Unlike in years past, the biggest names in Northeast Late Model racing will all be in one place on the third Sunday of July this year. The stars and cars of both the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North will make their way across Lake Champlain to Plattsburgh, New York’s Airborne Park Speedway this weekend for a racing card that includes $10,000-to-win 200-lap features for each touring series.
This event will be the third of four combination events between the two touring series this season, and with big money on the line the excitement level is high.
Brian Hoar, who is one of a handful of drivers planning to chase wins in both 200-lap features, is excited as anyone to kick-off what should be one of the most entertaining Late Model events of 2015 in the Northeast.
“I’m excited for the weekend and I’m excited for both races. I’m not sure I’m excited for both races on the same day,” Hoar said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a lot of work, that’s all. I’m doing this for fun and I’m hoping that we’re still going to be able to have fun with it. Let’s go have some fun and if we’re able to have some fun and make sense of it all then that will be great.
“For us, it’s very close to home. Taking a ferry ride it’s about an hour and 20 minutes. But really it’s only about 40 minutes of driving time. So I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to camp over there, so that should be a good weekend.”
Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., the defending ACT champion, heads into the weekend looking to become the first two-time winner of the ACT portion of the event. He won the inaugural ACT International and this weekend, like Hoar, he’s hoping to be the first to cash in on two $10,000 checks in one day.
“Airborne is a track that we’ve been to a lot and we’ve had a lot of success there,” Polewarczyk told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m feeling pretty good about it with our ACT car. There’s a lot of money on the line and that definitely helps with the rest of the year. We’re looking forward to that. We’re working really hard to work on this PASS car to get it fast. We’ve gotten some speed out of it, but we just haven’t been able to run a complete run with it yet.
“With us being at Airborne so much and PASS not being there we may have a little bit of an advantage there, but these PASS guys really know these cars. It should be interesting.”
The good thing about this race is that it’s a non-points event. That allows guys like Polewarczyk and current ACT points leader Wayne Helliwell, Jr. to just think about the win and the big checks available at the end of the day. However, Polewarczyk said that he still has to be careful to not put himself in a bad position that could hurt his car and effect his chances at the championship.
“It’s tough,” Polewarczyk said about managing the desire to go all-out to win $10,000. “You’ve got to be cautious. If you end up on the hook, that’s obviously not a good day. You’ve got to just try to not put yourself in situations where you can get in trouble. We’ve got to pick our spots and try to be there at the end because like I said, that $10,000 can really go a long way throughout the year.”
Despite the big money being on the line, Helliwell plans to go into ACT’s richest event of the season treating it just like any other race he and his Bruce Bernhardt-owned team show up to.
“I just treat it like every other week,” Helliwell stated. “Don’t use that as that big goal that you want to just jump out and get it and take chances. You’ve just got to take what it gives you and hopefully at the end it all pays off.”
While Helliwell, Hoar and Polewarczyk enter this weekend with thousands of combined laps at New York’s progressively-banked half-mile pavement oval, many of the Pro All Stars Series teams will be making their first trip on the ferry to Plattsburgh.
Cassius Clark, the 2013 PASS North champion, has never competed at Airborne Park Speedway and admits he really doesn’t even know that much about it.
“I’m just looking forward to it,” said Clark. “I like going to new tracks. Through the years we’ve been to a bunch of different new ones, so you always like to try it out and see what it does. I’ve heard a few things about it, but I haven’t really talked to a whole bunch of guys. I guess it’s a half-mile and it’s kind of flat, so that sounds good to me.”
While Clark may not know a thing about the track, he knows that it’s long race. He also knows that he likes longer distance races.
“It’s a longer race, a 200 lapper and I kind of like the longer races,” Clark said. “You can change tires so there’s a little bit of strategy. Those are always fun and the races that pay more money are always good, too.”
64-year-old Mike Rowe leads the PASS North championship standings heading into Airborne and is one of the few PASS competitors with previous experience at the track. He last competed at the track on October 1, 1995 during an ACT Pro Stock Tour event. He finished seventh that day, but did score a win at the track in 1994, according to 51’s The Third Turn.
“They say the track has changed a little bit,” said Rowe. “We did run good back then. I didn’t know it was 20 years, but it probably was. We should be good. We have a good handling race car and you have to have good handling up there, so we’ll see what happens. We’re just going to try to go in there on a positive note and try to win that thing.”
Whether it’s a veteran like Rowe or a young star like Polewarczyk, an eight-time ACT champion like Hoar or a 17-time PASS North winner like Clark, a two-time ACT champion like Helliwell or the defending PASS North champion DJ Shaw, the biggest Late Model stars in the Northeast will all be in one place on the third weekend of July.
And that’s a good thing.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Leif Tillotson photo