PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- The American-Canadian Tour's Spring Green 100 was not Scott Payea's to win, at least not for the first 94 laps. The Milton racer patiently waited while New Hampshire drivers Brad Leighton and Randy Potter raced each other hard at the front of the field at Airborne Speedway on Sunday afternoon, then slipped underneath Potter to take the lead with five laps remaining.
But there was more to the story than that. With Airborne Speedway's reconfiguration from a nearly flat, one-lane track to a progressively banked, multi-groove surface, the entire complexion of Late Model racing at the Plattsburgh, N.Y. track saw itself change at the Spring Green. Potter set the tone for the day by passing four cars on the outside lane in his heat race -- unheard of in previous races at the track -- and earning the pole position through ACT's unique 'plus/minus' handicap system. And, like Potter, outside pole sitter Leighton used the top lane to take the lead on the first lap of the Spring Green.
Eric Chase ran in a close third place position at the very top of the track behind Leighton and Potter until his car dropped off the edge of the racing surface on lap 52, sending him into a slide until his car became wedged underneath a billboard in Turn 3, very similarly to Ricky Wolf's car in Saturday practice. The resulting caution period and restart set up a 35-lap duel between the two leaders, as Potter attacked an increasingly ill-handling Leighton for nearly the entire balance of the race. Potter tapped Leighton's rear bumper several times, and the two rubbed fenders and doors on a couple more occasions. They traded the lead five times between laps 79 and 88, but when Leighton's car began to fade, Payea moved in and took command.
Payea easily picked off Leighton, the winner of the ACT season opener at Lee USA Speedway last month, for second place on lap 89 just moments after Potter took the lead; he then looked underneath Potter on lap 93 before finally taking over two laps later. A final caution on lap 98 was no problem for Payea, as he held on to earn the fifth ACT Late Model Tour win of his career.
"They made all these changes to the race track, and it's real racy," said Payea, who finished third in each of the first two ACT events this season. "We were good all day and we were just waiting for our opening. Guys were running two-by-two in front of me and we were just waiting. Finally Randy opened the door and I got underneath him, it was just awesome."
With the win, Payea becomes the third driver to earn a guaranteed starting berth at the inaugural ACT Invitational at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway at Loudon, N.H. in September. He joins Leighton and Eric Williams, who won last week's Merchants Bank 150 qualifier at Thunder Road. And as is tradition in the Spring Green, the event's longtime sponsor, Furniture World of Vermont, awarded Payea with a brand new leather recliner chair.
Potter held on for the runner-up finish, his best of the young season, and his second consecutive second-place finish in the Spring Green event.
"I wasn't thinking about the trophy or going to Loudon," joked Potter. "I wanted that chair. I wanted it last year, too. Maybe Scott will let me sit in it."
After leading a total of 80 laps, Leighton finished in third place; he was complimentary of Potter. "We were tight from the first lap," Leighton said. "If I ran alone and had the whole track I could stay somewhat at pace with Randy, but he was really good and he ran me hard all day long. He's a good racer. There was some bumping, but this is short track, right?"
Former Série ACT-Castrol champion Donald Theetge of Québec had a strong run to finish in fourth place, ahead of Milton's Brent Dragon. Brian Hoar, Glen Luce, Ryan Nolin, Mike Olsen, and Jamie Fisher completed the unofficial top ten in order.
Forty-seven cars would have attempted to qualify on Saturday, but rains postponed the event to Sunday afternoon. Thirty-four cars returned for the Sunday make-up, with all of them starting the Spring Green 100.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: Furniture World of Vermont Spring Green 100
ACT Late Model Tour -- Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
1. Scott Payea, Milton
2. Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H.
3. Brad Leighton, Center Harbor, N.H.
4. Donald Theetge, Boischatel, Que.
5. Brent Dragon, Milton
6. Brian Hoar, Williston
7. Glen Luce, Turner, Me.
8. Ryan Nolin, Georgia
9. Mike Olsen, North Haverhill, N.H.
10. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
11. Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
12. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H.
13. Joe Becker, Jeffersonville
14. Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier
15. Chip Grenier, Graniteville
16. Dwayne Lanphear, Morrisville
17. John Donahue, Graniteville
18. Claude Leclerc, Lanoraie, Que.
19. Eric Williams, Hyde Park
20. Ricky Rolfe, Albany Twp., Me.
21. Craig Bushey, Cambridge
22. Dale Shaw, Center Conway, N.H.
23. Sam Caron, Colchester
24. Dave Whitcomb, Essex Junction
25. Joey Doiron, Berwick, Me.
26. Dave Paya, Milton
27. Matt White, Northfield
28. Martin Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que.
29. Joe Tetreault, Enfield, N.H.
30. Steve Fisher, Shelburne
31. Pete Potvin, III, Graniteville
32. Jeff Zuidema, Brookfield, Mass.
33. Eric Chase, Milton
34. Tyler Cahoon, St. Johnsbury
Heat winners: J. Fisher, Potter, Polewarczyk, Theetge
Consolation winners: Paya, Nolin
(Photos: 1. A leather recliner from Furniture World of Vermont awaits its new owner, ACT Spring Green winner Scott Payea (center) -- Justin St. Louis/VMM photo; 2. Payea earned himself a trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway with his victory on Sunday -- Alan Ward photo)