Contributed by: ACT Staff
ACTion News – Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007
-by Justin St. Louis
Congratulations all around to the American-Canadian Tour’s JPN Racing/Patriote Auto #91 bunch, as their driver, Patrick Laperle, earned his first career championship on Sunday in the Série ACT Castrol. Having just completed its third season (the first under the ACT banner), the Série ACT Castrol already boasts a stout list of former champions, including outgoing king Donald Theetge and inaugural champion Sylvain Lacombe.
Lacombe held Laperle off to win the finale, the 13th Annual St-Eustache 300, at Autodrome St-Eustache just outside Montréal on Sunday evening and draw to within 16 points for the championship, but Laperle’s amazing streak of consistency (although only slightly better than Lacombe’s) prevailed.
Only once each during the 12-race schedule did either Laperle or Lacombe finish outside the Top 10: In the season opener at Autodrome Montmagny, after a severe illness had kept him confined to a hospital bed for two weeks, Laperle drove the pace lap to receive driver points and credit for starting the event. Cousin Jacques Laperle climbed in as a relief driver, but finished 23rd with no laps complete, the victim of a first-lap crash that mangled the car. Lacombe finished a dismal 28th at Capital City Speedway in Ottawa two races later.
Otherwise, both drivers were sterling throughout 2007. In fact, both drivers finished in the Top 5 in each of the final seven races of the year, and Laperle (a la Jean-Paul Cyr on the U.S. side of the border) finished either first or second in the final five races. Laperle’s impressive average finish for the season was 5.167, while Lacombe turned in an equally respectable 5.750.
Laperle had previously finished second to Phil Scott on the ACT Late Model Tour in 2002, and third behind Cyr and Brent Dragon in 2004. Laperle was the 1998 Rookie of the Year at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY, and finished fourth overall in that track’s championship campaign.
Speaking of freshman drivers, congratulations are in order for Éric St-Gelais, the 2007 Série ACT Castrol Rookie of the Year. St-Gelais outlasted an ever-improving group of rookies, holding off youngsters Jonathan Desbiens and Kevin Roberge, along with Stéphane Durand and part-timer Spencer MacPherson for the title. St-Gelais’ top performance was a fifth-place finish at Autodrome Montmagny in June.
We didn’t forget to mention that Patrick Laperle is a past Chittenden Milk Bowl Champion, did we? And that the Milk Bowl is this weekend? Well, it’s all true. Laperle says he’ll be making the trip from suburban Montréal to Thunder Road in Barre, VT for the three-segment, cumulatively-scored race this Saturday and Sunday.
Voted the “Outstanding Annual Short Track Event” by America’s race promoters and Chris Economaki’s National Speed Sport News (regarded by many as the Bible of auto racing), the Chittenden Milk Bowl is an autumn tradition in not just Vermont, but all of New England and eastern Canada. The winner is the driver who scores the lowest point total after three 50-lap segments (one point to win a segment, two points for 2nd, etc.). The finish of each segment is inverted to start the next, and the Chittenden Milk Bowl Champion earns the right to kiss the only beauty queen Thunder Road has – a 1,600-lb Ayrshire dairy cow.
It’s a wonderful, exciting race from start to finish (if we may brag a little), and the backdrop of Vermont’s early autumn foliage against the Green Mountains is nothing short of spectacular.
Booth Bros. Dairy and H.P. Hood present Qualifying Day on Saturday at 1:00pm, with ACT Late Model Tour time trials and “Triple 50” qualifiers, as well as qualifiers for Thunder Road’s weekly NAPA Tiger Sportsman, Allen Lumber Street Stock, and Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior divisions, as well as the final championship race for the Warriors.
Sunday gets underway at 1:00pm with the last-chance “B” Feature qualifier for ACT cars, followed by the traditional pre-race ceremonies honoring past Chittenden Milk Bowl Champions and Segment I of the main event. Sportsman and Street Stock main events will also be run on Sunday, with each of those divisions crowing their 2007 Thunder Road Champions.
Nick Sweet of Barre, VT holds an 81-point edge over Cambridge’s Craig Bushey in the Sportsman class, and is almost certainly a lock for the title, barring any major miscues. Bunker Hodgdon of Hardwick, VT needs only to have a “not bad” day to beat Wolcott driver Jamie Davis for the Warrior crown. The race of the year, however, is between Hinesburg, VT rookie Bobby Therrien and veteran hometown racer Lloyd Blakely. Just a dozen points separate the two for the Street Stock championship, with David Allen, Mike Martin, and rookie Mike Ziter not all that far out of range.
Did you know?
-Winning the Chittenden Milk Bowl has contributed to no less than 16 track or series championships – Lee Ingerson of North Haverhill, NH won the 1963 Milk Bowl to help him secure the Thunder Road “King of the Road” crown that year, followed the next season by Harold “Hardluck” Hanaford. Other notable win/title combos include Butch Lindley’s 1977 victory, when the Milk Bowl a NASCAR Sportsman National Championship event. Lindley won in a borrowed ride from Maine’s Dick McCabe, and soon thereafter was named the National Sportsman Champion. Five years later, McCabe won the Milk Bowl and the NASCAR North Tour title. Each of Robbie Crouch’s four Chittenden Milk Bowl wins led to ACT titles, and Brian Hoar grabbed a double in 1999, putting points from a Milk Bowl win toward locking up ACT and Thunder Road championships.
-Dave Dion of Hudson, NH is the all-time leader in Milk Bowl segment victories with 12. Dion’s first segment win came in the first segment of the 1972 Milk Bowl, while his last (to date) came in round #3 of the 1997 race. Believe it or not, Dion’s longevity streak is topped at both ends by Bobby Dragon of Milton, VT. Dragon took his first segment win (of six) came in segment #2 in 1969, while his most recent win came in the same segment in 2001 – 32 years later!
-The Chittenden Milk Bowl Champion has failed to win a segment in five of the last six years. The best performances by segment winners since that span began in 2001 have been produced by Pete Fecteau, 2nd overall in ’01; Cooper MacRitchie, 5th overall in ’02; Jean-Paul Cyr, 3rd overall in ’03; Phil Scott, 4th overall in ’03; Jamie Fisher, 5th overall in ’04; Patrick Laperle, 1st overall in ’05; Brent Dragon, 2nd overall in ’05; Joey Polewarczyk, 3rd overall in ’06; and Scott Payea, 4th overall in ’06.
There will be plenty of action and updates throughout the week at www.acttour.com and www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com, so stay tuned!