POLEWARCZYK ALL BUT WRAPS UP 2014 CHAMPIONSHIP
Entering Saturday night’s Can-Am 200 at Circuit Riverside Speedway (QC), the thought of Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. being able to clinch his first American-Canadian Tour championship that night crossed the mind of very few. Although he was the favorite to win the title at the conclusion of the tour’s final event at Airborne Park Speedway (NY) in September, he entered Saturday’s race just 58 points ahead of Jimmy Hebert.
What transpired throughout the 200-lap event under the lights in Ste.-Croix, Quebec would put Polewarczyk in position to mathematically clinch the championship that night.
Hebert, who started in the third position, seemed to be strong during the early stages of the race before suffering a broken sway bar link and spinning to the infield on lap 53. His team was able to fix the issue under caution only to have their night ended on lap 131 when he was involved in a turn one incident while making his way back through the 33-car field.
The Williamstown, Vermont driver’s orange and black No. 58 suffered heavy suspension damage from the wreck and he exited the car after his crew determined the damage was too severe to fix. Hebert would end up finishing in the 23rd position.
As he stood next to his car on pit road while the laps ticked off, the battle for the 2014 ACT championship changed in the blink of an eye.
Following Hebert’s misfortune, Polewarczyk’s chances of mathematically clinching the championship were increased but were still slim with defending champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., who was fourth in points entering the night, leading the way. Helliwell had led the most laps, which earned him five bonus points, and seemed to be on his way to winning the race and earning five extra bonus points for the win.
As the laps winded down, Polewarczyk, who was riding in second, wasn’t able to close the gap between himself and the leader until Helliwell’s orange No. 27 slowed on the frontstretch on lap 179 as a result of a broken steering column.
Polewarczyk took over the lead and went on to score his first ACT victory of the season.
Although it was highly unofficial, many believed that his win, combined with the misfortune of his closest competitors, secured the championship for the Hudson, New Hampshire driver that night.
On Tuesday afternoon, American-Canadian Tour officials made the point standings official and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. now holds a 112 point advantage over runner-up Ray Parent. Adding in bonuses and heat races, the most points a driver can obtain during an ACT event is 110 points.
What does this mean? Unless Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. loses points in the Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Park Speedway on September 27, he will be able to call himself an American-Canadian Tour champion.
ROBINSON JR FINISHES SECOND AMONG US DRIVERS
Rowland Robinson, Jr. or Steuben, Maine scored his second straight sixth-place finish on Saturday night at Circuit Riverside Speedway. The finish was his best career finish at the Ste.-Croix, Quebec oval in three tries. He was also the second-place American driver to cross the finish line behind race winner Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.
He’s hoping that his finish in the Can-Am 200 will help lead to a strong showing at the upcoming ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“I guess we’re going to Loudon now,” Robinson told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We were just hoping for a top-ten coming up here, so this is good. We started off the year good and then we got behind in some stuff. We finally figured some stuff out at Beech Ridge and it showed once again here tonight.”
Robinson’s drive to the track on Saturday was one of the longest made by American-Canadian Tour competitors. A normal trip from Steuben, Maine to Ste.-Croix, Quebec is approximately six hours, but a bad alternator on the truck hauling the team’s race car extended the trip to about 7.5 and resulted in Robinson showing up to the track later than planned.
ASHLINE FIGHTS BUMPY RIDE, FINISHES SEVENTH
Ben Ashline is still searching for his first win of 2014, but a seventh-place finish in the Can-Am 200 seemed almost as good as a trip to victory lane for the Maine driver who struggled tremendously the last time he visited the track in 2011.
During that event, Ashline required a provisional to get in the race after losing a transfer spot on the last lap of his qualifying heat. He ended up finishing the race two laps down in the 16th position.
“This track wasn’t very good to us the first time we came here and if there was a track that I was dreading it was this one,” said Ashline. “This was the track we struggled at the worst. We came back here and in my eyes we won.”
Ashline considers Circuit Riverside Speedway to be one of the bumpiest tracks he has raced on during his racing career.
“I’ve been to Unity (Raceway) three times and I’d classify that as the roughest track I’ve ever raced on. This beats that. It’s just really racy. I don’t know what the word for it is. It’s real Canada.”
LABBE EXTENDS SERIE ACT POINT LEAD WITH RUNNER-UP FINISH
Defending race winner Alex Labbe seemed to have the dominant car early on racing in front of his hometown fans in Quebec on Saturday night. He led the first 61 laps and a total of 64 laps in the event before giving up the lead to Wayne Helliwell, Jr. and eventually finishing second to Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.
“I would’ve liked to beat Joey again this year, but it was his turn,” said Labbe, who beat Polewarczyk to the checkered flag in the 2013 Can-Am 200. “He beat me at the end. I’m proud of the whole team. We got some precious points for the championship.”
His win, combined with Dany Trepanier’s 26th-place finish, extended his lead in the Serie ACT standing to 72 points with just two events remaining.
NO SLEEP FOR SWEET
Following his win in the American-Canadian Tour 150 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME), Nick Sweet was hoping to keep momentum on his side Saturday night. The Barre, Vermont driver had another strong top-10 run going in the Can-Am 200 before an engine failure on the white flag lap resulted in a 12th-place finish.
“I was hoping it would have lasted one more lap,” said Sweet. “Why couldn’t it have waited one more lap? I probably could have coasted home and still had a top-10 finish.”
Following the race in Quebec on Saturday, Sweet made a four-hour drive back to Barre, where he planned on switching parts over from the No. 40 car he was driving to another car that his car owner Eric Chase would race at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl (VT) on Sunday afternoon.
After leaving Quebec shortly after midnight, Sweet said he planned on drinking a lot of coffee to keep him on his toes for a crucial 50-lap Late Model feature at the high-banked Barre oval, where he is in a tight championship battle with defending “King of the Road” Derrick O’ Donnell. He would end up finishing sixth on Sunday and enters the final two events of 2014 just 21 points behind O’Donnell.
POUTINE, BEER, AND RACING
Poutine, beer, and racing are three things that go hand-in-hand on Saturday nights in Ste.Croix-Quebec.
Poutine, a Canadian dish made with french fries and topped with gravy and cheese curds, was a favorite among race fans in attendance at the Can-Am 200. From fans in Jimmie Johnson t-shirts to fans sporting their favorite local driver’s gear, it was a common scene to see a race fan walking away from the concession stands with an order of poutine and their favorite adult beverage.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com