Contributed by: ACT Staff
If you were at Thunder Road on Sunday, you were almost certainly reminded of the adage “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Hometown Barre, VT boy Nick Sweet, at just 22, has established himself as a driver to watch as the years go by. Veteran Joey Laquerre, 63 of nearby East Montpelier, has likely won more races in his career than Sweet has even been a part of. Their battle in the Casella Waste Management Mother’s Day 100 was a classic display of new school versus old school, of patience, of class, and of edge-of-your-seat-thrilling stock car racing.
Sweet dominated the first half of the race, much as he did on opening day at The Road. A lap 55 caution tightened the field, and allowed second-place man Laquerre to draw even with Sweet. A few dicey moves after the green flag enabled Laquerre to dive underneath Sweet and take the lead on lap 59. From there, it was an all-out battle of timing, reading lapped traffic, using up just the right amount of race track, and playing some head games. Sweet tried in vain to pass Laquerre using the high groove, diving into the low groove, splitting lapped cars three-wide, and eventually laying the bumper on Laquerre in a last-lap effort to get the win.
Unfortunately, Sweet used a little too much bumper, and nearly threw it all away for Laquerre in the final corner. Sweet backed off to allow Laquerre to straighten his car out, and third-place driver Craig Bushey rushed in to pick up the pieces. In a razor-close finish, Laquerre out-drag raced Bushey to the line to earn the win by a half-car length as Sweet finished third.
And the crowd loved it.
“(Nick) kept trying these Dale Earnhardt moves on me,” said Laquerre, who was joined in victory lane by his grandson, Jared. “I had to protect the lead. At the end, I saw the 05 car (Bushey) coming fast, and that’s when I thought I was in trouble. We’ve won this race two years in a row now, and I’m glad Casella keeps coming back to put the race on.”
“If I hadn’t backed off and let Joey save it, I would have been black flagged,” said Sweet. “I didn’t want to wreck him, I just wanted him to know I was there.” Sweet then showed that maybe there is hope for the younger generation after all, proving that veterans can still teach the kids how to do it right.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to win, but I had the most fun I’ve ever had in a race car. I had nothing to gain by wrecking Joey. He’s a great racer and he knows the line. He knows what he needs to do to win. When I figure out how to pass him, I’ll be a better racer.”
You won’t see better or more respectful racing anywhere in the country than you saw by Joey Laquerre and Nick Sweet on Sunday at Thunder Road.
Continuing with the “kids make good” theme, Ryan Nolin of Georgia, VT became the third-youngest first-time winner on the ACT Late Model Tour when he copped the win in the 33rd annual Furniture World of Vermont Spring Green 100 at Plattsburgh, NY’s Airborne Speedway on Saturday night. At 20 years, six months, and 25 days of age, Nolin passed perennial Tour King Jean-Paul Cyr for the lead on lap 43, then fended off Cyr and later Airborne ace Brent Dragon over seven tension-filled restarts to claim his stake of one of ACT’s longest running traditions.
Had he not run out of green flag laps, Dragon likely would have given Nolin a run for his money for the win, but had to settle for second. Cyr gave it all he had on the high side (and a couple times down low), but finished a frustrating third. Brian Hoar finished fourth after having a quiet run from 15th on the grid, and Oxford winner Randy Potter turned in a great run in fifth place. Potter hadn’t seen the Airborne half-mile since 1998, and started 21st in the field.
Nolin joins Cyr, Dragon, and Hoar on the list of past champions in the event, along with legendary racers including Dave Dion, Robbie Crouch, Beaver and Bobby Dragon, and Jean-Paul Cabana, who served as this year’s Grand Marshall of the Furniture World of Vermont Spring Green 100.
Congratulations, and thanks to all of our “racing mothers” and “official moms” at the Casella Waste Management Mother’s Day Extravaganza at Thunder Road on Sunday.
Erin Delphia, wife of fifth-place Casella 100 finisher Brian, made Race Director Tom Curley sweat a little in the control tower. Delphia was great at her post, and Curley reportedly wonders if he’ll still have a job come Memorial Day. Kim Whitcomb, wife of Power Shift Junkyard Warrior driver David, worked her tail off in the pit area as Director of Competition. Whitcomb was responsible for race lineups, tech inspection, and all the fun things that DOC Dean Gallison takes care of on a regular basis.
Wendy Moody and Kim Hamlin were good additions to the flag stand, Donna Burnham held things down at the back gate, and Karen Bushey and Sue Tillotson showed Bob Bigelow a thing or two behind the wheel of the Pace Car.
More than 20 women were entered into a random draw to compete in a special event at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement.” Eight lucky ladies strapped into some Warrior machines, and turned a whale of a performance.
Former dirt bike racer Linda Godfrey of Essex Jct., VT proved that she can do it just as well on four wheels as she can on two by winning the “Mama’s Race” from dead last at the start. Lynn St. Louis (my big sister) came home in second place after running three-wide with Cindy Hill and Beverly McAllister. Kim Hart of Barre ended up in third place after making some sensational passes in traffic. Cindy Sartell, Leigh Clark (mother of Late Model driver Brooks Clark), and a frazzled-but-okay Holly Blair also took part in the race.
By the way, there’s a little bit of a jealousy issue here, too, as the trophy my sister Lynn was given in victory lane trumps most of what my father and I earned in our driving careers. Oh well, good for her, she and all of the other moms have worked hard and deserve some appreciation every now and then.
So from all of us at ACT and Thunder Road, thank you to all the moms that came to the races on their special day, and thanks for all that you do every other day of the year!
Did you know…?
-Ryan Nolin became the third-youngest first-time ACT Late Model Tour winner on Saturday night at 20 years, six months, and 25 days old. So who were the two guys that beat him? Brian Hoar earned his first win in 1992 at 20 years, two months, and 26 days. Ironically enough, the victory was at Airborne Speedway. The youngest-ever winner, though, was Scarborough, ME’s Ryan Moore, who won in his first career ACT start at his home track at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2001. Moore was 17 years, eight months, and 21 days old at the time, and scored two wins the next season at age 18.
-Nolin’s Spring Green victory adds to a long tradition in the event: In one way or another, 14 drivers have scored their first career wins in the race since its inception in 1974. Beaver Dragon won the race in 1979, when it was held at Catamount Stadium in Milton, VT. Granted, Dragon had won many races before, including the Spring Green, but it was the first-ever event for what became the ACT Pro Stock Tour. Therefore, Dragon scored his first career Tour win. The same scenario took place in 1980 with Mike Barry and in 1981 with Jean-Paul Cabana. Claude Leclerc, Tom Glaser, and Joey Kourafas followed suit in 1983-85, and rookie Paul Richardson won in 1987. When the present-day ACT Late Model Tour took over the event in 1996 at Airborne, Pete Fecteau earned his first ACT win. Steve Renaudette and Chris Fisher were right behind in 1997-98, followed by Todd Stone and Jacob McGrath in 2001-02. Robin Wood scored his first ACT Tiger Sportsman Series win in the Spring Green in 2005, and now Nolin is a winner on the ACT Late Model Tour in 2007.
-Piloting a front-wheel drive Dodge Daytona, rookie Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg won the Allen Lumber Street Stock feature at Thunder Road on Sunday. Dating back to last September, that makes four-straight wins for the “pullers”, and five out of six since August. Also scoring wins in the FWD brigade were Bruce Melendy, Mike Martin, and Track Champion Eric Badore, who earned two wins during that time.
The Série ACT Castrol begins its first season on Saturday with a 100-lap contest at Québec’s Autodrome Montmagny. Québec racers Donald Theetge, Karl Allard, Alexandre Gingras, Claude Leclerc, and Kevin Roberge raced at Airborne Speedway last weekend, and ready to race in their homeland with ACT. We encourage you to make the trip north of the border and enjoy some Canadian stock car racing! If you need information about the Montmagny 100, call (802) 244-6963, or visit www.acttour.com. There is a link to the Série ACT Castrol website on our homepage.