Contributed by: ACT Staff
The 2007 season will make the third year of ACT competition for 17 year-old Joey Polewarczyk Jr of Hudson, NH. Joey “Pole”, as he’s known, made great strides in his sophomore season. The second generation racer capped off an impressive year by eclipsing the Late Model track record at Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road in the 43rd annual Milk Bowl. His efforts earned the youngster the pole starting position and a $1,000 award from Booth Brothers.
The veterans are represented by Joe Becker from Jeffersonville, VT and New Gloucester, Maine’s Ron Henry. Becker, 34 and Henry, 37 are joined by Milton, VT drivers Eric Chase, 43 and Brent Dragon, 40.
Dragon, the son of ACT Champion Beaver Dragon (1979-80), who finished third in last year’s point chase, looks for a break-out season in 2007. The second generation competitor added a pair of key victories to his resume last year – the 42nd annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic and the 43rd Milk Bowl. He also has wins in other big ticket ACT Late Model races including the Furniture World of VT Spring Green, the Fall Foliage 150, and the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic. All of the victories came in 2004. An ACT title is one of the few notches left to be added to his belt.
2007 marks Becker’s fourth season as wheelman for Richard Green’s Ford. The 2003 Thunder Road Late Model Rookie of the Year, who scored a career first ACT Tour victory in his sophomore season, has made steady progress in his ride. The team debuted a new car at the start of last season and from the outset, it was fast. A second car has been added to the stable which will give the team added staying power.
Henry, a two-time winner of ACT’s Sportsmanship Award (2004-2005) concentrated on finishing races in ’06. His efforts, and those of his family-based team, paid off with improved outings and a solid top 20 finish in the final standings.
Chase, who ran a partial Tour schedule in 2006 due to business commitments, looks to improve upon his performance of the previous year when he was ninth in the standings. “From our point of view we’ve always been a top 10 car but (with ACT) everything’s so close. A driver can be title contender without winning (a race). Our goal is to finish among the top five in points. The coming season is not going to be about winning races. First you’ve got to get in the race, it’s going to be difficult to qualify – last year there were less than 10 drivers who qualified for every race.”
Chase concluded, “We’re very excited about this year’s schedule. We seem to do better at the new tracks – it puts me on a level playing field with the guys who’ve been around longer and have more seat time.”
above right - Joe Becker
above left - Ron Henry
right - Eric Chase
Six-time and reigning ACT Champion Jean-Paul Cyr of Milton, VT has filed a season entry as has returning six-time title holder Robbie Crouch from Tampa, FL. Each would like to think that having successfully climbed a championship mountain, he has a better than average shot at the 2007 crown. Both drivers are realistic in their preparation. They know the level of competition expected on the Tour in the coming season will be intense - it will be a battle to just qualify, especially in the six ACTion Super Series events which draw large fields of cars.
Cyr’s 2007 quest for the title will be different it has been in previous years. He’s sold his equipment to long-time crew chief Rich Paya and will no longer have to deal with the day-to-day operation of the race team. At last month’s Banquet of Champions, while accepting his 2006 title, Cyr recounted his feelings from the Milk Bowl, the last race of the season, “We had just completed the deal,” he said. “Things weren’t going very well; we were in and out of the pits. I had hurt my hand. Then I went off the second turn. As the car was flipping and rolling over I thought, `Man, am I glad I don’t own this any more!’”
Crouch, who’s been out of a race car for nearly 10 years, is taking his return to the driver’s seat with the same focus that took him to his many championships and a place atop most of ACT’s statistical records. Even though the 54 year-old has been away from the track for a prolonged period of time he potentially has a couple of Aces up his sleeve. He’s retained the services of Brian Latuch who engineered his 1990 ACT Championship effort and he’ll be driving David Storey’s potent Chevrolet which another driver took to a runner-up finish behind Cyr in 2005 and 2006.
The two new drivers include Scott Dragon from Colchester, VT and Malden, Massachusett’s James Linardy. Both drivers tested the ACT waters in 2006 and will make the jump to full-time competition in ’07.
Dragon, 33, started racing more than 10 years ago and worked his way through the Street Stock and Tiger Sportsman ranks before moving to the Late Model class. He was the 1997 Sportsman Rookie of the Year at Airborne Raceway, Plattsburgh, NY and during his career amassed six victories. The second generation competitor (he’s the son of legendary driver Bobby Dragon) previously ran with ACT in 2002 and 2003. He has Tour posted wins at Star Speedway, Thunder Road and Oxford Plains.
Linardy, 43, cut his racing teeth in the Road Runner division at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway before moving to Lee USA. In 2005 he stepped into the Late Model class at Lee running full time. “I’ve got a new ACT car under construction and I’m looking forward to giving touring a try. We enjoyed the ACT experience at the couple of races we ran last year and we’re looking forward to expanding on that experience,” he said.
The 2007 ACT Tour kicks off its season at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway on Saturday, April 28. One week later the Tour opens Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road on Sunday, May 6 with the Merchants Bank 150.
PHOTO: above - Scott Dragon