have the advantage of running these cars every week, and it’s going to be fun to run in front of them.”
Wood, who ran in the ACT Late Model division for nearly a decade, cites the major difference between the faster aftermarket Late Models and the stock-chassis Sportsman cars lies in the driving styles and setups that the cars demand.
“When I first came back to the Sportsman cars last year, I was out to lunch,” Wood admitted. “Everything about them is different (from the Late Models), and it took time to get used to. The cars are a little bit easier to drive than the Late Models, but there are fewer adjustments on a Sportsman car, and you have to work harder to win. The Sportsman drivers really love racing, and they’re very good at it. I think the other Late Model guys are in for a surprise. I know I was.”
The Tiger Tour will begin its inaugural season at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY with the 31st running of the Spring Green 100 on Saturday, May 7. Held annually since 1974, the event was one of the Late Model division’s most prestigious races. The winner of the Tiger Tour’s first appearance in the race will see their name added to a list that includes legendary drivers like Bobby, Beaver, and Brent Dragon, Robbie Crouch, Junior Hanley, Brian Hoar, and Jean-Paul Cyr.
The Sportsmen travel to Canaan Fair Speedway in Canaan, NH for a 100-lap event on Saturday, May 14, the first of four races at the 1/3-mile speedway. Thunder Road hosts the Tiger Tour on Thursday, June 23 for the WDEV Radio 100, and North Woodstock, NH’s White Mountain Motorsports Park will hold a 100-lapper on Saturday, August 20. Each event atCanaan Fair Speedway will give the race winner an automatic berth in the starting grid for the season finale, a 50-lap event at Lee USA (NH) Speedway, held in conjunction with the ACT Late Model Tour’s $10,000-to-win “Super Series” 150 on Sunday, September 25.
For more information on the ACT Tiger Tour, call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.acttour.com.