2015 ACT Season in Review – Part III
Want to read more about the 2015 season? Click here for Part I and here for Part II!
The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) kicked off the second half of the 2015 season at the same place where they began the first half: Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. Defending ACT Champion Joey Polewarczyk Jr. had led every lap in the Tour’s first visit of the year, and seemed determined to do so again the second time around. “Joey Pole” again started on the pole and went unchallenged through the first 2/3 of the 150-lap event, while point leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. fought to come up through the field after a poor qualifying effort had him starting 17th.
Following the race’s third caution on lap 100, Pole suddenly fell into the clutches of Windham, ME’s Brad Babb, who eventually took the lead on lap 113. After lying in wait for the next 20 laps, Pole went back on the attack. Pole looked low and then high through traffic as the two fought for the next dozen laps, with Pole nosing ahead for one lap but Babb otherwise staying in front. Pole switched back to the low side with four laps remaining and the two made contact entering turn one. Babb slid up the track and appeared to regain control, but eventually went around in turn two to bring out the caution. Pole went to the lead and, after another caution on the restart, held off a final charge from Dillon Moltz to capture his fourth win of the season and retake the point lead. Bobby Therrien edged Jimmy Hebert in a photo finish for third while Helliwell completed the top-five. Emily Packard, Rowland Robinson Jr., Travis Fadden, Eddie MacDonald, and Nick Sweet finished sixth through 10th. Babb was relegated to 11th and left wondering what might have been.
A chance for redemption came just two weeks later at ACT’s annual visit to Scarborough, ME’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 8. Babb was the 2012 Beech Ridge Pro Series Champion and lives 20 minutes away from the speedway, making it a perfect location to bounce back. Fellow Mainer Travis Stearns started on the pole and led the first 60 laps before Babb got the jump on a restart. Babb drew out to a straightaway lead, but the sharks were circling late in the going. Joey Pole got around Stearns for second on lap 127 following a lengthy battle to set up a potential Oxford rematch, with Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Eddie MacDonald close behind.
Everything changed with 10 laps to go when the lapped cars of Emily Packard and Dillon Moltz got together on the backstretch, sending Packard spinning in front of Pole. Despite sliding sideways, Pole struck Packard with his right front, forcing him to pit with a flat tire. Helliwell inherited the second spot, and after snaking through the lapped cars on the restart, found himself alongside Babb after another caution with eight laps to go following Kyle Welch’s spin. Helliwell got the jump and appeared to be on his way to stealing another late win. But Babb swung to the outside and found another gear, getting back around Helliwell with four laps remaining and going on to his second win of the season, as well as becoming the ninth different winner in nine ACT Late Model Tour events at Beech Ridge. Helliwell retook the points lead with his second-place result while MacDonald finished third after starting 22nd. Stearns, Rowland Robinson Jr., Dave Farrington Jr., Jeff White, Pole, Jimmy Hebert, and Welch completed the top-10.
The tenth event on the ACT schedule was also the start of the U.S. Tour’s Canada swing. ACT headed to Circuit Riverside Speedway in Ste-Croix, QC on Saturday, August 22 for the annual Can-Am 150. The second combination event of the year for the ACT U.S. and Série ACT drew 37 cars with the top dogs on both sides of the border coming to conquer. The race was all Quebec early as Jean-François Déry started on the pole and held off Série ACT point leader Dany Trepanier through a rash of early cautions. One of those cautions was for defending event winner Joey Pole, who was involved in an incident with Martin Goulet Jr. and Brandon Atkins on lap 18. After struggling to fight through traffic, Pole made a last-second decision to pit for tires and adjustments during the race’s fifth caution on lap 51 while the leaders stayed out.
Wayne Helliwell Jr. eventually entered the frame and grabbed the top spot from Déry on lap 72 following caution #7. Helliwell and Déry pulled away from the pack on the subsequent green-flag run, while Pole had come to life following his pit stop and raced his way up to third. When the next caution flew on lap 105, the leaders headed to the pits, and Pole inherited the top spot. His early pit stop turned out to be the winning move. Déry and Helliwell raced their way back through the field – but despite two more late cautions, neither could touch Pole, who drove off to his second straight Can-Am 150 win, his record-tying fifth ACT Late Model Tour victory of the season, the 18th win of his career, and a one-point lead in the standings. Déry finished second followed by Helliwell in third, while Trepanier maintained his Série ACT point lead with a fourth-place effort. Karl Allard, Brad Babb, Alex Labbé, Patrick Cliche, Emily Packard, and Patrick Hamel rounded out the top-10.
ACT returned to Quebec three weeks later on Saturday, September 12 for the fourth and final ACT/PASS doubleheader of the season at Vallée-Jonction’s Autodrome Chaudiere. The 200-lap event was the ACT U.S. Tour’s first ever point-counting event at the ¼-mile oval, and the second-largest crowd in track history witnessed a four-car, two-country duel for the win. Jean-François Déry was again strong early, taking the leady from Patrick Hamel on lap 8. Boischatel, QC’s Donald Theetge was close behind, and after the pair swapped the lead several times during a series of restarts, Déry settled into the top spot on lap 85. But Theetge, Wayne Helliwell Jr., and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. were hot on his heels – and with the last 115 laps run caution-free, traffic was bound to play a part as well.
Déry eventually began to fade and Theetge took the lead back on lap 168. Helliwell followed him through and remained glued to his bumper, and when Pole drifted out of the picture as well, it was down to a two-man dance. With 11 laps to go, the leaders approached the ninth-place car of Etienne Cliche. Theetge went to the high side off turn 2 to get around Cliche – but Cliche drifted up the track entering turn 3, and Helliwell shot three-wide to the bottom and swiped the lead away. Helliwell then negotiated traffic expertly in the final laps to take his fourth win of the season. He also took the ACT U.S. point lead back by 13 points as the advantage changed hands for the seventh time in 2015. Theetge settled for second followed by Pole and Déry. Alex Labbé, Série ACT point leader Dany Trepanier, Brandon Atkins, Jonathan Bouvrette, Cliche, and Jeff White also earned top-10 finishes.
Coming in the Part IV conclusion: MacDonald is “Magic” again at New Hampshire, Hoar inherits win at Airborne, a champion is crowned, the greatest goes out on top, and more!