ACTion News 3/12/08

ACTion News – Wednesday, March 12, 2008
-by Justin St. Louis

Toyota has begun to stretch its wings into North American short track stock car racing at the grassroots level, and its journey begins this year with the Barre, VT’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl and the American-Canadian Tour.  Through its Courtesy Toyota dealership in Berlin, VT, Toyota has become the Official Vehicle of ACT, and will provide a 2008 Toyota Camry Pace Car as well as brand-new Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra Safety Trucks at all 36 ACT-sanctioned events, including the ACT Late Model Tour, the Canadian Série ACT Castrol, and the weekly schedule at Thunder Road.  Toyota will also have season-long signage with Pepsi on the Thunder Road scoreboard on Forsythe Hill.

“Toyota is excited about teaming with ACT and one of the crown jewels of the industry in Thunder Road,” said Courtesy Toyota’s John Henning.  “Toyota has made great efforts in targeting American race fans as its prime customers, and realizes that racing at the local and regional levels is just as important as NASCAR’s top three series.”

Look for the new ACT Toyota Official Vehicles at Lee USA (NH) Speedway on Sun., April 20, at Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway on Sat., April 26, at Thunder Road’s Merchants Bank 150 opener on Sun., May 4, and at the Série ACT Castrol season opener at Autodrome St-Eustache on Sun., May 18.


We took in the 4th annual “Driving Force” go-kart event at Montréal’s Circuit 500 indoor karting facility on Sunday, and had a great time.  Five-time ACT Champion Brian Hoar has organized the event each year to benefit the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA) and the “Meals on Wheels” program in Vermont.  All told, 11 teams of racers raised more than $15,000 – good enough for around 5,000 meals – and had a great time.

Since there are no indoor karting facilities immediately around the CVAA’s target area, Hoar has brought the event to tracks in Montréal.  This was the first year at Circuit 500, a shorter, tighter, much more physically demanding track than the old venue, Grand Prix Karting.  After his three-man Goss Dodge team finished third overall in the three-hour endurance race, an exhausted Hoar thanked everyone for their participation and donations to CVAA, and let everyone know he was headed to take a nap in his truck on the ride home.

The winning team, still undefeated in four years of competition, was Jay Webb’s “Team Bullseye.”  The Bullseye boys, led by former NAPA Tiger Sportsman racer Webb, won by four laps and consistently laid down the fastest lap times.  Webb’s teammates were veteran ACT mechanic and spotter Keith Williams and former VT Shifter Kart Champion Jeremy Smail.  The second-place finisher was the Four Seasons Real Estate team, which included ACT Championship car owner Rick Paya and Thunder Road Late Model Rookie of the Year Chip Grenier.

This writer was part of the four-man Ehler’s RV team, substituting for reigning ACT champion driver Jean-Paul Cyr.  Having Cyr hand-pick me as his replacement made about as much sense to me as it does to you – none – but we got the job done, finishing fourth overall.  There’s little doubt that 16 year-old Eric Beauregard, son of Ehler’s RV owner Peter Beauregard, carried the team to its Top 5 finish.

…And for the record, I only crashed three times.

Other drivers in competition included third-place Thunder Road Late Model point man Joey Becker, 2007 Sportsman championship runner-up Craig Bushey, young gun Joey Roberts, two-time Airborne Speedway Champion Jason Bonnett, and former Sportsman drivers Taber Gagne and David Warren.

A fun time was had by all, and congratulations and thanks go out to the CVAA, Brian Hoar, and CVAA official Sarah Lemnah on another successful event!


Congratulations to Late Model competitors Doug Murphy and Nick Sweet on their new additions!  Sweet and fiancée Kristin welcomed Isaac Michael Sweet on Friday, March 7.  Their boy weighed in at 8 pounds, 4 ounces and already has more hair than his father.  Donovan Daniel Murphy was born to Doug Murphy and fiancée Mary Lou on Saturday, March 8.  Donovan weighed in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces.  Both Moms and Babies are reportedly doing very well!


Seems as though you can’t go very far these days without hearing Patrick Laperle’s name come up.  For the next couple of weeks, is handing out its annual “51 Awards” – a series of categories determined by fan vote, with many “best of” and “worst of” selections from the 2007 season.  Each day, four new winners are announced, as are the top-five vote-getters in each category.  Laperle and Thunder Road, who were “Speedy Award” winners at the recent SpeedwayEXPO, cleaned up pretty well in the Tuesday, March 11 “51s,” earning at least a nomination in all four of the presented categories.

Thunder Road was voted by fans across the continent as one of the top five tracks in the U.S., in company with Thompson (CT) Int’l Speedway, Nashville’s Music City Motorplex, and Florida’s Five Flags Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway.

Laperle’s Cinderella season was #3 in the “Best Comeback” category, again highlighting his journey from a Canadian hospital bed to the Série ACT Castrol championship in just five months.  USAR Hooters Pro Cup Champion and old-timer Bobby Gill was the winner of the category.

Laperle also finished fifth in the “Quote of the Year” category with this gem, discussing his “second date” with Chittenden Milk Bowl beauty queen Dickens, an Ayrshire dairy cow:  “It was the same cow [as when Laperle won the race in 2005].  There have only three guys who have kissed her – me, Eric Williams and Dwayne Lanphear.  I missed her so much, but she didn’t recognize me.”

But his, um, crowning achievement was winning the 51 Award for “Wreck of the Year.”  During a January ‘07 trip to USA Int’l Speedway in Lakeland, FL, Laperle got into a bit of an on-track shoving match with Eddie Van Meter.  After just about enough of it, Laperle vowed to his crew via radio that Van Meter would not push him around again without paying for it.  Unfortunately for both drivers, he kept his word.  Van Meter chopped, Laperle didn’t lift, and both slammed nearly head-on into the Turn 1 concrete wall at full speed.  Video replays of the crash were seen along the eastern seaboard for months.

Not to be outdone, ACT Late Model driver Rusty Berger’s wild mid-air ride at Thunder Road’s Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 placed third on the “Wreck of the Year” ballot, and a photo of the crash was recently published in full color on the front page of the Barre-Montpelier (VT) Times Argus.

So, congratulations (?) to Patrick Laperle and Rusty Berger on the big win and the nominations, and on behalf of the Thunder Road staff, thanks again to our loyal fans for the votes!


ACT sends its condolences to the family of Dan Benoit.  The driver universally known as “Mr. Wonderful” put up a long and courageous battle with cancer before turning his last lap on Friday, March 7.  The Benoit family and its extended members have a solid place in Vermont racing history, three generations old and still going strong.  Dan raced anything at any time, and was a frequent visitor to Victory Lane.  His infectious personality and wild driving style made him a favorite for many years.

Joey Becker may have put it best: “He’ll be a hard person to replace.”

Our sympathies go out to the whole Benoit racing family.


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