Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Juice: It's Head-Smashing Time

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

It seemed like it was only a matter of time. Patrick Laperle coming back to the American-Canadian Tour, that is. After all, it seemed like it was only a matter of time for his falling out with Tom Curley last September.

Laperle made it adamantly clear at the beginning of his career that he was going to do things his way, and to his credit, he has stayed one hundred percent true to that. Unfortunately for Laperle, Curley did the same thing twenty years earlier, and has stuck to his guns ever since.

The result? A total win-win for ACT fans.

There are spats between drivers here and there -- Brian Hoar vs. Mike Bruno in the 1990s, Hoar vs. Joey Polewarczyk last year, Cris Michaud vs. Brad Leighton the year before, and Laperle vs. Donald Theetge, well, forever -- but the rivarly between Laperle and Curley is a horse of a different color.
A battle like this gives fans something new to cheer for -- The rebellious cog upsetting the dictator's machine.

Curley, a fiercely independent Irishman from the Maine seacoast, is arguably the most successful short track promoter in the history of northeastern racing, and is in the elite crowd of the Bob Harmons, the Rex Robbins, the Hugh Deerys, and the Humpy Wheelers of the world. He has been called a maverick, a rebel, and, by his own admission in a Stock Car Racing Magazine article some twenty-odd years ago, "a pain in the ass." It's his way or the highway.

Laperle, a very focused, very talented, very popular Frenchman from suburban Montréal, has been a house afire since virtually the first race he ever drove at Airborne Speedway in 1998. He has won races and championships almost everywhere he's been from Québec to Florida, and is without question the most controversial racer in these parts.

When you put the two together, it's a recipe for a sort of magical disaster. The magic is in watching Curley set rules in place and create an entertaining racing product, and in watching Laperle at times make that product his own personal stomping ground. The two are among the very best in their chosen fields. The disaster comes when they challenge each other -- and they've been doing that since the beginning -- and feelings get hurt.

Remember, Laperle left racing full-time with ACT in 2005 and 2006 after repeated disagreements with Curley. He came back in 2007 and won the Série ACT-Castrol title, the ACT Late Model Tour title the next year, and nearly won the Castrol title again last season. When everything came to a head at St-Eustache last September, Laperle swore Curley off and said he'd be gone for two years, unless he felt like "smashing [his] head off a wall" again in 2010.

Apparently, it's already head-smashing time. We'll sit back and watch at Albany-Saratoga Speedway this weekend for anything that may or may not come out of the next chapter of Laperle vs. Curley.


Don't forget: If you can't make it to Albany-Saratoga Speedway this weekend (or even if you can!), follow VMM for raceday coverage of the ACT Late Model Tour opener, presented by RPM Racing Engines. We're here on the blog, but we're also on Twitter and Facebook!


How Hollywood-perfect would it be if Laperle was to win in ACT's first go at Albany-Saratoga this weekend?

History is a bit on his side, too. Of Laperle's 16 career ACT Late Model Tour wins, four have come in the series' first-ever appearance at a track: Lee USA Speedway in 2003, Twin State Speedway in 2004, and both Autodrome St-Eustache and Kawartha Speedway in 2007. He also won last year's Fall Foliage 300 in his first start at Airborne Speedway since the track was redesigned, and won the first-ever Coors Light 200 Showdown at Autodrome Chaudière in 2008.


Hey, if you haven't checked out the total facelift done on the new Big Daddy's Speedbowl in Rumney, N.H., you need to. Holy cow. Congratulations to Mike Rivers and his crew.


One more bit on Laperle -- We spoke with him again on Wednesday morning, and Laperle praised Curley and ACT for moving to electronic scoring this season. Laperle said that the decision to come back to ACT was helped largely because of the switch.


Kudos to both ACT and the Modified Racing Series on their decisions regarding the weather last weekend, for very different reasons.

Facing a total washout on Sunday, ACT and Lee USA Speedway called their event in southern New Hampshire off two days in advance. The result was a lot of travel, time, and money saved.

Up against the same thing in New York, the MRS troops tried to get their combination event with the Race of Champions Tour in at Albany-Saratoga, but were unable to do so. With nasty weather in the forecast on Friday, A-S management called Saturday's events off but played a wait-and-see game for the Sunday race, hoping the forecast would improve. It did, and they kept on schedule for Sunday and were even able to get a couple of heat races in. Unfortunately, the forecast is only a prediction, and the skies ultimately opened up anyway.

Valiant calls by both groups, we say. Pro All Stars Series officials have been blasted by fans and competitors for years over calling off events early due to unfavorable forecasts. They've also been blasted for waiting too long by the same groups of people. We're of the opinion that both ACT and MRS did the right thing -- an actually, so did PASS, having also been rained out at Speedway 95 in Bangor, Me., on Sunday -- by working with the options they had.



Saturday, April 24
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 1:00pm (Open Practice)
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 1:00pm (Open Practice)
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 11:00am (Open Practice)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 11:00am (Open Practice)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 12:00pm (Open Practice)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- Tire Sale & Track Clean-Up Day

Sunday, April 25
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 1:00pm (ACT Late Model Tour/Modified Tri-Track Series)
Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. -- 12:00pm (Car Show)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 12:00pm (Open Practice)

ACT Late Model Tour: Sun., April 25 -- Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. (1:00pm)
Modified Tri-Track Series: Sun., April 25 -- Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. (1:00pm)
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Sat., April 24 -- Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala. (2:30pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sun., April 25 -- Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala. (1:00pm)
Pro All Stars Series: Sat., April 25 -- Orange County Speedway, Rougemont, N.C. (7:00pm)


Shawn Corrow said...

Great stuff Justin. I really enjoy your work online.

Andy B said...

Justin, to put some of PASS's past cancelations in with the what occurred last weekend with ACT & MRS/ROC is really like trying to compare apples to oranges (especially if you weren't at the events in question).

The biggest issue I have seen with the PASS cancellation policy (if there even is one) occurs at tracks they lease (most notably Canaan, especially when they ran the weekly operation). They clearly made some bad calls when making judgments from 200+ miles away from the race track.

I don’t recall ever hearing PASS be criticized for waiting out bad weather to try and race, but I know ACT/Thunder Road have had a few fans complain when the track has decided to wait out a 2 or 3 hour delay.