Monday, September 21, 2009

MAGIC MAN: MacDonald Wins ACT Invitational

New Hampshire Motor Speedway coverage presented by RPM Racing Engines

LOUDON, N.H. -- He's been known for a while as "The Outlaw" for the way he barnstorms into whichever touring series suits him on any given weekend and winning races. But after the clinic Eddie MacDonald put on at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, maybe he should be known as the "Magic Man".

MacDonald won Friday's Heluva Good! 125 for the NASCAR Camping World Series East at the "Magic Mile" in Loudon, N.H., then won the inaugural American-Canadian Tour Invitational on Saturday evening. The victories back up a pair of Camping World wins at the track in 2008 and a runner-up finish there in the series' race in June of this year.

The Rowley, Mass. driver started 19th in the 36-car field -- comprised almost entirely of drivers that had never raced at the 1.058-mile superspeedway -- and came through the pack with seemingly relative ease. One of those rookie drivers, 16 year-old Brandon Watson from Stayner, Ont., proved to be the biggest challenge for MacDonald. Watson took the lead from Bruce Thomas, Jr. on lap 33, lost it to MacDonald two laps later, then took it back on a lap 41 restart when MacDonald faltered.

MacDonald briefly dropped back to third place behind Watson and Brian Hoar, then clawed his way back to Watson, taking the lead with four laps remaining in the 50-lap race. Nick Sweet of Barre got past Watson one lap later for second place and was catching MacDonald as the checkered flag flew. Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, Qué. finished fourth after starting in 18th place, with Graniteville's John Donahue in fifth. Joey Laquerre, Brad Leighton, Hoar, Thomas, and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. completed the top ten finishers.

"The ACT race was just unbelievable, it was great competition. Everyone ran a real clean race and it was tough," said MacDonald. "The competition was really tough. I didn't know if I was going to be able to get by the 9 (Watson), he was really quick, especially when I lost him on the restart. I had a terrible restart there. But all in all, the crew did an awesome job. Rollie LaChance (MacDonald's crew chief) just really knows what we need here to win races, I'm just so lucky to have that."

MacDonald said he was pleasantly surprised by the way the ACT drivers and cars performed in race conditions on the unfamiliar track, at speeds that ACT-type Late Model cars, engines, and equipment had never seen.

"I was wondering if there was going to be a lot of cautions with that many cars and that many rookies to this track, but everyone did an excellent job," he said. "These guys really raced clean and they ran real hard. The cars drove really good and nothing was moving all around on the cars, the bodies were really rugged and everything, so I think a lot of guys did a good job bracing up their bodies. I'm just really impressed with how those cars handle here, and the speeds that you can go with a crate engine you can buy right from Chevrolet or Ford. It's just amazing that those cars can handle this kind of speed and turn really good lap times."

MacDonald says he was never nervous about running with the inexperienced field of drivers. He raced through the pack in close proximity to Brian Hoar, who, like MacDonald, is a former NHMS track champion in the Camping World division, but said it was no different than racing against Watson, Sweet, or anyone else. "I love racing with Brian, he's a great competitor, he always will run you clean, so I had no worries about him. After a few laps of racing with the two other guys, the 9 and the 88 (Sweet), it was great. Nobody rubbed me and pushed me up out of the way. They both ran me real clean. Everyone did, though, the whole field as we were coming up through. All those guys did an excellent job."

Winning the inaugural ACT Invitational at NHMS was a big accomplishment, said MacDonald, especially in front of a grandstand that NHMS officials said had possibly the largest Saturday crowd in the history of the track, estimated at some 40,000 during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event that ran just prior to the ACT race. "It's just awesome to be able to win the first ACT race, I'm sure there'll be more. It looked like the stands were still pretty full after the truck race, it seemed like a lot of people stuck around, so that was great for the American-Canadian Tour. This is a huge race for them to be able to come here in front of all these people. I think they'll be here often, and it's just awesome to be able to win the first one."

MacDonald ranked the ACT victory as "right up there" with his July win in the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in July. "It's too bad the purse [at NHMS] wasn't about the same, but being the first one just makes it that much more special. [They were] the two biggest races that I wanted to win this year in the Late Model and we were able to get them."

(PHOTO: Eddie MacDonald (right) and crew chief Rollie LaChance went to victory lane twice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, including after the ACT Invitational on Saturday. Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)

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