Contributed by: ACT Staff
Josh Demers Led All Newcomers at Florida American Racer Challenge
American Canadian Tour (ACT) sophomore driver Josh Demers of East Montpelier, VT graduated from the Bond Auto Tiger division in 2013, an intermediate division at his home track Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, VT.
That year, Demers also bought a used ACT Late Model in anticipation of moving full-time to the ACT Late Models at Thunder Road in 2014. He entered his first ACT Late Model event at the inaugural International race held in July 2013 at Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, NY. It was a $25,000.00 to win race with every major team in ACT registered to compete. After qualifying heats and consolations, Demers had one final chance to get into the biggest race of the year. He needed to win the “last chance race” which offered a purse of $3,000.00 to win or, give up the money, and receive a starting spot in the 300-lap segment main event and start dead last in 40th position. He gave up the money and went into his first ever ACT Late Model event.
“I will take the spot and race. We came to race and this win gives us that chance. Forget about the money! Let’s do it,” said Demers. The crowd sent out a cheer for this former Tiger driver. He finished 28th out of 40 teams that went to post that day.
The 2014 Thunder Road season included a full effort of weekly racing for the family-run team from East Montpelier. He finished a respectable 12th overall. They also entered the Thunder Road ACT opening Merchants Bank 150 lap Championship race. He failed to qualify for one of the 30 starting spots among the 43 drivers who entered. The only other ACT Late Model event the Demers team competed in during 2014 was the Bond Auto ACT Invitational at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September, finishing 35th out of the 43 cars that started.
When the ACT teams were invited to return to the New Smyrna Speedway to be part of the week long festivities known as the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, the Demers team was not one that ACT officials thought would be interested in attending such an event, but the Demers #10VT team’s entry was one of the first to be received. The results of that interest turned out to be one of the great highlights of the three races run at NSS during the annual yearly event known as speed-weeks throughout the Daytona Beach area, held at various short tracks, in conjunction with the Great American Race at the Daytona International Speedway. What was not known was that the family team (Josh, father Randy, and sister Joellen) were also going to bring along former Tiger and veteran ACT driver “Chip” Grenier as added help. Grenier is known as an accomplished set-up man and crew chief, when not behind the wheel of his own race operation.
President of the American Canadian Tour, Tom Curley said, “Josh, Chip, and their overall team effort certainly was one of the highlights of the American Racer Challenge weekend for me. I knew there was something special going on when we ran 100 laps Sunday night without a caution. Josh was competing at a very high level with veteran champions like Patrick Laperle. He ran side-by-side on that big half mile he had never seen before, with little experience on bigger tracks. Good Lord, he was in the top five most of the three nights with guys like Eddie MacDonald, who went on to sweep the three events, Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Ray Parent, and a host of the best ACT has in our present system.”
Bruce Bernhardt, owner of two-time ACT Champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover New Hampshire, said, “How could you not notice the 10VT performance (Josh Demers). That was a real surprise. I went over to him and congratulated him for racing so hard and clean. It is really great when a young team like that can have an impact on the kind of racing we all enjoy. They should be congratulated.”
He was so impressive that the Fans Choice television broadcasters all started to take notice and the Demers effort became a big part of the weekend’s live flag-to-flag telecasts.
“For me, the complete effort from the Demers Florida trip was total validation for the rules work we have put in for the past 15 years. We have tried to make and keep this a ‘driver’s series’, and not just a money series for those who have unlimited budgets to buy tires, shocks, engines, and all the tricked up parts to go fast. I have never believed that short track racing should be defined by who can outspend the other, which generally results in separation of the bigger teams and talented teams with fewer resources. In my opinion, that really does not work for keeping things equitable and exciting for fans and teams. I was very proud of the results by a relatively inexperienced home-grown Thunder Road team having such success at New Smyrna. The Demers/Grenier effort should have given great hope to all those race teams who work so hard to be competitive, and proved that a level playing field will assist in that effort. At least for this week, we found a “poster boy” for selling that concept to short tracks across the nation. I left the Daytona Beach area with a smile on my face,” concluded Curley.
The ACT teams will now direct their attention to the annual New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 lap race at Lee USA Speedway, Lee, NH to be held on Sunday, April 12. ACT has opened the Lee USA Speedway 14 times over the years with both its former Pro Stock (Super Late Model division) and now Late Model division. Harmon “Beaver” Dragon, Milton, VT won the race in 1987 at the re-opening of the track by Red and Judy MacDonald. The NH Governor’s Cup will start the 2015 campaign of 17 point and non-point specials for the US ACT teams. Eddie MacDonald is the defending champion of the race. The Freddy Petersen-owned, and Rollie Lachance team has plenty of momentum going into Lee. They won the closing race of the 2014 campaign, the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road, Barre VT, last October. They are now coming off three consecutive wins at New Smyrna Speedway. They will be challenged by Lee USA multi-time Champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., 2014 ACT Champion Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. and 2013 first-time winner Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, VT.