NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. -- It might be in the best interest of the American-Canadian Tour's roster of drivers to consider John Donahue a major threat from now on. The Graniteville driver obliterated the competition at the ACT Late Model Tour's 150-lap event at White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday night, leading every lap on his way to his first win of the year and securing a spot in the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September.
Donahue made it look easy.
"That's good from my point of view," Donahue said in victory lane.
Donahue was clearly the class of the field throughout the event, scoring a "+7" handicap in his heat race to earn the pole position. From there, he led every lap and lapped all but the top-ten of the race's 30 starters. At times, he led eventual runner-up Brent Dragon by as much as a quarter of a lap, even while running in thick lapped traffic.
With former champion driver and crew chief Dale Shaw turning the wrenches on his car at White Mountain, Donahue said he was asked during the race to slow his pace and not use his National Guard #26 Ford up. "It seemed like the more I drove it, the better the came became. Dale kept telling me, 'Slow down, slow down, slow down, save your tires,' and I said, 'How slow do you want me to go? I'm not even [driving hard enough to] use my brakes!' I was just drifting into the corner and drifting out of the corner and kept pulling away. It was [easy] for me."
Donahue's dominance throughout the race was certainly the shining moment of his season, but a runner-up finish at Oxford Plains Speedway last month and top-ten results at Lee USA Speedway and Thunder Road indicate that his Kendall Roberts-owned team may have the pieces in place for a run at the ACT Late Model Tour title. And, of course, they're headed to Loudon, N.H. for the Invitational.
"I've been waiting for that," said a relieved Donahue. "I tried to keep it in the back of my mind, and I wasn't thinking about that all season, just trying to get top-fives and top-tens and try to keep my points up. We've been trying to safe all year and be smart.
"To come out of here with a win today... it's just a perfect day. To me, [qualifying for the Invitational] means a lot. I just can't wait to get on that track, it's going to be really exciting."
Dragon, of Milton, finished second after being involved in an early crash. Despite suffering some damage to the suspension, Dragon's car was the fastest one on the track, save for Donahue, and finished a full straightaway ahead of Barre's Nick Sweet and Eric Williams of Hyde Park. Sweet, who ran in third place for most of the race, held off a late charge from Williams to finish on the podium spot. Ben Rowe of Turner, Me. rounded out the top-five after starting 26th; Rowe had to qualify through the last-chance 'B' feature before posting his best ACT finish of the season.
The unofficial top-ten was completed in order by Scott Payea, Cris Michaud, Tyler Cahoon in an ACT career-best eighth place, Brad Leighton, who came from the back of the field twice, and Pete Potvin, III.
Several early incidents took a handful of front-running drivers out of contention, including Joey Becker, Aaron Ricker, and Brian Hoar. Jamie Fisher's car shut down on lap 137 after running inside the top-five for most of the race. Point leader Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. was never a factor in the race and finished 12th, unofficially.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- White Mountain 150
ACT Late Model Tour, White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
1. (1) John Donahue, Graniteville
2. (6) Brent Dragon, Milton
3. (5) Nick Sweet, Barre
4. (10) Eric Williams, Hyde Park
5. (26) Ben Rowe, Turner, Me.
6. (24) Scott Payea, Milton
7. (14) Cris Michaud, Northfield
8. (25) Tyler Cahoon, St. Johnsbury
9. (17) Brad Leighton, Center Harbor, N.H.
10. (9) Pete Potvin, III, Graniteville
(Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)