Monday, August 31, 2009
WEST HAVEN -- Todd Stone sure knows how to make things interesting.
On a wild, wrecked-filled night with double features that could make or break the Middlebury driver's hopes to win his second-straight 358 Modified championship at Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Stone looked, with eight laps in the books, broken.
The scene was set perfectly for the large crowd in attendance: three championship contenders battling each other for a title, running tightly together in heavy traffic on a rough but fast race track. Tremont, of West Sand Lake, N.Y., entered the race with an 11-point advantage over Orwell racer Tim LaDuc, with Stone jsut 13 points back. As the trio raced hard, even three-wide for a moment, LaDuc and Stone got together in Turn 3 eight laps into the first feature. LaDuc spun, but had no damage. Stone, on the other hand, had a broken shock tower on his right-front corner.
Thanks to back-to-back caution periods, Stone made a couple of lengthy trips to pit road for repairs. As the field took the green flag to restart the race, Stone was not on the track. Finally, he barrelled out of the pits just in time to stay on the lead lap as the race resumed, more than a half-lap behind the leaders. But again, because of caution flags, he was able to catch the pack and pick off cars one by one over the final 22 laps, finishing an impressive seventh. But Tremont and LaDuc were third and fifth, respectively.
Now facing an even bigger deficit, Stone had his work cut out for him in the second 30-lap feature. So to work he went, slicing his way through the field from 12th starting position into seventh by lap 4, then avoiding a huge pileup on a lap 5 restart that sent fourth-place driver Don Mattison flipping as the cars of LaDuc, Brian Whittemore, Marc Johnson, Scott Duell, and others slammed into each other. Stone passed his father, Gardner, for third on the ensuing restart, and Chris Vernold for second one lap later. Vince Quenneville, Jr., the runner-up to Ray Hoard in the opening feature, held Stone off for nine more laps before bobbling in Turn 4. Stone took the lead on lap 16, then buried the field by nearly a quarter of a lap for the win. Tremont again finished third behind Quenneville, with LaDuc recovering for fourth.
"I think the first feature, to be honest with you, I had a real good car in the first feature," said Stone. "I don't know if we could have won it, but I know we could have had a [better] run. The shock tower broke, then my right-rear brake bleeder broke off, so I had no rear brakes. Everything was going wrong, I was just like, 'God, let's get this over with.' Luckily, they had a lot of cautions. A lot people were having bad nights, [otherwise] we wouldn't have made it back out. The crew worked really hard, if it wasn't for them we wouldn't have been out at all. They did a good job."
All told, Tremont stretched his lead -- barely -- to 17 points, unofficially, over LaDuc and Stone, tied at 614 points to Tremont's 631. The final point-counting event, a 50-lap feature, is next week.
"Kenny's still quite a ways out, he's got to really have a bad night next Sunday night," Stone lamented about his chances for the title. "I don't think it's over, but Kenny's been at this a long time. He's good, he's smart, he knows what he needs to do. He's not going to over-run his car to maybe try to win the race, and if it comes to him, fine. But he's smart, you know, he knows what he's doing. They said that we were pretty fast, but sometimes I wonder if he's not showing it all."
Frank Hoard, III of Manchester was the winner of an outstanding 25-lap Budget Sportsman feature early in the evening. Middlebury youngsters Hunter Bates and Justin Comes were involved in the battle for the lead throughout the race, first with polesitter Anthony Marro, then late with Hoard. Unofficially, the lead changed hands six times at the start/finish line among the four drivers, although the were many more changes in the corners and on the backstretch. Hoard only led the final few inches of the race, powering out of Turn 4 as the checkered flag waved to beat Bates by two ten-thousandths (.0002) of a second, according to official timing and scoring. Point leader Derrick McGrew of Ballston Spa, N.Y. dominated the second 25-lap Budget Sportsman feature after passing teammate Marc Hughes for the lead on lap 11. Tim Hartman, Jr. and Jack Swinton got past Hughes late in the race to finish second and third, respectively.
Cale Kneer of Troy, N.Y. swept both Pro Street Stock features, beating Jeff Washburn of Benson in the first 20-lap race and Fred Little of Salisbury in the second event. Bill Duprey of Hydeville matched Kneer's feat in the Limited division, winning both 20-lap features. Between the two Limited features, Joe Ladd, Randy Alger, and Chris Murray each got upside down. Travis Tromans of Clifton Park, N.Y. won the Mini Stock feature, while Andrew Smith of South Glens Falls, N.Y. was the Duke Stock winner. Don Harvey dominated the 20-lap Empire Lightning Sprint feature over Ralph Utter, Jr., Mike Kiser, Doug Norrie, and Justin Phillips.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Weekly Championship Series
Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven, Vt.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
358 Modified Feature #1 (30 laps)
1. Ray Hoard, Granville, N.Y.
2. Vince Quenneville, Jr., Brandon
3. Kenny Tremont, Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y.
4. Marc Johnson, Guilderland, N.Y.
5. Tim LaDuc, Orwell
358 Modified Feature #2 (30 laps)
1. Todd Stone, Middlebury
2. Vince Quenneville, Jr., Brandon
3. Kenny Tremont, Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y.
4. Tim LaDuc, Orwell
5. Ray Hoard, Granville, N.Y.
Budget Sportsman Feature #1 (25 laps)
1. Frank Hoard, III, Manchester
2. Hunter Bates, Middlebury
3. Justin Comes, Middlebury
4. Anthony Marro, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
5. Frank Hoard, Jr., Whitehall, N.Y.
Budget Sportsman Feature #2 (25 laps)
1. Derrick McGrew, Ballston Spa, N.Y.
2. Tim Hartman, Jr., Schenectady, N.Y.
3. Jack Swinton, Hudson Falls, N.Y.
4. Marc Hughes, Ballston Spa, N.Y.
5. Frank Hoard, III, Manchester
Pro Street Stock Feature #1 (20 laps)
1. Cale Kneer, Troy, N.Y.
2. Jeff Washburn, Benson
3. Fred Little, Salisbury
Pro Street Stock Feature #2 (20 laps)
1. Cale Kneer, Troy, N.Y.
2. Fred Little, Salisbury
3. Jeff Washburn, Benson
Limited Feature #1 (20 laps)
1. Bill Duprey, Hydeville
2. Randy Alger
3. Mike Clark, Benson
Limited Feature #2 (20 laps)
1. Bill Duprey, Hydeville
2. Mike Clark, Benson
3. Garrett Given
Mini Stock Winner
Travis Tromans, Clifton Park, N.Y.
Duke Stock Winner
Andrew Smith, South Glens Falls, N.Y.
Empire Lightning Sprints (20 laps)
1. Don Harvey
2. Ralph Utter, Jr.
3. Mike Kiser
4. Doug Norrie
5. Justin Phillips
3. Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H. (USA)
Friday, August 28, 2009
So, true to his plan, he went out and won the race. But the Vermont State Senator from Montpelier also needed Jean-Paul Cyr to falter, and that never happened.
Scott started 17th on the 28-car grid and survived -- although not totally unscathed -- a massive, 16-car pileup on the backstretch, which was triggered when Grant Folsom spun second-place runner Doug Murphy on lap 4. Four more early incidents, including another chain reaction crash on lap 14 that again briefly involved Scott, slowed the pace, but he was able to bounce his way through, continue without pitting, and pick off positions at a rapid rate.
Scott was outside leader Trampas Demers of South Burlington on the fifth and final restart on lap 39, but was initally unable to complete a pass and take command. A second attempt was made on the outside lane on lap 52 before Scott finally moved ahead four circuits later. From there, Scott stretched his legs, leading by as much as a half-lap distance over the balance of the event, which ran the final 61 laps without interruption.
The win was Scott's first since August 16, 2007.
"It does feel good to finally pull off a win here," Scott said. "We didn't have one last year and it was looking like we might not have one this year, at least in the regular season."
Cyr, the seven-time ACT Late Model Tour champion, entered the event 52 points ahead of Scott, himself a former ACT champion and three-time "King of the Road." Scott held up his end of the bargain with the victory, but his only hope for the title was to have Cyr finish worse than 24th. Cyr instead finished third, locking up his first Thunder Road title.
"We put a little pressure on ourselves, and I knew that [in order to win the championship] the only way our approach could be tonight was to try and win," said Scott. "Not that we don't try and win every other night, but it just put a little bit more emphasis on it that we had to do our part; in order to win a championship we had to win a race and see what happens from there, control our own destiny. Jean would have had to have a terrible night and we would have to win, so we can only do our part, and we did."
Like Scott, Cyr started deep in the field, in 23rd place. Cyr was never involved in any of the crashes in the early going, and was able to reach the top-five eight laps before halfway. A six-lap door-to-door battle with Brooks Clark eventually went Cyr's way on lap 54, moving him into fourth place and setting up an entertaining, position-swapping race for the runner-up position between he, Demers, Rich Lowrey, and Dave Pembroke for the rest of the event.
Slower lapped traffic took Pembroke out of the equation with 15 laps remaining, moments after he nosed ahead of Demers for second. Demers eventually held on behind Scott, with Cyr getting by Lowrey for third place on lap 98. Lowrey faded on the final lap, finishing sixth behind Cris Michaud and Clark. Eric Williams, Pembroke, Jamie Fisher, and NASCAR driver David Ragan, driving a car owned by Scott, completed the top ten finishers.
Milton racer Cyr was elated to have won the "King of the Road" title in his first full season at the track.
"[The championship ranks] right up there," Cyr said, comparing it to his previous ACT titles. "Right up there with probably the first one that I won, which was big for me. You know, it's the 50th year at Thunder Road with all the things they planned this year, and it's our first attempt at it. It definitely rates way up there."
During the winter, Cyr left the powerhouse RPM Motorsports team that he won his final five ACT championships with in order to form a new partnership to chase the Thunder Road title with owner Joey Laquerre and multi-time champion crew chief Jeff Laquerre, Joey's son. Skeptics doubted the combination, citing a team unfamiliar with itself racing a brand new car. To make matters worse, chassis construction was completed in mid-April, only weeks before the season began. Cyr and Jeff Laquerre's personalities jelled almost immediately, and after a few on-track growing pains, the team became a force.
"We got the car, like, right before the season started, so tensions were high," said Cyr. "But Joey and Jeff giving me the opportunity was really good. I really appreciate that. I'm really gratified by it. Jeff and I have had really good communication, we have mutual respect for each other. We seemed to click pretty well, I think we have a really good working relationship."
"It means a lot," said Jeff Laquerre. "New car, new team, and a great guy to work with. It came hard, and we started off the year very slow. We earned it, very much so. You couldn't ask for a better guy, too."
Unofficially, Cyr won the championship by 41 points over Scott, 908-867, with Michaud, Pembroke, and Fisher rounding out the top five point men.
To make things a bit sweeter, Joey Laquerre drove to victory in the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman feature. The East Montpelier driver's win was the 44th Thunder Road victory of his five-decade career, stretching his lead as the track's all-time win leader. Jeff Bousquet of Montpelier finished a career-best second, with Williamstown's Jimmy Hebert third. David Finck was fourth with Matt Potter fifth.
Hebert became the third different point leader in as many weeks in the division after his third-place finish, coupled with struggling performances by point leaders Tony Rossi, Pete Ainsworth, and Cody Blake.
Street Stock veteran Lloyd Blakely of Barre won the Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior main event over North Troy's David Allen and Billy "Weiner" Hennequin of Morrisville. Barre's Kevin Dodge was a first-time Warrior winner, finishing 21st overall in the race. Kevin Streeter and Bryan Nykiel were second and third, respectively.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Vt. State Employees Credit Union Night
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Pos.-Driver-Hometown (# - denotes rookie)
ACT Late Model (100 laps)
1. Phil Scott, Montpelier
2. Trampas Demers, South Burlington
3. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton -- 2009 Thunder Road Track Champion
4. Cris Michaud, Northfield
5. Brooks Clark, Fayston
6. Rich Lowrey, Charlotte
7. Eric Williams, Hyde Park
8. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
9. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
10. David Ragan, Unadilla, Ga.
NAPA Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier
2. Jeff Bousquett, Montpelier
3. Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
4. David Finck, Barre
5. Matt Potter, Marshfield
6. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
7. Tommy Therrien, Hinesburg
8. #Neal Foster, Waterbury
9. Joel Hodgdon, Craftsbury
10. Mike Ziter, Williamstown
Allen Lumber Street Stock/Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior (25 laps)
1. Lloyd Blakely, Barre (SS)
2. David Allen, North Troy (SS)
3. Billy Hennequin, Morrisville (SS)
4. Bruce Melendy, Danville (SS)
5. Gary Mullen, Tunbridge (SS)
21. Kevin Dodge, Barre (JW)
22. Kevin Streeter, Waitsfield (JW)
23. Bryan Nykiel, Berlin (JW)
24. Donny Yates, North Montpelier (JW)
25. Buddy Chapman, Concord (JW)
(PHOTOS: 1. Phil Scott got a two year-old monkey off his back by winning the VSECU 100 at Thunder Road on Thursday night; 2. Like most of the Late Models at Thunder Road, Scott's car was torn up a bit after Thursday night's race; 3. Jean-Paul Cyr (bottom, center) and crew celebrate their Thunder Road track championship. Photos by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
Thursday's temperatures might not have been very warm, but the action on the track at was hotter than ever. The following is a video of Late Model qualifying heat #3 at Barre's Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, at the Vt. State Employee's Credit Union 100 on Thursday night.
We were wishing we had two cameras during this heat, as the race for the lead between Brooks Clark (#68) and Mike "Beetle" Bailey (#00) was razor-close, and at the same time the introduction of "Bad Boy" Dwayne Lanphear (#28) to NASCAR driver David Ragan (#6). During Clark and Bailey's side-by-side duel, Ragan shoved Lanphear around a bit, prompting Lanphear to give the Sprint Cup Series racer a brake job on the frontstretch.
Although Ragan used the chrome horn a couple of times, it was Lanphear that invoked the ire of race director Tom Curley. After slamming the brakes on Ragan (the damage done to Ragan's front end is visible in the video), Lanphear was black-flagged and invited to load his race car up for the evening.
"It's simple, you write it, he's a (expletive that starts with 'F')-ing (expletive that rhymes with 'wussy')," Lanphear fumed about Ragan. "He's gonna drive under me, and then I get black-flagged? The lap before that he had me all the way sideways. Is that the biggest (F-bomb)-job you've ever seen?"
"I guess I should meet him off the race track," Ragan suggested. "I was a little impatient and I thought I had a little better car. [There was] just nowhere to go, it's a tight track."
Ragan said Thunder Road was a fun place to race, but was nothing like he was used to in his short track days in Georgia. "There's a few tracks that are real tight, there's a track down in South Georgia that was real tight, but nothing where both lanes are real equal like here. Certainly it'll be a learning experience tonight."
After his run-in with Lanphear, Ragan made the most of his "learning experience" by taking a very competitive 10th-place finish in the VSECU 100.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
A decade ago, it would have been a tall order to find a driver in Thunder Road's Street Stock division thinking he or she had a legitimate shot at racing on a superspeedway. But that was a decade ago. On Tuesday and Wednesday, six graduates of the entry-level four-cylinder class turned laps around the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. And of the 48 drivers that tested over the two-day session, 14 of them had spent time in Thunder Road's Flying Tiger or Tiger Sportsman division.
Cris Michaud, Jamie Fisher, Tyler Cahoon, Pete Potvin, Nick Sweet, and Scott Payea -- a group that any track or series would be proud to have in its pit area -- cut their teeth in the "crunch bunch" Street Stocks and have since progressed through the ranks to be considered among the elite in the northeast, earning themselves invitations to test at NHMS, with the majority of them likely earning an invitation to return back for the first-ever ACT event there on September 19.
"Twelve years ago [as a Street Stock rookie], I wouldn't have thought I'd be here," said Cahoon, the 2000 Street Stock champion at Thunder Road. "I did a Richard Petty Driving Experience here once." Wedensday, St. Johnsbury driver Cahoon, who this season has earned the first two top-ten finishes of his ACT Late Model Tour career after a very successful six-year run in the Late Model division at White Mountain Motorsports Park, spent a lot of time on the track at NHMS, much of it racing near his father, multi-time champion Stacy Cahoon.
But that Petty experience was likely as close to racing at the "Magic Mile" as Cahoon -- or any of the 14 -- would have imagined they would get.
"You hope some day maybe you'll do that ride and drive program in one of those cars, not in a car that you're actually familiar with, when it's your own stuff and you'll take honor in it," said Potvin, of Graniteville, who spent two years in the Street Stocks and another three seasons in Tiger Sportsmen. "I rememeber coming to the first race here and just looking at this place and thinking this is the cat's ass up here in New England, you know? I never thought we'd get a chance to test, let alone get the chance to have a sanctioned race. It's pretty cool. It's quite mind-boggling, actually. You're not just jumping into something and racing. That's what makes it even more special, I think."
Scott Payea, who has become one of the most recognizable racers in the northeastern United States and Canada, remembers when he first got started. "It seems like it was just yesterday [I was] beating around in a little Mustang," he said of his 1999 rookie season at Thunder Road and Airborne Speedway. "It's a progression. The best time I had was in a Tiger car for four years. You learn more in those than anything else, just how you drive a race car. You don't have a spotter telling you what to do, stuff like that. It's unbelievable to be here. You get butterflies when you turn off the road here into New Hampshire and come through the tunnel."
And who knows, maybe in another ten years kids like Jason Corliss, Tucker Williams, or Jimmy Hebert will be the ones getting those butterflies.
My apologies for the delay and the brevity of "The Juice" this week. There's a lot of stuff going on, which isn't even close to being a bad thing. By the time Saturday rolls around, VMM will have been to five race tracks in eight days, on top of holding down a full-time job and having a full-time hobby of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (They're just so good, dude.)
We'll give yet another tip of the hat to Green-White-Checker and The Backstretch for their on-site coverage of the NHMS test. Go check 'em out.
So yeah, in that eight-day span, we'll have been to Airborne, Devil's Bowl, NHMS, Thunder Road, and Bear Ridge. Lots of miles, lots of laps, lots of fun.
So, apparently, Bruce Ricahrds has in fact decided to pave Albany-Saratoga Speedway. On Wednesday, press releases from the American-Canadian Tour and the True Value Modified Racing Series announced that dates have been tentatively agreed upon to host events at the soon-to-be former dirt track in Malta, N.Y.
Rumors began surfacing surrounding a possible paving of Albany-Saratoga in July. The 4/10-mile track was a very successful asphalt modified hotbed in the 1960s and early '70s, hosting some of the most important events in the history of the legendary division. Richie Evans, named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers, was a 17-time winner there in the asphalt days.
It should be quite a moment when Jean-Paul Cyr clinches his first Thunder Road championship tonight in Barre. Well, technically, it's "if", but Cyr's going to have to really screw up to lose the title. Phil Scott trails by 52 points, which means he could win (75 points) and Cyr could finish 24th or worse (24 points) and Cyr would still win by a single point. But it's 14 points to win a heat race, so that might make things interesting.
Stranger things have happened with title chases at Thunder Road, including twice with this same Phil Scott. In 2003, he lost a 33-point lead and subsquently a championship in a tie-breaker with Jamie Fisher. Last year, he made up 50 points in two weeks, was the unofficial point leader on lap 47 of the final 50-lap event, and then, due to some late passing, ultimately finished second to Eric Williams by a scant three points.
Cyr, the seven-time ACT Late Model Tour champion, hasn't won a weekly track championship since 1990, when he was the Devil's Bowl Speedway Pro Stock champion. This season has been his first with a new car, new crew chief, new team, and new goal. And it looks like everything has worked.
Sorry, but no "Around the Region" recap this week. Here's a schedule, though...
Thursday, Aug. 27
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre -- 6:00pm (NASCAR driver David Ragan, final Late Model championship event)
Friday, Aug. 28
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 6:45pm (Ridge Runner/Budget Sportsman Series)
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 7:00pm (SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 7:30pm (Regular Event, plus Demolition Derby/Enduro)
Saturday, Aug. 29
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford -- 6:00pm (Old Timers' Night, plus SCoNE 360 Sprints and Granite State Mini Sprints)
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 6:00pm (Topless Modifieds)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 6:00pm (All Divisions, plus Demolition Derby)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Super Stock Double Features)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Sunday, Aug. 30
Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven -- 6:45pm (Empire Lightning Sprints, double features for 358-Modifieds, Budget Sportsmen, Pro Stocks, and Limiteds)
ACT Late Model Tour/Série ACT-Castrol: Sat., Aug. 29 -- Autodrome Chaudière, Vallée-Jct., Qué. (Coors Light 200 Showdown -- 6:00pm)
SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars: Fri., Aug. 28 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. (7:00pm)
SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars: Sat., Aug. 29 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford (6:00pm)
True Value Modified Racing Series: Thu.. Aug. 27 -- Thompson Int'l Speedway, Thompson, Conn. (5:30pm)
(PHOTOS: 1. Scott Payea (left) and Tyler Cahoon (right) listen to ACT President Tom Curley at the drivers meeting at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Wednesday morning; 2. The green light was on for Pete Potvin as he flashed by the start/finish line at NHMS. Photos by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The following video is from Day 2 of the Test & Tune session for American-Canadian Tour Late Models at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. In the video, Oxford Plains (Me.) Speedway driver Shawn Knight (#25), is joined by Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl racers Bruce Thomas, Jr. (#35) and Timmy Jordan (#47), former White Mountain Motorsports Park champion Stacy Cahoon (#83) of St. Johnsbury, ACT/Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl driver John Donahue (#26), Série ACT-Castrol driver Patrick Cliche (#5), and Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway point leader Ryan Vanasse (#11). VMM will more coverage of NHMS Test & Tune Day 2 soon.
(Video by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
This Vermont Motorsports Magazine thing was created to provide fans and racers with coverage in and around Vermont, blah, blah, blah, I've said that line a million times. Saturday night I went over to Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. to catch NASCAR's Kenny Schrader racing in the Modified class.
At one point, a friend of mine said, "Hey, let's go to Devil's Bowl tomorrow," and, although I've written about D-Bowl a bunch this year, I hadn't actually been there in about, um, 20 years, and I thought it was a good idea to see the place and give it some legit coverage for a change. Sundays had been busy for me pretty much all summer for whatever reason -- work, a couple of other races elsewhere, family commitments, whatever -- but on this particular Sunday, I was headed a couple hours south in that direction for my sister's birthday party on Lake Dunmore, and the timing of everything was pretty perfect.
Mike Bruno was at Airborne on Saturday night and we talked a few times. Bruno is a Devil's Bowl veteran, and his towing company works the wreckers at the track each week. Toward the end of the night at Airborne, I asked him what the likelyhood of me getting in at Devil's Bowl on a media credential with about 18 hours' notice would be, figuring the answer would be "not very good." But Bruno said he would talk to Bruce Richards, the promoter of the speedway, and work it out for me.
And he did. At about 4:30pm on Sunday, I got a call from Bruno; he spoke with Richards and everything was all set, which I was very appreciative of. The plan was for me to meet one of Bruno's wrecker crew guys at the back gate at 5:45 -- because Bruno himself wasn't going to be there -- and, I think, I was to meet Richards and get the pass.
That's when it all fell apart, mostly because I'm an idiot.
After leaving Lake Dunmore, I boogied down Route 7. By the time I got to Brandon, I said, "Wait, this isn't right," realizing that Devil's Bowl was on Route 22A. I quickly shuffled around and found my road map -- yeah, I don't have GPS, I'm still on an actual paper map -- and recalibrated myself to get to Route 3, then Route 4, then 22A. But by the time I got all that done and arrived at the track, it was almost 6:30. Post time was in 15 minutes.
Slightly daunted, I slinked my way up to the pit gate sign-in window, where I met Cheryl. I explained my situation and told her about VMM, but, like I had feared, it didn't work. And I wasn't going to hunt Bruce Richards down because you just don't do that to a promoter when his race is about to start. Cheryl gave me some instructions about applying for a legit credential for next time and sent me on my way.
"No big deal, thanks," I said, and headed for the grandstand ticket booth, figuring I might as well watch the races and hang out with the regulars and try to learn something about the place.
The heat racing was pretty good, especially in the Modifieds. I took a few photos, met up with a couple of Thunder Road buddies in the grandstands, took some more photos, moved around to two or three different seats, took a video or two, made notes the whole time. Then, during the third Budget Sportsman heat, I see a Rutland County sheriff walking up through the grandstands... still walking... coming down my aisle... stopping next to me.
"Sir, you need to come with me," the sheriff says.
"Excuse me?" I reply, puzzled.
"There are no cameras allowed on the property, you need to either put that in your car or leave. Please come with me."
A bit, um, what-the-helled, I oblige the officer and am escorted through the gate and into the parking lot, where I am then followed to my car as I unlock it, open the door, put my camera inside, and close and lock the door. I am then escorted back inside the grandstands by the sheriff, who makes sure I don't make a run for it and go smuggle my own camera back inside.
"You know, this is a bit ridiculous," I say.
"I'm right there with you, I think it is, too, but it's their rule and it's my job to enforce it," the sheriff replies. "There's a big sign here with all the rules."
"Yeah, I must have missed it on the way," I say, reading the sign. Boy, did I. Not really sure how I missed it, but there's a rather large sign on the fence telling me what I can't do at Devil's Bowl.
"NO BLANKETS, NO CAMERAS, NO VIDEOCAMERAS" among other things. My bad for not seeing it.
I understand the no-blankets rule, as uncomfortable as it makes my rear end sometimes. People don't need to hog a whole row of seats. That's fine.
But let me ask you this: If you had a kid racing a Mini Stock at your local short track, wouldn't you want to take a few pictures for the family scrapbook, or a video to share with the grandparents living in Florida? How unbelievably unfriendly is that for fans?
Is this rule in place to force fans to buy pictures and videos from the official track photographer and videographer? If so, that's ludicrous. You might get one or two good shots from the photographer (at a buck each, or whatever they charge), but I seriously doubt that the videographer will focus on your favorite car during the entire race. Ain't gonna happen.
VMM takes photos of events, and not necessarily always the racing. Think of the shots in the photo albums that have been posted here. Fans, crews, drivers in the pits, officials, other photographers, and really, not a whole lot of actual racing. And usually a lot of the shots posted of race cars on the track are through a fence, which, honestly, who is going to pay money for a photo with chain link in the foreground? I wouldn't, and I took the freaking photo!
Anyway, on to the racing. It was pretty good -- Devil's Bowl is a fast, fast dirt track -- and qualifying was over quick. I'm talking Mods, Budget Sportsmen, Pro Streets, Limiteds, and the Mini Stock/Duke Stock feature -- all of it -- done in 40 minutes. Things were looking good.
An announcement came over the P.A. at 7:25 that said Modified point leader Kenny Tremont had broken an engine, and that we were now at intermission time. Five minutes passed, and I got up and walked around.
Devil's Bowl has this cool interactive victory lane thing behind the grandstands where fans are able to meet feature winners and pose for photos with the winners and their cars. It's a great idea. But I counted three fans with cameras, in addition to the track photographer -- when Mini Stock winner Erika Lilly was in victory lane. Whatever. Oh, and by the way, the family sitting next to me that the sheriff walked past to speak with me earlier? Yeah, they had a big ol' blanket laid out in the stands, one that they walked through the gate with, past the same security guards that busted me for having a camera. Just sayin'.
I wasn't hungry, but I figured I'd check out the concessions. There's this funny thing they do there that, again, makes no sense to me, where you have to buy "food tickets" at a window on one side of the midway and then walk a good 25 yards to another window at the other side of the midway to order your food and redeem your tickets. Seems like a lot of wasted time to me.
Ten minutes pass. Fifteen, twenty, thirty, and then raindrops begin to fall. Finally, at 8:00 sharp, the Pro Street feature rolls out onto the track. Green flag. Then, two laps later, the red flag for rain at 8:03. As the rain picked up, I headed to the car to stay dry. At 8:13, the announcer told everyone that the program was over and to come back for double features next week.
On the way home, I began to think about that 35-minute intermission. Why was the down time almost as long as the racing the preceeded it? There wasn't any sort of entertainment or side-show, or kids' rides or anything, so what gives? There was a water truck running laps around the speedway, but it wasn't laying water down and the clay surface looked pretty good. With bad weather in the area all day, you'd think management would want to speed up the show. Hey, just one more thing I don't understand about Devil's Bowl, I guess.
The jury is still out on whether or not VMM will return to Devil's Bowl before the season is out. I think a call to track management is in order, and we'll go from there. It's not the fault of the racers or fans that my first experience there wasn't very good. Heck, for the most part, it wasn't even the track's fault, either, it was mine. We'll see. I'd like to think I can forget about this first race. I'll try.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- Martin Roy did exactly what he needed to do on Saturday night at Airborne Speedway: Win.
The Napierville, Qué. driver, who entered the Aird Dorrance/Monster Energy/Taylor Rental event in a tie atop the Modified point standings with defending track champion Patrick Dupree, posted his sixth victory of the season, taking advantage of some troubles suffered by his title rival.
Dupree was involved in minor incident in his qualifying heat race to begin the evening, breaking a tie rod end on his car's steering. Having finished outside the top-four in the heat, Dupree was unable to use his handicapped starting position in the feature race and was forced to start 32nd on the 33-car grid for the 40-lap main event. Roy, however, won his heat and was given his handicapped spot in 11th place.
The results for the evening were almost set into place at that point.
Roy took the lead on a lap 15 restart, passing Richard Tisseur for the top spot. The caution flag had previously come out after Pierre Berthiaume crashed himself out of the lead while attempting to put Chris Cayea and Neal Provost a lap down. Dupree, meanwhile, had to fight his way through heavy traffic, running almost exclusively two- and three-wide through the field. He ran as high as fourth place on the final lap, but was passed just before the finish line by Mike Bruno.
Roy's win, combined with Dupree's fifth-place run -- his first finish not on the podium since May 30 -- gives Roy a 12-point advantage, unofficially, 658-646, with two point-counting races remaining.
Roy knows the championship battle is far from over.
"No, no, no," he said. "The winner (will be decided) on the last lap of the last race. It's very tight with me and Patrick Dupree."
Dupree took his misfortune in stride. "Throughout the whole race I probably melted the right-front and the right-rear (tires) off," said the Saranac Lake, N.Y. driver "That last lap when the 22 (Bruno) got by me, I figured I'd try to get one more spot and I drove in really hard but those guys checked up. I tried to check up but it just dropped the nose and pushed the car right up. So that was a bonehead, last-ditch attempt at a move, but I think it was the only spot I lost all day. We only lost 12 points, I think, so it wasn't a terrible night. I was a little mad at myself for that last lap and doing something stupid, but all in all it worked out pretty good."
Roy had a run to the front similar to Durpee's on July 11. "I had my bad night a couple of (weeks) ago. I had the pole (for a restart) and had a flat tire. I started 30th with three laps to go and I finished (11th). It's the game."
Tisseur, of Chateauguay, Qué. held on for the runner-up finish, with Chazy, N.Y. driver Leon Gonyo in third place. Bruno, of Castleton, was fourth ahead of Dupree. The top-ten was completed by Andy Heywood, Mike Reyell, Bryant Trim, Matt Woodruff, and Mike Wells. NASCAR driver Kenny Schrader finished 16th, one lap down, with an ill-handling car.
Bucko Branham of Plattsburgh, N.Y. took his third Sportsman victory of the year after passing leader Chris Reeves with four laps remaining. Branham worked his way under second-place runner Rick Frenyea on lap 16, then dueled door-to-door with Reeves for three laps before taking over. Reeves of Plattsburgh, finished second with Saranac, N.Y.'s Frenyea third, Bill Sawyer of Milton fourth, and Shawn Duquette or Morrisonville, N.Y. fifth.
Robin Wood entered the night with a 10-point lead over Branham, but suffered a flat tire late in the race and finished 18th, several laps off the pace. Branham now leads Wood, his nephew, by 19 points, unofficially, 588-569, with foru Sportsman championship events remaining.
Rob Gordon of Milton took the lead from West Chazy, N.Y. driver Randy LaDue with a lap-and-a-half remaining in the 25-lap Renegade feature, and held on for his first win of the season. LaDue finished second, with Swanton's Dave Rabtoy third. Rabtoy led the majority of the race before surrendering to LaDue on lap 19. Josh Terry and Nick Heywood completed the top five.
Billy Thwaits of Clintonville, N.Y. took his fourth Mini-Modified win of the year over Randy Martin and Rick Doner. Josh LeClaire of Plattsbugrh notched his second Bomber win of the year, with Josh LaPorte second and Jayson Blondo third.
Billy VanInwegen, Jr. of Sparrow Bush, N.Y. won a special 20-lap event for the SpeedSTR Midgets. VanInwegen took the lead from Paul Lotier on lap 16 and held on for the win. Carl Labonte passed Lotier for second place two laps later.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Aird Dorrance/Monster Energy/Taylor Rental Night
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Ernie's Discount Tools Modified (40 laps)
1. Martin Roy, Napierville, Qué.
2. Ricahrd Tisseur, Chateauguay, Qué.
3. Leon Gonyo, Chazy, N.Y.
4. Mike Bruno, Castleton
5. Patrick Dupree, Saranac Lake, N.Y.
6. Andy Heywood, Morrisonville, N.Y.
7. Mike Reyell, West Chazy, N.Y.
8. Bryant Trim, Morrisonville, N.Y.
9. Matt Woodruff, Bloomingdale, N.Y.
10. Mike Wells, West Chazy, N.Y.
J&S Steel Sportsman (25 laps)
1. Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
2. Chris Reeves, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
3. Rick Frenyea, Saranac, N.Y.
4. Bill Sawyer, Milton
5. Shawn Duquette, Morrisonville, N.Y.
6. Tylor Terry, Morrisonville, N.Y.
7. Howard Stoner, Altona, N.Y.
8. Jamy Begor, Mooers, N.Y.
9. Toby Ebersole, Peru, N.Y.
10. Travis Bruno, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Versatile Trailer Sales Renegade (25 laps)
1. Rob Gordon, Milton
2. Randy LaDue, West Chazy, N.Y.
3. Dave Rabtoy, Swanton
4. Josh Terry, Morrisonville, N.Y.
5. Nick Heywood, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Keeseville NAPA Mini-Modified (20 laps)
1. Billy Thwaits, Clintonville, N.Y.
2. Randy Martin, Keeseville, N.Y.
3. Rick Doner, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
4. Justin Doner, Keeseville, N.Y.
5. Dustin Duvall, Keeseville, N.Y.
Monster Energy Bomber (20 laps)
1. Josh LeClaire, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
2. Josh LaPorte, Peru, N.Y.
3. Jayson Blondo, Champlain, N.Y.
4. Curtis Seymour, Jr., Plattsburgh, N.Y.
5. Curtis LaGrave, Jr., Plattsburgh, N.Y.
SpeedSTR Midget (20 laps)
1. Billy VanInwegen, Jr., Sparrow Bush, N.Y.
2. Carl Labonte, Dummondville, Qué.
3. Paul Lotier, Jr., Lebanon, Penn.
4. Patrick Vigneault, Trois Rivières, Qué.
5. Richie Tobias, Jr., Hershey, Penn.
(PHOTO: Martin Roy of Napierville, Qué. sttod in Airborne Speedway victory lane for the sixth time in 2009 after winning Saturday's 40-lap Modified event. Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
Patrick Dupree (#24) had a bad heat race at Airborne Speedway on Saturday evening, one that eventually forced him to start 32nd in the feature later in the night. In the following video, he shows just exactly why he is a championship contender as a session of Dr. Dupree's Passing Clinic is in session. Here, he passes Jim McComb, Kenny Schrader, Neal Provost, Spencer Rushlaw, Dan Brown, Craig Reyell, Greg Atkins, Andy Kane, Todd Ormsby, Jimmy Davis, and Michel Viens -- that's 11 cars, if you're counting at home -- in just four laps' time, plus some others after we pan the shot away. Meanwhile, Martin Roy (#90) runs fast up front on his way to his sixth feature win of the year. VMM will have a full recap of the event on Sunday morning.
Also, as a bonus, here's a tutorial by Pierre Bethiaume on how NOT to win a race. This is a video of a video, run twice through in instant replay with commentary from Airborne Speedway announcer Rob Knowles. Berthiaume (#1) was leading by a country mile on lap 15 when he pulled the bonehead move of the night by trying to split the lapped cars of Neal Provost (#74) and Chris Cayea (#18) in Turn 3. Rather than use a bit of patience, Berthiaume drove into a closing hole, slamming into Cayea and spinning off the track. He eventaully finished 21st. Original video by Gene Gagne/OutsideGroove.com.
(Videos by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
STE-CROIX, Qué. -- Donald Theetge won the Riverside 150 Série ACT-Castrol event at Riverside Speedway in Ste-Croix, Qué. on Saturday night. Theetge, of nearby Boischatel, Qué., beat Sylvain Lacombe and Patrick Hamel, the only other drivers on the lead lap.
Patrick Laperle had a stellar run through the field, moving from 25th starting position into the lead by lap 22. Laperle broke the rear end in his car on lap 99, however -- his second of the day, as he also broke a rear end in qualifying -- and was forced to retire from the race. He finished 20th, unofficially.
Jacques Poulin finished fourth one lap down, followed on the same lap by Karl Allard, Dany Ouellet, Patrick Cliche, and Éric St-Gelais. The top ten was completed by Stéphane Descoste and David Michaud, who were two laps down.
Theetge's victory was the 14th of his ACT Castrol career, breaking him out of a tie with Lacombe to take over first place on the series' all-time win list. Theetge will also take over the point lead from Laperle, unofficially.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
However, exactly which car Ragan will be in is still up in the air.
"The plan right now is to have (Ragan) in Phil's green car on Thursday," said Duto, who prepares Scott's cars and is the registered owner of the #55NH car run primarily on the ACT Late Model Tour by Brad Leighton.
Scott will drive the green car in a test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. on Tuesday, in preparation for the ACT Invitational on Sept. 19.
"Depending on how the test at Loudon goes, Ragan will be in that car," said Duto. "But if we need to make a lot of changes, then we'll put him in Brad's car. But then again, that's not for certain, either; there's a lot of (ACT) racing coming up with Claremont (Twin State Speedway), Labor Day (at Thunder Road), and everything else. We'll know more next week."
Ragan earned his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night.
Thursday's 100-lap Vt. State Employees Credit Union feature at Thunder Road will decide the 2009 "King of the Road." Scott, of Montpelier, enters the event 52 points behind leader Jean-Paul Cyr of Milton. Post time is 6:00pm.
Friday, August 21, 2009
BARRE -- Maybe they're frustrated, or maybe they're not. Maybe it's the fact that the racing season is winding down, and they're hungry to pass that one extra car. Maybe it was the humidity. Whatever it was, something affected the drivers at Barre's Thunder Road on Thursday night, and the result was arguably the most competitive -- and roughest -- night of racing in the track's 50th season. Fans were treated to multiple lead changes, multiple crashes, a photo finish, a rollover, a payback, and championship point battle shifts. It was an event with a bit of everything in it.
Jamie Fisher of Shelburne came out on top of an exciting 50-lap Late Model feature, one day shy of a year since his most recent win. Fisher began his drive from 13th starting position and narrowly avoided disaster on lap 24 while running with John Donahue and Craig Bushey. Fisher dove low to make a three-wide pass on the backstretch, just as Donahue and Bushey began making contact. Bushey spun in Turn 3 to bring out the caution flag, leaving Fisher to restart the race in sixth place.
Fisher passed Donahue on the outside quickly, then blew by Mike Bailey and Joey Becker into third place on lap 31. He took second from Doug Murphy on the inside on lap 37, then the lead from Tony Andrews on the outside on lap 43, just as Bushey caught and dumped Donahue in retaliation for their earlier incident. Andrews bumped into Fisher on the restart, then Murphy hit Andrews before the race's sixth and final caution two laps later for, yet again, a spinning Craig Bushey.
Fisher was never challenged over the final five laps and cruised to the win, his fourth consecutive podium finish. Andrews, of Northfield, finished second, while Jeffersonville driver Becker got by Murphy late in the going for third place.
"The car was running good," Fisher said. "We were good on the outside, good on the bottom. It's really fun to race here when people actually give you some room and you can really do a nice job and advance."
Fisher, the 2003 Thunder Road champion, said that the frequent caution periods helped him in the beginning of the race, and respect from his competitors helped at the end. "At first (the cautions) played in our favor and then at the end we didn't need them, but we were still fast enough where we could keep it ahead of Tony. And Tony ran us clean, that's the biggest thing. In the first part of the year I don't think we got run clean enough (by competitors) and we kept wrecking. Now we're getting run clean and we can come home in one piece and just keep working on the car and make it go faster."
Before Fisher arrived at the front, Murphy, Andrews, and for a brief time, polesitter Steve Fisher -- the winner's brother -- had a fierce battle for the lead. Murphy led from the outside of the front row before Steve Fisher nosed ahead for three laps. Murphy was back in the lead on lap 5, but was beaten by Andrews on the race's first restart on lap 10. Murphy repaid the favor on the outside to take the lead back on lap 18, then Andrews did it again on lap 25 before Jamie Fisher took over on lap 43. Dave Pembroke finished fifth behind Murphy. Phil Scott took sixth, and point leader Jean-Paul Cyr rebounded after his car briefly shut down to finish in seventh place.
While battling Becker for fourth place on lap 39, Cyr's ignition switch turned off. He fell back to tenth place, but regained some of his lost ground. Unofficially, Cyr maintained his comfortable 52-point lead on Scott entering the final Late Model championship event next Thursday, a 100-lap race that will feature NASCAR driver David Ragan.
Craftsbury youngster Joel Hodgdon turned a frustrating season around with a photo-finish victory over Eric Badore in the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman event. Hodgdon, who entered the night 16th in points, ran from the tenth starting position to second place on lap 16, but was unable to pass Badore. The caution flag flew with two laps remaining, setting up one final sprint to the checkers. Hodgdon ran side-by-side with Badore, then, while sliding sideways in a last-ditch effort on the outside lane in the final corner, beat Badore to the finish by a bumper.
"I wanted that last yellow," said Hodgdon. "I knew the way that the restarts were going I would be able to get (past Badore) if I had one more shot." Badore, of Milton, finished second with East Corinth driver Ray Stearns third, Derick O'Donnell of Bradford fourth, and Barre's David Finck fifth.
Pete Ainsworth, Jr. entered the night with a 20-point lead over Tony Rossi, but was involved in two wrecks in the feature and retired the race in 27th place. Rossi, who finished seventh, now unofficially holds a 23-point edge over Ainsworth with three point-counting events left for the Tiger Sportsman class.
Street Stock driver Tim Campbell of West Topsham took his second win of the year in the 20-lap Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior main event. Campbell was challenged by Friday night winner M.C. Ingram with three laps remaining before Ingram spun, allowing Campbell to easily take the win. Joe Blais of East Barre finished second over Barre's Ron Gabaree. Ken Christman of Cabot was the top Warrior driver in 18th place, good enough for his second win of the season in that division. Lance Donald of Williamstown, 20th overall, was second in the Warrior division, with Kevin Streeter of Waitsfield driving a car borrowed from Cheryl Kingsbury to finish third in the Warrior class, 21st overall.
Bunker Hodgdon of Hardwick flipped his car on the frontstretch on lap 8 in a pileup that also included Michael Moore, Tommy Smith, and Kevin Wheatley; no injuries were reported. Rookie Tucker Williams, the Street Stock point leader, finished eighth, while Warrior point leader Donny Yates failed to qualify for the main event. Street Stock driver Greg Adams, Jr. of Hardwick won the 'reserve' feature but opted to transfer to the main event, where he finished ninth.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Weekly Championship Series Event
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Pos.-Driver-Hometown (# - denotes rookie)
ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
2. Tony Andrews, Northfield
3. Joey Becker, Jeffersonville
4. Doug Murphy, Tunbridge
5. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
6. Phil Scott, Montpelier
7. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton
8. Cris Michaud, Northfield
9. John Donahue, Graniteville
10. Matt White, Northfield
NAPA Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Joel Hodgdon, Craftsbury
2. Eric Badore, Milton
3. Ray Stearns, East Corinth
4. Derrick O'Donnell, Bradford
5. David Finck, Barre
6. Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
7. Tony Rossi, Barre
8. #Erik Steel, Barre
9. Jeff French, Northfield
10. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
Allen Lumber Street Stock/Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior (20 laps)
1. Tim Campbell, West Topsham (SS)
2. Joe Blais, East Barre (SS)
3. Ron Gabaree, Barre (SS)
4. #Scott Weston, Berlin (SS)
5. #Danny Doyle, Hancock (SS)
18. Ken Christman, Cabot (JW)
20. Lance Donald, Williamstown (JW)
21. Kevin Streeter, Waitsfield (JW)
22. Alex Whitcomb, Montpelier (JW)
25. Keith Fortier, Hinesburg (JW)
(PHOTO: Jamie Fisher of Shelburne pumps his fist in celebration of his Late Model victory at Thunder Road on Thursday night. Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
This video of the Tiger Sportsman consolation race at Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl in Barre captures just a small sample of the constant action seen at the track on Thursday night. Here, rookie Neal Foster (#19) makes a good save after getting bumped by Mike Billado (#8), just before John Lambert (#2) goes for a spin in Turns 1 and 2. Pete Ainsworth, Jr. (#80) entered the night as the division's point leader, but was involved in no less than four incidents during qualifying and feature races and unofficially lost the lead to Tony Rossi.
(Video by Justin St. Louis/VMM)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
"That guy has got stone hands," Nick Sweet laughs after being congratulated by Tony Andrews on Thursday night.
A couple of minutes later, Eric Chase offers a handshake, and Phil Scott walks over to pat Sweet on the shoulder. A member of the wrecker crew gives him a nudge on his way past. Crew members, fans, even a couple of admiring young girls -- 14 or 15 years old, at most -- give some sort of congratulatory praise to Thunder Road's newest Late Model winner.
"I'm gonna crack a cold one I think," he says. "You want one? We've probably got some in the cooler."
"No, thanks, I'm working," I'm forced to reply. But I do appreciate the offer, and even more so, the fact that it came in the middle of an interview following the biggest moment in this young racer's career.
Nick Sweet seems genuinely happy just to be racing, and winning is merely a bonus. And although he's just 24 years old, the husband and father is mature enough to keep things in perspective. Go ahead and stick a microphone in his face and try to ask him a serious question, I dare you. Invariably, he'll pause at some point during the interview to say hello to somebody, or in the middle of praising his team, he'll giggle at his own goofy, self-deprecating one-liners and speak of how he forces his crew to work harder because he's not that good behind the wheel.
Here's an example, as Sweet speaks about the dedication of his crew while picking on himself about scuffing the decals on his car every race: "We were at the shop, heck, I was going home before them and I usually don't do that. I'm usually one of the last guys there, and I was like, 'Guys, I gotta go to work in the morning,' and they would just stay down there. And my dad, especially, without him this wouldn't be happening the way it is. He is just amazing. He does stuff that we shouldn't even be doing, he's so particular. He'll make sure it's right. That's what makes us so good, though, it's that kind of aspect. I'm very fortunate. I work hard on it, but he just puts that extra effort in, it makes it so much more. I go down, and I'm good at doing vinyl. I'm getting fantastic at that. I'm great at fixing the body panels, but when it comes to suspension, my dad is just right on it."
Another example, speaking about how his team is a tight-knit group: "We're a family-run team and that's what makes it fun. We stay close as a family, and it's even fun sometimes when you're fighting. It's like a woman, you've got to fight 'em every once in a while. It wouldn't be real if you weren't fighting, right? Wait, is Kristin (Sweet's wife) going to read this? You're like a family basically, that's how we are. We lose as a team, we win as a team, and you really find out who your real friends are when you're down."
Or this one, speaking about his chances for the 2009 Thunder Road championship after clinching his first career win: "All I care about is finishing. I'd like to come back and get a top five, that'd really be something, but we'll see. It's fun to think you're racing for it, but I just want to keep winning races now. I've been hungry for them, and maybe sometimes too hungry. Sometimes I get a little impatient and I run out of talent, it just happens."
It's refreshing to have a racer as fast as Nick Sweet understand that there's more to this game than just showing up, driving fast, saying the right things, and getting home in time for supper. His car is usually one of the last Late Models loaded up after the races. He sticks around and signs autographs and talks to fans until the lights are shut off. He encourages kids to sit in his race car. He's still a fan. In fact, his paint schemes have recently been designed in tribute to his childhood heroes. ("I'm hoping they'll think I'm Jeff Taylor and they'll cheer for me," Sweet joked at Oxford Plains Speedway last month, referencing the numbers he designed for his car in the same style of the multi-time OPS champion.)
I mused in this column space about six weeks ago that it was just a matter of time before Sweet broke into victory lane. Truth is, he was already a winner.
I got a rather pointed email from a friend and colleague of mine following last week's editorial on Vermont native Kevin Lepage struggling mercilessly in NASCAR's upper levels. "Unbelievably harsh treatment," it was called.
Folks, let's get one thing straight: I don't dislike Kevin Lepage at all. At my "real" job, we've got 52 television sets, and I make sure that at least one of them is tuned into Nationwide Series practice and qualifying every week. I hope for a miraculous run at the top of the speed charts every time, and it simply never comes. In fact, last week he didn't make the show at Michigan.
Look, I grew up cheering for the guy. When Lepage moved south, my parents bought me the die-cast cars and we followed his every move. When he came back home to Thunder Road to race the Milk Bowl in 1994 and a Thursday show in 1998, I foamed at the mouth to get inside the gates and watch him race. I served his mother lunch one time when I was working at Friendly's as a teenager, and I told people about it for years. As a Vermonter, I'm proud of what Kevin Lepage has achieved.
That doesn't mean I can't be disappointed with what he's doing now.
I have a friend that has been a big Atlanta Braves fan since we were kids. Huge John Smoltz fan. Do you think he doesn't have the right to be disappointed in what Smoltz is going through this year?
I want nothing but the best for Kevin Lepage, and I do understand that he has bills to pay. In this day and age, a driver past his prime "marketing years" (which start to end at age 22 these days), needs to take advantage of every opportunity he or she can get to stay in the racing business, and that's what Lepage is doing. I get that.
But I have a hunch that if he found something else to do to make ends meet -- Crew chief? Team manager? Official? Sponsor representative? Television analyst? -- and came back to moonlight as a driver in his short track roots, he'd be celebrated as a winner again. Sure, it's not the Sprint Cup Series, but who cares? It's racing, it's winning, and it's what he should be doing. He deserves to win. He's worked too hard for too long to run 37th or 42nd or not qualify.
That's all I was saying.
If you like wild crashes, you owe it to yourself to look at this Modified wreck produced by Cody Sargent at Albany-Saratoga. That's levitation, homes.
I don't care a hoot about football or Brett Favre, but this right here is awesome. You go get 'em, Rockford.
I had never had a good experience at Riverside Speedway. Ever.
The first time I went as a kid, it rained, it was cold, and my dad's friend crashed in the race. The second time I went, as a racer about eight years later, I got disqualified for a stupid bent wheel. The third time (the only other time I competed there), I did well in a race, but I got walled by every single Riverside regular that I raced against, and I got pulled over on the way home for doing six miles per hour over the speed limit while towing a trailer on a downhill slope. The next four or five times, it either rained, or there were fights or wrecks or just plain bad races. The last time I went in 2007, the program moved along so slowly that I got up and left before the show ended, despite paying $30 to get in.
The stretch of Route 2 from East Montpelier to Lancaster, N.H. isn't bad during the daylight, but that same stretch headed home in the opposite direction at night is THE WORST drive in America, and I feel that way when I'm on it coming home from Oxford, too, every time. And by the way, that's kinda the only way to get to Riverside and back for me.
I hadn't been there in two years, and I wasn't necessarily looking forward to going back. But Sunday, for the first time in my life, I was glad I went. I saw one helluva race, and Wayne Helliwell's story that day was as dramatic, compelling, and super-human as any I've seen in short track racing. The fact that it was so ungodly hot that the asphalt fell apart, I had to remind myself, was not the fault of Riverside itself, that's just the way it was. That could have happened anywhere.
I probably won't be back to Riverside this year, just because that's the way the schedule works out. But Sunday went a long way for me. Kudos to the staff and competitors.
I'll be honest, I reported Sunday's event at Devil's Bowl exactly as it was prepared in the track's official press release. And then I got a message from a guy that's been there all season, letting me know that, um, said press release might be a bit misleading.
This is the opening line from the release: "Ken Tremont Jr. hasn't officially won the track championship at Devil's Bowl Speedway yet, but the fat lady is definitely warming up backstage."
Well, that's foreshadowing, no? Continue reading...
"Tremont held off Todd Stone Sunday night to register his sixth win of the season in the 30-lap 358-modified feature on Judith L. Richards Memorial Night at Devil's Bowl. ... Frank Hoard Sr. set the pace for the first 11 laps of the modified feature, but Tremont had the Rifenburgh Construction small block humming and only needed seven laps to get from his eighth starting position to second.
Tremont used a restart on lap 11 to get the lead, and the rest of the field could do nothing more than watch his rear bumper for the rest of the feature. Stone, who started just behind Tremont, moved into second on lap 14, but had to be content with the No. 2 spot, and knows his reign as track champion is just about over."
Kinda paints the picture that it's all but over, right? Not so.
Turns out Todd Stone is, in fact, third in points at Devil's Bowl this year and his reign may be over soon. But it's not likely that he'll go away quietly. And neither will Tim LaDuc.
Depsite six wins, Tremont has only an 11-point edge over LaDuc and just 13 points on Stone with three events remaining, including the double-points season finale. With each position offering just two points more than the next (read: If Stone wins this Sunday, LaDuc is second, and Tremont is eighth, Stone and LaDuc would be tied for the lead with Tremont one point back in third, it's THAT close), it's far from over. If Tremont had a 70-point lead, then it might be time to warm up the bus, but that's not the case.
And I'll tell you right now that if I was a media guy working for a track, I'd hype the living crap out of a point battle like that -- a la Airborne Speedway with Martin Roy and Patrick Dupree, or the now-finished ACT Tiger Sportsman Series, which ended in a tie -- not calling it a day like Devil's Bowl.
Speaking of Airborne, Kenny Schrader is the one professional racer I have really wanted to see all season long on a short track, and Saturday's Modified race ought to be a good show.
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
ACT Tiger Sportsman Series: Shawn Duquette of Morrisonville, N.Y. won his first ACT championship on Thursday at Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl in Barre after winning a tie-breaker with St. Albans driver Jason Bonnett. Bonnett finished sixth in the ACE Hardware 100 with Duquette 20th after a mid-race crash, but due to his victories at Airborne and Canaan Fair earlier in the season, Duquette was awarded the tie-breaker over the winless Bonnett. Shawn Fleury of Middlesex won the ACE Hardware 100 over Bradford's Derrick O'Donnell, Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, North Wolcott's Brendan Moodie, Scott Coburn of Barre, and Bonnett.
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Aaron Bartemy of Sheldon took his second Modified win of the season on Saturday night, while Milton's Bill Sawyer was fifth in the Sportsman feature. Milton's Rob Gordon was the runner-up in the Renegade feature for the second week in a row, with Swanton's Kevin Boutin fourth, Mike Terry of Grand Isle fifth, Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax eighth, and Swanton's Dave Rabtoy tenth. Billy Jenkins of Milton was sixth in the Mini-Modified feature.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Dave Camara of Fair Haven took his first win of the season in the 358 Modified class on Friday night, while Todd Stone of Middlebury finished sixth. Rob Langevin of Londonderry was fourth in the Sportsman division. Fred Little of Salisbury finished foruth in the Pro Street Stock feature with Benson's Jeff Washburn seventh and Ed Thompson of Fair Haven eighth.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Chris Donnelly of Piermont, N.H. took his fourth Sportsman Modified win of the season on Saturday night, with Thetford Center's Wayne Stearns second, Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H. third, Ryan Avery of Thornton, N.H. fourth, and Mike Dunn fifth. Kevin Chaffee of East Orange was sixth with East Thetford's Jason Gray ninth. Rookie Jason Horniak of Bradford held off Topsham's Josh Harrington to win the Sportsman Coupe feature over Billy Simmons of Bradford, Melvin Pierson of Topsham, and Bryan King of Corinth. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center won his ninth Limited Late Model feature of the year over Bradford's Jeremy Hodge, Shane Race of South Strafford, Will Hull of East Montpelier, and T.C. Forward of Lyme, N.H. St. Johnsbury's Steve Bell notched his first Fast Four win over Wilder's Andy Johnson, Ryan Dutton of Bradford, Kevin Harran of St. Johnsbury, and John Dunham of West Lebanon, N.H. First-time Hornet winner Mike Chapin of Chelsea snapped a six-race win streak for Bradford's Tom Placey, who finished second. Bobby Bell of St. Johnsbury was third over Chelsea's Mike Ryan and Mike Santaw of Lyme, N.H.
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Thetford Center's Dave Lacasse was the Modified runner-up with Hartland's Ed Tobin sixth. Will Hull of East Montpelier was the Street Stock runner-up, with Dan Eastman of Thetford Center third. Josh Sunn of White River Junction was the Fast Four winner with Ryan Dutton of Bradford third and Wilder's Andy Johnson seventh. Lacey Hanson of Orwell finished second in the Granite State Mini Sprint 500cc race.
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Kris Lyman of West Hartford was eighth in the Pro Stock feature Saturday with South Royalton's Kevin Menard tenth, while Bradford's Arnie Stylges finished third in the Super Street race. Jamie Hodgdon of Ascutney won the Pure Stock feature with Rory Merritt of North Springfield tenth. Chris Lyman of Hartland won the Outlaw Mini Stock race over White River Junction drivers Bobby Prior and Josh Sunn and Chris McKinstry of Thetford. Ascutney's Tyler Lescord won the Bandit race over Mike Parker of Bradford.
Devil's Bowl Speedway (West Haven): Kenny Tremont, Jr. of West Sand Lake, N.Y. took his sixth 358 Modified win of 2009 on Sunday over Middlebury's Todd Stone, Vince Quenneville, Jr. of Brandon, Tim LaDuc of Orwell, and Ron Proctor of Charlton, N.Y. Brian Whittemore of Florence was sixth with Whiting's Jimmy Ryan eighth and Gardner Stone of Middlebury ninth. Seth Howe of South Londonderry won the 50-lap Budget Sportsman race over Indian Lake, N.Y.'s Paul Dunham, Jr., Jack Swinton of Hudson Falls, N.Y., Manchester's Frank Hoard, III, and Derrick McGrew of Ballston Spa, N.Y. Fred Little of Salisbury won the Pro Street Stock feature over Carl Vladyka of Fair Haven, Cale Kneer of Troy, N.Y., Hampton, N.Y.'s Justin Perry, and Pat McLaughlin of Johnsonville, N.Y. Brandon's Mike Clark won his third Limited feature of the season with Hydeville's Bill Duprey fourth, and Nathan Woodworth of Essex Junction beat Rutland's Kayla Bryant in the Mini Stock/Duke Stock race.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Dana Shepard of Putney finished 11th in the Super Stock race on Saturday, with Joe Rogers of Ludlow tenth in the Mini Stocks. Vernon's Heath Renaud beat Dick Houle of West Brattleboro to win the 4-cylinder Enduro.
PASS North Super Late Models: Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway ace Tom Scully, Jr. beat the PASS stars at his home track on Saturday night for his first win on the series. Maine racers Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark completed the podium, with Danville rookie Steven Legendre 17th.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Howard Switser of West Burke finished fourth in Sunday's "Clash of the Titans 150" Late Model event, behind Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Quinny Welch, and Randy Potter. Rick Utley, Jr. of Wheelock won Saturday's Street Stock feature over Concord's Brett Rowell. Johanna Christman of Cabot won the Angel event on Saturday.
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl (Barre): Nick Sweet of Barre posted his first career Late Model win on Thursday over Shelburne's Jamie Fisher, Cris Michaud of Northfield, Phil Scott of Montpelier, and point leader Jean-Paul Cyr of Milton. Shawn Fleury of Middlesex won the ACE Hardware 100 for the ACT Tiger Sportsman Tri-State Series. Garry Bashaw of Lincoln was a first-time Street Stock winner over Elmore's David Whitcomb, rookie Tucker Williams of Hyde Park, Michael Moore of East Haven, and Williamstown's Mike MacAskill, while Donny Yates of North Montpelier was the Junkyard Warrior winner over Barre's Kevin Dodge, Kevin Streeter of Waitsfield, Lance Donald of Williamstown, and Bryan Nykiel of Berlin. On Friday, Rich Lowrey of Charlotte won his second Late Model event of the season over Dave Whitcomb of Essex Junction, Fisher, Waitsfield's Grant Folsom, and Michaud. Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg took his first Tiger Sportsman win of the year over Marshfield's Matt Potter, Derrick O'Donnell of Bradford, Cody Blake of Barre, and Joe Steffen of Essex Junction. M.C. Ingram of Essex Junction won the Street Stock race over Williams, Moore, Greg Adams, Jr. of Hardwick, and Hancock's Danny Doyle, while Yates took his second Warrior win in 24 hours over Cabot's Ken Christman, Kevin Wheatley of Williamstown, Streeter, and Donald.
True Value Modified Racing Series: Rowan Pennink of Huntington Valley, Penn. notched his first career win at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl on Saturday, followed by Connecticut driver Chris Pasteryak and Kenny Horton. Dwight Jarvis of Ascutney was 21st.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Guy Caron of Lempster, N.H. won the three-segment Late Model feature on Friday over Chris Bergerson and Marc Palmisano. Joey Jarvis of Ascutney was the Modified runner-up. Chris Wilk of Mendon beat Russ Davis of Cavendish to win the Super Street feature. Josh Lovely of Barre was third in the Strictly Stocks. Rob Leitch of Cavendish won the Wildcat feature, which was run in counter-clockwise direction, over Ludlow's Rob Olney, III and James Brow of Brattleboro.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Bernie Lantagne of McIndoe Falls finished sixth Saturday's Late Model feature, with Stacy Cahoon and son Tyler Cahoon of St. Johnsbury ninth and tenth, respectively. Stevie Parker of Lyndonville was the Strictly Stock runner-up with Milton's Gordie Stone seventh, and Concord driver Rubin Call was third in the Strictly Stock Mini feature.
Thursday, Aug. 20
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre -- 6:30pm (Kids Poster Contest)
Friday, Aug. 21
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 6:45pm (Empire Lightning Sprints)
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 7:00pm (SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 7:30pm (All-Star Race Trucks, Demolition Derby)
Saturday, Aug. 22
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford -- 6:00pm (Hornet Queens)
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 6:00pm (Special guest NASCAR driver Ken Schrader, plus SpeedSTR Midgets)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 6:00pm (New England Champ Kart Series)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 6:00pm (All-Star Race Trucks)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Late Model Triple Crown 100)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Sunday, Aug. 23
Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven -- 6:45pm (Veterans Night)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 2:00pm (PASS North Super Late Models)
PASS North Super Late Models: Sun., Aug. 23 -- Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. (2:00pm)
SCoNE 360 Sprint Cars: Fri., Aug. 21 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. (7:00pm)
Série ACT-Castrol: Sat., Aug. 22 -- Riverside Speedway, Ste-Croix, Qué. (5:00pm)
True Value Modified Racing Series: Sat.. Aug. 22 -- Seekonk Speedway, Seekonk, Mass. (6:00pm)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
WEST HAVEN -- Ken Tremont Jr. hasn't officially won the track championship at Devil's Bowl Speedway yet, but the fat lady is definitely warming up backstage.
Tremont, of West Sand Lake, N.Y., held off Middlebury's Todd Stone Sunday night to register his sixth win of the season in the 30-lap 358-modified feature on Judith L. Richards Memorial Night. Frank Hoard Sr. set the pace for the first11 laps of the modified feature, but Tremont had the Rifenburgh Construction small block humming and only needed seven laps to get from his eighth starting position to second. Tremont used a restart on lap 11 to get the lead, and the rest of the field could do nothing more than watch his rear bumper for the rest of the feature.
Stone, who started just behind Tremont, moved into second on lap 14, but had to be content with the No. 2 spot, and knows his reign as track champion is just about over. Vince Quenneville, Jr. of Brandon finished third, with Orwell's Tim LaDuc fourth and Ron Proctor fifth.
The Budget Sportsman ran 50 laps, but Seth Howe didn't really need the extra distance. After taking the lead midway through the feature, the South Londonderry driver pulled away from Paul Dunham, Jr. to come away with his first win of the season. The first 20 laps of the feature featured a number of cautions, and almost as many lead changes. Marc Hughes led the first three laps, but Chuck Dickinson, who started on the pole, moved out in front on lap four and held the top spot until lap 16, when D.J. Brundige went out on the point. After a number of caution laps, Howe, who had started 14th, used a restart on lap 25 to get the lead, and then drove a solid race to get the victory.
Dunham crossed the finish line second, with Dickinson third, but Dickinson failed to pass inspection following the race and was disqualified. That moved Jack Swinton to third, with Frank Hoard, III fourth and Derrick McGrew, coming off a Friday night win at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, fifth.
Fred Little of Salibury outran Fair Haven's Carl Vladyka to come away with his third win of the campaign in the 20-lap Pro Street Stock feature, and Brandon's Mike Clark rocketed past Joe Ladd with five laps to go and drove to his third win of the year in the 20-lap Limited feature.
Nathan Woodworth of Essex Junction also made his way to victory lane on Sunday night, winning the Mini Stock/Duke Stock feature.
Devil's Bowl will be back in action on Sunday, Aug. 23, with all divisions competing on Salute to Veterans Night, Racing will begin at 6:45 p.m.