ACTion News 12/19/07

ACTion News – Wednesday, December 19, 2007
-by Justin St. Louis

Happy Holidays!  With the first five honorees of the “Top 25 ACT Drivers of 2007” in the books, we continue our countdown this week with a look at drivers 20 through 16.  Here’s a look back at drivers 25-21 from last week:

25. Matt White, NAPA Tiger Sportsman – Two-time Thunder Road winner, made successful Late Model debut at Chittenden Milk Bowl in September

24. John Donahue, American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Model – Won the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200, scored emotional Challenge Series win at Oxford

23. Mike Martin, Allen Lumber Street Stock – Fast, smooth, consistent, took an exciting Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day victory

22. Joel Hodgdon, NAPA Tiger Sportsman – Rookie of the Year, finished third overall in first season of Sportsman competition

21. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., ACT Late Model – Took first ACT Late Model Tour win at Seekonk, top-three finishes at Oxford, White Mountain, and Kawartha

Keeping in mind that fifteen ballots were turned in from three states and Canada, think about the complexity of ranking a weekly Street Stock driver ahead of the winner of one of New England’s biggest events.  There was obviously some careful thought and consideration put into the voting by all of the participants in the survey to place the drivers in the overall order they were ranked.  (Therefore, you can imagine how the rest of the list is going to look.)  Again, many thanks to all that took part in the balloting.  We hope the end result represents your choices well.

Now, the next five…

A familiar sight in 2007 - Kip Stockwell with the checkered flag (Dave Heath photo)

20. Kip Stockwell, #36 Sabil & Sons/Stockwell’s Garage Chevrolet ACT Late Model.  (Top 10 votes: 2)

Kip Stockwell’s 2007 season was, by any standard, the stuff dreams are made of.  In fact, he was often heard saying the same thing.  After taking a decade off to race against Nextel Cup development teams in equipment, well, not exactly on par with that of Joe Gibbs Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., second-generation Thunder Road homeboy Stockwell returned to his alma mater in a brand new Jeff Taylor/Distance Racing Late Model, taking a season-high three feature wins.  As a sidebar, he also had solid ACT Late Model Tour showings at White Mountain Motorsports Park and Seekonk Speedway.

Lee Kittell, host of WDEV Radio’s “Score!” sports talk show:  “Three Late Model wins mark a pretty big year for Kip.”

Andy Boright, ACT and Thunder Road fan: “Kip Stockwell didn’t win the ‘King of the Road’ title, but he did win more Late Model features at Thunder Road than anybody else.  Considering the most competitive weekly racing in the nation occurs every Thursday night during the summer in Barre, VT, that’s saying a whole lot.”

Always playing the role of the “low-buck” racer, Stockwell makes the most of what he has.  Owning more feature victories in his career (eight) than some of Thunder Road’s most distinguished champions doesn’t necessarily make that a bad role to play, either.

Joey Laquerre and his entire crew of one - At an age when most people consider retirement, Laquerre and long-time girlfriend/crew chief Pam Dunkling are winning races (Heath)

19. Joey Laquerre, #15 Domino’s/Laquerre’s Marine & Sports Center Pontiac NAPA Tiger Sportsman/ACT Late Model.  (Top 10 votes: 2)

Dave Moody, Thunder Road announcer, MRN Radio personality: “At 64 years of age and counting, (Joey) is as hungry and competitive as ever. Still running up front, still winning races, and still making kids a third his age shake their heads in wonder at the things he can do behind the wheel.”

Mark Thomas, Racin’ Paper Editor: “(Joey produced a) very entertaining season in the Thunder Road Tiger Sportsman class.”

There really isn’t much more to be said about Joey Laquerre, the only five-decade winner in Thunder Road history.  Scaling back his Late Model efforts to “have more fun” in the Sportsman ranks, Laquerre was the only driver to consistently keep pace with Nick Sweet, the division’s eventual champion.  His two 100-lap victories were hard-fought, paint-swapping affairs – the first over Sweet and points runner-up Craig Bushey, the second over Matt White – and gave Laquerre sole possession of the top spot on the all-time Sportsman winners’ list at 15 scores.  A few key black marks held the veteran to sixth place overall, but his highlights were many, and often edge-of-your-seat-thrilling.  In his select Late Model outings, Laquerre finished a season-best 11th in the Chittenden Milk Bowl, but was in the top five at White Mountain before being spun out with twenty laps remaining.

A lot of drivers saw Joey Becker from this angle in '07, but few observers took notice until it was all over.  Look for that to change in '08 (Stephane Lazare photo)

18. Joe Becker, #16 Richard Green Trucking Ford ACT Late Model.  (Top 10 votes: 4)

Unquestionably one of the most effective silent assassins of 2007, Joe Becker left many people scratching their heads saying “How’d he get there?” when it was announced that he had finished third in Thunder Road Late Model points.  In fact, after his Casella Waste Management victory in May, Becker was so under the radar that most folks had no idea he was even mathematically able to enter the picture.

Alan Ward, photographer and Racin’ Paper columnist: “Joe has seemed to mature, and quietly put together his best season yet.”

Gene Gagne, photographer and operator of “Without any real fanfare, Joe hung out in the top five all year.  He had to start near the rear more often then not, but he and the Richard Green team just did what they did all season – they worked hard, kept plugging, and kept passing cars.  If not for a couple of wrecks that were not of his doing, he might have won the title.”

Although it’s five seasons old now, Becker’s story continues to be an inspiring one – after one of the handful of “owned” ACT rides opened up early in 2003, Becker was hand-picked out of the Sportsman division by team owner Richard Green to steer his cars.  Now, no disrespect to the Green team, but theirs was not in position to challenge for a championship before, during, or even two years after Becker’s arrival.  But, through hard work and absolute dedication, both driver and team have established themselves as bona fide title contenders.  Watch for this team to stay solidly above the radar in 2008.

Donald Theetge carried the Canadian flag to success in the U.S. in 2007 (ACT photo)

17.  Donald Theetge, #80 Auto Frank et Michel/Le Centre Honda Chevrolet ACT Late Model.  (Top 10 votes: 3)

Donald Theetge’s third-place finish in the New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway in October was one of 2007’s ultimate “feel good” stories.  The veteran Québec racer decided to wage a full-time campaign on the ACT Late Model Tour, and was sorely disappointed to not qualify for the season opener at Oxford in April.  A lap-down, 19th-place finish at Thunder Road did little to ease the pain.  An eighth at Airborne and a win at his home track at Circuit Ste-Croix momentarily turned things around for the former Série ACT Castrol Champion, but success was often punctuated by inconsistency.  For instance, a top-ten finish at Seekonk Speedway was met a week later by a season-low 31st-place run at Oxford, after failing to qualify at OPS for the TD Banknorth 250 a month earlier.  Another top-ten at Kawartha Speedway was countered by a 25th in the Milk Bowl.  But Theetge’s podium run to finish the year at OPS was indicative of what most people already knew: this guy is good.  In fact, even weighing his troubles into the whole picture, five top-tens and the Ste-Croix victory were good enough to bring Theetge to eighth place on the ACT Late Model Tour.

Making only limited appearances north of the border in his Canadian home, Theetge took Autodrome Montmagny victories in the Paradis du Sport 100 and La Québécoise 250.

Andy Boright: “That (Theetge) ran up front on his home track in Ste-Croix and other tracks in Québec is not a surprise, that he finished third at the season ending race at OPS was – especially considering he had a couple DNQs already there this season.  It takes a lot of talent to finish in the top three on one series, never mind two.”

Eric Williams (holding trophy) and the "sea of red" shared Victory Lane with Governor Jim Douglas (to the right of Williams) for the second straight year (Heath)

16. Eric Williams, #7VT Unicel Chevrolet ACT Late Model.  (Top 10 votes: 3; First-place votes: 1)

In the 1970s at Thunder Road, you cheered for Dave Dion or Bobby Dragon.  In 2007, you cheer for Eric Williams or everyone – anyone! – else.  Each year, more and more t-shirts are spotted in the grandstands with the words “I cheer for two drivers – (fill in the blank) and whoever beats Eric Williams” ironed on them, and each year, the infamous “sea of red” supporting Williams gets bigger and louder in response.  Williams invokes the ire of more fans and drivers than any other racer has been able to since the early-‘90s version of Dwayne Lanphear.  Not only because of his sometimes-questionable front bumper etiquette, but also because, simply, he’s talented enough to beat any driver he wants to, and does so with a fraction of the budget of most other teams.

Pete Hartt, Sports Editor at the Barre-Montpelier (VT) Times Argus: “Eric is good because he makes the most out of everything.”

Indeed.  After missing a pair of early-season races due to family commitments, Williams burst back onto the scene with a fifth-place finish.  Two weeks later, he stood in Victory Lane with the Honorable James Douglas, hoisting the CARQUEST Vermont Governor’s Cup trophy for the second year in a row.  All told, Williams finished 17th in Thunder Road points, beating five drivers that ran every event, one of them a former track champion.  Should Williams race every week next year (something he hasn’t done since 2005) even the haters won’t deny that he is a legitimate threat for the “King of the Road” crown.


Heartfelt condolences go out to the family of ACT Late Model competitor Robbie Thompson.  Robbie’s father, John, passed away last week after battling cancer.  His loss creates a large void in not just Ontario stock car racing, but also in the Canadian trucking industry and in many local Ontario communities.  Mr. Thompson was very much involved in his son’s successful racing career and new trucking business, and was an avid supporter of local hockey, lacrosse, and baseball teams, and other community events.  Former ACT Pro Stock Tour Champion Russ Urlin captured his 1989 title with sponsorship from Thompson Moving Systems, and a championship minor league AA baseball team bore the name “John Thompson Movers” in the early 1980s.  Mr. Thompson was honored with the Ontario Trucking Association’s Trailmobile Service to Industry Award in 1999, one of the industry’s highest achievements.

"John was one of the greatest guys on earth," said Ontario businessman John Prentice in the Owen Sound (ON) Sun Times.  John Thompson would have turned 69 years old last Friday.


Stay tuned to the ACTion News column next week for “Top 25” positions 15 through 11.  What do you think of the list so far?  Agree?  Disagree?  What has been your favorite comment?  Where do you think your favorite driver should rank?  Send us a note at, and keep checking the websites for updates – and