-by Justin St. Louis
You didn't think I was going to stay shut up the whole off-season, did you?
As you're probably aware, there's been a lot going on behind the scenes here at VMM HQ. I've been away from the website for a while, but definitely not away from racing. I've collected some loose ends that were sort of flapping in the breeze, many of which you've, again, probably heard about already. But the itch to ramble on at length in a column here has been too big to not scratch. So let's get the snow brush out and dust off the car for a couple laps.
First of all, a major (albeit a bit belated) congratulations goes out to Tom Placey, winner of the first-ever Vermont Motorsports Magazine Driver of the Year Award presented by Subway! The DOTY thing was a lot of fun for me to watch during November and early December, and we'll do something similar to it again in 2010, for sure.
Many congrats also to Tim LaDuc on his Devil's Bowl Speedway award, Tucker Williams on his Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl award, Eric Williams for his "On The Road" award, and to Placey for also winning the Bear Ridge Speedway award.
Thanks to all 6,350 of you that voted, and to Subway of Barre, Montpelier, Waterbury, and Northfield for supporting the Driver of the Year program.
The Tigers are catching on like wildfire. In less than two months' time, news has broken about the division coming to four new tracks in 2010. New Hampshire's White Mountain Motorsports Park announced in early November that it will drop its Super Street division in favor of a new "Super Sportsman" class using the American-Canadian Tour/Thunder Road/Airborne Speedway Tiger Sportsman rulebook.
Soon after, news came that the ACT Tiger Sportsman Series would return to another New Hampshire track, Riverside Speedway, for an event in October. Last week, Champlain Valley Racing Association president Bruce Richards announced on his organization's website that in the wake of a switch from dirt to asphalt at its two tracks, Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven and Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., the former Limited division has been replaced by the Tiger Sportsmen. (Thunder Road's Junkyard Warrior rulebook has also been phased in at both CVRA tracks, in favor of the former Mini Stock class.)
This all brings me to formulation of several theories, although none of them have been confirmed by, denied by, or discussed with any track or series officials. Okay, ready?
1. ACT will almost certainly add a Tiger Sportsman Series event at either Devil's Bowl, Albany-Saratoga, or both, or will at least stage a stand-alone event for the division at one of the two tracks in 2010, a la the May 23 Late Model event at Devil's Bowl.
2. With promoter Dick Therrien now at Canaan Fair (N.H.) Speedway and the Leblanc family taking over operations at Riverside, expect ACT to have a growing presence at Riverside in the coming years. It's no secret that ACT boss Tom Curley has a soft spot for the tiny, high-banked Riverside track and its tendency to throw off a good race, and it's also no secret that Therrien and Curley don't exchange Christmas cards. With Therrien out, you'll probably see Curley there more often.
2a. I say here and now that Riverside will probably bring the Tigers into its weekly program by 2011, and that the ACT-type Late Model rulebook now in place at nine tracks in New England and Canada will be in place at Riverside no later than 2012. And, um, Riverside has decided to close its gates on the weekend of Thunder Road's -- read: Curley's -- Milk Bowl, so as not to have competing events. In this day and age, that's pretty unheard of.
2b. I have no idea how well the Leblanc regime will or won't perform at Riverside, but Canaan needs a bull-in-a-china-shop personality like Therrien to get the ship righted. He'll be good for the place.
3. If the CVRA is using the Junkyard Warrior rulebook -- and this is a total off-the-wall guess -- then the Thunder Road Warriors are not dead. As the car counts shrink, the speculation grows that the entry-level class will be cut from the program at Thunder Road, possibly as soon as next season. The CVRA move suggests maybe a sliver of hope for the division to turn itself around. It's worth noting that the Bomber division -- a class very similar to the Warriors that runs at Airborne in Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- is very successful.
Speaking of promoters, I was a little bummed to hear that Arnie Malcolm is gone from Capital City Speedway in Ottawa. Arnie is a funny dude, and has an obvious passion for racing. He also has one hell of a temper if you mess up his show. Here's hoping that the powers that be at CCS can get the right person to replace him.
Hey, did you know VMM is on Facebook? It's true. And Twitter is a lot of fun, too. I'm constantly fooling around with my Blackberry while I'm at my real job, or when I'm driving, or at any other inappropriate time when I should be paying attention to something else, so that means there are usually a few updates a week away from the VMM main page. So go ahead and check 'em out.
Don't ever buy a 1997 Toyota Corolla, unless you plan to buy something else to replace it soon after. Same goes for 1999 Plymouth Neons. ---Cue NBC's "The More You Know" theme---
Ben Rowe is out of Richard Moody Racing's PASS #4 Super Late Model and Brad Leighton is in. Rowe and Moody teamed up to win three PASS championships and 11 main events, along with successful outings at races from the Canadian Maritimes to Florida and Alabama. The Rowe-Moody split breaks up one of the most potent and most marketable short track teams in the country.
Rowe told Speed51.com that if he is unable to find a full-time PASS ride, he believes he "could do the full [ACT] schedule" in David Avery's #10 car.
Leighton is expected to run the entire 2010 PASS North schedule with Moody, while still racing the Pete Duto-prepared #55 car in up to six events on the ACT Late Model Tour; he won events at Lee USA (N.H.) Speedway and Kawartha (Ont.) Speedway in 2009 in the Duto car.
Leighton has made a handful of PASS appearances over several seasons. His last full-time season in a Super Late Model/Pro Stock-type car was in 1995, when he won the final ACT-sanctioned championship for the division.
Finally, one quick, but very heartfelt "Thank You!" to the racing world. The outpouring of support my family received -- and continues to receive -- following my father's passing has been just... wow, unbelievable.
Dad and I have made many good friends through motorsports, and have each supported a few of them during their own tough times. And while not everyone likes me, EVERYONE liked him. And it shows, big time. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone that has left a comment, sent a card or an email or a text message, or called the house -- and that number is quite literally in the hundreds. Our family is so grateful for your compassion.
It's times like these that make me so proud to be part of the racing community. Happy holidays to you all.