ACTion News 5/02/07
Entering last weekend’s American-Canadian Tour (ACT) season opener at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine, most of the hype was centered around six-time and defending ACT Late Model Tour champion Jean-Paul Cyr and returning five-time champion Brian Hoar. The pair lead ACT in all-time race victories and championships won, and are expected to have a knock-down, drag-out title fight throughout the year.
And then Randy Potter changed the story.

In perhaps one of the best upsets to start any ACT season, veteran Potter returned to full-time competition at OPS, earned the outside pole starting position in qualifying, and led every lap on the way to scoring his first-ever ACT Late Model Tour victory. As an added bonus, he fended off Hoar’s challenge in the early laps, and beat Cyr for the win.
Potter had not been in more than a couple of ACT events per season since the late 1990s, and had not raced at Oxford since 1995. A product of the New Hampshire short track wars, Potter was as surprised as anyone else that he was standing in victory lane following the New England Dodge Dealers 150.
“No way, I had no idea this was going to happen, especially not here,” he said. “We were having a few problems with the driveshaft in the qualifier, it was floating around and we didn’t know, but we fixed it and things just turned out good. I finished third in one of these races at Thunder Road (in 1995) and I thought that was great, but to win over here… I’ve raced here at Oxford a lot and we’ve run really well here before, and I finally got to come through win the race.”
With more than 30 feature wins and multiple track championships in his career, Randy Potter is no slouch. Most observers would consider him a threat for victory lane in almost any race. But Potter’s P&R Excavating Services/JML Grinding & Excavating Chevrolet was somewhat overlooked as a contender. It might be time to reconsider that, although Potter remains humble.
“There are so many good cars (on the ACT Late Model Tour). Jean-Paul Cyr and Ben Rowe are the guys I look up to the most out there. When I ended up lapping Ben and he was pointing me to the inside to go by him, I got on the radio and said ‘Hey, I just passed Ben Rowe! He let me go!’ This is a good day, I had no idea it would be like this. To win here at Oxford means a lot. It’s a fun track and there’s a lot of history here. We worked pretty hard this winter to be ready for this.”
Competing out of his Warwick, RI home base, Ryan Vanasse has been ACT’s “long haul” leader since 2005. Never was the Team V Transportation crew’s distance handicap put to the test like it was on Saturday at Oxford. Their barnd new Race Basics chassis ran well in the first practice session of the day, but a blown rear end left the team scrambling.
“We run a different rear end than most of the cars on the Tour,” explained Vanasse, “and of the three guys running it at Oxford, nobody had spare parts that we could borrow.”
Vanasse’s family and crew frantically sifted through every auto parts store within a 20-mile radius of Oxford, ME to no avail. Finally, a phone call was made to Rhode Island.
“One of our guys that stayed home went to the shop and dug out an old rear end like the one we were running and drove it up here… fast!”
The 220-mile one-way trek was made and the rear end was installed successfully, just in time for Vanasse to start shotgun in the 21-car last chance “B” feature. With no track time on the “new” rear end, nothing was guaranteed. To further complicate matters, only the top two cars transferred into the main event, with just two additional provisional starting berths available. Vanasse was eligible for a provisional, provided he catch up to and pass either Scott Payea or Brent Dragon, two of ACT’s top dogs.
On the final lap, Dragon faltered enough for Vanasse to squeak in front and earn the final spot. He then marched his way methodically through the main event field from 32nd starting position to finish 15th, the first car one lap down.
“That was a long day, and my guys did an amazing job,” Vanasse beamed. “I can’t say enough about their hard work. 15th is a great finish considering the circumstances, and we’re riding a huge wave of momentum going into Thunder Road this weekend. We’re ready to go for it this year.”

Did you know…?
-By failing to qualify for the New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford, Milton, VT’s Brent Dragon missed his first main event since August 5, 2000 at Airborne Speedway. Between the two DNQs, Dragon has landed in victory lane six times, including the previous race, the Vermont Milk Bowl at Thunder Road in October 2006. Dragon’s point finishes during that span have been as follows: 4th in 2000, 7th in 2001, 5th in 2002, 4th in 2003, 2nd in 2004, and 3rd in each of the last two seasons. Dragon now sits tied for 29th in points. Don’t look now, but nothing is guaranteed this season.
-Included in the starting field for last weekend’s opener at Oxford were current and former touring series champions from several divisions and regions. Between Jean-Paul Cyr, David Avery, Mike Rowe, Ryan Nolin, Eric Williams, Jamie Aube, John Donahue, Ben Rowe, Phil Scott, and Brian Hoar, there were 28 series championships represented. In addition to those drivers, ten more drivers qualified that have won at least one track championship in their careers. Seven former champions failed to qualify.
-In scoring a “+4” rating during qualifying heats, Eric Williams of Hyde Park, VT became the first driver to earn consecutive pole positions in ACT Late Model Tour events using the “plus/minus” handicap system. Williams won the ACTion Super Series Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road after starting on the pole with a “+2” last September, the most recent race to use the system before last weekend.
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