SOUTH BURLINGTON -- Trampas Demers is thinking outside the box this year. "I need more seat time out front, so I'll be more comfortable in situations like this," Demers said on Sunday, referencing his pole position for the Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road in Barre.
Demers has been a solid competitior in Thunder Road's weekly Late Model division for nearly a decade, but has loftier goals. Among them, of course, is earning a trip to Loudon, N.H. for the inaugural ACT Invitational at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. Race winners from the primarily U.S.-based ACT Late Model Tour and its sister series, the Série ACT-Castrol in Québec and Ontario, will be guaranteed a starting spot in the Invitational.
The South Burlington racer has done the touring thing before, including a frustrating 18th-place season last year on the U.S. tour, but wants to improve his program and become a top contender wherever he goes. So he's headed north of the border, to race with the Castrol regulars and take a different approach to his racing operation.
The Série ACT-Castrol has some tough competition -- outgoing ACT Late Model Tour champion Patrick Laperle, defending Castrol champion Alexandre Gingras, and top drivers like Karl Allard, Donald Theetge, and Lacombe brothers Sylvain and Martin among the marquee names -- but the car counts are significantly lower than the U.S. series; last year's Tour averaged over 40 cars per event, while the Castrol series averaged about 24 cars, which, in turn, took some pressure off of teams at Castrol events.
"With the Tour last year, at best we were usually the first car to finish one lap down," Demers said. "I don't like struggling to qualify, and I don't like struggling to keep up. You look at guys like Scott Payea and Jean-Paul Cyr that can easily get into races, and they have a big advantage over everyone else. They let the 15 teams that are struggling beat themselves. If you're not playing defense you can play offense and try stuff more often. I want to be there, and I think we can get there running the Castrol races."
Demers said he is scheduled to race the first four Castrol events at St-Eustache near Montréal, Montmagny and Chaudière near Québec City, and Capital City in Ottawa. "After the first four, we'll decide what we do from there. If things are going good, we'll probably keep going. The Thunder Road weekly schedule begins right around that time, and we'll figure out whether or not the Castrol series is still an option for us then. It's less of a risk [than running the Tour], and we're hoping to steal a win and get into Loudon."
Demers will be at the ACT Late Model Tour's Furniture World of Vermont Spring Green 100 at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. this weekend, then makes his Série ACT-Castrol debut at Autodrome St-Eustache on Saturday, May 16.
(Photo: Trampas Demers (85) paces the field at Thunder Road prior to the start of Merchants Bank 150 last Sunday. He will head to Canada's Série ACT-Castrol in 2009. Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)