One year ago, Nick Sweet was part of a thrilling duel with Patrick Laperle to decide the winner of the ACT International 500. He finished second in that race, like he had in other big races away from his home track of Thunder Road in the past. But on Sunday afternoon with $10,000 on the line, Sweet was no longer the bridesmaid.
The Barre, Vermont driver took the lead for the final time on a lap 191 restart and pulled away from Alex Labbe to win the 200-lap ACT International at Airborne Park Speedway (NY).
“It’s actually just really surreal. I can’t imagine,” Sweet told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Yesterday we weren’t even going to come and we decided to come at the last second. I’m glad we came now because we had a great day.”
In a race that saw the driver on the outside jumping out to the top spot more often than not on restarts, Sweet made the inside work on the races final restart with 10 laps to go. After swapping the lead a number of times with Alex Labbe throughout the later stages, Sweet pulled out in front for good on lap 194 and never looked back.
Current American-Canadian Tour points leader Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Quebec driver Jean-Francois Dery and hometown favorite Brandon Atkins completed the top-five.
Sweet, driving the No. 40 for Erich Chase, didn’t arrive at the track until 5 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon as he stayed at home awaiting word on whether or not his wife would be giving birth to their third child.
He missed all five practice sessions, but earned a plus-three in his qualifying heat to put him on the pole for Sunday’s feature. While three practice sessions were scheduled on race day, rain showers cancelled two of them. He received 20 minutes of practice all weekend long.
“The gods are on our side right now,” said Sweet. “The month of July has just been fantastic. I hope my wife at home is doing OK. I’m going to get home as soon as I can and hopefully this week sometime we can have a baby.”
Although Sweet won’t be able to use the $10,000-plus to buy diapers for his new child, he is glad that he’ll be able to put the money in his boss (and car owner) Eric Chase’s pocket.
“Actually, I don’t get the $10,000,” said Sweet. “This is just racing for wins. Eric Chase is going to get the $10,000 but it’s good to pay your boss back once in a while. He puts me in this thing a lot and we’ve struggled in the past, so it’s good to pay him back.”
After a rough start to the year, Sweet’s month of July has been more than any driver could ask for. Earlier this month he won the Vermont Governor’s Cup at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl and also took over the point lead in the Thunder Road “King of the Road” standings.
“This is huge for us. It’s like once you get the ice broken and the momentum going, we get on fire. This July has been just fantastic racing on the Tour and at Thunder Road. Hopefully it continues on.”
A full Trackside Now replay of Sunday’s ACT International can be found by clicking here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
ACT International 500 Unofficial Finish
Airborne Park Speedway – Plattsburgh, NY
|3||27NH||Wayne Helliwell, Jr.||200|
|13||97NH||Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.||199|