STE-CROIX, Qué. -- "I guess it was worth the trip," laughed June Dragon, as her husband, Brent, strapped the tool box down in their race hauler in the pit area just past midnight. They woke up Saturday morning expecting a late night after a race four-and-a-half hours away. Hopefully, the adrenaline of the year's first victory will carry them well over Interstate 89 to the Milton exit, and a few minutes later, home. And they'll arrive at about the same time they expected to, early Sunday morning, even a few hours after this story is published. Yes, it'll be a long ride.
But, contrary to the plan in the morning, it'll be long ride south.
As the Dragons sat at the rest area in Milton on Saturday morning, they waited for word from Waterford, Connecticut; with their ACT Late Model ready to go for the final three-quarters of the Nutmeg State 100, rained out a week ago and rescheduled for Saturday, the weather forecast again looked bleak for the southern New England oval. When the official call came at 8:30am, the team had a decision to make. Turns out, it was the best one they made all year.
"We were sitting there waiting, and I said, 'Well, what do you want to do?'" said Brent Dragon. "Waterford was rained out again, and we were already loaded and ready to race. So we went to Ste-Croix."
Ste-Croix, as in, Ste-Croix, Québec, the same four-and-a-half hours away as Waterford Speedbowl, but north into Canada rather than south to the shores of the Atlantic. The Série ACT-Castrol was running its fifth race of the season at Riverside Speedway, the newly renamed 5/8-mile oval on the scenic banks of the St. Lawrence River, just southwest of Québec City. The race was, like Waterford's, a qualifying event for the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway later in the summer, and Dragon had won an ACT Late Model Tour event at Riverside in 2003, a week before winning, ironically enough, at Waterford Speedbowl.
"The car unloaded great off the trailer, it was really fast," said Dragon. "We started tenth in the heat and finished third, and I think with two more laps I would have won. We decided to come up to work on the car and we found some stuff, so it was a good night."
"Good" might be a bit of an understatement; Dragon lined up 12th out of 31 starters for the Riverside 100, and by lap 23 was in the lead on the tricky, paperclip-shaped track. He was challenged by Donald Theetge and Sylvain Lacombe -- two of the very best at the track, each with a mountain of victories there in ACT Late Model Tour, Castrol Series, ADL Series, and open competition -- and held on to not only win the race and the invitation to NHMS, but to also become the first American driver to win in Castrol competition since the series' inception in 2005.
"It's just one of those deals, I guess. We thought we were headed to Waterford, and we ended up winning at Ste-Croix," laughed Dragon. "Yeah, it was a good night.
"It's still a long trip home, but it was worth it."
(Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)