3rd Times A Charm

It took three attempts to complete the American-Canadian Tour’s Sportsman Series Casella Mother’s Day 100 at Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, but for 62 year-old Joey Laquerre, it was well worth the wait. The veteran stock car driver from E. Montpelier, VT posted his first win at the helm of a modern-day Sportsman machine with a convincing victory. The Casella Mother’s Day 100 had originally been scheduled for Sunday, May 14, but was pushed back to June 4 due to rain. Two weeks ago the Series competitors were able to complete the first two round of qualifying before Mother Nature stepped in forcing a postponement to Father’s Day. Thirty-seven competitors from Vermont, New York and New Hampshire had attempted to qualify for the 28 car starting field.

In spite of the torrid pace set by Laquerre, and with the assistance of a single caution period on the 85th lap of the 100 lap event, Pete Ainsworth of Middlesex, VT was able to chase the leader down and given him a run for the checkers. Also in the quest for the win were a trio of VT racers, Shawn Fleury from Montpelier, Ray Stearns of East Corinth and Williamstown’s Chuck Beede. The three rounded out the top five.

“It sure was a lot of fun to race with these young kids today. I appreciate that Ainsworth ran me nice and clean. We raced each other hard, it was a lot of fun,” commented Laquerre who will turn 63 in July.

Pete Ainsworth, 29, of Middlesex finished second. “I grew up watching Joey Laquerre here, he is a class act. I had a really good time racing with him today.”

Chip Grenier from Northfield, VT started on the pole thanks to ACT’s unique “Plus/Minus” handicap system. During first round qualifying, of the cars finishing in a transfer spot, Grenier had improved his starting position the most number of places. Stearns lined up along side with Laquerre and Fleury in the second row.

Grenier leapt into the lead at the drop of the green flag while Laquerre made short work of Stearns. He set his sites on the leader and after several laps of side-by-side racing, took the advantage on the sixth circuit. A few short laps later the electrical system in Grenier’s Chevrolet failed forcing his early retirement from the race.

The Casella Mother’s Day 100’s lack of caution periods allowed Laquerre to stretch his lead over the balance of the pack. His advantage was erased thanks to the minor incident on the 85th circuit, but he quickly asserted his dominance when action resumed. Lapped traffic helped Ainsworth and company to close the gap but none could mount a serious challenge. The 100 lap race took a mere 28 minutes and 59seconds to run.

Completing the top ten was Jason Bonnett from St Albans in sixth, Travis Calkins (Danville, VT), Chris Gendreau (N. Middlesex, VT), Brendan Moodie (N. Wolcott, VT) and Tom Therrien (Hinesburg, VT).

Plattsburgh, New York’s Robin Wood, the Series’ point leader and winner of the season opening event at Airborne Speedway, finished 13th. Since Thunder Road is not a track where Wood has had much success in past ACT sportsman Series events, Wood was glad to qualify and post a respectable finish. He unofficially rides third behind Chuck Beede and Jason Bonnett.

The ACT Sportsmen Series continues its season with the third of seven 2006 events back at Thunder Road on Thursday (June 22) with the WDEV Radio Twin 75s. Post time at the high banked, quarter-mile oval is 6:00 pm