What a great race event the Goodyear Speedweek Cup at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida was last week. The reaction from the wonderful northern fans who went to Florida to support the show and the remarkable effort the very ‘mixed’ group of ACT competitors put on for two nights was nothing short of exceptional.
What was most interesting was there were two very different races on each night, but both were equally entertaining. Sunday we had a classic battle for the win between breakaway stars Joey Pole and Patrick Laperle (both of whom had run New Smyrna before and it showed). That race could have gone either way. Equally competitive was a group of 6 or 7 teams racing together in the top 10, side-by-side for what seemed like the full 100 laps. It was a great first effort. Monday was one of the best races we have seen in years. The inversion and a race under their belts brought a whole bunch of people out to race. There was not much question that Joey and Patrick were going to have their hands full, and they did. Great performances by ACT Champ Brian Hoar, Mark Lamberton, Jonathan Urlin, Wayne Helliwell, Jr., and Patrick Hamel.
Some additional information:
- Both days were Sunny with temps in the mid 60’s-low 70’s
- Race nights were chilly with temps in the high 40’s to mid 50’s
- The big half mile was very fast and the banking was only one degree less than Thunder Road’s 18 degrees!!
- We missed the call on the possible gear to use and most teams spent a considerable time the first practice session getting that problem worked out—
- We practiced for 4 hours over the two days with only two minor spins…no wrecks…no blown motors….an excellent effort—
- The first race had only 3 cautions, two minor and one bad wreck—
- The Sunday 100-lap race took around 50 minutes to complete—
- There were 7 cautions in the second race…all were minor and none was lengthy—
- The Monday 100-lap race took around :58 minutes to complete—
- Ken Squier and Troy Germain did the PA and radio broadcast on Sunday—
- Dave Moody did the Monday event for both the PA and radio broadcast—
- Speed 51 did a great job with coverage for both days, including practice…the live radio feed for both events went on both-- WDEV Radio for Vermont listeners and a national audience on Speed 51 for both events—
- Perhaps the best thing for the ACT organization was that we were very pleased with the parity of the Ford and Chevy teams. New Smyrna provided a neutral track to see if the adjustments we made during this past off-season were positive to try and assure that there was not an edge by either the Fords or Chevys…From everything we saw at New Smyrna, we are happy with our rules package at this time as we enter the 2011 season—
- Robert Hart, the promoter at New Smyrna Speedway was very pleased with the ACT organization and the way the competitors raced…before the start of the second feature on Monday night, he invited ACT back for 2012…we will see if that becomes possible—
Here are some individual team thoughts:
97NH Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.- Joey Pole took over where he left off in 2010…HOT!!...He and Patrick Laperle put on a front running clinic on Sunday night. Respectful ‘take no prisoners’ racing…it was fun to watch and it lasted from the drop of the green until the checkers. Joey won, but everyone knew that a late yellow would have given the ‘Great One’ the outside on the restart and history showed us throughout the race that that was the place to be. It had to be a lot of fun for both drivers and it certainly was for the fans. Joey came from 18th starting spot on Monday, raced his way, I believe, all the way to second and settled for 5th. It was enough to give him the overall win by a single point…the Goodyear Speedweeks Cup and $4,600.00 with his Ford Blue Oval bonus of $250 added to his winnings. Joey has now won the last four ACT races in a row: NHMS ACT Invitational, the Peoples United Bank Milk Bowl, season-ending Waterford 150, and now the Goodyear Speedweeks Cup at New Smyrna (NSS).
37VT Brian Hoar-The RPM team was solid throughout the two days. Brian is clearly on a mission to stop the Joey Pole surge and it was apparent at NSS. Constantly in the top three at each practice, Brian had his Chevy and after a couple practices figuring out the very tough NSS, there was no doubt he was going to contend. It appeared that his opening night 6th was simply a case of a bad draw to get a good +/-. There was intense racing in the top pack (other than the breakaway of 97NH and 91QC). It was clear that Brian was a fast study. His Monday night effort started him five cars ahead of the 97 and 91…he was on a mission and the second race was a no contest by the 80 lap mark. He made $3,040 for his overall second place effort. He also showed that the Chevy and vintage Brian Hoar charge to the front could run with the Fords.
16NY Mark Lamberton- Mark had to be one of the ‘good feeling’ stories of the New Smyrna adventure. Rick Green has been one of the most supportive car owners for a decade. The team of Joey Becker and Mark Lamberton made some magic at NSS. With the help of noted Ontario car builder Mike McColl, the 16NY team had an outstanding Speedweeks Cup. Practice times showed that the RIG team was going to be solid. Lamberton’s heat race with Patrick Hamel was a side-by-side battle for the entire heat. His Sunday race showed he had found the NSS to his liking, and his confidence built when he passed the 7-time ACT Champion Brian Hoar, who was in a heated battle for the full 100-laps. Monday when he passed the 97NH late in the 100-lap contest, it was clear that this team is positioned to have a great season. (Anxious to see the other 16VT at Thunder Road!)
27NH Wayne Helliwell, Jr.- Any doubts that this ‘outlaw’ racer and 2010 dominant Lee Champion and his team of bandits led by Bruce Bernhardt, (they are big guys and rode 2 in front and 3 across the back seat in a dually from NH to Fl…hopefully back!) will be an asset to ACT Tour racing and a viable contender for the title were erased at NSS. Limited ACT touring experience, but the 27NH certainly looked like a 2011 title contender at both the NSS events. His steady drive to a 4th and 4th for a solid 4th place overall was very impressive. The team is old-fashioned, patterned after the Dion Bros. (Dave Dion visited the pits from his home in Florida…needless to say he was happy to see Fords in the pits).
The 27NH team made a statement. They were competitive, respectful and consistent…they also had a hell of a good time. What more can you ask for?
91QC Patrick Laperle-Perhaps more pressure was on the Laperle team than any other. The ‘Great One’ had all but won the World Series a few years back. By reputation this team doesn’t miss many opportunities to shine when the big events come around. They certainly made their presence felt on opening night with the race Patrick and Joey P. put on. His 9th place second night was not indicative of the kind of race effort put in. Quite simply, Laperle put on a show ---what’s new?!—His charge from the 17th starting spot was typical ‘flat out’ 91QC racing…we will not know what the results might have been if he had not had a tire going soft and pitted with fewer than 15 laps to go. He still charged from the rear, but time ran out. His overall effort was a good one.
4ON Jonathan Urlin- It was interesting to learn that Jonathan Urlin had never been on a ‘high banked’ track. The Ontario team worked all day Sunday to try and figure out a set up and struggled to a respectable 9th in the first race. Monday they really made some adjustments and the #4 was a solid contender all night. An impressive 3rd in the Monday night race and 6th overall confirms just what a great talent this second generation driver is.
17MA Eddie MacDonald-The talented MacDonald really had his hands full. Perhaps nobody was more excited about the Florida trip than MacDonald and his Grimm team, but they elected to leave the ‘250 car’ at home (who can blame them!!). They had a quality ride in the Peterson car (formerly the AJ Begin ride), but an engine leak slowed them down most of Sunday, even though they had a respectable 7th place and raced in that very competitive ‘front pack’ all night. On Monday the Rowley, MA driver spent most of the night in the aforementioned torrid battle, coming from 12th to another 7th place finish----. This team literally changed everything all night on Sunday –engine, set up, etc. As good as the Rollie Lachance team is, watch out if they bring it out to Lee for the ACT opener on April 17th….17… hmmm that is an interesting number to start the season!!
48QC Karl Allard-There is not much question who traveled the furthest for the NSS events. By my estimation it was about a 30-hour ride one way. The Série ACT Castrol Edge defending Champion had a very respectable effort in both races. The Larue team finished 8th both nights and found themselves in some very exciting side-by-side groups on each night. The Castrol teams who have not had a lot of experience at Thunder Road’s high banks really had a lesson, as they are usually very strong on larger sized tracks, but most are not banked nearly as high as NSS.
51QC Patrick Hamel-The 51QC team might have been the biggest surprise of the two days. The ‘Cowboy’ put on the most exciting heat race going wheel to wheel with Mark Lamberton for the win throughout the initial 10-lap heat. He certainly showed a lot of the teams that there was a favored outside lane (Lamberton used that heat experience) and used it throughout the two features to have impressive races. Hamel had a great run going in the opening race, but was a victim of a check up dump late in that race which put him to the rear. He raced back for a 15th place finish. On Monday he was the lead dog in that 6 or 7 car battle for third pretty much from the outset. He ended up with a 6th and a very good Speedweeks for the youngster from just outside Ste Croix, QC.
80QC Donald Theetge-This seasoned champion racer had a great car all weekend. He was heading for a top three finish on Sunday night when he got pinched into the wall and took away any chance of a good finish—he ended up 12th. Monday the luck was no better, racing in the top five late in the race he was side-by-side with Mark Lamberton and the car got away. “I probably should have been willing to settle for 4th”, said a discouraged Theetge after the race. This 25-year veteran was competitive all weekend and with his new car looks set to have a great 2011 season.
22NY Mike Bruno –This guy just loves to race. He has only run one ACT Late Model race in about 10 years (Mike and Dave Pembroke had one of the best races for the win at the opening of the new Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Vermont last May). Mike put his many years of dirt track racing to good use at NSS. He plain drove the wheels off the former Matt White machine. It was good to see the 22NY leading the Monday night race for a good while, and given some laps Mike should be back in form in short time. His plans are to run Thunder Road and spot race some Tour events when time permits. He joins Laperle and Eric Williams as one of the true hard chargers of the ACT.
36QC Alex Labbe- What a spectacular two days the 2010 Castrol Rookie of the Year had! His 12th place overall finish might not suggest that he had a great event, but he was consistently among the top three in times during practice, and with a little more experience he would have been a contender for a top finish. His third place finish on Sunday night was an indication of just how right the Canadian media survey was when he was awarded the ‘most outstanding newcomer’ in 2010. I can’t wait to see this young driver develop over the next couple of years.
57VT Austin Theriault- Joining the Rick Paya RPM team will require a learning curve. That process started at New Smyrna. The finish might not be what the 57 team was looking for, but there is no question that the team, the driver, and the support system used the experience to build on. It appears that the chemistry has started and with Brian Hoar as a mentor and the experience of Rick Paya, Austin is positioned to have a great sophomore season. These two full days of communication and a couple of 100-lap events will position the team for the upcoming season. My guess is they will look back in October and feel that this Florida experience was a very important part of the team’s development.
17RI Ray Parent-The former Seekonk Speedway Pro Stock driver used the Florida trip to join ACT for only his second ever ACT Late Modelrace (Ray raced at a Lee USA event a couple years ago and finished 7th) The 17RI team may have been the most enthusiastic when they arrived. There was obviously a lot of work that went into getting prepared for the ACT events. Parent only decided late that they would make the trip. He had finished in the top ten on previous World Series of Asphalt Racing standings, but this was a different experience. Many of the newer teams were not as used to running 100 lap events, including Ray. This veteran driver finished mid-pack in the overall, but with his long experience and dedicated team, he should be a very good addition to the US Tour in 2011.
41FL Pete Potvin-It was great having long time Thunder Road, White Mountain, and ACT US competitor Pete Potvin and his family join us in the Florida experience. Of course they only had to drive about 30 minutes as they all moved to Florida last fall! Pete had a very good run in the Monday event in very heavy competition and finished in the top ten. Pete has had a long racing history in the northeast and will find it a bit different racing in the south, but hopefully all the laps he has raced in the northeast will give him an edge as he spends his time in Florida. Expect to see him up north a few times---he is a great fan of Jamie Aube (hence the red 41) and with Jamie planning to run Thunder Road and some selected Tour shows, I would expect Pete to visit on a couple of occasions.
92VT Blair Bessett- The ultimate independent, Blair traveled to Florida with Clem Despault and had a very respectable 16th place overall finish. Blair told me “I have just always wanted to race in Florida and this was my opportunity, a kind of a ‘bucket list’ thing”. It was an example of just how determined someone was to follow his dream. Blair is a realist, but a very determined race driver. He may have left Florida and crossed into Georgia with a sense of more accomplishment than just about anybody that made the trip.
31ON Spencer MacPherson- The Ottawa driver had a successful year in 2008 on the Castrol Series, but took some time off to join the family business over the past couple seasons. His Monday race at NSS showed that he still is fine racer. With the inversion from Sunday, Spencer battled for much of the night at the front in a very competitive pack. He ended the two-day event with the field in the second highly competitive race.
21MA Peter Yetman- This newcomer to ACT racing from Massachusetts came to us from the Thompson Speedway Late Model division. He purchased an ACT car and this first class team certainly did a respectful job over the two days of racing. As most know it is not an easy league to come into, with the rules package and high caliber of competition. Watching the 21MA crew for a couple of days indicates that they will be a great addition to the 2011 US Tour. Competitive, respectful, and positive seemed to mark the NSS effort. We are looking forward to having this team run with the ACT this coming year.
9QC Yvon Bedard- The ‘Bullet’ is back. The veteran from Quebec City came to NSS with a small crew and just had a good time. His effort was consistent and he looks ready for another season on the Castrol Series. Semi-retired, Yvon continues to have one of the best attitudes in racing. Like many of the Castrol teams, the #9 does not have as much experience on the high banks and may have missed the set up, but when the season opens on the fast Quebec tracks, he will be an odds on top 10 racer week to week.
72VT Jacob McGrath- Jacob was far more competitive than his overall result would indicate. A solid practice and heat effort and then a broken battery at the start of the Sunday night event cost the 72 momentum. The 40 laps down in the pits obviously hurt the overall effort, but signs of being very competitive and fast were shown on Monday night when Jake raced from a 25th starting position to a solid 14th place finish. He should be happy with that effort, and we may see the 72 at some events this coming summer, if the Florida experience gets his racing fire lit again.
17ON Justin Holtom- The young Ottawa hot shoe probably did not accomplish what he wanted, but the team chased problems seemingly for both days at NSS. It was just one of those race days and hopefully the experience will be enough to keep him working on his program and we hope to see him in either the Castrol Series or at some select US events.
40VT Eric Chase- This might be the most disappointing result of the Speedweek venture. Eric had been very competitive at NSS in the past and lots of success was expected by him and us. His practice and heat race showed that he was a solid top 1/3 racer with lots of good possibilities. On the way to the grid for the first event he lost a wheel bearing. His DNS that night cost him any chance for a decent two day total. His Monday night effort proved to be successful as he came from the rear and caught the very competitive middle pack. Chase is the ultimate gentleman racer and his passion for the sport will serve him well as we look to the 2011 season.
77MA Jimmy Linardy- ‘Scruffy’ struggled during the original practice, but the team dug in and got things straightened out. The Sunday race continued to be a set up challenge, but things got better on Monday for the Sommerville, MA driver. Known for years as one of the most supportive drivers of ACT, Jimbo loves to race, and probably nobody will have more stories to tell than this veteran about the first annual New Smyrna event. Hopefully the 77MA team will use the NSS events to help get things headed in the right direction before the Lee opener just up the road from Boston.
29NH Aaron Fellows- The Twin State Speedway and Canaan Fair Speedway driver will strap in to just about any race car. It is not unusual for him to race in three divisions on any given Friday night at Twin State. The 17-degree banking presented some challenges and Aaron seemed to be off the set up. The best part of this team is they have lots of experience and once they figure out how these long distance events differ from the weekly wars, he will be a very competitive and successful ACT racer. Hopefully he will fit some Tour races in around his weekly schedules this coming season.
88ON Tim Dorning- The veteran from Capital City says he is hanging up the helmet and will become the Race Director at Capital City Speedway (I wish him good luck with that position). Tim has been racing for over 40 years and his car owner Al and their wives seemed to have a great time from the time they arrived until the end of the racing on Monday night. After all, that is what this project was supposed to be about, so congratulations and thanks to them for making the effort.
88MA Kyle DeSouza- This youngster from Fairhaven, MA raced at Seekonk with a couple stops at Waterford last season. There is a dramatic difference between the relatively flat ¼ mile Seekonk Speedway and the very fast and high-banked NSS. Kyle got some quality laps in over the two days and that should help him in his future Late Model racing career. We certainly look forward to his development over the next couple years.
15VT Joey Laquerre- Joey was as excited as I have seen him in many years when he arrived in Florida Thursday evening after driving straight through from Vermont. He had a brand new race car, a Ford motor, and was very much looking forward to the two events. His practice sessions went well, the heat race was very competitive, but in the only wreck of the two days, Joey was pinched into the wall and had a violent crash at a very high rate of speed. The car was not repairable. It was a great disappointment for a team that looked like they were going to be a solid top five in each event and the overall. Nobody was seriously hurt and we hope Joey will get things repaired for the 2011 season.
16QC Kevin Roberge- Kevin had a great World Series in the NSS Late Model crate division. His effort in the opening ACT race was not as productive. He was reported to be involved in a number of altercations with several drivers, he was involved in a tire issue and was not present for a driver meeting. These unfortunate incidents, along with an ACT official’s situation with the 16QC owner resulted in the team being disqualified from the event.
I want to thank everyone for the enormous effort. The ACT officials received great praise for their professionalism and organizational efforts. Ken Squier, Troy Germain and Dave Moody certainly added a great dimension to the event for ACT. I would also like to thank all the northern people who followed ACT to the first ever Goodyear Speedweek Cup event. It was certainly memorable for all of us.