The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) travels to Barre, VT’s Thunder Road this Sunday, September 2 for the 40th Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic. With just two point-counting events remaining, the fight for the championship has gotten tense, giving fans just one more thing to watch at the holiday special.
Every ACT Late Model Tour regular will have something big to race for on Sunday. The 200-lap affair is the final event in the ACT Summer Showdown Series and has a $5,000 prize guaranteed to the winner. Colchester, VT’s Scott Payea and Rowley, MA’s Eddie MacDonald split the first two events in the 3-race mini-series. Payea is the defending winner of the Labor Day Classic, making him an early favorite for a second big payday.
But for Payea, MacDonald, and Williamstown, VT’s Jimmy Hebert, the stakes will be higher than just dollars and cents. Payea’s once-comfortable point lead has nearly evaporated following last Saturday’s event at Maine’s Oxford Plain Speedway. MacDonald won the race and led the most laps while Hebert finished second. Meanwhile, Payea was involved in two separate incidents and ended up finishing 10th.
As a result, the race for the championship has turned into a 3-man dance. Payea is now 21 points ahead of MacDonald, who moved up to second in the standings on Saturday. Hebert dropped to third overall, but has closed the gap behind Payea to 25 points. A win on Sunday for any of the three could put them in the catbird’s seat for the title.
“We’ve been working on our car all year long trying to get it to where it needs to be,” MacDonald said. “We knew we were off a little bit in the early part of the year, but we’ve been slowly changing things and trying to get caught up. Thunder Road is a difficult track for us, so hopefully we can get things figured out and get a little better result there (than in the spring). The points will be in the back of our mind a little bit, but they are what they are. We go to every racetrack and run as hard as we can, and the points will fall where they fall.”
The title combatants will also have to contend with a full field of ACT Late Model Tour and Thunder Road Late Model standouts. Many of the other racers in the overall top-10, such as Lebanon, NH’s Rich Dubeau, Mason brothers Corey and Bryan, and Graniteville, VT’s Chip Grenier, experienced tough luck at the Tour’s first visit to Thunder Road this season and are eager to rebound. Rookie Christopher Pelkey of Barre finished sixth in Thunder Road points this season, making him a potential sleeper.
Meanwhile, Thunder Road regulars have always performed well in ACT events at the speedway. The Labor Day Classic figures to be no exception. Newly crowned “King of the Road” Scott Dragon of Milton, VT has already entered the event after finishing runner-up in the last two editions. Former Memorial Day Classic winner Tyler Cahoon of Danville, VT and recent weekly winner Evan Hallstrom of Northfield, VT have also filed entries. Community Bank 150 winner Jason Corliss, 3-time 2018 winner Cody Blake, and 3rd-place point man Trampas Demers are among others anticipated to be in the pits.
“That’s one of the difficult parts of Thunder Road,” MacDonald said. “Most of the guys who run the Tour have run that track a lot as well, and then you’ve got all the weekly guys that run there. They definitely have a good advantage. We just have to go work hard during practice and try to get the car handling well.”
The event also marks a major milestone in ACT history, as it will be the 300th point-counting event for the ACT Late Model Tour since it debuted in 1992. Fittingly, the occasion comes at ACT’s “home track”, as Sunday is the 71st Tour event at the speedway.
The 40th Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic goes to post at 1:00pm on Sunday, September 2. The event is part of a 5-division card that includes Thunder Road’s Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors plus the New England Dwarf Cars. Admission is $25 for adults and free for kids ages 12 and under. The pits open at 8:00am and the front gates open at 10:00am.