Friday, January 29, 2010

PASS WinterFest: Update #1

As promised, our man Dave Parker has delivered a little parcel from Florida, giving us the first look at the inaugural PASS WinterFest 150 at New Smyrna Speedway.

As of 12:15pm on Friday, the bad weather is holding off -- it's 72 degrees and partly cloudy, with practice scheduled for 2:00-7:00pm. Keep checking in, we'll have a few more updates throughout the weekend.

Brad Leighton's new Richard Moody Racing #55 Ford Fusion, sponsored by Subway of Barre, Montpelier, Waterbury, and Northfield, Vt.

A crew member makes a change on the left-rear corner of Leighton's car

Four-time and defending PASS North champion Johnny Clark's #54

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Juice: The All-Star Showdown Ain't About All-Stars Anymore

-by Justin St. Louis

The season-long hype surrounding the inaugural ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a pretty cool thing for the fans and teams of the American-Canadian Tour. The pressure bearing down on 300 or so Late Model drivers to win a race and get invited to compete at the "Magic Mile" nearly broke some of the toughest men in the sport, while for others, the feeling of overcoming that pressure, getting that big win, and stamping their tickets to The Big Dance was pure utopia.

It reminds us of something: The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, in the glitz and glam of suburban Los Angeles, live on SPEED TV. A national stage for the local heroes. The Super Bowl of NASCAR short track racing. The highlight of the whole year.

It was a simple and wonderful concept in 2003: race your heart out all year long, and if you finish in the top-15 in points in what are now the K&N Pro Series East and West divisions, you'll get rewarded with an invitation to race on national television at what may be the nicest short track facility in the country. No points on the line, just money, bragging rights, a really nice trophy, and a chance to maybe turn yourself into the next hot prospect in the NASCAR garage.

Californian Austin Cameron stole the hearts of America as he came back from cancer to win the inaugural 125-lap event. In 2004, Massachusetts underdog Mike Johnson set the world on its ear with his victory. David Gilliland won in 2005, and just another year later found himself winning a Nationwide Series race at Kentucky and a Sprint Cup Series pole at Talladega. Matt Kobyluck brought the trophy back to New England in 2006. Everyone gathered around their TVs to watch -- even us East Coasters who had to stay up way past our bedtimes. The were times when the racing got a little chippy and cars got torn up, but the idea was that we were watching the 30 best short trackers in the country.

Then NASCAR went ahead and ruined it.

Beginning in 2007, ten starting spots and 100 more laps have been added to the race (only 225 laps for this year's edition, however), and qualifying is open to anyone approved by NASCAR to run on a half-mile or longer track. The top-15 from both the East and West divisions are still invited, but only the champions and race winners are automatically qualified for the race. In addition, the champions from the northern and southern Whelen Modified Tours, the Canadian Tire Series, the Corona Mexico Series, and the Whelen All-American Series (read: drivers that have nothing to do with the East and West divisions) are guaranteed starters, provided they can find a ride. And since the only East/West drivers guaranteed to start are the champions and winners, the potential exists for a championship runner-up to travel to California only to not qualify for the All-Star (!!!) race.

"That race had tremendous potential when it was first announced," said reigning American-Canadian Tour champion Brian Hoar, a three-time Toyota All-Star Showdown participant. Hoar, of Williston, ran full-time in the Busch North/Busch East/Camping World East/K&N Pro Series East/What'll It Be Next Year Series from 2001-2006, and was a top-10 finisher in all three of his starts at Irwindale.

"When it first started, that race was huge for our group of drivers that, at the time, was still centered here in the northeast, and it was just as big for the group of guys regionalized out west. The East versus West thing was a neat format, and we beat those guys on their own turf two out of the three years I went out there. It's totally different now, and not only do I not have the answers for [why NASCAR changed it], I don't care. It still has the potential to be great again if they fix it."

Hoar points to NASCAR's recent penchant to seemigly try and reinvent the wheel as the blame for the change in the Showdown. "NASCAR changed the event when they changed the series [from Busch North to Busch East in 2006]," he said. "By 2006 things had really started to change, and by 2007 everything had changed. Now anyone can get in the race and win. Look at Joey Logano last year."

Logano, the 2007 Busch East Series champion (and eventual 2009 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year), won the Showdown following his championship season. In last year's event, he brought his Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series team to Irwindale and was dominant -- in his one and only race in the East/West divisions the entire year, mind you -- before ultimately being disqualified from the win following a last-lap wreck with Peyton Sellers, who at the time was a high-talent, low-budget full-timer with the East Series. Multi-time Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday was also in the race and wrecked several cars. Matt Crafton, another Truck Series racer, finished fifth, one spot better than Hornaday.

Logano has a ride (and backing from his Sprint Cup sponsor The Home Depot and Nationwide crew chief Kevin Kidd) in the Fadden Racing entry fielded by ACT driver and former Busch North/Busch East champion Mike Olsen of North Haverhill, N.H. Olsen will also enter a car for -- get this -- 18 year-old Willy Boucenna, a road course racer from France who has zero history with NASCAR.

"It's all buy-a-ride now," says Hoar. "You can't blame Mike for taking the money that [Logano and Boucenna] bring with them, he races for a living and has to do what he can to survive. But it's sad that the regulars of the series can go out there and get their butts handed to them [by outsiders]. Say they have a bad qualifying lap, that's it. They can support the series all year long and look forward to [Irwindale], and then not make it in. It's too bad. I'm excited to see this year's race, I always am, but I'm not excited to see guys like [Logano] in the race."

Hoar also said that in the formative years of the Showdown, the East and West series regulars really were the stars, and that having drivers like Logano and Hornaday in the race now takes away from the original purpose of the event. "We had all kinds of support and exposure from NASCAR for the whole week we were out there. The TV crews were there, and their job was to make us stars, and they did it. Last year it was all Joey Logano, and he wasn't even part of [the series]."

The similarities between the first Irwindale event and September's ACT Invitational at NHMS were many, says Hoar, and going through the same type of experience brought back a lot of memories. It also reminded Hoar of the changes the old Busch North Series went through once the Loudon, N.H., mile became a part of the series. "Absolutely, to a great degree," he said. "We had exposure all year, and it was all anyone talked about, just like Irwindale [in 2003]. Will the second one be the same feel? I don't know. But I hope the race doesn't get out of control. As long as ACT stays on top of it, I think it will be good.

"Running races at Loudon singlehandedly changed the Busch North Series [in the early 1990s], and everyone thought they had to go out and get superspeedway bodies and superspeedway cars and spend lots of money. Then the series became what it is now. And it's already started in ACT -- Patrick Laperle had a car built specifically for Loudon before he was even invited. Ricky Rolfe tested well there in August, and put his car up on jackstands and pulled out a back-up car for the rest of the races until the Invitational. Guys are figuring out that aerodynamics have never been as important on a Late Model as they are at Loudon. It's up to ACT to clamp down on it."

Brian Hoar is right. The Toyota All-Star Showdown was an outstanding event at one time, and it still could be if it went back to the basics. Now it's just another race. For that matter, the K&N Pro Series East was an outstanding series at one time, too.

Let's hope the ACT Invitational doesn't go down the same path. We don't think it will.


Speaking of the Showdown, there's a touch of local flavor headed for L.A. this weekend -- Colchester's Sam Caron, a part-time ACT competitor, will head to the event as crew chief for driver Steve Park and owner Bob Torriere's NDS Motorsports, working under the #35 Whelen Engineering team based in Georgia, Vt., and Barre native Matt Goslant will be the crew chief for two-time West Series champion Eric Holmes and the #20 NAPA Toyota, fielded by California powerhouse Bill MacAnally Racing.

Catch the Toyota All-Star Showdown live on SPEED TV or Sirius NASCAR Radio at 10:00pm, Friday and Saturday.


How does anyone not love Robby Gordon?


Remember those old commercials with the egg and the frying pan?

"This is your brain." ---SMASH!--- "This is your brain on drugs."

Well that's what I feel like when I watch Madhouse. It's not real racing. It's WWE with nerf bars and a southern accent.

Here's my expert analysis after three shows:
1. Burt Myers is a moron. And a hot-head. I can't imagine what's gonna happen to that poor little baby he has at home the first time he spills his Cheerios.
2. Chris Fleming is a moron. Some people get it, some people don't. Guess which category he falls under.
3. Junior Miller is a total moron. I have nothing else to say about him.
4. Jason Myers might be a moron, but they don't show him enough for me to be able to tell.
5. Tim Brown isn't a moron, but he is a total jerk. His wife hates him, but hey, look at the publicity Michael Waltrip Racing is getting from that crew shirt!
6. Eric Stigall is a special kind of moron. Far and away my favorite character on television right now. In fact, his personality is so addictive, even I twitch when he talks.
7. I am a moron, because I can't freaking wait for the next episode. And I guaran-damn-tee you I'll buy the DVD after the season is over.


By the way, Irwindale isn't the only place running this weekend. The Pro All Stars Series heads for sunny... er, not... Florida this weekend for the first annual WinterFest 150 at New Smyrna Speedway.

VMM will have a correspondent at the track in Dave Parker, who will be taking notes all day and giving us occasional updates during the event. It looks like rain might play into the schedule, which may postpone the event from Saturday to Sunday.

The WinterFest 150 is the first PASS National Championship event for 2010. Drivers expected to compete include 2009 PASS North champion Johnny Clark, Danville youngster Steven Legendre, Québec native Mario Gosselin, and the new teams pairing owner Richard Moody with driver Brad Leighton, and owner Scott Mulkern with driver Ben Rowe.

We're not entirely sure how close to the computer we'll be all weekend -- ya know, real world commitments and all -- but we can Tweet with the best of 'em! Keep a watch on the VMM Twitter page at, or "@VtMotorMag" for those of you that already know what the heck a Twitter is.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cyr Returning to ACT, May Defend T-Road Title

COLCHESTER -- A Wednesday evening meeting may prove to be a very decisive point in the future of the American-Canadian Tour: Jean-Paul Cyr is back. The seven-time series champion has agreed to return in 2010, driving for veteran racer Gary Caron of Colchester. What's more, Cyr is also trying to piece together a run at his second-straight Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl championship in Barre with owner Joey Laquerre.

Both deals are dependent upon sponsorship dollars, but will potentially bring Cyr back to the circuit he dominated for most of the last decade, as well as giving him the potential to build a similar dynasty at Thunder Road.

Caron team member Keith Williams, who was also a member of Cyr's ACT Late Model Tour championship teams with owner Rick Paya from 2003-07, said the Cyr-Caron partnership has been in progress for a while. "It was a done deal before [Wednesday], we just put together some of the details at the meeting," said Williams. "We're going to make the opener at Lee (N.H.) and go to the first few races, and we'll continue if it's going well."

Cyr, of Milton, won ACT Late Model Tour championships as an owner/driver in 1994, 1996, and 2003-06. In two seasons driving for Paya, he was the champion in 2007 and finished third overall in 2008, his last full ACT season. Cyr won the 2009 Thunder Road title driving for a new team led by Laquerre and his son, crew chief Jeff Laquerre.

Caron won three consecutive ACT Late Model Tour events in 1995, and has been running part-time with ACT and at Thunder Road for several seasons while developing the career of his son, Kyle. Reportedly, Kyle Caron will continue to race weekly at Thunder Road in his own car.

Williams said Cyr will drive Caron's familiar #22 at all Tour events except May 2 and Sept. 5 at Thunder Road, when he would potentially drive the Laquerre #11 car. Williams said other drivers may be considered for the Caron car at Thunder Road races; Chip Grenier raced a limited ACT schedule for Caron in 2009.

(Cyr photo by Leif Tillotson)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sad News for Northeastern Speedway...

(From The Caledonian-Record)

WATERFORD - A Vermont Environmental Court order specifically prohibits property owners from hosting a commercial event at the former Northeastern Speedway, a stipulation that is in force for three years.

The order issued by Judge Thomas Durkin Jan. 5 includes a list of things property owners Paul and Lise Bellefeuille are not allowed to do.

And if the town provides evidence that they plan to, the court will issue a temporary restraining order.

To continue reading this article from The Caledonian-Record, click here: VEC Judge Sides With Waterford On Speedway

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A LOOK BACK: Bear Ridge Speedway 2009

Our newest feature, "A Look Back", showcases the 2009 season at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, Vt., with highlights from throughout the year.

Video produced by Justin St. Louis/Vermont Motorsports Magazine. ©2009-2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gappens says ACT-NHMS Partnership is "Win-Win"

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- Jerry Gappens is a believer, in the American-Canadian Tour and in its fiery figurehead, Tom Curley.

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway Executive Vice President was presented with ACT's prestigious Don MacTavish Award on Saturday night at the annual Banquet of Champions, but his affinity for the series has roots much deeper than just being given a trophy.

Gappens took a chance on Curley's series at a meeting in 2008, agreeing to host the first-ever ACT Invitational on Sylvania 300 weekend in Septmeber 2009 -- the kickoff event of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Cup -- and seems happy to have done so; grandstand attendance for the Saturday program at NHMS was around 40,000, up significantly from prior years, thanks in part to the Invitational. But his affinity for ACT is even deeper than just increased ticket sales.

In fact, Gappens is a short tracker. Growing up in Indiana, he raced dirt track Sprint Cars in high school and attended local races with his father as a boy. Gappens may be in charge of a high-profile superspeedway in the national spotlight, but he still takes time to appreciate where he came from. He's been to Thunder Road to watch the Milk Bowl, he's been to Lee USA Speedway, a weekly Friday-night track not far from NHMS, and he keeps tabs on who's doing what in the local circuits. In the middle of the interview for this story on Saturday night, he went out of his way to introduce himself to one of ACT's young stars, and called him by name.

Gappens knows how vital ACT and its band of grassroots racers have become to the success of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and he knows that's a two-way street.

"I think it's very important. We saw in September that our attendance was up over the previous three or four years by having ACT there, and I give them all the credit for increasing the crowd," he said. "The economy has been down, ticket sales have been down, but that [Invitational] gave us the shot in the arm to help us have a great crowd on Saturday."

A strategic promotional move by Curley and Gappens was to make each ACT race in the U.S. and Canada in 2009 an ACT Invitational qualifying event, thereby making the September weekend at New Hampshire the focal point of every race from April to mid-September.

"One of the reasons we wanted to do the partnership with ACT was that they're out there racing every weekend throughout New England, up into Canada, and that Invitational format gave us a chance to promote New Hampshire Motor Speedway and our September weekend at all the ACT events," said Gappens. "It was really beneficial for both of us. It gave the participants of ACT a venue for really a Super Bowl-type atmosphere, a chance to run in front of NASCAR car owners and drivers, and it helped us promote our event. It was a win-win situation for both parties."

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has invited Curley and ACT back for another go in September 2010. "It's still going to be an invitational, [but] I think there will be a day you'll see it be an actual points race on the calendar," Gappens said. "Right now Tom says let's do another year as an invitational, and I think that's good, I trust his guidance on what's best for the tour."

The 50-lap, 36-car ACT Invitational race, which featured several lead changes and competitive side-by-side racing, immediately followed a decidely lackluster 200-lap NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event as the sun began to set on September 19. Gappens says that he jokingly thanked NASCAR President Mike Helton in the pressbox that day for putting on the "lead-up event" to the ACT race, which proved to be the best show of the day. As it turned out, Helton and NASCAR were paying attention.

"[ACT is] definitely coming back," Gappens is quick to say. "We're working with NASCAR, and one of the things I'm talking about is shortening the truck race from 200 laps to 150 laps, just to make sure that we have more time for the ACT race on Saturday afternoon. They're actually pretty receptive to it, so I think we'll get that accomplished."

Curley had a dream to bring his series of local short track racers to the biggest stage in the northeast, and Gappens took a chance on it. And so far, it seems, everybody is a winner.

(PHOTO: Tom Curley (left) and Jerry Gappens are working together to benefit both ACT and NHMS. Leif Tillotson photo)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hoar, Gappens, Cyr Honored at ACT/Thunder Road Banquet

NHMS' Gappens "humbled" by MacTavish Award

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- A crowd of some 500 honored Brian Hoar of Williston on Saturday night at the Sheraton-Burlington Hotel & Conference Center, celebrating Hoar's sixth American-Canadian Tour championship.

Hoar, 37, captured his first championship on the series since 2000, driving for RPM Motorsports and car owner/crew chief Rick Paya. Paya previously won seven ACT championships with driver Jean-Paul Cyr; Cyr left the team after 2008 to drive for Joey Laquerrre and challenge for the track championship at Barre's Thunder Road, which he did successfully.

"The irony behind it all is that probably if [Cyr] hadn't decided to go with [Laquerre], I might not have the opportunity to be where I'm standing right now," Hoar said during his championship speech.

Jerry Gappens, Executive Vice President of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, was presented the prestigious Don MacTavish Award by ACT President Tom Curley, for the speedway's contributions to ACT racing.

Dover, Mass. native MacTavish, the 1966 NASCAR National Sportsman (present-day Nationwide Series) Champion, was killed in a crash at Daytona Int'l Speedway in 1969. MacTavish won his national title racing weekly at places like Catamount Stadium in Milton, and New York tracks including Airborne Speedway and Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Past recipients of the award include NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., Thunder Road founder Ken Squier, Curley, and drivers Robbie Crouch, Jean-Paul Cabana, Hoar, and Cyr.

NHMS hosted the first-ever ACT Invitational in September during Sylvania 300 weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. As a result, NHMS saw an increased Saturday crowd of 40,000 spectators, and ACT and its drivers gained national attention throughout the year.

"(The ACT Invitational) was a win-win for both parties," said Gappens, who grew up around the short tracks of Indiana. "Any time you get an award with Bill France, Sr.'s name on it, and all the other great people that have contributed to the success of short track racing, is quite an honor. I appreciate short track racing and haven't forgotten where I learned the sport from the grassroots up, so to get what I consider the highest honor, other than being the champion of the series, is very humbling and very much appreciated."

Shawn Duquette of Morrisonville, N.Y., was crowned with his first ACT Tiger Sportsman Series championship. Duquette earned the title after a tie-breaker with St. Albans driver Jason Bonnett.

John Doiron of Berwick, Me., was given the ACT Crew Chief of the Year Award; Doiron coached his son, 16 year-old Joey, to the ACT Rookie of the Year title.

Tucker Williams of Hyde Park won the Dr. G.R. Nielsen Rookie Achievement Award as the top-performing freshman driver across all ACT/Thunder Road divisions; Williams, 18, was a four-time Street Stock winner at Thunder Road in 2009.

Cyr, of Milton, was honored with his first Thunder Road Late Model "King of the Road" championship in the track's 50th season. Thunder Road's support division champions were also honored: Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown (Tiger Sportsman), Gary Mullen of Tunbridge (Street Stock), and Donny Yates of North Montpelier (Junkyard Warrior). Rookies of the Year were Dylan Smith of Randolph (Late Model), Erik Steel of Barre (Tiger Sportsman), and Williams.

ACT/Thunder Road announcer Troy Germain was given the Ken Squier Award for his decade-long contributions to the sport.

Seth Leavitt of WCAX-TV Channel 3 was named the winner of the first-ever Pete Hartt Memorial Media Award. Mike McCune, Leavitt's colleague, accepted the award on his behalf. Hartt, the Sports Editor at the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, passed away in March.

Sportsmanship and "Most Improved Driver" awards were also given out in each division. Sportsmanship award winners were Chip Grenier (ACT Late Model Tour), Brooks Clark (TR Late Model), Brendan Moodie, Jr. (TR Tiger Sportsman), Mike Martin (TR Street Stock), and Ken Christman (TR Junkyard Warrior). Most Improved awards went to John Donahue (ACT Late Model Tour), Craig Bushey (TR Late Model), and Derrick O'Donnell (TR Tiger Sportsman).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

PASS Champions Rowe, Clark Team Up for National Race

(From team press release)

FARMINGDALE, Me. -- With 10 championships between them, Maine racers Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark are teaming up for a winter road trip.

A long winter road trip -- to Florida.

Rowe, who has four PASS North Series championships as well as PASS South and PASS National championships on his resume, and Clark will field a joint effort for the inaugural PASS Winterfest 150 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway on Jan. 29-30. The event is the first of five PASS National Championship races scheduled for the 2010 season.

"We wanted to go down and support this race, because we think it could grow into something really big in the future," said Clark, a four-time PASS North champion, including the last two series titles. "If everything goes well, we should both have a chance to win this one."

Clark's race hauler will carry both his familiar Clark's Car Crushing No. 54 and Rowe's new Community Pharmacies No. 48. The deal to pool the resources of Johnny Clark Motorsports and Mulkern Racing was finalized at last weekend's Northeast Motorsports Expo held at the Augusta Civic Center.

Rowe was named Touring Series Driver of the Year at the Expo.

"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," said Rowe, who will debut with his new team and new crew chief, Seth Holbrook, at New Smyrna. "Me and Johnny have never teamed up before, so it's going to be a blast."

Of the two drivers, only Clark has New Smyrna experience, having competed on multiple occasions in the annual New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing held each February.

He compared New Smyrna's high-banked half-mile layout to Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, a track familiar to PASS North Series competitors.

"It's a lot like Thompson," Clark said. "It's big and fast, and it's definitely a fun and challenging track. It's extremely hard on brakes, and you need one of the biggest motors you can find there."

Rowe said he'll take Clark's word for it, having never raced at New Smyrna himself. He has, however, watched a number of races there from the pit area.

"It does race a lot like Thompson -- at least that's what Johnny tells me," Rowe said. "Hopefully he'll help me out when we get there and we can go from there.

"We're going to take a bunch of guys from the north down there and see what we can do together."

Teams hit the track on Friday, Jan. 29 for an extended practice session. Qualifying and feature racing will be held on Saturday, Jan. 30. The Winterfest 150 is tentatively scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. green flag.

(PHOTO: Ben Rowe (left) and Johnny Clark at the Northeast Motorsports Expo; photo)

Airborne, CVRA Lead Asphalt Modified Racing Expansion

(From Airborne Speedway press release)

Plattsburgh, N.Y. – The Champlain Valley Racing Association (CVRA), which owns and operates Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY and Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven, VT announced at its 2010 rules meeting that it will implement Airborne Speedway's Modified rules and participate in a six-race Modified series with two events at each track.

"The first event of the Series will be at Albany-Saratoga on Sunday, April 25 as a part of a card that will include an American Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Model event," CVRA promoter Bruce Richards said.

The conversion of the CVRA tracks from dirt to asphalt in 2010 has sparked interest throughout the northeast. "This is a validation of the efforts we've made at Airborne to turn it into a successful family entertainment facility," Airborne promoter Mike Perrotte said. "To have two quality race tracks in our region make the effort to promote asphalt racing with DIRT-style Modifieds as their headline division should be a plus for everybody. We are working on finalizing our 2010 schedule and selecting dates for the two series races."

Airborne and Albany-Saratoga have both scheduled 2010 special events for two well-established open-wheel asphalt tours, the International SuperModified Association (ISMA) and the Modified Racing Series.

Airborne hosts the ISMA Supers Saturday, July 17. The Modified Racing Series, formerly known as the True Value Modified Racing Series, will appear at Airborne Saturday, May 29.

"We've widened the backstretch at Albany-Saratoga by 10 feet and we're going to use the best pavement money can buy," Richards said. "We're entering a new decade and a new era. We will be offering fans in the Capital District more choices than before. We owe a special thanks to Mike Perrotte for his co-operation, interest and effort."

Airborne's 57th season opener is set for Saturday, May 1. Martin Roy of Napierville, QC, will begin defense of his 2009 Ernie's Tools Modified championship.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Vermonter Jenkins Enters NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

West Wardsboro man buys #26 points from Roush-Fenway; Stoddard to serve as crew chief

WEST WARDSBORO -- NASCAR is coming to Vermont. Or rather, Vermont is headed to NASCAR.

West Wardsboro businessman Bill Jenkins has purchased the car number, owner points, and equipment from the #26 team formerly campaigned by Roush-Fenway Racing and driver Jamie McMurray in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jenkins plans to contest the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule beginning with next month's Daytona 500 at Daytona Int'l Speedway in Florida.

"I'm a huge race fan and I've always wanted to do this," Jenkins told Vermont Motorsports Magazine on Tuesday. "The opportunity presented itself, and I took it."

Jenkins and his wife, Sandy, are the owners of Latitude 43, an organic soap company.

Originally from New York City, Jenkins moved to New England in 1990 and has homes in Vermont and Maine. He plans to keep strong ties to the northeast with his new adventure, starting with the core of the team; Jenkins has hired North Haverhill, N.H. native Frank Stoddard as crew chief. Stoddard won 17 Sprint Cup Series races with Roush-Fenway Racing and driver Jeff Burton in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"We have a shop in Concord, N.C. and we could do all of our business down there, but we're staying true to Vermont," said Jenkins. "I consider Vermont my home, and I have for almost 20 years. There are a lot of race fans here in Vermont, and I'd like to think this may be a big deal for them and give them something to cheer for. We will do all of our banking through Vermont and try to focus on the state as much as we can."

McMurray drove the #26 to 22nd place in Sprint Cup Series point standings in 2009, locking the car into the first five events of the 2010 season under NASCAR's owners points system. The team won the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in November. Roush-Fenway was forced to cut the team from its organization in accordance with NASCAR's new policy limiting race teams to four cars. Roush-Fenway Racing will continue to field the #6, #16, #17, and #99 cars for David Ragan, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards, respectively.

Jenkins said that he realizes there is a lot of work to do before the season starts on Feb. 14 in the biggest stock car race in the world. "We don't have any sponsors, and I realize that we will be the only blank canvas in the top-35 at Daytona," he said. "We've been contacted by several companies that otherwise couldn't become involved in NASCAR for various reasons, and we think we'll find something soon."

The 61-year old said he drew inspiration from a close friend, Middlebury car dealership mogul and veteran Devil's Bowl Speedway racer Gardner Stone, before he made the transaction with Roush-Fenway: "One of Gardner's favorite sayings is 'Life isn't a dress rehearsal.' I've been around racing since I was a kid. I remember guys driving around with cigarettes in their mouths and their arms hanging out the window. Now, all these years later, I finally have a chance to get involved.

"It's all very exciting. I celebrated for about ten minutes when we signed the deal, but then I put my head down in the ditch and got to work."

Jenkins expects to name his team's driver in the coming days.

The Juice: Madhouse, Schmadhouse

-by Justin St. Louis

Seriously. Seriously? Do you expect me to just accept "Madhouse"? No sir.

Fantastic on-track and in-car footage, great behind-the-scenes profiles, and intense shots of passionate fans in the grandstands cheering on their drivers.

The racing, however, is garbage.

I've been told for years by a bunch of folks that Bowman-Gray Stadium down in Winston-Salem, N.C. is as crazy as it looked in the series premiere of The History Channel's newest television show. But that's ONE track. There are a thousand others in the country that are nothing like that, and hopefully never will be. For whatever its reasons, the team of officials at Bowman-Gray seem to think that that style of racing -- which is shown on TV to be nothing more than seeing how hard one guy can drive into another and wreck him, and then punch his lights out after the race -- works.

But let's see Burt Myers and Junior Miller, bitter rivals and arguably the two most intriguing characters on "Madhouse", come to any track up here in the northeast, or even any other track in the south, and try to get away with wailing on each other over and over and over and over and over. And over. The clip of Myers ramming Miller intentionally in 2008 -- then backing up and doing it again twice more, with an official standing just a couple of feet from the cars -- is great for entertaining a bunch of idiots. But it is absolutely deplorable antics for a semi-professional sporting event. What's even more embarrassing is that the country's most powerful auto racing organization -- NASCAR, Bowman-Gray Stadium's governing body -- not only turns a blind eye to it, but allows it to be the main draw for a freaking television show!

Does anyone remember in 2006, when Robin Blake put on a similar act at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H. (which was a NASCAR-sanctioned track at the time) in 2006? Blake has been through two trials for assault with a deadly weapon as a result of the incident, and pending further litigation (which is supposedly continuing this month), Blake is facing up to seven years in prison. So, Bowman-Gray, am I missing something here? Or is it just you?

The show's five main characters -- multi-time champions Miller and Tim Brown, low-buck underdog Chris Fleming, and Myers and younger brother Jason Myers -- are all totally arrogant, and seem to have nothing but disdain for each other. Trash-talk is the rule, and fistfights seem to be the law. Bowman-Gray's officials -- whether intentional or not -- are seen as totally out of control of their drivers, and none worse than track manager Gray Garrison. The pre-season meeting shown between Garrison, Miller, and Burt Myers is laughable. And not in a "Seinfeld" kind of way.

The reality of the thing is this: I've got my DVR set to record every episode of "Madhouse" and I completely intend to watch the entire series. It's winter, and I want to see race cars on TV. But I'm not watching the show because of the racing itself. I'm a moron that gets duped into catchy, compelling, drama-laden shows, and "Madhouse" fits the bill. If you're a bloodlust, or a non-race fan that loves junk TV, then The History Channel has what you're looking for at 10:00pm every Sunday.

But know this: the short track fan in me cries a little every time I watch.


Looking through Alan Ward's photos of the Pre-Hangover 150 at Riverside Speedway, I counted at least three Cadillacs (almost 10% of the starting field), two Junkyard Warriors from Thunder Road including the championship car, more than a few "borrowed" road cones on cars, and a Christmas tree sticking through the roof of a race car.



According to the Champlain Valley Racing Association's website, the Tiger Sportsman division will now be its own seperate entity, and the former Limited division is now the Renegades, a la Airborne Speedway. It was previously announced that the Limiteds would be grandfathered in to the new Tiger Sportsman class. Also, the division will run only at Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven, and not at sister track Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y.

This move may actually be a little troublesome. While the idea of keeping the Limited/Renegade division close to its roots is appealing and certainly not a bad move, there may have also been a good case for having the grandfather clause in place, simply in terms of car counts. My fear is that the DBS Tigers won't have the strength in numbers initially, and that the division will end up like the one at Canaan Fair Speedway in 2005 -- with around five or six cars a night, and cancelled after one season.

I hope for the sake of the track and of the sport that teams from Thunder Road and Airborne will support the Devil's Bowl Tigers enough until a solid home base is built up for the division that has been so successful for Tom Curley and Mike Perrotte. I believe White Mountain Motorsports Park will have less trouble building its Tiger spinoff "Super Sportsman" division than Devil's Bowl, due to the fact that the Super Street class it replaces is no longer running (and therefore has a dozen or so teams looking for something to do with their race cars), and the fact that Thunder Road teams have raced at White Mountain before and seem to enjoy the place. Devil's Bowl -- as of this writing -- has no official Thunder Road-, Airborne-, or ACT-sanctioned Tiger Sportsman events. Hopefully teams will be enticed to try something new and will travel to Rutland County without being required to do so.

Asking Devil's Bowl drivers to convert from dirt to asphalt is a big enough challenge. A slow conversion from the old Limiteds to the Tigers might have worked. Keeping the Limiteds as they are will most likely work. But keeping the existing division and creating a totally new division? There exists the potential for some Limited/Renegade teams to convert their cars to Tigers, which in turn lowers the car count for the Renegades and negatively affects that division. There exists the potential for absolutely nobody to support the new Tigers. And, of course, there exists the potential for nobody to support Devil's Bowl at all.

Only time will tell. Keep your fingers crossed and your chins up. We need this to work.


The USA/Canada games in the recent IIHF World Junior Championship tournament were without question two of the very best hockey games I've ever seen. The NHL is going to see some talented kids in the next couple of years. Wow.

And for what it's worth, the Habs are above .500 for the moment. We'll see how things look after the All-Star break.


Here are some odds and ends we've picked up recently:

-- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Joey Logano will return to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) on Jan. 29-30, driving for Fadden Racing and car owner Mike Olsen, based out of tiny North Haverhill, N.H. Logano will carry the sponsorship of The Home Depot, his Sprint Cup sponsor. The Toyota All-Star Showdown is regarded as the "Daytona 500" of NASCAR's Camping World Series East and West divisions.

Olsen, a former Thunder Road standout and grandson of the late multi-time track champion Stub Fadden, won the CWSE championship in 2001 and 2006 as a driver. Logano won the Showdown in 2007, and was the apparent winner last year until he was penalized for rough riding with Peyton Sellers on the final lap.

-- Williamstown youngster Jimmy Hebert has his Tiger Sportsman cars for sale, and hopes to make a jump to the ACT Late Model division for 2010. Hebert, 18, became Thunder Road's youngest Tiger Sportsman champion last year.

-- Ben Rowe teaming up with Scott Mulkern can only mean trouble for the PASS North Series. Rowe, a four-time champion of the series, is obviously quite talented, and Mulkern has deep pockets and likes to spend money on racing. The team has four cars at their disposal, with a pair of Chevy engines and another pair of Dodges. And for the record, Mulkern knows what it takes to win, having won a PASS North race and a pair of features on the former PASS Outlaw tour himself. Watch out, Johnny Clark.

-- Eric and Tucker Williams each have new race cars for 2010, but aren't sure if they'll be able to race them. Eric, a two-time ACT Late Model Tour winner last season, was offered "a deal he couldn't refuse" according to Tucker, and is having a new Howe Racing Enterprises house car being built at Howe headquarters in Beaverton, Mich. Tucker, the Thunder Road Street Stock Rookie of the Year, has acquired a Tiger Sportsman car formerly driven to a bunch of wins on either side of Lake Champlain by Robin Wood and Joey Becker. How often the cars race depends on sponsorship funding, Tucker says.

-- We're headed to the ACT/Thunder Road Banquet of Champions on Saturday to hob-knob and bench-race. Keep your eyes peeled for news and things coming soon after.

(PHOTOS: 1. Burt Myers (#1) and Junior Miller (#69) sure do put on a show at Bowman-Gray. A bad one. 2. Ho! Ho! Ho! It's an Enduro! Photo 1 by Eric Hylton; Photo 2 by Alan Ward)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Avery Dominates Pre-Hangover 150 at Riverside

Bear Ridge regular wins on the snow

GROVETON, N.H. -- Ryan Avery put his dirt-track corner-sliding knowledge to use on Sunday at Riverside Speedway to win the postponed Pre-Hangover 150 enduro. Thirty-four drivers braved the snow and ice-covered quarter-mile oval as temperatures hovered around zero degrees Farenheit.

Avery, of Thornton, N.H., is a Sportsman Modified standout at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford and Canaan (N.H.) Dirt Speedway. He won the race by three laps over Oxford Plains Speedway regular Jamie Heath of Waterford, Me. Riverside regulars Jeff Ainsworth of Bethlehem, N.H., Jamie Swallow, Jr. of Stark, N.H., and hometown driver Pete Gilcris completed the top five.

Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl champion Donny Yates of North Montpelier finished sixth, eight laps off the pace. Colchester's Casey Houle was seventh, ten laps down.

OFFICIAL FINISH -- Pre-Hangover 150 Enduro
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H.
Sunday, January 10, 2010


1. Ryan Avery, Thornton, N.H., 150
2. Jamie Heath, Waterford, Me., 147
3. Jeff Ainsworth, Bethlehem, N.H., 146
4. Jamie Swallow, Jr., Stark, N.H., 145
5. Pete Gilcris, Groveton, N.H., 142
6. Donny Yates, North Montpelier, 142
7. Casey Houle, Colchester, 140
8. Cameron Tyler, Groveton, N.H., 135
9. Ben Hodgkins, Exeter, N.H., 133
10. Gerard Cote, Oxford, Me., 130
11. Mitch Emery, Lancaster, N.H., 129
12. Jerrad Ainsworth, Bethlehem, N.H., 124
13. Todd Derrington, Bethlehem, N.H., 118
14. Shauna Randall, Stark, N.H., 116
15. Todd Baker, Enosburg, 103
16. Louis Maher, Spencer, Mass., 100
17. Dave LaFleche, Barre, 86
18. Jimbo Shurkus, Meredith, N.H., 67
19. Dan Benoit, Sr., Lancaster, N.H., 65
20. Arland Tyler, Groveton, N.H., 55
21. Kevin Whittum, Jr., Dalton, N.H., 52
22. Alan Derrington, Bethlehem, N.H., 52
23. Doug Bandy, Lyndonville, 49
24. Cody Leblanc, Gorham, N.H., 28
25. Paul Hodge, Orleans, 32
26. Troy Randall, Wheelock, 10
27. Jonah Delgenio, Keene, N.H., 10
28. Bronson Roy, Berlin, N.H., 5
29. Nick Gilcris, Groveton, N.H., 4
30. Jamie Davis, Wolcott, 4
31. David Hartshorn, Lancaster, N.H., 1
32. Kevin Harran, St. Johnsbury Ctr., 0
33. Bruce McKay, Campton, N.H., no score card
34. Danny Ehlers, St. Johnsbury, no score card

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Granite State Mini Sprints Announces 2010 Schedule

Open-wheel club to race five times at Bear Ridge

BEDFORD, N.H. -- The Granite State Mini Sprints Racing Club has released its 2010 schedule, with 16 events held at three tracks, including Vermont's Bear Ridge Speedway.

Bear Ridge, a 1/4-mile clay oval, will host the series five times -- on May 22, June 19, July 17, August 14, and September 11. Canaan Dirt Speedway in Canaan, N.H. will host the series five times, and the redesigned and renamed Big Daddy's Speedbowl in Rumney, N.H. (formerly Nor-Way Pines Speedway, Legion Speedway, and Rattlesnake Motordrome), will hold six events.

The GSMSRC is a two-division touring group feature scaled-down Sprint Cars, using 500cc and 600cc engines. Lacey Hanson, 21, of Orwell will aim for her third consecutive 500cc championship in 2010, while three-time 600cc champion Matt Robie will jump up to the SCoNE 360cid Sprint Cars. Terry Reil of Montpelier finished second in 600cc points in 2010.



1. Sat., May 1 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. (Car show/practice)
2. Sun., May 2 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. (Car show/practice)
3. Fri., May 21 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H.
4. Sat., May 22 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford
5. Sun., May 30 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H.
6. Fri., June 11 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H.
7. Sat., June 19 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford
8. Sun., June 27 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H.
9. Fri., July 9 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H.
10. Sat., July 17 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford
11. Sun., July 25 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H.
12. Sat., Aug. 14 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford
13. Sun., Aug. 22 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H.
14. Fri., Aug. 27 -- Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H.
15. Sat., Sept. 11 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford (Rain date)
16. Sun., Sept 19 -- Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. (Rain date)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ben Rowe to Seek Fifth PASS North Title with Mulkern

(From Mulkern Racing press release)

FALMOUTH, Maine -- Championship-caliber equipment now has a championship-caliber driver to call its own. A 4-time championship driver, that is.

Mulkern Racing LLC has announced Ben Rowe, the all-time winningest driver in PASS history, will drive the Community Pharmacies No. 48 full-time on the PASS North Series in 2010. With team owner Scott Mulkern, Rowe will attempt to win a record fifth PASS North title.

"It's exciting for me all over again. Anytime you start something new, it's pretty exciting to me," said Rowe, who has 39 career combined victories in PASS North and PASS South and is coming off a season in which he won both the PASS South and PASS National championships in 2009.

"Scott's just a great guy to be around, and he knows what it takes to win."

Rowe will debut with Mulkern Racing this weekend at the Northeast Motorsports Expo at the Augusta Civic Center, where he will sign autographs both Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Mulkern is no stranger to victory lane himself, with three career wins in PASS-sanctioned events and 19 career top-5 finishes in PASS North. He's competed part-time as a driver with his own team over the last few seasons, but this year has made the commitment to a full-time operation as an owner with his wife, Vickie.

"The real focus for us now is on Ben and trying to win a championship for Ben in PASS North," Mulkern said.

Accomplished crew chief Seth Holbrook, who has ties to both Kyle Busch Motorsports and veteran New England racers like Mike Rowe, Joey Laquerre and Tim Brackett, has been hired by Mulkern to lead the No. 48 team. Tony Ricci works full-time at the Mulkern Racing shop preparing and maintaining the team's cars.

Already, Rowe said he believes the new No. 48 is capable of contending for the PASS North title.

" I think we can go to (Speedway 95) and win the first race of the year," Rowe said of the April 18 season opener in Hermon, Maine. "Scott wants to do it, and he wants to do it right. He wants to go for the North championship, and it gets him all pumped up talking about it.

"Seeing him get so pumped up gets me wound up to get going again, too, so it's good for me. I think it's going to be a fun year."

Mulkern said the team is concentrating on racing here in the North Series, with an eye on a possible race or two in PASS South.

"We may do some," said Mulkern, who also plans to run a couple of PASS North races himself in a team car. "If everything goes well, we might run a race down south early before the North season starts."

Mulkern Racing has four cars, including a Lefthander Chassis, two Junior Hanley-prepared cars and a new Howe chassis from Distance Racing. The team will use both Chevrolet engines prepared by Butler-MacMaster Automotive and Dodge engines from Performance Automotive Machine.

(Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Laperle, Watson Headed to New Smyrna's World Series

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- Former American-Canadian Tour champion Patrick Laperle of St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, Qué. has filed an entry for the 44th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway, Feb. 5-13. Laperle will race in the Crate/ASA-Type Late Model division, competing alongside fellow ACT driver Brandon Watson of Stayner, Ont., and former CVRA Modified competitor Dustin Delaney of Mayfield, N.Y.

Laperle won three of the first five features in the Crate/ASA division at last year's World Series, but was involved in a hard crash on Night 6, which ultimately led to him finishing second in points to champion David Wagner of Akron, Oh. Laperle went on to finish second in points in the Canadian-based Série ACT-Castrol later in the year with three wins, adding another victory on the U.S.-based ACT Late Model Tour at Airborne Speedway.

Watson, 16, is one of the hottest prospects in northeastern Late Model racing, having success in ACT, OSCAAR Super Late Models, and at Kawartha, Barrie, and Peterborough Speedways in Ontario; he finished third in the inaugural ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September.

Delaney, who raced with the Champlain Valley Racing Association at Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven and Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. as recently as 2008, finished eighth in NASCAR Camping World Series East points last year, with Vermont native Jamie Aube as his crew chief.

Eric Chase of Milton has finished in the top ten in points in each of the two previous World Series and was a feature winner in 2008, but confirmed on Monday that he will not return to New Smyrna this year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A LOOK BACK: ACT Fall Foliage 300

The ACT Late Model Tour's Fall Foliage 300 at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. was a historic event. Until that point, the longest race the series had ever run was 200 laps on a 4/10-mile track. Not only that, Airborne's newly redesigned corners allowed for some great side-by-side racing, producing a single-event record-tying 19 lead changes for the Tour.

The following video is Vermont Motorsports Magazine's recap of the race, won in impressive fashion by Patrick Laperle.

(All video/photo content by Justin St. Louis/VMM)