Contributed by: ACT Staff
Babb, Packard Making Strong Impressions Early in 2015 ACT SeasonThe 2015 American-Canadian Tour (ACT) season has reached the quarter-pole of its 15-race schedule. While former champions Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. find themselves at the top of the standings, a growing crop of new and young racers are making their presence known.
Windham, ME’s Brad Babb has been one of the drivers to beat so far. Babb returned to the ACT Tour full-time in 2015 driving a car owned by Joey Laquerre. He scored his first ACT podium finish at the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup, then earned a storybook win in the Merchants Bank 150 at Barre, VT’s Thunder Road. It was the first race at Thunder Road since Laquerre’s grandson, up-and-coming local racer Joey M. Laquerre, died in an ATV accident last October.
“I always wished that I could win at Thunder Road, but before we’d had a hard time just qualifying there,” Babb said. “I really just wanted to make the race on Sunday.”
Apart from a flat tire in the season opener at Oxford Plains Speedway, Babb says the year has been flawless to date. He currently sits tied with Jeff White for third in the Tour standings, 49 points back of Helliwell.
“If we have another three or four strong runs right in a row, then maybe it’s time to say we’re a contender for the championship,” Babb said. “But right now we just have to keep building on the momentum we’ve got.”
Meanwhile, E. Montpelier, VT’s Emily Packard has been authoring a strong follow-up to her breakout 2014 campaign. Packard finished fourth at Oxford in her first visit to the track after starting 20th. She then charged from the 23rd starting position at Thunder Road to finish sixth – despite her claim afterwards of an ill-handling race car. The 18-year-old now sits fifth in the point standings.
"We need better luck in our heat races,” Packard said with a laugh. “By the end of the (feature), we’re up there ready to contend, but there’s not enough laps left to work with.”
Packard has also had success at multiple upcoming tracks on the Tour schedule. She led a race-high 115 laps in last year’s ACT event at Speedway 51 while winning three weekly Late Model events at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. Packard admitted she thinks a lot about finally breaking into the Tour winner’s circle.
“I know the first win is always the hardest to get,” she said. “I just really want to get that first win in the bag.”
Babb and Packard also rank first and second in the Bond Auto Parts New Champions standings, a program for drivers with one or fewer ACT-sanctioned Late Model wins prior to the 2015 season. 39 different drivers have earned New Champions points in the first three races. The number will grow after Série ACT opens its season at Airborne Park Speedway on Saturday, May 16 as part of a U.S./Canada combo event. Babb was the first New Champion to earn the $500 Breakout Award for recording a 2015 win.
Other New Champions drivers have also impressed in the first three races. Travis Stearns currently sits sixth in the Tour standings and third in New Champions points with his Richard Green Racing team. Brandon Aktins moved up to seventh in Tour points after recording his best-ever Thunder Road finish this past Sunday. Fellow sophomore Mike Ziter and rookie Rich Dubeau also sit in the top-10 in points and were American Racer Three Star Award winners at Oxford.
The ACT Late Model Tour and Série ACT will be in action at the Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY on Saturday, May 16 for the Spring Green 115. Airborne’s weekly racing division and the ACT ProCam Super Trucks will also be on the card. Post time is 5:00pm.