Montpelier, VT — The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) put a bow on the 2019 season at the ACT Banquet of Champions on Saturday, January 18. Plainfield, NH’s Rich Dubeau was recognized as ACT Champion at the Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Montpelier, VT as well as many other drivers and people who stood out during the 2019 racing campaign.
Dubeau was crowned champion of the ACT Late Model Tour after one of the most unlikely title runs in series history. Racing with one of the smaller teams and budgets on the Tour, Dubeau won the first two ACT races of his career and posted eight top-5 finishes in 10 point-counting events.
The former Rookie of the Year went toe-to-toe with Jimmy Hebert for most of the season before pulling away down the stretch. Dubeau’s 85-point final margin was the eighth-largest in the Tour’s 28-year history, surprising almost everyone – including himself.
The racer from the Upper Valley was complimented all night by his fellow drivers, leading to him getting emotional with joy at the start of his acceptance speech. He recalled first seeing the ACT Tour while racing a Super Street at the now-defunct Canaan Fair Speedway and how it seemed improbable he would ever race with the series, let alone win the championship.
“I remember thinking, ‘these guys and this tour are very professional. This is a big deal – these guys are serious,’” Dubeau said. “And I remember thinking that there was no way I was ever going to be a part of the Tour – even just to drive on the Tour, let alone this. So this is really cool for me. I never thought this was going to happen. The team’s just as excited as I am.”
Dubeau went on to thank at length every member of his team, in particular his mother, stepdad, brother David, and car owner Chick Henry. He also thanked the late Tom Curley for founding the Tour as well as current owners Cris Michaud and Pat Malone for carrying on the series.
Dubeau’s achievements came as part of one of the most competitive ACT seasons in recent memory. Eight different drivers went to Victory Lane in the 10 point-counting events with three other winners at non-point sanctioned events. The Tour averaged more than 32 cars per event with several successful big-money races and winners regularly coming from deep in the field.
Many other top drivers from 2019 ACT season were honored at the Banquet of Champions. Williamstown, VT’s Hebert matched his career-best with a second-place points finish. He posted a win and eight top-10 finishes to remain in the title hunt until getting caught up in crashes at the final two events.
Rookie Ryan Kuhn of E. Bridgewater, MA edged out two-time champion Scott Payea of Colchester, VT for third in the standings. Sophomore standouts Dylan Payea and Christopher Pelkey, rookies Stephen Donahue and Trent Goodrow, Northeast racing veteran Bryan Kruczek, and sister racers Peyton and Reilly Lanphear were also honored.
Kuhn also received both the ACT Rookie of the Year Award and the Gordon R. “Doc” Nielsen Outstanding Rookie Award. The 18-year-old had three top-5 and seven top-10 finishes to run away with top rookie honors while sporting one of the best attitudes at every event. The Doc Nielsen Award, which goes to the most impressive rookie across both the ACT Late Model Tour and Thunder Road, has been presented since 1998 in honor of both organizations’ longtime head scorer.
Several other special awards were presented to drivers and officials. ACT Director of Competition Pete Knights was the recipient of the Thomas A. Curley Memorial Award. Knights earned the award, presented in honor of ACT’s late founder, for more than 40 years of involvement in Northeast racing as a crew member and official. He has worked for ACT since 2018. Before that, he was the Head Technical Inspector at N. Woodstock, NH’s White Mountain Motorsports Park for five years. He also won the ACT Crew Chief of the Year Award in 2008 while working with Randy Potter Racing.
This year’s ACT Crew Chief Award went to James Kuhn. He helped his son Ryan win the Rookie of the Year Award and finish third in driver points in their first full year on the Tour. Kuhn, who has a long history of racing throughout the region, also gained tremendous respect throughout the pit area for his team’s positive outlook and hard work every race day.
Scott Payea received the ACT Sportsmanship Award. The two-time ACT Late Model Tour Champion has also long been one of the most respectful, hard-working drivers in the ACT garage area. He always races hard, takes it stride when things don’t go his way, and always makes time for others regardless of his results. In doing so, Payea has set the standard for what a top racer can be as a person.
The 2019 ACT season is now complete. The 2020 ACT Late Model Tour schedule, rules, and other information can be found online at www.acttour.com.
-American Canadian Tour Press Release
-Photo credit: Alan Ward