Contributed by: ACT Staff
ACTion News – Wednesday, October 3, 2007
-by Justin St. Louis
It seems as though Patrick Laperle’s name has taken up a lot of space in this column of late. Truth is, the Frenchman has been on rails since overcoming a severe illness this spring, and just keeps making headlines. In 17 combined starts between the Série ACT Castrol and the ACT Late Model Tour this year, Laperle has taken four victories, four runner-up finishes, three additional top-fives, and has just a single result outside the top-ten: Just days removed from his hospital stay, Laperle took one lap at Autodrome Montmagny in the Série ACT Castrol opener, finishing 23rd.
On Sunday, he earned his second Chittenden Milk Bowl win in three years at Thunder Road in Barre, VT, kissing Harvest Hills Dickens, the beauty queen cow, and taking home a tick under $11,000 in the process. It was his third win in four ACTion Super Series races in 2007, giving him more than $23,000 earned in just those events alone.
When asked how this season’s record compares to past years, Laperle never batted an eye. “This is our best year ever,” he said. “Four wins, the championship… It’s going to be pretty hard to top that.”
And, flashing that big trademark grin that has been seen in victory lane photographs all season, Laperle added one more thing: “We’ve made a lot of money.”
Congratulations to Thunder Road’s weekly champions – Nick Sweet of Barre, VT (NAPA Tiger Sportsman), Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg, VT (Allen Lumber Street Stock), and Bunker Hodgdon of Hardwick, VT (Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior). Sweet and Therrien went out in style, with each youngster taking a win in their division’s final event of the season at the Chittenden Milk Bowl. Hodgdon didn’t just ride around, though; he drove from deep in the field to finish fourth, and traded a bit of sheet metal on the way. It was a great ending to a great season for all three young racers.
Each earned his first Thunder Road title, and Therrien did the double with the Rookie of the Year honors in the Street Stocks – something never accomplished by any driver before. Therrien kept setting records, too: Six feature victories smashes the all-time rookie record in any division at Thunder Road, and it also ties the most wins by a single driver in any division since Thunder Road’s modern era began in 1982. At 20 years old, he also becomes one of the youngest champions in history.
Sweet earned three victories and kept the field in his rear view mirror the entire season – from his Merchants Bank victory on opening day in May to his Chittenden Milk Bowl win on the last day in September. Even after failing to qualify for the Sanel/Parts Plus feature on June 28, Sweet never gave up the point lead. (For what it’s worth, don’t feel too badly for Sweet about the DNQ – Joe Steffen was the only driver out of more than 30 full-time competitors to qualify for all 17 features in 2007.) Sweet, who turned 23 just after Labor Day, is the second-youngest Sportsman champion ever, older than only Chet DeVarney, Jr., who was 21 when he won the title in 1993.
Hodgdon grabbed a season-high 11 top-five finishes in 19 Warrior starts, and ripped off a pair of victories, including the annual special Warrior event at the M&M Beverage Enduro 200 in July. Hodgdon got on his roof at one point in the season, and saw his progress again derailed when WCAX Channel 3 Sports reporter Mike McGill destroyed the radiator during the Media Madness race in August. Despite the setbacks, though, Hodgdon breezed to the title, bringing the Warrior championship to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom for the third year in a row (Maynard Bartlett, Jr. of Hardwick and Craftsbury Common’s Mike Martin were the previous champions).
A tip of the hat to some of the non-regular ACT/Thunder Road drivers for their performances at the Chittenden Milk Bowl:
Ben Rowe seems to have Thunder Road figured out for sure now, and he drove a masterful race to finish second in the Milk Bowl.
Pete Potvin, Quinny Welch, and Matt White each performed much better than most people expected. Were it not for some bad luck in two of the segments, Potvin may have been a top-ten finisher.
Former Bear Ridge Speedway and Canaan Fair dirt track champion Dan Eastman made his asphalt debut in the Sportsman class, and held his own against the regular Thunder Roadsters.
Robert Hagar made his first Thunder Road start of the season, and finished a stout 16th in the Sportsman feature.
Randy Martin, a regular in Airborne Speedway’s Bomber division, made his first Junkyard Warrior start at Thunder Road. After some infield detours, Martin finished 16th.
Did you know…?
-…that this weekend’s New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway is the final ACT Late Model Tour event of the season? Head on over to Route 26 in Oxford, ME to watch the northeast’s best racers slug it out one more time!
-Patrick Laperle’s 13-point Chittenden Milk Bowl victory (finishes of 2nd, 7th, and 4th) ties the lowest winning point value in nearly ten years. The all-time high mark was 23 points, when Dave Pembroke won in 2002. And the driver with the other 13-point victory? Patrick Laperle, of course, in 2005.
-The last time a driver lead a division’s point standings after every single event on the Thunder Road schedule was when Eric Williams dominated the NAPA Sportsman class in 1994. Nick Sweet has become the first drive in 13 years match Williams’ feat.
The final sendoff for the ACT Late Model Tour in 2007 is at Oxford this weekend! Jean-Paul Cyr is looking to lock up his fifth-straight and seventh overall ACT championship over Scott Payea. Racing action starts at 2:00pm. Check out www.acttour.com or www.oxfordplains.com to find out more!