This Track in ACT History: Autodrome Chaudière


Location: Vallée-Jct., QC

Track: ¼-mile high-banked oval

Opened: 1992 (clay), 2005 (asphalt)

# of ACT Races Held: 24

ACT Late Model Tour – 1

Série ACT – 18 (includes 1 combo event with ACT U.S.)

ACT Special Events – 6

Most Wins:

ACT Late Model Tour – Wayne Helliwell Jr., 1

Série ACT – Patrick Laperle and Donald Theetge, 5

ACT Special Events – Patrick Laperle, 2

A Brief History of Autodrome Chaudière

Autodrome Chaudière first opened its doors in 1992 and has packed a lot into a relatively short time. This tight bullring – the official length of ¼-mile may be a tad generous – was originally a dirt track run in partnership between the Vallée-Jonction Lions Club and Michel Lessard (whose property the track was built on). Taking its name from the Chaudière River that crosses the municipality of Vallée-Jct., the track had a few relatively uneventful years of operation before Lessard took full control in 1996. Lessard increased the track to 1/3-mile in length, holding an Amateur Truck race to kick off the new configuration. (The winner was Francois Lessard, the father of current rising Super Late Model star Raphael Lessard.)

But the track truly became a prominent player in Quebec racing in 2005. That year, Michel Lessard redesigned the track again, turning it into the progressively-banked ¼-mile asphalt oval that fans recognize today. In fact, it was the highest-banked track in Quebec at the time, with banking that increases from 11 degrees on the bottom groove to 18 degrees by the wall.  The Série National Castrol LMS Quebec (Quebec National Late Model Sportsman Series) was founded the same year, and this new series helped welcome the new era at Chaudière on August 26, 2005 with a 150-lap event won by Jean-Francois Dery. Buoyed by its success, the series held two events at Chaudière the following year.

When the American-Canadian Tour assumed control of the series in 2007, the newly-renamed Série ACT Castrol continued this relationship with the track that has come to be known as “Little Bristol” for its high speeds and close-quarters action. Furthermore, the success of Late Model racing at Chaudière spurred other series to make the track a stop on their schedules. The Série Sportsman Quebec made its first visit in 2010 and quickly became a frequent guest. The following year, the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models and International Super Modified Association (ISMA) took the drive up to the Beauce region.

But change was in the air again as Lessard sold the track to Dany Lagacé and Kevin Roberge in 2012. The two put a substantial amount of capital investment into the track, which included the green retaining wall it’s now known for. More importantly, they were able to attract the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (now Pinty’s Series), which held its first event there on June 15, 2014. (The ProCam Super Truck Series also debuted at Chaudière in 2014.) The NASCAR connection continued as Lagacé and Roberge got stars such as Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to come race. The year 2015 saw another new addition with a DMCC Drift event. All the while, Chaudière continued to run a strong weekly program with classes such as Compact, Limited and Kamikaze Sport.

Chaudière changed hands again in 2016, purchased by a group of businessmen in the region. While the complete list of owners is unknown, the Board of Directors includes original co-owner Michel Lessard. (The other current Board members are Marc Begin, Normand Gilbert, Jean Poulin, and Stéphan Cliche.) This new ownership has continued the push to make Chaudière a showplace of Quebec. The track adopted the NASCAR sanction in 2017 and added the NASCAR Late Models as the headline division. The other support divisions were also renamed to Amateur, Sport Compact Elite, and Semi-Pro. That same year, the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints became the latest touring series to add a date at Chaudière.

The coming season – the 28th for the facility and 15th for the asphalt track – is shaping up to be another big one. In recent years, Autodrome Chaudière has taken a similar approach to Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway, racing 2-3 times a month and focusing on the “big shows”. Among those shows on the 2019 schedule are a 150-lap ACT Late Model Tour event, a 300-lap event for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, a Triple Crown for the NASCAR Late Models, a drift show, the second-annual $10,000-to-win Bacon Bowl 200, and a season-ending 200-lap Enduro. While some of the touring series that have visited in the past (such as PASS) are not currently on the schedule, the track still looks to have a bright future ahead.

Random Track Fact #1: “Chaudière” is the French word for “boiler” (and in ancient times, more directly translated to “cauldron”). Meanwhile “autodrome” is the rough equivalent of “speedway”. Therefore, the track’s name in English is “Boiler Speedway” – as in, fire up the boiler for some hot racing action.

Random Track Fact #2: The official Autodrome Chaudière track record is 10.77 seconds. It was set by ISMA driver Ben Seitz on June 22, 2013.

ACT at Autodrome Chaudière

For all intents and purposes, ACT inherited a place at Autodrome Chaudière – but it was a great thing to inherit. As previously mentioned, Chaudière was already on the Série National Castrol LMS Quebec schedule when ACT took over the series in 2007. Seeing no reason to mess with a good thing, Tom Curley and Série ACT continued to visit the track twice a year. The first ACT-sanctioned event there was on June 29, 2007, with Michael Lavoie winning a rain-shortened affair. A trio of drivers soon emerged as the top runners at the track, as Donald Theetge, Patrick Laperle, and Karl Allard became regulars in Chaudiere’s Victory Lane. From 2008 to 2012, the track also got a third ACT visit in the form of the “Showdown at Chaudière”. This non-point All-Star event pitted 11 U.S. drivers versus 11 Quebec drivers for 200 laps, with both a regular purse and a “Team Award” for whichever country’s drivers performed better overall.

ACT scaled back its involvement at Chaudière in 2013, dropping the Showdown at Chaudière (effectively replaced by the International 500 at Airborne) and cutting back to one Série ACT event. But the partnership picked back up in 2015 when the ACT Late Model Tour made its first visit. The combo event with Série ACT was also a doubleheader with PASS, and the “Twin 200s” reportedly drew the second-largest crowd in track history. Wayne Helliwell won after a late move on Theetge in lapped traffic, setting up the final push towards his eventual championship.

While the U.S. tour didn’t return in 2016, two Série ACT events remained on the Chaudière schedule (both won by Laperle). However, the outlook behind the scenes was less rosy, and Chaudière elected to drop Série ACT in 2017. Chaudière was set to return to the schedule in 2018 – but then more behind-the-scenes politics led to the creation of the Canadian Stock Car Championship (CSCC) and the cancellation of the Série ACT season.

It wasn’t the end, though, for ACT at Chaudière. While the CSCC scooped up most of the dates on the planned Série ACT schedule, Chaudière promoter Martin Roy decided to stay with ACT, following through on his previous plans to convert the NASCAR Late Models to the ACT rules package. An agreement was also reached for ACT to sanction the inaugural Bacon Bowl 200, maintaining an ACT presence in Canada. Both the Bacon Bowl and the weekly Late Model series were wildly successful, encouraging both parties to expand their relationship. As such, the ACT Late Model Tour will return in 2019 for the Claude Leclerc 150. ACT will also continue to sanction the Bacon Bowl for its second outing.

Random ACT Fact #1: The May 23, 2011 Série ACT event at Chaudière holds the series record for most caution flags. Patrick Laperle was the winner on a day that saw 23 cautions in 150 laps.

Random ACT Fact #2: While Laperle and Theetge share the record with five Série ACT wins at Chaudière, Jacques Poulin holds the mark for most starts. Poulin started 17 of the 18 events. (He failed to qualify for the ACT Late Model Tour/Série ACT combo event in 2015.)

ACT’s Future at Autodrome Chaudière

As mentioned previously, ACT is stepping up its presence at Chaudière in 2019, with the $5,000-to-win (USD) Claude Leclerc 150 on June 1 and the non-point $10,000-to-win (CAD) Bacon Bowl 200 on August 17. With two high-paying events on the calendar, it makes Chaudière the place this year where Quebec and Northern U.S. drivers can race for big money under ACT rules. If all goes according to plan, these events will remain on the ACT schedule for years to come.