The History of the American Canadian Tour
In 1979, famed television and radio journalist Ken Squier and business partner Tom Curley formed the NASCAR North Tour for Late Model
Sportsman-type cars. Stars of the day included New England drivers Beaver and Bobby Dragon, Dave Dion, and Dick McCabe; Canada’s Jean-Paul Cabana and Claude Leclerc; and invaders Robbie Crouch of Tampa, FL and Chuck Bown of Portland, OR. With sponsorship from companies like Coors, Molson, Skoal, STP, Valvoline, and General Motors, the NASCAR North Tour visited the short track showplaces of the northeastern U.S. and Canada: Thunder Road in Vermont, Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine, Stafford Springs and Thompson, CT, Sanair Super Speedway near Montreal, Cayuga Speedway in Ontario, and Dover Downs Int’l Speedway in Dover, DE. Southern stars Butch Lindley, Bill Dennis, Harry Gant, Tommy Ellis, Gene Glover, L.D. Ottinger, and Bosco Lowe were frequent visitors to NASCAR North Tour events, along with national icons Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, and Dale Earnhardt.
As a means of transitioning toward a more modern type of race car, Curley formed the independent
American-Canadian Tour in 1986, making a total changeover from the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman to the Super Late Model and Pro Stock cars used throughout the country. In 1987, once the change was complete, Curley’s ACT aligned with Rex Robbins’ American Speed Association (ASA) of the Midwest and Bob Harmon’s All-Pro Series of the southeast, forming the Stock Car Connection. The SCC visited high-profile tracks in Cincinnati, OH; Milwaukee, WI; Nazareth, PA; and Nashville, TN; and saw visitors that included Darrell Waltrip, Mark Martin, Bobby and Davey Allison, and Rusty and Kenny Wallace, along with short track legends Dick Trickle, Butch Miller, Mike Eddy, Bob Senneker, Steve Grissom, and Bobby Gill.
With General Motors stepping up its commitment to ACT in 1989, the GM Motorsport National
Stock Car Series was formed in Canada, offering large purses, even larger point funds, and coast-to-coast television coverage. Budweiser created the Bud Triple Crown as part of the GM Series, and paid Junior Hanley over $50,000 in 1991 and again in '92 for sweeping the series. During Hanley's ACT Championship years from 1991-93, the Ontario driver earned more than $700,000 in winnings!
The current ACT Late Model Tour and its sister series, the Canadian Série ACT, utilize modern, cost-effective race cars that create thrilling side-by-side action, and are among the leading short track series in North America. Beginning in 1992 and taking center stage in ACT racing in 1996, the ACT Late Model Tour has introduced many innovative concepts used in several forms of short track racing. ACT developed one of the first “spec” engine programs in 1999 as a cost-saving option for local and regional racers. After successful testing in the early 2000s, most Late Model teams and promoters in New England have made the switch. To date, more than 400 of these power plants have been sold. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, OH used an ACT Late Model in 2005 as a development tool in creating its revolutionary 8” slick tire. As with the spec engine, nearly a dozen tracks in the U.S. and Canada have mandated the tire. ACT also played a significant role in the research and development of a limited tire and a four-cylinder tire for Goodyear. A similar cost-saving “spec” program exists with Koni shock absorbers.
The American-Canadian Tour receives high praise from race teams, promoters, and the media. National Speed Sport News, Late Model Digest, and many other national publications feature ACT, its drivers, rule packages, and events on a frequent basis. In 2004, ACT President Tom Curley was voted by more than 1,000 race promoters across the continent as the Auto Racing Promoter of the Year. The People’s United Bank Milk Bowl, a three-segment, cumulatively scored ACT Late Model Tour race at Thunder Road, is known as
the “toughest short track race in North America,” and the race’s past winners have been featured in newsprint in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Toronto. The race was named the “Outstanding Annual Short Track Event” by NSSN in 2006. For their efforts in the growth of stock car racing, both Squier and Curley were recently inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Two year's after its inception in 2005, ACT took over the Canadian-based Série ACT. In 2008, the ACT Late Model Tour completed 12 events while traveling to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Connecticut, Quebec, and Ontario. Later that year, the first-ever “Showdown at Chaudiere” pitted the best ten ACT Late Model Tour drivers against the top ten Série ACT wheelmen in a 200-lap All-Star race.
The American Canadian Tour made their first ever appearance in the historic ACT Invitational at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the
fall NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend in 2009. Over 300 Late Model teams from throughout the Northeastern US and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario battled throughout the 2009 season on the American Canadian Tour, Série ACT, and nine ACT-affiliated tracks to claim one of the thirty-six starting spots for the historic event. The 50-lap race lived up to the hype and left New England buzzing as Rowley, MA resident Eddie MacDonald took the win after battling fiercely with Barre, VT's Nick Sweet and Stayner, ON’s Brandon Watson throughout the race. With just two cautions and non-stop side-by-side racing, the ACT Late Model show was widely considered one of the best of the weekend.
The success earned ACT the chance to return to the “Magic Mile” for another Invitational in 2010. The event was expanded to a field of 43 cars. Invites were extended to the winners of the ACT Tour and Série ACT events, as well as the point leaders of the two Tours. Other invites were given to the champions or point leaders of nine ACT-affiliated tracks. These tracks included Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, VT; Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, ME; Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH; Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, ON; Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, MA; Capital City Speedway in Ottawa, ON; Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH; Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, CT; and White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH. Young star Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. of Hudson, New Hampshire came from his 27th starting position to claim the impressive win and earn the Ford Blue Oval Cup Challenge bonus. In the 2011 running of the Invitational Eddie MacDonald returned to victory lane for the second time after a long battle with 2010 Thunder Road Late Model Champion Nick Sweet.
ACT began its 2011 season early with its first ever trip to New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, FL as part of the World Series of
Asphalt Stock Car Racing. The two 100-lap events of the Goodyear Speedweeks Cup were non-point counting races that brought 28 Late Model teams from the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. ACT showcased its competitive side-by-side action to the southern fans and completed both 100-lap events in less than an hour each. The aggressive yet respectful racing was some of the best run during Speedweeks. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. carried his hot streak over from the 2010 season and claimed the Speedweeks Cup title.
The remainder of the 2011 season brought another first for ACT as, in addition to the annual ACT Invitational, a second date at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was run. A total of 55 drivers from all over the Northeast and Eastern Canada competed in the first ever “Short Track All-Star Challenge” event to be held at NHMS during the IZOD Indy Car weekend. In true short track style, the event included heat race qualifiers and two feature events. Eight-time ACT Champion Brian Hoar and his Rick Paya Motorsports team claimed the victory.
During the 2012 season, NHMS once again hosted the ACT Invitational in September, seeing surprise standout Ray Parent of Tiverton, RI claw his way to his first ACT win. ACT competitors gained more experience on the bigger tracks too as the ACT Late Model Tour and Série ACT made their first trip back to the 9/10-mile Sanair Super Speedway in St-Pie, QC in August. The last time ACT had visited the Super Speedway, Ben Rowe earned a $10,000 paycheck as part of the ACTion Super Series in 2006, but this year it was eventual ACT Champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr. taking the honors. On top of that, The 50th running of the People's United Bank Milk Bowl inscribed Middlesex, VT's Dave Pembroke into the final spot on the face of the Milk Bowl Winner's granite monument at Thunder Road while attracting nearly 60 cars for a record purse of over $100,000, making it the biggest sporting event in Vermont's history.
The 2013 season saw the creation of the ACT International event at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY. Veteran Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. battled his way through three segments of action to claim the biggest payout ever for an ACT Late Model competitor when he received $25,000 for the win. Other notable victories included Eddie MacDonald's third Bond Auto ACT Invitational win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Nick Sweet also claimed his first career Milk Bowl win in front of his hometown fans at Thunder Road. Earlier in the season Polewarczyk tied an ACT Late Model record by scoring three straight ACT point counting wins. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. took home his second straight title on the U.S. side of the border, while Jean-Francois Dery captured his first Série ACT Championship.
The American Canadian Tour Late Models saw a new champion at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. claimed his first title, while finishing the season with the best average finish of any ACT Champion in the history of the Late Models. He was also the only repeat winner of the year as he was victorious in the final two events of the season. The Quebec-based Série ACT saw another first time champion in Alex Labbe who put together a stellar season with three wins in eight events. The ACT International top prize of $25,000 was claimed by Quebec's Patrick Laperle after a fierce battle with Nick Sweet through three segments at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. earned his first win at NHMS in the Bond Invitational and Eddie MacDonald earned his first career win at Thunder Road in the Milk Bowl.
The 2015 season saw new ground broken and even more fresh buzz. A landmark agreement was reached between ACT and the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) which led to four doubleheader events being held, beginning with a pair of 150-lap events at Maine's Oxford Plains Speedway in April. PASS also made its first trip to Thunder Road for the Memorial Day Classic in May, with additional events held at New York's Airborne Park Speedway in July and Quebec's Autodrome Chaudiere in September. ACT also returned to New Smyrna Speedway and the World Series of Asphalt Racing in February, and Eddie MacDonald was the star of the show, winning all three 100-lap events held over a four-day span. The Tour also made its first ever trip to Connecticut's historic Thompson Speedway as they closed the year at the World Series of Speedway Racing.
On the ACT Tour, Wayne Helliwell, Jr. returned to full-time competition and won his third U.S. title after a season-long battle with defending Champion Joey Polewarczyk Jr. in which the two combined for nine wins. Dany Trepanier emerged as a first-time champion in Série ACT after a remarkable season-long run of consistency which included six straight podium finishes. Nick Sweet earned redemption from his 2014 heartbreak by claiming the ACT International at Airborne, and later in the year earned his second Milk Bowl triumph at Thunder Road with a come-from-behind effort in the final segment. MacDonald continued his winning ways by taking his fourth Bond Invitational at NHMS. A torch was also passed as Brian Hoar, the winningest driver in ACT history, stepped away from the driver's seat after winning the final two events of the year at Airborne and Thompson.
Excitement is already building for the 2016 ACT season. Five ACT/PASS doubleheaders will be held this year; New Hampshire's White Mountain Motorsports Park and Maine's Beech Ridge Motor Speedway have been added to the twin-bill calendar, while ACT will also race at Oxford the night before the Oxford 250. The Tour has also added a southern New England "Tripleheader" to the schedule, with events at Connecticut's New London-Waterford Speedbowl and Massachusett's Seekonk Speedway joining a return trip to Thompson. The 13-race schedule will see ACT visit 11 different tracks throughout the Northeast, beginning with the annual New Hampshire Governor's Cup at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 10.
ACT continues to set the standard for cost-contained competition for fans and competitors of short track racing throughout the region and country. With full fields at every event and new talent consistently coming through the pipeline, future stars of motorsports are being made at ACT events every year.