-by Justin St. Louis
There's a debate on one of the message boards that has me in stitches. Ben Rowe hasn't amounted to much in his first two appearances this season with the ACT Late Model Tour, and the argument by that one poster started is that Rowe has lost his touch and shouldn't waste everyone's time by attempting to qualify for the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway next month.
Dude, really? Really?
All Rowe has done so far this year is win twice in the PASS South Super Late Models, once in PASS North competition, and lead the point standings for both the South and National championships. Yeah, he should hang it up.
Rowe's regular gig is driving for Richard Moody Racing on the PASS circuit, a team that has full-time help in the garage with money to spare. The team builds and massages and feels every facet of its operation every day of the week, and the combination is one of the most potent of any short track team in the country. Their plans call for chasing all three PASS championships with a full effort, and so far it looks like those plans might work out.
Rowe's ACT gig is strictly a fun, part-time deal with Donald and David Avery's team, which has volunteer help, and again, races strictly on a part-time schedule. To top it off, they're figuring out a new chassis this season.
The Moody team has raced nine times so far this year, often running against teams that have raced only half that number of events. The Avery team has raced just twice, against teams that have been on the track between five and seven times already. So which team is at an advantage here? Shouldn't that be pretty obvious?
Rowe won the PASS North race at White Mountain Motorsports Park on May 23, then failed to qualify for the ACT race at Thunder Road the next day. He joked, "I go from hero to zero in a one-hour drive over the mountain," making reference to his nine career PASS victories at White Mountain and 0-fer record at Thunder Road.
Sure, Thunder Road is a tough track, but it's not like Rowe hasn't figured it out: he finished second in the Milk Bowl there in 2007, and has top-five finishes in each of the last two Labor Day Classic 200s at the track. And to be fair, he hasn't even raced there more than eight or nine times in his career. By the same token, look at all the wins Phil Scott has at Thunder Road, but only once has he conquered White Mountain, and that was nine years ago. And by the way, Rowe won four ACT races driving for the Avery team in 2006, so there's that.
If anyone thinks for a second that Ben Rowe hasn't got what it takes to be a competitive ACT driver, they're off their rocker. Ben Rowe will be at the TD Banknorth 250, and if you think the Avery team won't have figured its new car out by then, then, again, you're a crazy person. Rowe will be racing to win his third 250, and if he's not in contention (barring some sort of freak thing like a wreck or a mechanical failure), I'll come on here and tell you I was totally wrong.
Don't bet on me telling you I was wrong.
I'm not even going to comment on Bobby MacArthur anymore, unless there's a story involving his complete removal from control at All-Star Speedway.
Among the highlights of the Dragon family match race at Bear Ridge Speedway last Saturday:
-Referencing Brent Dragon's previous seat time in the 30-lap Sportsman Modified feature prior to the match race, announcer Dave Moody calls the lineup: "Beaver in the 26, Bobby in the 5, and Stroker Ace in the 6."
-Harmon "Beaver" Dragon, age 68, doing absolutely everything he can to find the fast way around, including hitting the tire barriers along the inside edge of the track, driving through mud puddles in the infield at full speed, cutting off his brother, Bobby, and ramming into his son, Brent, on the final lap. Priceless.
-Upon Beaver driving to the pit area between the first and second segments, Moody makes the comment: "Beaver's out of gas. The car is running, Beaver himself is out of gas. A little prune juice and Geritol and we'll be good to go."
-Brent Dragon: "I'll never complain about Ste-Croix being a rough track ever again."
Gary Siemons, #5 car owner: "What? That ain't even rough. That wasn't bad at all."
Brent Dragon: (Expletive deleted)
Chris Osgood. Marc-Andre Fleury. Awesome.
Good for Monadnock Speedway! Eighteen Modifieds competed on Saturday night, which is a great sign for the future of the division. Even better (and no offense is meant by this), Jim Boniface won the feature, meaning division dominator Kirk Alexander didn't.
Jean-François Déry's win in the Série ACT-Castrol race at Autodrome Montmagny last Saturday was one for the underdogs, and the fact that he's now headed to Loudon, N.H. in August for the approval test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is what dreams are made of for a team like his. Yes, Déry is lightning-quick and has top-notch equipment and has contended for titles, but he's still not yet at the caliber of an established champion racer like a Sylvain Lacombe or a Donald Theetge or a Patrick Laperle. He's a racer that more often than not seems to race totally for the moment, and he's one of the most aggressive-but-not-quite-over-the-line racers there is right now. And the fact that he was heard on radio scanners during the race at Montmagny saying he was pushing Theetge's back bumper "for the show" is fantastic.
Hey, whaddaya think of the new logo?
Not gonna lie, we're kinda looking forward to Sunday's "Battle of Plattsburgh" at Airborne Speedway with the Super DIRTcar Series. Big guns like like Brett Hearn, Frank Cozze, Billy Decker, Kenny Tremont, and Timmy Fuller versus Airborne homeboys like Martin Roy, Mike Bruno, the Bartemy brothers, George Foley, and Pat Dupree... good stuff.
Our advice: get there a bit before the 6:00 post time.
We're only a week out from the first Thursday night race at Thunder Road, which means... (deep breath)... everything. Simply cannot wait.
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Sheldon racer Aaron Bartemy notched his best finish of the season as the runner-up in the Modified race on Saturday night. Brandon's Don Scarborough finished fifth. Milton's Larry Underwood was the top Vermonter in the Tiger Sportsman race, finishing seventh, while Swanton's Kevin Boutin was sixth in the Renegade feature. Billy Jenkins of Milton finished 11th in the Mini-Modifieds.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): As Brett Hearn lost for only the second time this season in the Modifieds, Middlebury's Todd Stone finished second behind winner Jeff Trombley on Friday night. South Londonderry's Cullen Howe finished eighth in the Budget Sportsman feature, while Fair Haven's Ed Thompson was fifth in the Pro Street Stock event.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Wayne Stearns of Thetford Center finished third in the Sportsman Modified feature on Saturday night, with Bob Shepard of Corinth sixth. Bryan King of Corinth, Jason Gray of East Thetford, and Milton's Brent Dragon finished eighth through tenth. Josh Harrington of Topsham remains undefeated through three Sportsman Coupe events, while East Corinth's Melvin Pierson finished second and Bradford rookie Jason Horniak was third. Will Hull of East Montpelier was able to knock Thetford Center's Dan Eastman off the top in the Limited Late Models. Sharon's Mitch Durkee picked up his first Fast Four win of the season over St. Johnsbury's Kevin Harran, while Bradford's Tom Placey beat Bobby Lee Bell of St. Johnsbury in the Hornet class. Brenda Atherton of Fairlee won the Hornet Queen race.
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Friday's race card was rained out.
Devil's Bowl Speedway (Fair Haven): Middlebury's Todd Stone capped off a strong weekend by finishing second in the Modified race on Sunday. Tim LaDuc of Orwell finished third, followed by Londonderry's Rob Langevin and Vince Quenneville, Jr. of Brandon. Veteran Don Ackner of Castleton, N.Y. was the winner. Cullen Howe of South Londonderry finished 10th in the Budget Sportsman feature. Jeff Washburn of Benson won the Pro Street Stock feature with Salisbury's Fred Little third and Carl Vladyka of Fair Haven fifth. Don Williams of Ripton won the Limited feature, while Mike Clark of Brandon was third.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Dana Shepard of Putney finished 10th in the Super Stock race on Saturday night, and Whitingham's Ricky Bernard was 14th in the Mini Stock feature. It was a 1-2-3 family sweep in the four-cylinder Enduro class, as West Brattleboro's Dick Houle beat Vernon racers Adam and Josh Houle for the win.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Derek Ming of Island Pond won his second-straight Outlaw Sportsman feature on Saturday with Newport Center's David Ofsuryk sixth. Denny Degreenia of Concord finished third in the Super Stock feature. Andrew Fecteau of Hardwick won the Street Stock race, with Derby Line's Brendan Hunt second. Andy Simpson of Lyndon Center won the Cyclone race.
Série ACT-Castrol: Trampas Demers of South Burlington finished second in the Red Bear 100 at Autodrome Montmagny near Québec City on Saturday night, while Graniteville's John Donahue finished 15th.
Utica-Rome Speedway (Vernon, N.Y.): John Scarborough of Bomoseen took his first win of the season in the Sportsman feature on Sunday.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Rookie Dola Holland of Ludlow finished ninth in the Late Model feature on Friday with Ascutney's Chris Riendeau 11th. Ascutney rookie Joey Jarvis finished fourth in the Modified feature with Windsor's Robert Hagar sixth. Russ Davis of Cavendish finished second in the Super Street feature with West Hartford's Kris Lyman third. Tara Tarbell of Springfield took her second-straight Strictly Stock win. Kyle Small of Quechee beat Hartland's Cody Small to win the Wildcat feature, with North Springfield's Jeremiah Losee third.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Veteran racer Norm Andrews of Northfield earned a Triple Crown in the Late Model division Saturday night, winning his heat, the semi-feature, and the 50-lap main event. Stevie Parker of Lyndonville was third in the Strictly Stock feature, while Concord's Rubin Call won the Strictly Mini race.
Twin State Speedway sees the return of the True Value Modified Racing Series on Friday night, while Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Canaan Dirt Speedway also return to action. Saturday will see regular events at Bear Ridge, Canaan Fair, Mondanock, and White Mountain, while the Série ACT-Castrol at Québec's Autodrome Chaudière and Riverside Speedway holds the first leg of its $1,000-to-win Bond Auto Triple Crown Series. Devil's Bowl and Utica-Rome return to action on Sunday, while Airborne Speedway has a special 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series event.
(Photos: 1. Ben Rowe a has-been? Give me a freaking break; 2. Beaver Dragon (#26) slides his car around Bear Ridge; 3. J.F. Déry does the best burnouts!; 4. Something new, something blue; 5. Joey Jarvis (#04) races with Arthur Heino (#27) and Aaron Fellows (#1) at Twin State Speedway. Photos 1, 4 by Justin St. Louis/VMM; Photos 2, 5 by Alan Ward; Photo 3 by Stephane Lazare)