-by Justin St. Louis
Jean-Paul Cyr won the tenth championship of his stock car career last Thursday. He's a seven-time champion of the ACT Late Model Tour, won a championship on the short-lived Am/Can Challenge Series, was a Pro Stock champion at Devil's Bowl Speedway, and is now a Thunder Road champion.
The accomplishments are many, the race victories are plentiful, and the name recognition stretches far beyond just the northeast. But for Cyr, 43, the trophies don't matter that much. He gives those away to children in his neighborhood, or to sponsors or family friends. He appreciates the titles, but they're each just one more goal crossed off a list.
The thing that meant the most to Jean-Paul Cyr on Thursday night, as he watched a fireworks display and sipped a celebratory beer with his teammates after the races were over, was a hat. A simple baseball-style cap, sea foam green in color, with a Thunder Road 50th Anniversary logo embroidered on it. It was given to him in victory lane -- or rather plopped crookedly on his head -- as Ken Squier transitioned from interviewing Cyr as the third-place finisher in the 100-lap season finale to introducing him as the newest 'King of the Road'.
"This is cool," Cyr said while watching the fireworks, in a moment as poignant as any that defines the proverbial 'stopping to smell the roses' adage. "This is what I wanted." Clearly, it's the little things in racing that Cyr enjoys. And that's a great thing.
"The best thing I ever got in racing was a scrapbook that Rick Paya's wife, Michelle, made for me," Cyr said. "It was after one of our Tour championships, maybe the second one (in 2004) that we won together. She put all kinds of pictures in it, and I don't know where she got them all, but any newspaper clipping that had my name in it, she found it and put it in there. It's a really nice scrapbook. This hat is a close second."
The story about Mark Lamberton joining the Richard Green Racing team on the ACT Late Model Tour has a few Joey Becker fans up in arms. Kids, Becker's not going anywhere. No disrespect to Dave Wilcox, Green's original Late Model pilot, but when Becker took over the #16 car in mid-2003, that's when the RGR team started to turn things around for the better, and Rick Green knows that. In fact, if you read the whole story, you'll see that Becker is racing at least two more times this year, including this Sunday at Thunder Road for the Labor Day Classic.
While the details of the 2010 season have yet to be finalized, it looks like Lamberton might run a full ACT schedule, but Becker will definitely remain in the car for the full Thunder Road season. We've spoken with Becker a few times hammering out the details of the new teaming-up, and in fact, he approached VMM with the story.
"I need to talk to you," Becker said.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" I asked, knowing that usually when a driver says those words to me, it's because I've made them mad.
"It's a very good thing," Becker replied.
The addition of Lamberton to RGR helps everyone involved. First, Richard Green will have two very capable drivers racing his cars and giving him feedback. Second, Lamberton has helped the team achieve more already. Their third-place finish at Thunder Road two weeks ago was thanks in no small part to changes Lamberton made to the setup. Third, the drivers can help each other; Becker has become an accomplished runner at Thunder Road, while Lamberton has -- save for a handful of races toward the end of his previous participation with ACT -- struggled there. On the other hand, Lamberton has been good virtually everywhere else, and can give Becker pointers if and when he races some Tour shows outside of Thunder Road.
"Mark has helped us a lot for a long time. We've been looking for a time to put him in the car for most of this year, actually," said Becker. "The timing is right for him now. I wish I could be out there with him at the 300, but the second car isn't ready. Nothing would make me happier than to see him win a race with us, especially that one."
Even Tom Curley thinks it will help the whole operation. "I think Rick Green has made a great move here," Curley said. "Mark has obviously helped get Joey Becker going again at Thunder Road, and having him on the Tour next year, if that comes together, is some of the best news I could get to keep me motivated to hang around a little longer. Rick Green will have a lot of fun, Joey Becker will have a lot more fun, and ACT is going to be better off having Mark back in the driver's seat."
The Clash of the Titans 150 at Riverside Speedway last month was good, maybe the best race of the year up to that point. But Sunday, it took a back seat to a 25-lap Budget Sportsman feature at Devil's Bowl.
Between, youngsters Anthony Marro, Justin Comes, 14 year-old Hunter Bates, and Frank Hoard, III, fans were left with mouths agape -- even as dusty as it was Sunday -- following the race. Long story short, any one of those kids could make it big in the next few years if they race as hard, as clean, and with as much respect as they showed each other in that race. There were no less than six lead changes, and at least two moments where the lead changed hands during three-wide action.
Hoard used a last-lap move to steal the win from Bates by .0002 second -- read: maybe three inches at over 100mph -- with Comes third and Marro fourth. Outstanding stuff.
The six flips at Devil's Bowl that night, by the way, were also outstanding.
It took the whole summer, but I finally sat in Pete Hartt's favorite seat in the spotters section at Thunder Road on Thursday. You can stop calling me a weenie now, Pete.
You know how Thunder Road sometimes has the bad weather kinda just... not be there? Apparently Bear Ridge Speedway enjoys the same phenomenon, as they got the show in on Saturday night, despite a total deluge everywhere else. I didn't go because I didn't think there was a chance for racing that night, and because every other track in the area rained out that night. Next time, I'll know better.
With ACT releasing the first 28 names invited to the Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, we're left wondering who the final eight racers will be that get invited. Here's the list of drivers that either practiced or were invited to practice at NHMS that have not yet been invited to race:
Wayne Helliwell, Jr.
Pete Potvin, III
Keep in mind that there are also qualifying races left to run at Twin State Speedway on Friday, Thunder Road on Sunday, and Airborne Speedway on Sept. 13.
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Saturday's races were rained out.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Dave Camara of Fair Haven finished second to Matt DeLorenzo after a long battle in Wednesday's "CVRA vs. The World 100" Modified race, and Middlebury's Todd Stone was eighth. Frank Hoard, III of Manchester finished fifth in the Budget Sportsman race, with Middlebury youngster Hunter Bates eighth. Friday's regular weekly event was rained out.
Autodrome Chaudière (Vallée-Jonction, Qué.): Brent Dragon of Milton won $5,000 on Sunday by taking down the second annual Coors Light 200 Showdown, a non-points all-star race for ACT Late Model Tour and Série ACT-Castrol drivers, beating cross-town rival Scott Payea. Pete Potvin, III of Graniteville was an ACT career-best fifth, with Williston's Brian Hoar sixth, and Chip Grenier of Graniteville tenth.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H. took his third Sportsman Modified win of the season on Saturday night over Chris Donnelly of Piermont, N.H., Ryan Avery of Thornton, N.H., West Topsham's Bob Shepard, and Wayne Stearns of Thetford Center. Josh Harrington of Topsham posted his eighth Sportsman Coupe feature win of the season, defeating Bryan King of Topsham, Bradford rookie Billy Simmons, Steve Ellsworth of Corinth, and Mike McGinley of East Barre. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center hit double digits with his 10th Limited Late Model win of the year, beating Jeremy Hodge of Bradford, Shane Race of South Strafford, Will Hull of East Montpelier, and T.C. Forward of Lyme, N.H. Wilder's Andy Johnson took his fifth Fast Four win over Steve Bell and Kevin Harran of St. Johnsbury, while Mark Harran, also of St. Johnsbury won his first Hornet feature of the season over Tom Placey of Bradford and Amanda Gray of East Thetford. Matt Shuart of Walkill, N.Y. took his first SCoNE 360 Sprint Car victory, while Matt Robie won the Granite State Mini Sprint 600cc feature. and Lacey Hanson of Orwell won the 500cc race.
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Thetford Center's Dave Lacasse was seventh in Friday's Modified race with Hartland's Ed Tobin ninth. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center was the Street Stock winner with East Montpelier's Will Hull fourth. Josh Sunn of White River Junction was the Fast Four winner with Wilder's Andy Johnson third and Ryan Dutton of Bradford seventh. Si Allen of West Windsor was seventh in the SCoNE 360 Sprint Car race.
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Saturday's race event was rained out.
Devil's Bowl Speedway (West Haven): Ray Hoard of Granville, N.Y. opened Sunday's double feature program with his first 358 Modified victory in three years, over Brandon's Vince Quenneville, Jr., New Yorkers Kenny Tremont, Jr. and Marc Johnson, and Tim LaDuc of Orwell. In the second Modified event, Middlebury's Todd Stone caputred the win over Quenneville, Tremont, LaDuc, and Hoard. Frank Hoard, III of Manchester won the first of two Budget Sportsman features over Middlebury racers Hunter Bates and Justin Comes by .0002 second. Derrick McGrew of Ballston Spa, N.Y. won the second Budget Sportsman feature over fellow New Yorkers Tim Hartman, Jr. and Jack Swinton. Cale Kneer of Troy, N.Y. swept both Pro Street Stock features, beating Benson's Jeff Washburn, Fred Little of Salisbury, Carl Vladyka of Fair Haven, and Justin Perry of Hampton, N.Y. in the first race, then Little, Washburn, Bobby Schmidt of Gansevoort, N.Y., and Bill Smith of Ballston Spa, N.Y. in the second race. Hydeville's Bill Duprey copped both Limited features, beating Randy Alger in the first and Benson's Mike Clark in the second. The Mini Stock winner was Travis Tromans of Clifton Park, N.Y. while Andrew Smith of South Glens Falls, N.Y. was the Duke Stock winner. Don Harvey won the Empire Lightning Sprint race.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Saturday's races were rained out.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Rain washed out Saturday's race card.
SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars: Randy Howe of Lebanon, N.H. won Friday's event at Canaan (N.H.) Dirt Speedway over Clay Dow of Ossipee, N.H. and Tunk Berry of Center Ossipee, N.H. Matt Shuart of Walkill, N.Y. won Saturday's event at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford over Berry and Shawn Lawler of Mason, N.H. Berry was named the 2009 Sprint Cars of New England champion, his first title on the series, over Dow and Si Allen of West Windsor.
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl (Barre): Phil Scott of Montpelier posted his first win since 2007 in Thursday's 100-lap Late Model championship finale, beating Trampas Demers of South Burlington, Milton's Jean-Paul Cyr, Cris Michaud of Northfield, and Brooks Clark of Fayston; Cyr clinched his first track championship by 41 points over Scott. East Montpelier driver Joey Laquerre, Cyr's car owner, won the Tiger Sportsman feature over Jeff Bousquet of Montpelier, Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, David Finck of Barre, and Matt Potter of Marshfield. Lloyd Blakely of Barre won the Street Stock feature over David Allen of North Troy, Morrisville's Billy "Weiner" Hennequin, Bruce Melendy of Danville, and Gary Mullen of Tunbridge. Kevin Dodge of Barre was a first-time Junkyard Warrior winner over Waitsfield's Kevin Streeter, Bryan Nykiel of Berlin, Donny Yates of North Montpelier, and Buddy Chapman of Concord.
True Value Modified Racing Series: Andy Seuss of Hampstead, N.H. won Thursday's event at Thompson Int'l Speedway in Connecticut over Richard Savary of Canton, Mass. and Todd Owen of Somers, Conn. Peter Jarvis of Ascutney was ninth.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Aaron Fellows of Croydon, N.H. swept both the Late Model and Modified features on Sunday, with rookie Joey Jarvis of Ascutney earning the runner-up spot in the Modified race. Russ Davis of Cavendish won the Super Street feature with Chris Wilk of Mendon third. Kyle Davis of Pittsford was third in the Strictly Stocks, while Jeremiah Losee of North Springfield won the Wildcat race -- run in clockwise direction -- over Cody Small of Hartland and Robert Leitch of Cavendish.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Saturday's rains cancelled the race program.
Friday, Sept. 4
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 6:45pm (Kids Rides)
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 7:00pm (Championship Night -- final event of 2009)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 7:00pm (ACT Late Model Tour, NEMA Midgets)
Saturday, Sept. 5
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford -- 6:00pm (Hornet Queens)
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre -- 2:00pm (ACT practice, Sportsman/SS/Warrior qualifying)
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 6:00pm (Charlie Trombley Memorial 100 -- final championship race for Modifieds)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Championship Night -- final event of 2009)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 6:00pm (NEMA Midgets)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Kids Rides)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Sunday, Sept. 6
Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven -- 6:45pm (Championship Night -- final event of 2009 -- 50-lap double-point Modified race)
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre -- 1:30pm (ACT Late Model Tour Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200)
ACT Late Model Tour: Fri., Sept. 4 -- Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. (7:00pm)
ACT Late Model Tour: Sun., Sept. 6 -- Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre (1:30pm)