ACTion News 10/17/07

ACTion News – Wednesday, October 17, 2007
-by Justin St. Louis

Is it racing season yet?  Okay, just kidding.  After 39 events (combining all Thunder Road and American-Canadian Tour race dates), a little break is nice to have, but a part of us still wishes there was a race going on somewhere.  Actually, come to think of it, the annual Oktoberfest is at Lee USA Speedway this weekend, with Late Models on the 10-division “open comp” card.  Brent Dragon and Ryan Vanasse were said to be “thinking about it” so it looks like we’ll have to check the results next Monday.

Keep in mind that Thunder Road Champion Dave Pembroke, ACT Late Model Tour campaigner Jamie Aube, and ACT Tour/Série ACT Castrol part-timers Mike Lavoie and Ryan Nolin have run successfully at Lee USA this season.  Against the likes of Ricky Wolf, Jeff Labrecque, Keith Larmie, Bryan Kruczek, Jeremy Harclerode, rookie hotshot Miles Chipman, and back-to-back Track Champion J.R. Baril, things could get very interesting this weekend.  It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Oxford Plains Speedway’s T.J. Watson, who ran well in a handful of events at Lee late in the year, make the trip.

Speaking of Vanasse, he was headed toward the win in the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial at Seekonk Speedway last weekend before a spin out of the lead sent him to the rear.  He finished 12th when all was said and done.


The rumor mill has lots and lots of interest in ACT race cars and spec motors coming out of Canada these days, especially in Ontario.  Dragon and Pembroke report that Ottawa-area drivers have placed calls Vermont, and one racer even trekked to the shop to kick some tires.  Pembroke’s runner-up finish in the Série ACT Castrol event at Capital City Speedway seems to have lit the fires for a few teams.  A couple of drivers from the Kawartha Speedway fraternity have been name-dropped, as well.  We’ll keep following the stories as they unfold.


Balloting has been mailed out to competitors for the Série ACT Castrol “Sportsmanship” and “Most Improved Driver” awards.  The Banquet of Champions will be held at the Best Western Hotel Universal in Drummondville, QC on Saturday, November 17 (ticket order deadline is Monday, October 29 – P.O. Box 296, Waterbury, VT 05676, or call 802-244-6963).  Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, QC will be feted as the Série ACT Castrol Champion, while Éric St-Gelais of St-Nicolas, QC will receive Rookie of the Year laurels.

St-Gelais will likely receive some nominations in the Most Improved category, as he steadily made gains as the year progressed.  The former Super Sportsman Champion at Autodrome Montmagny made a brief debut behind the wheel last season, turning out a full campaign this year.  His best result was a fifth-place run at – no surprise, really – Autodrome Montmagny in June.

Along with the soon-to-be-crowned freshman champion, expected nominees (it’s a write-in ballot) include fellow rookies Jonathan Desbiens, Kevin Roberge, and Stéphane Durand.  Desbiens and Roberge, both in their teen years, drove Late Models for the first time.  Durand, who finished high school before either of the young’uns was born, was also a true greenhorn.


Did you know…?

-The last time at least one rookie driver in each of the top three divisions at Thunder Road finished among the Top 10 in overall standings was 1995… until this season.  Chip Grenier finished sixth overall in ACT Late Model standings on his way to the Thunder Road Rookie of the Year title this season, while Joel Hodgdon captured the rookie honors in the NAPA Tiger Sportsman on his way to third place overall.  Bobby Therrien won both the Rookie of the Year and the division Championship trophies in the Allen Lumber Street Stock division.  Joining him in the Top 10 were Mike Ziter (6th) and Maynard Bartlett, Jr. (10th).  For the record, the 1995 drivers were Late Models Eric Williams (6th) and Mike Bruno (8th), Sportsman Rick Garand (2nd), and Street Stocks Marcel Gravel (6th) and Jamie Fisher (8th).

- The last time at least one rookie driver in each of the top three divisions at Thunder Road earned a feature win was 2002… until this season.  Grenier, Hodgdon, Therrien, and Ziter each scored in the “W” column in 2007, and were joined by Sportsman racers Kyle Tatro and Shawn Sicard.  In 2002, the rookie winners were Mike Perdue (Late Model), Fred Dezan (Sportsman), and Ryan Nolin and Billy Combi (Street).  The triple also happened in 1995, 1998, and 1999.

-Tommy “Thunder” Smith of Williamstown, VT finally proved Dave Moody’s “stroker” theory wrong – Smith is the all-time wins leader among active Street Stockers at Thunder Road with 15 victories, but had never finished inside the top ten in points, prompting Moody to question (publicly, but lovingly) whether Smith was playing the handicap to start up front and “help” with the wins.  All the while, Smith preached engine failures, transmission linkages, flywheel bolts, what have you, saying Moody didn’t know what he was talking about.  For at least 2007, ol’ Tommy Thunder was right – he finished ninth in points AND took two feature wins!  Congratulations to Thunder, and may he and Moody enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner together.

Near a computer?  Check out all the highlights of the 2007 racing season at and  If you like French, is the place for you!  Also, be sure to check the websites regularly for news and announcements throughout the off-season.


Modifieds Return to Thunder Road for 2008 Memorial Day Doubleheader

Ground-pounding, open-wheel Modifieds will return to Vermont in 2008, as the True Value Modified Racing Series makes its debut at Barre’s Thunder Road during the 46th Annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, Sunday, May 25.  TVMRS founder and competitor Jack Bateman of Canaan, NH tested his car at the high-banked ¼-mile oval recently, and made the agreement with Thunder Road Promoter Tom Curley to bring the touring series to “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” next season for a 100-lap event as part of a doubleheader with the ACT Thunder Road Late Models.

“I think it’s going to be a great race,” said Bateman.  “I’ve raced Thunder Road a lot in my career, but always in full-fendered cars like a Late Model or a Pro Stock.  I wanted to test my Modified at the track before we made the decision to have a race there, and it went extremely well, better than I expected.”

Bateman reports that on used tires, his lap times were in the 12.6-second range – three-tenths of a second quicker than the Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Pole Award time set by Joey Polewarczyk at the Chittenden Milk Bowl last month.  “It wouldn’t surprise me to see lap times in the 12.1s and 12.2s for cars on new tires,” said Bateman.  “If the guys are really hooked up, the laps could be even faster.”

“I’ve heard Thunder Road is a fast, tight race track, a real bullring like Star (NH) Speedway or Seekonk (MA),” said driver Andy Seuss, 20, of Hampstead, NH.  “No matter where you go, Thunder Road is the place for Late Model racing, and people everywhere talk about it.  It’s exciting that we’ll get a chance to race our Modifieds there next year.”  Seuss was the 2004 TVMRS Rookie of the Year and the 2006 Florida Speedweeks Champion at New Smyrna Speedway.

Top True Value Modified Racing Series drivers include Seuss, three-time series Champion Kirk Alexander of West Swanzey, NH, 2006 Champion Dwight Jarvis of Ascutney, VT, Windsor, CT’s Les Hinckley, and Massachusetts drivers Louie Mechalides and Vinnie “Who?” Annarummo.  Top-ten Série ACT Castrol driver Marc-André Cliche of Vallée-Jct., QC is a part-time racer with the open-wheeled series, and ACT Chittenden Milk Bowl runner-up Ben Rowe of Turner, ME has also made selected TVMRS appearances.

The last official Modified race at Thunder Road was in June 1965, won by former National Champion Dick Nephew of Mooers Forks, NY.  Canadian legend Jean-Paul Cabana won the Memorial Day Classic in 1965 at the wheel of a Modified car, as well.  A special “match race” was held at Thunder Road ten years later between the full-bodied Late Model Sportsman car of Dave Dion and the open-wheeled Modified of Donnie “The Golden Jet” Miller – Miller won in a landslide.

The ACT Thunder Road Late Models will hold their traditional Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic 100 on Sunday, May 25, 2008.  Montpelier, VT’s Dave Pembroke won the event in 2007, and ended the year as the “King of the Road” Track Champion.  Thunder Road’s weekly NAPA Tiger Sportsman, Allen Lumber Street Stock, and Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior divisions will also be in action during the weekend.

Practice for the True Value Modified Racing Series and qualifying for Thunder Road’s weekly divisions will take place on Saturday, May 24.  Qualifying action for the Modifieds will take place on Sunday, May 25, followed by the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic Doubleheader 100s and feature events for the Sportsmen, Street Stocks, and Warriors.

For information on the True Value Modified Racing Series, visit