-by Justin St. Louis
It's here. Loudon. The big one. The race that Tom Curley has worked tirelessly toward. The race that hundreds of teams in the U.S. and Canada strived to get into for six months, a pool from which only 36 will compete. It's the big payoff.
Saturday's ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be the highlight of the year for certainly the majority, if not all of the drivers, regardless of their outcome.
"That's what I wanted, that's my baby," Brad Leighton said of the event after getting a qualifying berth at Lee USA Speedway in April. There are memories of Eric Pembroke screaming "We're going to Loudon!" into the microphone connected to his cousin David's headset after they won the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road. Eddie MacDonald said "the best part" of winning the Oxford 250 -- a career-defining achievement in itself -- was getting an invitation to NHMS. Joey Laquerre calls being asked to race in the ACT Invitational the "high point" of his 50-year career. And youngsters like Joey Polewarczyk, Brandon Watson, and Joey Doiron are undoubtedly hoping that some big-league team owners might take notice if they do well in the race.
There's a lot on the line on Saturday, but there's already so much for the competitors, officials, and fans to be proud of. There has been no shortage of effort by any one of those groups to turn the concept of local Late Models racing at New England's superspeedway into a reality. Fifteen years ago, the notion of such a thing happening was almost laughable. Saturday, it's a culmination of everything that everyone has worked so hard for. The 36 race teams, the officials from the American-Canadian Tour and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the sponsors and fans, and everyone in between, are to be saluted.
The race may be the best one the northeast has ever seen, or it may be a total flop. We'll know at around 6:15 on Saturday evening. But the fact that we'll have the chance to know is what's special.
There's a race within a race for Loudon, and we'll be there to see how it plays out. Quinny Welch and Stacy Cahoon enter the White Mountain Motorsports Park championship finale on Friday only six points apart for the title, the winner of which will head down I-93 to race at Loudon about 15 or 16 hours later. Oh, and last weekend, Welch and Cahoon finished 1-2 in the feature. If you think there's no pressure there think again. Friday at White Mountain may be the best race to watch during the weekend.
Plus, there's a PASS North event that night, and the 1/4-mile bullring is historically one of the series' best tracks. We'll see you there.
Vermont Mototsports Magazine would like to welcome RPM Racing Engines of Georgia, Vt. as its first-ever advertiser. RPM will present coverage of the PASS and ACT events this weekend, as well as the Chittenden Bank Milk Bowl at Thunder Road on Sept. 26/27. We can't thank Rick Paya and the staff at RPM enough -- or you, the readers -- for believing in VMM this season. It's been an incredible first year for us, and it's all because of you.
I like Kayne West and his music, but he's a jerk for what he did at the VMAs to poor Taylor Swift. However, that doesn't excuse the world of "country music" for embracing Swift. Her songs are catchy, sure, and it's commendable that she writes and performs her own stuff, but come on, kids, that ain't country.
Alan Jackson is country. Garth Brooks is country. Alabama is country. I don't even like country music, but I know enough about it to know that Taylor Swift is -- gasp! -- a pop artist.
When only six cars are on the track in a headline-division feature, that's a bad thing. But when 19 cars start that event, that's even worse. And if that happens when it's only five laps past halfway, you've got a serious problem. That's what Riverside Speedway faced on Saturday night, and kudos to track management for pulling the plug at lap 55 of 100 after a wreckfest of a race like it sounds like they had over there.
Eddie MacDonald can't get enough. The "Outlaw" -- who just announced his intent to race the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park in October -- will be running the Camping World Series East race at NHMS on Friday as well as the Whelen Modified Tour and ACT Invitational events on Saturday. He's already on the short list of potential winners for the CWSE and ACT races, and who knows, maybe he could put his knowledge of the "Magic Mile" to use in the Modified race and rip off a victory in Andy Seuss's car. Keep your eyes peeled.
If you weren't entertained at Airborne Speedway's Fall Foliage 300, you'll never be entertained at a stock car race. Nineteen lead changes, Patrick Laperle's ridiculous luck, and side-by-side stuff all race long? It doesn't get better than that.
Speaking of Laperle, he is no fan of Donald Theetge. But you knew that.
On lap 15 of the Foliage, the two were racing for the lead after starting on the front row. Theetge came across Laperle's nose entering Turn 3 and spun. It was fourth time the two have come together while racing up front over the last three seasons.
And irony of ironies, Theetge was the last car Laperle had to race with during the closing laps of the Fall Foliage 300, as Laperle lapped the seventh-place Theetge coming to the checkers, which Laperle admitted caused some worry.
We can't print all of what Laperle said about Theetge, but he finished a 30-second rant with, "He's a pain in the ass." If you're keeping score at home, the other incidents (that we can remember, anyway, there may be more) were at Autodrome Montmagny and Airborne in 2007, Autodrome Chaudière last year, and now this.
Add in the long-standing dislike that Montréalers (Laperle's home crowd) and Québecers (Theetge supporters) have for each other, and it might be the best rivarly in northeastern Late Model racing right now. And by the way, they'll be racing for the Série ACT-Castrol championship the day after the ACT Invitational. Theetge leads Laperle by 33 points entering the St-Eustache 300, which, of course, is in Laperle's back yard.
Oh man, that reminds me that pre-season hockey starts this week! Whaddaya think, Habs go for Stanley Cup #25 this year? You Bruins got NUTHIN'! Olé, olé, olé, olé!
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
ACT Late Model Tour: On Sunday at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, Qué., beat Williston's Brian Hoar, Brent Dragon of Milton, John Donahue of Graniteville, and Milton's Scott Payea to win the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Fall Foliage 300.
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Larry Underwood of Milton finished ninth in Sunday's Sportsman feature; hometown driver Robin Wood won the race while his uncle, Bucko Branham, was declared the champion. Dave Rabtoy of Swanton won the Renegade feature with Swanton's Kevin Boutin fourth, Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax sixth, and Mike Terry of Grand Isle tenth. Lonnie Rivers of Cadyville, N.Y. was the champion. Billy Jenkins of Milton was tenth in the Mini-Modified race, with Clintonville, N.Y.'s Billy Thwaits taking the championship. Josh LaPorte of Peru, N.Y. won the Bomber feature, and Jayson Blondo of Champlain, N.Y. was the champion.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Dave Camara of Fair Haven finished sixth in the 358 Modified feature on Friday night, with Ron Langevin of Londonderry matching that performance in the Sporsman feature. Frank Hoard, III of Manchester was eighth in the Budget Sportsman feature, and Fred Little of Salisbury was third in the Pro Street Stock feature. Bill Duprey of Hydeville translated his six-win season at Devil's Bowl Speedway into a win during a rare appearance in the Limited class at Albany-Saratoga, with Mike Clark of Benson fifth.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Chris Donnelly of Piermont, N.H. posted his fifth Sportsman Modified win of the season on Saturday night over Jack Cook of Moultonboro, N.H., Bryan King of Corinth, Bob Shepard of West Topsham, and Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H. Topsham rivals Melvin Pierson and Josh Harrington continued their season-long battle in the Sportsman Coupe division by finishing 1-2 overall in a three-segment event, with King repeating his third-place finish over Bradford drivers Jason Horniak and Jeremy Stygles. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center took his 11th Limited Late Model win over East Montpelier's Will Hull, Shane Race of South Strafford, Jason Giguere of Enfield, N.H., and Jeremy Hodge of Bradford. Steve Bell of St. Johnsbury won a close Fast Four race over Chris McKinstry of Thetford, Andy Johnson of Wilder, Kevin Harran of St. Johnsbury, and Chelsea's Wayland Childs. Tom Placey of Bradford took his 10th Hornet win over St. Johnsbury's Bobby Bell, Mike Pittman of Corinth, Karl Sheldon of St. Johnsbury, and Mike Chapin of Chelsea. Matt Tanner of Stephenstown, N.Y. won the SCoNE 360 Sprint Car feature.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Saturday's races were rained out.
PASS North Super Late Models: Mike Rowe of Turner, Me. nipped D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, N.H. to win Sunday's PASS 300 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me. Danville rookie Steven Legendre was 16th and Dave Davis of White River Junction was 25th.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Paul Scharter, III of Lyndonville was declared the winner of Saturday's Bond Auto Late Model Triplw Crown 100 after only 55 laps were completed, due to many cautions and wrecks. Stephen Hodgdon on Danville finished fourth with Brett Gervais of Island Pond seventh. Derek Ming of Island Pond won the Outlaw Sportsman feature with Davey Ofsuryk of Newport Center third and Dan Sidney of St. Johnsbury fourth. Cody Hodge of Orleans won the Super Stock feature with Dilyn Switser of West Burke eighth and Ben Bedor of Lyndonville ninth. Brett Rowell of Concord won the Street Stock race over Hardwick's Andy Fecteau and Jesse Switser of West Burke. Toby Merchant of Concord was fourth in the Dwarf Car feature. Cabot sisters Lyndsay and Johanna Christman traded spots in the Angel feature to finish 1-2, in a reversal of their finish the week before, and Andy Simpson of Lyndon Center was third in the Cyclone race.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Dallas Trombley of Rutland won the Late Model race on Sunday, while Guy Caron of Lempster, N.H. was crowned the champion. Nate Kehoe of Windham finished third in the Modified race with Ascutney's Joey Jarvis fourth, Windsor's Robert Hagar fifth, Joe Olmstead of Hartland seventh, Zach Jewett of Perkinsville eighth, and Leo Martin, Jr. or Windsor ninth. Jarvis, a rookie, was overtaken in the final event for the championship by Aaron Fellows of Croydon, N.H. Chris Curtis of Baltimore finished fifth in the Siper Street feature with Rick Lamotte of Ascutney seventh, Colby Hodgdon of Ascutney ninth, and Bruce Jaycox of Hartland tenth. Michael Burke of Bellows Falls was the Strictly Stock runner-up with Tara Tarbell of Springfield fifth, David Greenslit of Waitsfield seventh, Kyle Davis of Pittsford ninth, and West Hartford's Jeremy Blood tenth. Kyle Small of Quechee wonthe Wildcat feature over Cody Small of Hartland and Jeremiah Losee of North Springfield.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): St. Johnsbury's Stacy Cahoon was the Late Model runner-up in Saturday's feature with Morrisville's Dwayne Lanphear seventh. Point leader Stevie Parker of Lyndonville was the Strictly Stock runner-up, and Concord's Rubin Call finished second in the Strictly Stock Mini race.
Friday, Sept. 18
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 7:00pm (Championship Night)
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. -- 5:10pm (NASCAR Camping World Series East/Heluva Good! 125)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Championship Night plus PASS North)
Saturday, Sept. 19
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. -- 12:45pm (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour/New Hampshire 100)
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. -- 3:00pm (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series/Heluva Good! 200)
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. -- 5:30pm (American-Canadian Tour/ACT Invitational)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Sunday, Sept. 20
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 2:00pm (Modified Apple Bowl 100)
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. -- 2:00pm (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series/Sylvania 300)
LOCAL TOURING SERIES:
ACT Late Model Tour: Sat., Sept. 19 -- New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. (5:30pm)
PASS North Super Late Models: Fri., Sept. 18 -- White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. (6:00pm)