After 16 years it appears that Robbie Crouch of Tampa, FL will be sharing his record for most American Canadian Tour (ACT) titles held. Milton, VT racer Jean-Paul Cyr, a veteran ACT competitor, has closed the gap on Crouch and is on the verge of securing a tie at the 43rd annual New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl (Sept 30/Oct 1) at Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road. Crouch clinched his sixth championship in 1990.

Crouch has long been regarded as one of the top drivers in ACT history. The “Tampa Tornado” is a former winner of races all over the Northeast, but he’s best known for the ACT titles he won in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. When he retired the racing community wondered who, if anyone, would ever break his record.

Cyr collected his first title in 1994, which he followed up with another two years later. The Milton racer then took on some other racing challenges but returned as strong as ever collecting titles in 2003, ’04, and ’05. He leads the ACT Tour point standings by 72 points over Montpelier’s David Pembroke, the same driver who trailed Cyr last year.

“I think it’s exciting that Jean-Paul will be tying my record,” Crouch recently commented. “He’s done a wonderful job. Someone has to tie and/or break records. He’s a great driver with a solid crew. I don’t feel that awful about having to share the record with him.”

(PHOTO: Robbie Crouch won the Milk Bowl and his final ACT Championship in 1990)

Cyr is considered one of the toughest Late Model racers in the region and is a threat for the win at virtually any race he participates in. “It will be an honor to tie Robbie’s record,” the 40 year-old driver commented, “Growing up, I always felt that he was the best out on the track. I’ve always looked up to him in the racing community and I try to race like he did. As nice as it is to catch him in championships, I’d really like to match his Milk Bowl wins.”

The New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl, a Monza style event contested in three 50-lap segments, is regarded as the “Toughest Short Track Race in America.” Drivers have to string together three strong performances to have any chance at the Milk Bowl crown. In each of the races, drivers earn points based on their finishing position (a first earns one, a fifth gets five, etc). After two segments, each driver’s points are combined and placed in order, with the competitor with the lowest cumulative total leading the way into the decisive third segment. Adding to the thrill of the event is the inversion after the first and second 50-lappers – the starting order for the second segment is the reverse of finishing order of the first, while the third starts by flipping the finish of the second.

In the Milk Bowl’s 43 year history, Crouch has won the historic event four times, the most of any driver in its history (1983, 86, 88, 90). Crouch is also one of just three drivers to score perfect three-point Milk Bowls. Cyr has one Milk Bowl victory, which came ten years ago (1996), the first year the event was contested by Late Models.

“This year’s New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl will be different from those I’ve run in the past,” Cyr stated. “I have a good point lead so I can just go out there and concentrate on winning the race. For the past three or four years I’ve been a bit conservative at the Milk Bowl just to make sure we held on to the title. My crew and I are looking forward to the 43rd Milk Bowl. We’re very focused on the event but there’s no telling what can happen at that race, so we’ll just see what happens.”

(PHOTO: Jean-Paul Cyr celebrates his 1996 Milk Bowl victory, the first year the Late Models competed in the historic event)

Cyr along with his fellow ACT drivers will finish their season-long point battle at Thunder Road’s Milk Bowl. Post time for both days is 1:00 pm. The action packed weekend kicks off on Saturday with door-to-door qualifying for local divisions and ACT’s Late Models. Qualifying for the ACT racers is usually done through heat races utilizing the Series’ “plus/minus” system. The procedures will deviate for the lone time this season as the Tour competitors will participate in the Booth Bros Dairy/H.P. Hood Time Trials. The driver who sets fast time will receive a $1,000 bonus from Booth Bros and Hood. Additionally, the driver will score the coveted pole starting position in the first segment. Although no points are associated with setting fast time, Cyr will attempt to collect the extra cash on Saturday and his second pole (he was fastest last year).

New England Dodge Dealers have $5 Super Discount Coupons available (while supplies last) off the purchase price of an adult Milk Bowl ticket (one coupon can be redeemed per adult ticket purchased). Adult ticket prices without the coupon are $25 (for a two-day ticket or Sunday only). A Saturday-only adult ticket is also available. Kids (6-12) are $5. Spectator gates open both days at 10 am.