Milton's Eric Chase (left) and defending American-Canadian Tour Champion Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, Que. will carry the northern colors at New Smyrna Speedway's 43rd Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in New Smyrna, Fla. Chase will attempt to defend his opening night 2008 victory on Friday in the ASA/Crate-type Late Model division. The ACT veteran captured the opening round during the traditional nine-night winter championship series at the fast half-mile last February, and, with teammate Ryan Nolin splitting time in the car, finished seventh in point standings despite skipping the final race.
"Just like last year, we're just going down to have some fun and race our car," said Chase.
In 2008, Chase posted the first main-event victory of his career at the 25-lap World Series opener on Friday, Feb. 8, surviving three red-flag periods for violent crashes, including one that took fellow ACT competitor Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. out of the race. Chase earned a seventh-place finish the following night, while Nolin posted finishes of eighth, 21st, and 16th in his three starts. Chase withdrew from the final race after a lackluster qualifying effort.
Nolin will reportedly not be sharing driving duties with Chase in the Gary Clay Builders/Mansfield Heliflight #40 car in this year's World Series.
Laperle is also competing in the ASA/Crate division, and like Chase, is considered one of the early favorites for the championship. According to Laperle, it sounds like he'll be hard to beat. Laperle reported Thursday night that his car performed so well it seemed "too easy" in practice sessions during the day. "If it stays like this all week, we could have a lot of fun," he said confidently.
Multi-time ACT Canadian Champion Claude Leclerc of Lanoraie, Que. helped Chase's team on Thursday, substituing in the driver's seat for Chase, who was on a business trip to Paris, France. Chase is scheduled to arrive in New Smyrna on Friday morning.
The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing opens on Friday evening, with NASCAR Tour-type Modifieds, SK Modifieds, Super Late Models, Late Models, and Florida/IMCA-type Modifieds joining the ASA/Crate-type Late Models on the card. The ASA/Crate division runs cars with chassis similar to ACT Late Models, but larger engines and 10-inch tires are permitted.
The ASA/Crate division has the most official entries filed of any of the seven divisions competing at New Smyrna, with 32 drivers pre-registered. Polewarczyk, however, confirmed that despite filing an entry, he will not be competing in 2009. Among the pre-entered drivers are Hendrick Motorsports driver Landon Cassill of Cedar Rapids, Ia., Kawartha (Ont.) Speedway regular Shaun McWhirter, and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jerick Johnson of Mooresville, N.C. Logan Ruffin, who at age 13 was last year's ASA/Crate division champion, has not filed an entry for this year's World Series.
The ASA/Crate division is scheduled to compete on seven nights, including Friday and Saturday this week, and each weeknight next week. The division's finale will be a 50-lap race on Friday, Feb. 13. Stay tuned to Vermont Motorsports Magazine, Green-White-Checker, and The Backstretch for New Smyrna Speedway coverage.
(Photo courtesy http://www.nolinracing.com/)