New York racer to run Twin State, Airborne events; eyeing full season in 2010
CLAREMONT, N.H. -- Three years ago, Mark Lamberton was one of the hottest drivers on the ACT Late Model Tour, and certainly the face of New York-based Late Model racing in northern New England. Friday, he'll try to rekindle those flames as he returns to the race track at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H.
The Mooers Forks, N.Y. driver has been absent from ACT competition since finishing fifth in championship points in 2006, but will make his return behind the wheel of the #16 Richard Green Trucking Ford normally driven by Joey Becker. Lamberton has been a part-time crew member with the team for two seasons, and has also been serving as crew chief for Sportsman driver Bill Sawyer at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. this year. With Lamberton turning wrenches, Becker turned in a season-best third-place finish at Thunder Road in Barre on August 20.
Lamberton's most recent on-track experience was in the Modified division at Airborne in 2007.
"I've been hanging around the last few years looking for the right opportunity to come along," said Lamberton. "I've raced a Modified, I've worked on cars, I tried a bunch of things, but [racing with ACT] is what I want to be doing. In all my years of racing, it was the most fun I ever had. I've missed it."
Initial plans call for Lamberton to be in the Rick Green-owned car at Twin State on Friday and at the Fall Foliage 300 at Airborne Speedway on Sept. 13. Becker will drive the car at Thunder Road on Sunday in the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 and at the Chittenden Bank Milk Bowl later in the month. Ironically, it was Becker and Lamberton that turned in one of the most memorable finishes in Thunder Road history in 2004, as they traded the lead more than a dozen times during the final 35 laps of the Memorial Day Classic -- Lamberton spun, Becker won.
Green said that he was considering putting Lamberton in a full-time ACT Late Model Tour ride for 2010 when he got a call from ACT President Tom Curley. "Tom approached me about getting Mark into one of my cars at the 300," Green explained, noting that Curley thought Lamberton, who won both the Foliage event and the Airborne Speedway Late Model track championship in 2001, might be an added attraction to the race. "I had already thought about having him race for us on the Tour next year, but when Tom called, I figured we might as well speed up the process and get things rolling sooner rather than later."
Curley clearly thinks highly of Green's new driver. "[Lamberton's family] along with his whole team always represented to me exactly why I have stayed in this business for so long," Curley said Tuesday. "If I could have 30 Mark Lambertons on the road each week, I would keep doing this until I either dropped dead or became so senile that they threw me out. He is in the same racer mold as Brent Dragon, Randy Potter, Phil Scott, Cris Michaud, Donald Theetge, Jamie Fisher, Karl Allard, as well as a bunch of others, and you know how much respect I have for those kinds of racers and teams.
"Mark is one of the best natural racers I have ever known," Curley continued. "He captured my respect when I watched him struggle for years at Thunder Road, and he kept coming back until he finally became pretty good there. I loved that tenacity that he brought to his racing. He is a hell of a good racer that understands the business as much as he understands how to race cars. "
Curley also said that should Lamberton win one of the events at Twin State or Airborne -- both of which are qualifiying races for the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 19 -- he would consider inviting him to compete in the race, despite not having any track time at the 1.058-mile superspeedway. "I said to someone the other day that [Lamberton] would be about the only driver I would consider inviting to the Invitational without having been to the test-and-tune (last week). I have that much respect for him as a long track racer," Curley said. Lamberton's three ACT Late Model Tour wins all came at Airborne, a fast, 4/10-mile oval, and a significant number of his career ACT top-five finishes have come at Airborne, the 5/8-mile Riverside Speedway in Ste-Croix, Qué., and the 9/10-mile Sanair Super Speedway near Montréal.
"Mark has helped us change a lot on the setup of the car already, so these races will be a good test to get any bugs worked out," said Green. "And he's a very good driver, so who knows, maybe we can make something out of it. It should be fun."
Lamberton finished fourth at Twin State in his own car at ACT's last visit in 2004. "It was a few years ago and in a different car, but I liked the track at Claremont and I'm hoping we can do well there again. And the 300, I can't wait for that. I wanted to get a ride for that race as soon as [ACT] announced it last year. I hope I make Rick and Joey proud."
(PHOTOS: 1. Mark Lamberton will return to the driver's seat this weekend at Twin State Speedway in one of Richard Green's #16 cars; 2. Lamberton (#29) and Joey Becker (#16) battle at Thunder Road in 2004; 3. Lamberton (#29) on the way to winning the Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway in 2001. Photo 1 by Justin St. Louis/VMM; Photos 2 and 3 by Gene Gagne/OutsideGroove.com)