-by Justin St. Louis
VMM went to three races in three states in three days last weekend. And not a one of those programs went off as expected. Was it a bad thing? You decide.
Friday, it was Claremont, N.H. and Twin State Speedway, a place I hadn't seen in five years. Immediately, my first thought walking through the pit gate was, "Fantastic, there are a ton of race cars here." But then I began to identify which cars went with which divisions. NEMA Midgets, one. NEMA Lites, two. Monte Carlo-type things, three. Modifieds, four. ACT Late Models, five. A VW Scirocco, six. The Batmobile, seven. A four-cylinder car that a 13 year-old kid just climbed into, eight.
Folks, that's just too many divisions. It's about four too many. And on a night when there are three touring divisions in town, it's about five too many. Obvi, any promoter will want to showcase his local talent at an event when a lot of outsiders come to town to watch the ACT and NEMA cars. So get your two best divisions -- not your five best divisions -- and give them each a feature for no points, or give them all 50 points for showing up, or something. When three extra touring divisions are on the card and each one has to run qualifying heats (and in the case of ACT, two consis and a "B" feature as well), there is ZERO time to mess around with a 20-lap mini stock race, or whatever it is.
As it turned out, the only division that had its act together that night seemed to be the local Modifieds, who ripped off a fantastic show, including a thrilling finish in which Mike Willis, Jr. absolutely robbed Nate Kehoe for the win by inches at the line. The NEMA Midgets were pretty decent, too, running their heats and a 75-lap feature very quickly, push-starts aside. The ACT Late Model Tour and local Twin State guys finally figured out how to race each other by the time the feature came around, but the consis and "B" feature were pretty bad, and full of mistakes and stupid choices by drivers. The Strictly Stocks and Super Streets had lots of cautions, lots of guys teeing off on each other.
All told, the show ran about six hours, and the temperatures dipped into the 40s. The crowd was -- I'm told -- huge for Twin State, and a lot of the people that showed up stayed for the duration.
After getting home at 3:30am, I settled in for a short summer's nap, then got up to head across Lake Champlain to Airborne for the 100-lap Modified race, bringing some friends along for the 6:00pm show. When we left a bit after 11:00, we were thinking that maybe this three-day marathon thing wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The racing at Airborne is always good, but the nonsense that goes on when the drivers are having a bad night is just insane. The Modifieds never really got going, with their longest green flag run only a 13-lap stretch. Too bad, too, because the race between Patrick Dupree and Martin Roy would have almost certainly been one of the best of the year if they had 20 laps to do their thing.
The Sportsman feature was well over a half-hour long, for 25 stinkin' laps. Completely unnecessary. But what do you do as a race director, when there's only one race left to run in the program, and your main attraction (the Mod 100) is already done? You let 'em go, I guess. The Bombers, who have sort of been the problem child at Airborne this season, were the total professionals, running a fascinating 20-lap race in less than six minutes, with lots of three-wide action.
And then Sunday, it was a short trip down I-89 to Thunder Road for the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic. I had no real complaints about any of the racing (okay, so the final seven laps of the Tiger Sportsman race took almost as long as the first 43, but that's it), but I was just totally confused by the ACT race.
How in the name of Forsythe was anyone to expect a 181-lap caution-free run at Thunder Freaking Road? I mean, big congratulations to the drivers and everything, but really? You guys couldn't have spun yourselves out on purpose, just to make things interesting?
The guys I was impressed the most with in that race were not Dave Pembroke or John Donahue or Patrick Laperle, who were clearly the class of the field, but rather drivers like Craig Bushey, Dave Paya, Jerry Lesage, and Tony Andrews, drivers who don't have an overwhelming amount of experience running 200 smart, clean, conservative laps at Thunder Road, and Travis Stearns, who had never raced at Thunder Road at all before the Classic. The race was a bit of a snoozer as far as wrecks and lead changes go, but was likely the most impressive collective display of any 30 drivers in the history of the track, and each one of them should be very proud of their effort.
But still, I'm not sure what to think of the weekend. What do you think? Good? Bad? Would you do it again?
Yes, "obvi" was a DeGrassi reference.
The list of invitees for the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway -- which, by the way, is only 10 days away -- is now at 30 drivers. Track champion Guy Caron was extended an invitation by Tom Curley during the pit meeting at Twin State Speedway on Friday night, and Travis Adams was confirmed as an invitee after winning the Oxford Plains Speedway title on Saturday.
And for the record, that pit meeting was an instant classic. The animated Curley began to lose his voice halfway through it, only adding to the drama -- and at points, the intentional comedy -- of the meeting.
How awesome is it that Josh Sunn won the Mini Stock championship at the Canaan Dirt Speedway AND the Outlaw Mini title at the Canaan asphalt track? Congratulations to Sunn and his team.
VMM first heard of the rumor about a weekly Late Model division running at Airborne Speedway in 2010 a few weeks ago. Promoter Mike Perrotte, when asked about the rumor, said there was "no chance" for a Late Model class at the track.
Perrotte said that not only does Airborne have enough divisions already with its five weekly groups, he has no interest in rocking the boat with ACT, which runs primarily on Saturdays, as Airborne does, and already has two ACT dates, including the blockbuster Fall Foliage 300.
So there's that.
I hate, hate, hate any sort of championship point system where races are dropped to determine the final standings. It might be the number-one thing that bothers me more than anything else in racing.
The steak sandwich I ate at Twin State on Friday night was simply outstanding. Sauteed peppers and onions, a ton of cheese, and juicy shaved steak, on a foot-long sub roll. I added about a gallon of Tabasco sauce to it, and it made my whole night.
It also got me thinking about the food I've had over the years at race tracks all over the place, so I made a list. Before this year, my all-time favorite race track food was the meatball sub in the pit concessions at Airborne, back when Tom Curley used to make them himself, but it was knocked off the top this year, and pushed back to third on Friday night. It's been a good year for track snacks. Here's a list of The Best Short Track Food I've Ever Had:
1. Michigan Dogs at Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 2009
2. Steak Sandwich at Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H., 2009
3. Tom's Meatball Subs at Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 2001
4. Corn Chowder at White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H., 2005
5. Poutine Fries at Autodrome St-Eustache, St-Eustache, Qué., 2007
6. Chappy's Sausage Bombs at Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H., any year
7. Onion Rings at White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H., any year
8. Al's French Frys at Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt., any year
9. Cheeseburgers at Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H., any year
10. Pepperoni Pizza at Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford, Vt., 2009
11. Al's Fried Dough at Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt., any year
12. Poutine Fries at Autodrome St-Félicien, St-Félicien, Qué., 2008
13. Chicken Fingers at White Mountain Motorsports Park, any year
14. Poutine Fries at Autodrome Chaudière, Vallée-Jct., Qué., 2008
15. Cheeseburgers at Waterford Speedbowl, Waterford, Conn., 2008
16. Sausage Bombs at Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Me., 2009
17. Steak Sandwich at Lee USA Speedway, Lee, N.H., 2004
18. Clam Strips at Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H., 2004
19. Macaroni & Cheese at White Mountain Motorsports Park, any year
20. Al's Chicken Breast Sandwich (with BBQ sauce) at Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, 2002
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
ACT Late Model Tour: On Friday night at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., Milton's Brent Dragon posted his first Tour win of the year in the Twin State 100, beating John Donahue of Graniteville, Scott Payea of Milton, Joey Doiron of Berwick, Me., and Williston's Brian Hoar. On Sunday at Barre's Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Dave Pembroke of Middlesex dominated the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 over Donahue, Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, Qué., Hoar, and Eric Williams of Hyde Park.
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Mike Bruno of Castleton finished third in Saturday's Charlie Trombley Memorial 100 in the Modified division on Saturday night. Martin Roy of Napierville, Qué. was named the Modified track champion. Milton's Bill Sawyer was seventh in the Sportsman feature with Joey Roberts of Georgia eighth. Rob Gordon of Milton won his second-straight Renegade feature, with Swanton's Kevin Boutin third and Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax fourth.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Dave Camara of Fair Haven finished fifth in the 358 Modified feature on Friday night with Middlebury's Todd Stone seventh. Fred Little of Salisbury was sixth in the Pro Street Stock feature with Benson's Jeff Washburn eighth.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Ryan Avery of Thornton, N.H. won his second Sportsman Modified feature of the year on Saturday night in a three-segment event, beating Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H., Bryan King of Corinth, Chris Donnelly of Piermont, N.H., and Jack Cook of Moultonboro, N.H. King continued his strong run by winning his first Sportsman Coupe feature of the season, beating Bradford rookie Billy Simmons, point leader Josh Harrington of Topsham, Ritchie Simmons of Bradford, and Mike McGinley of East Barre. Shane Race of South Strafford took his third Limited Late Model feature win of the year over Will Hull of East Montpelier, T.C. Forward of Lyme, N.H., Jason Giguere of Enfield, N.H., and Jeremy Hodge of Bradford. Wilder's Andy Johnson beat Steve Bell of St. Johnsbury and Bradford's Ryan Dutton for the Fast Four win, and Bradford's Tom Placey beat St. Johnsbury drivers Karl Sheldon and Bobby Bell for his ninth Hornet win of the year. Melissa King of Corinth won the Hornet Queen race.
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Thetford Center's Dave Lacasse was sixth in Friday's Modified race. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center was third in the Street Stock feature with East Montpelier's Will Hull fourth and Cricket Williams of Ascutney eighth. Hull beat Eastman by a single point for the championship. Andy Johnson of Wilder was the Mini Stock runner-up with champion Josh Sunn of White River Junction fourth and Ryan Dutton of Bradford fifth.
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Dave Davis of White River Junction was fourth in the Pro Stock race on Saturday night with Mendon's Chris Wilk fifth and Kevin Menard of South Royalton ninth; Jimmy Renfrew of Hooksett, N.H. won the race and the championship. Bradford's Arnie Stygles wrapped up the Super Street championship with a feature win. Jamie Hodgdon of Ascutney finished sixth in the Pure Stock feature with North Springfield's Rory Merritt eighth, Kyle Davis of Pittsford ninth, and Andy Merritt of Perkinsville tenth; Ed Laquire of Newport, N.H. was the champion. Bobby Prior of White River Junction won the Outlaw Mini feature over Chris McKinstry of Thetford, champion Josh Sunn of White River Junction, Mike McKinstry of Thetford, and Chris Lyman of Hartland. Mike Parker of Bradford beat champion Trever Perreault of Enfield, N.H. for the Bandit win.
Devil's Bowl Speedway (West Haven): Todd Stone of Middlebury posted his third 358 Modified win of the season on Sunday night, but surrendered his crown to Kenny Tremont, Jr. of West Sand Lake, N.Y. by a single point, 715-714. Ray Hoard of Granville, N.Y., Marc Johnson of Guilderland, N.Y., Kris Vernold of Glens Falls, N.Y., and Tremont completed the top-five in the feature behind Stone. Frank Hoard, III of Manchester won the Budget Sportsman feature over Derrick McGrew of Ballston Spa, N.Y., D.J. Brundige of Mechanicville, N.Y., Chuck Dickinson of Schaghticoke, N.Y., and Jack Swinton of Hudson Falls, N.Y. Cale Kneer of Troy, N.Y. won the Pro Street Stock feature and the track championship. Fred Little of Salisbury finished second in the race, with Fair Haven's Carl Vladyka third. Bill Duprey of Hydeville won his sixth Limited feature of the year over Brandon's Mike Clark, who clinched the division championship. Don Williams of Ripton was third in the race. Erika Lilly of Castleton was the Mini Stock/Duke Stock feature winner. Kayla Bryant of Rutland was the six-cylinder Mini Stock champion, Nathan Woodworth of Essex Junction was the four-cylinder Mini Stock champion, and Andy Smith of South Glens Falls, N.Y. was the Duke Stock champion. Chad King of Caroga Lake, N.Y. won the CRSA Sprint Car feature.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Josh King of Vernon was eighth in the Outlaw Pro Stock feature on Saturday night, while Dana Shepard of Putney finished 14th in the Super Stock race, Joe Rogers of Ludlow was 17th in the Mini Stocks, and Vernon's Heath Renaud beat Dick Houle of West Brattleboro to win the four-cylinder Enduro race.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Derek Ming of Island Pond won the Outlaw Sportsman feature on Saturday night with Dan Sidney of St. Johnsbury fifth and Davey Ofsuryk of Newport Center seventh. Dilyn Switser of West Burke was the Super Stock runner-up. Cabot sisters Johanna and Lyndsay Christman finished 1-2 in the Angel feature.
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl (Barre): Scott Coburn of Barre took his second Tiger Sportsman win of the season on Sunday over Washington's Ricky Roberts, Pete Ainsworth of Middlesex, Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier, and Tommy Therrien of Hinesburg. Rookie Tucker Williams of Hyde Park took his fourth Street Stock win of the year over Tommy "Thunder" Smith of Williamstown, David Whitcomb of Elmore, Jason Corliss of Danville, and Lloyd Blakely of Barre. Donny Yates of North Montpelier was the Junkyard Warrior winner over Waitsfield's Kevin Streeter, Ken Christman of Cabot, Keith Fortier of Hinesburg, and Kevin Dodge of Barre.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Nate Kehoe of Windham was the Modified runner-up on Friday night, with Ascutney's Joey Jarvis beating his father, Peter Jarvis for fifth, Robert Hagar of Windsor in seventh, and Joe Olmstead of Hartland tenth. Dave Davis of White River Junction was the Super Street runner-up, with Russ Davis of Cavendish fourth and Ascutney's Colby Hodgdon seventh. Tara Tarbell of Springfield was the Strictly Stock runner-up with West Hartford's Jeremy Blood sixth, David Greenslit of Waitsfield seventh, and Kyle Davis of Pittsford tenth.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Bernie Lantagne of McIndoe Falls finished fourth in Saturday's Late Model feature with St. Johnsbury's Stacy Cahoon sixth. Stevie Parker of Lyndonville won the Strictly Stock feature with Milton's Gordie Stone third, and Concord's Rubin Call was the Strictly Stock Mini winner.
Friday, Sept. 11
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 6:45pm (Empire Lightning Sprints)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 7:30pm (Regular Event)
Saturday, Sept. 12
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford -- 6:00pm (Championship Night)
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 3:00pm (Local division qualifying)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 6:00pm (NEMA Midgets)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 5:00pm (Late Model Triple Crown 100)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Sunday, Sept. 13
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 1:00pm (ACT Late Model Tour)
ACT Late Model Tour: Sun., Sept. 13 -- Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. (1:00pm)
PASS North Super Late Models: Sun., Sept. 13 -- Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Scarborough, Me. (12:00 noon)