The American-Canadian Tour is just over two weeks away from opening its 2018 season at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 15 with the annual New Hampshire Governor’s Cup. While defending ACT Late Model Tour Champion Scott Payea enters the opener as the title frontrunner, a number of other drivers are preparing their own run at the $10,000 champion’s purse.
Williamstown, VT’s Jimmy Hebert is one of the early favorites to challenge for the 2018 championship. Hebert returned to the full ACT Late Model Tour schedule this past season in his #58VT Hebert Excavation Chevrolet and finished fourth in the final standings. He has been a contender throughout his career and will look to put it all together for the 10-race schedule.
“We’ve finished second, third, and now fourth, so obviously we’d like to contend for a championship this year,” Hebert said. “We started to hit on a few things towards the end of 2017 that gave us some pretty good speed. We’re hoping to continue that and maybe further it a little more.
“You can’t really have any mess-ups is the biggest thing,” he added. “If you have one bad race, you’re pretty much all done. You’ve got to try and find yourself in the top-5 every week and hope it will play itself out.”
Lebanon, NH’s Rich Dubeau could be another driver who makes a strong run in 2018. The 2015 ACT Rookie of the Year has made big strides since then and cracked the overall top-5 last season for the first time. He also posted the first two podium finishes for his #30NH Upper Valley Equipment Rental team.
“I definitely think we have the potential – just like probably every other team says,” Dubeau said. “You always want more. So we’ll be looking to improve just like we have every year, but we’re confident. I have an awesome group of guys around me. I owe it to those guys – they work their butts off.
“We’d love to finally get a win,” Dubeau added. “I’m pretty optimistic about Groveton (Speedway 51), especially going there twice, and I feel good about Waterford. So it’d probably be between those two tracks. Then again, we finished third at Seekonk last year, and it was one of the last places I thought we were going to run well. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to surprise ourselves.”
Several other drivers could play a role in the title chase before the year is over. Steuben, ME’s Rowland Robinson, Jr. had a career year in 2017 and hopes to be even better this season. New Hampshire’s Corey Mason and Bryan Mason have both entered for the full season after previously winning Late Model championships at Speedway 51. Graniteville, VT’s Chip Grenier has also filed an unexpected entry after running well in partial schedules in recent years.
All will be looking to get off to a strong start at Lee USA Speedway. The tricky 1/3-mile oval is known for testing man and machine during a 150-lap event. Those who can solve the riddle of a rapidly-changing track will be in prime position for the season ahead.
“The biggest thing at Lee is making your car last,” said Hebert, who won the 2013 event. “The track gets so slick toward the end of the race. Whoever does that the best will usually be in the winner’s circle.”
The New Hampshire Governor’s Cup on Sunday, April 15 at 1:15pm kicks off the 33rd season of ACT competition. Lee’s R&R Late Model Sportsmen and the Northeast Classic Lites are also on the card. The pits will open at 8:00am and the front gates will open at 9:00am. An optional practice will be held on Saturday, April 14.