Contributed by: ACT Staff
ACTion News – Wednesday, April 9, 2008
-by Justin St. Louis
We dug through some archives here at American-Canadian Tour headquarters, and it appears as though one year ago this week, this very ACTion News column space was reserved for a few pre-season predictions. (Like that little disclaimer in all the insurance ads, note that these are merely the cabin-fever-induced musings of a writer that happens to get some print every now and then. Please don’t take these predictions as Gospel, because, frankly, it’s just a shot in the dark.)
Last year’s first prediction: Phil Scott would either win the Thunder Road Track Championship of fail to finish inside the Top 5. Wrong on both accounts – The Sailing Senator ended the season strong in fifth place overall, with an exciting win on VT ACE Hardware Dealers Night in August.
The second prediction: Dwayne Lanphear would win “a feature or two” and finish inside the Top 10 overall at Thunder Road. Lanphear won a feature, but finished the season in a three-way tie for 13th overall with Kip Stockwell and Shawn Fleury.
Third prediction: Robbie Crouch would return to health in time for Oxford Plains Speedway’s TD Banknorth 250. Correct! And we’re glad for it.
Fourth prediction: Joel Hodgdon would be the NAPA Tiger Sportsman Rookie of the Year at Thunder Road. Correct! Wow, we’re on a roll, here…
Final prediction: Jean-Paul Cyr would not win his fifth consecutive ACT Late Model Tour championship. Well, our streak was over, but at least Cyr’s continued with yet another dominating performance to take the Tour title.
All that said, let’s take another stab at some predictions. Round one: Donald Theetge will win an ACT Late Model Tour event outside his native Canada. Theetge was impressive at the season finale at Oxford, taking a third-place finish, and was strong at Airborne Speedway, White Mountain Motorsports Park, and Seekonk Speedway. Up north, he won at Ste-Croix on the Tour and was very good at Kawartha Speedway, and scored twice at Autodrome Montmagny with the Série ACT Castrol. Expect big things from the Frenchman this year, starting with the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 20.
Number two: It seems nearly impossible to have a NAPA Tiger Sportsman rookie crop as strong as the Class of 2007, but this year’s group may be as good or even better. Allen Lumber Street Stock grads Josh Demers, Mike Ziter, and Bobby Therrien, White Mountain front-runner Cody Blake, and dirt champion Dan Eastman should be great additions to the division. The only unknown is greenhorn Chris Lacey, but he has a proven car underneath him with the former Jeff French ride. Our forecast: Cody Blake for Rookie of the Year, but barely. Blake is the only driver with V8 experience, having run a full season of Strictly Stocks at White Mountain. Demers, Eastman, and Lacey each got a taste of it at the Chittenden Milk Bowl last year, and Ziter and Therrien proved to be quick studies in the Street Stocks last year, but it looks for now like 16 year-old Blake has the advantage. Keep an eye on that battle throughout the year.
Prediction three: Bunker Hodgdon has the tools to repeat a Bobby Therrien-like rookie season. Hot off his Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior championship, Hodgdon will run for Rookie of the Year honors in the Street Stock division, and will pilot Therrien’s title-winning car from a year ago. Not only that, car owner Arny Hill hasn’t lost a title in a couple years, winning with Eric Badore in 2006. Momentum, skill, good equipment… could be interesting. We won’t put the pressure on ol’ Bunker and actually say “He’s gonna win it all,” but we also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in contention.
Predicition four: Spencer MacPherson will win at least once in ACT competition as a Série ACT Castrol rookie. MacPherson made his first four Castrol starts last year and was impressive in all of them, landing on the podium at Montmagny. We’ll even go so far as to guess a top-five points finish for the teenager.
Prediction five: If you think we’re going to flat-out bet against Jean-Paul Cyr for the ACT Late Model Tour title here, you’re crazy. It didn’t exactly work out well last year, if you’ll recall. What we will do is say this: he will have a tough row to hoe to get that sixth-straight and eighth-overall championship. Scott Payea proved last year that he drank whatever’s in the Milton, VT water – like his cross-town rival in Cyr, or the legendary Dragon family, or the dozens of other successful racers from the community – and he can get the job done. Patrick Laperle has filed a full-season entry, and that alone will raise everyone’s game. Randy Potter and Joey Polewarczyk are prime candidates to bring the Tour’s championship trophy to New Hampshire for the first time. We already spoke about Donald Theetge. This is a prediction piece, though, so we’ll predict Cyr as the champion again – but only after the “Pick 10” feature comes into play. As only the best ten finishes out 12 events count toward the championship, Cyr may have a bad race that he’ll be fortunate to get rid of as the points are tallied. It’s going to be a very exciting season as points go, and a lot of people are holding their breath over the Pick 10 option.
Again, it all starts at Lee USA Speedway, just a week-and-a-half from now.
The pre-season practice schedule is beginning to change a bit, as dictated by Mother Nature. Due to the large amount of snow remaining on Quarry Hill in Barre, VT and the long-range weather forecast, officials have pulled the plug on the Late Model-only practice at Thunder Road on Tuesday, April 15. Management will make every effort to hold a Late Model-only practice during that week, but is confident that the Wed., April 23 practice for all four ACT Late Model, NAPA Tiger Sportsman, Allen Lumber Street Stock, and Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior divisions will go on as planned on from 4pm-7pm.
Lee USA Speedway’s first “Test And Tune” session, slated for Saturday, April 12 from 8am-5pm, is still on as planned. Both Lee USA and Oxford Plains Speedway are reporting that all systems are go, and that snow shouldn’t be a problem. Cross your fingers!
A few teams have already hit the track this year, as a small group of ACT Late Model Tour teams took in a test session at Waterford Speedbowl in balmy Connecticut last weekend to shake their cars down. Taking part in the session were Jean-Paul Cyr, John Donahue, and rookie Nick Sweet.
In hopefully the final piece of sad news this year, Thunder Road and ACT have lost two very prominent car owners in George Barber and Allen Avery. Barber, of Bradford, VT, was the owner of Thunder Road’s legendary #46 and #47 Bradford Auto Supply coupes in the 1960s. His drivers were just as legendary, including Track Champions Roy “Pappy” Forsythe and Lee Ingerson. Barber founded the Bear Ridge Speedway dirt track in 1968, and continued to field race cars into the 1990s. He passed away on Wednesday, April 2 at the age of 96.
Avery, of Fairlee, VT was a presence on the former ACT Pro Stock and NASCAR North Tours, owning the familiar red #41 Oldsmobiles and Buicks driven by Jamie Aube. Together, Avery and Aube won two TD Banknorth 250s, seven ACT races, and three NASCAR championships. Avery also owned and operated the Lake Morey Inn resort in Fairlee, was a Vermont State Senator (Orange County), and was deeply involved in the formation of the Rivendell School District, the country’s first interstate school district. He passed away while on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands at the age of 64.
Our sincere condolences got out to the families of both men, as well as our thanks to them for their many contributions to the sport of short track racing.
Did you know…?
-Driving George Barber’s #46 Ford coupe, Roy Forsythe won a record ten feature events at Thunder Road in 1961. Included in those ten wins was a streak of five consecutive victories and four “Triple Crown” sweeps where Forsythe won his heat, the semi-feature, and the main event. All three marks still stand today as single-season records. Forsythe, who passed away in 1989, has been immortalized at Thunder Road, as the Turn 3 seating area bears his name. his and Barber’s famous #46 has also been fully restored and is a frequent sight at Thunder Road.
-Allen Avery and Jamie Aube had a habit of winning the big ones: their first triumph came at the former Catamount Stadium in the 1983 VT Governor’s Cup. They also captured the New England 300 in 1986, the 1987 and ’89 TD Banknorth Oxford 250s, finished second in 1987 ACT points with three wins, and won Busch North Series titles in 1988, ’89, and ’90. Avery also won Busch North races with Robbie Crouch behind the wheel in the early 1990s.
We’re gearing up for the racing season, so think warm thoughts with us! Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep an eye on the websites at www.acttour.com and www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com!