It was a triumph that few were not surprised by. Eddie MacDonald claimed his fifth win in the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but this one was different than the rest. There were two items that made this one unique, first it is the only time “Eddie Mac” has won the event on an odd numbered year, and second, he had to go on a huge climb through the field to do it.
MacDonald started 31st in the 50-lap non-points contest and made awesome progress on his own through the first half the race climbing all the way to fifth, with some help of yellow flags and restarts.
One restart nearly did his race in with 15 laps to go when he slid up and nearly spun, but recovered sliding into sixth spot. He would go back on the offensive moving past Woody Pitkat for third with seven to go. By this time leader, Jimmy Hebert, who had led all but one of the race’s first 45 laps, was way out in front, until another caution came out.
“I was worried about Jimmy,” MacDonald said. “He was fast all day and to see what he did and just take away the lead and run away with it for 45 laps. We struggled coming up through the field a little bit towards the end there we got up to fifth and I wasn’t making as much ground as I had hoped. Lucky for cautions, that’s the only way we even had a chance to be able to contend for the win. It was good to have a few chances and luckily my car was really good on the restarts.”
On a restart with five laps to go, MacDonald pounced on Hebert and second-place Bobby Therrien, diving to the inside three-wide on the frontstretch and holding the low line through turns one and two to claim the lead for good. Then McDonald had to survive another restart with four laps to go.
“I knew that was my only chance because once Jimmy had a couple of laps on us, he could run away with it. I knew I had to have a really good restart and shift right on. Luckily everything worked perfect on that restart for us and we were able to get the lead and hold on to it.”
For Hebert, that caution with five to go was real bad news for him, knew he needed some help, help he did not get.
“He’s not the person you want starting next to you the last couple of laps at Loudon,” Hebert said. “His car was explosive on restarts and mine took a couple of laps to get going. I knew it would be pretty lucky to hold him off.”
Hebert was still pleased with the performance after taking most of the season off for personal reasons, including his first child who arrived earlier in the week.
“We put a lot of time into Loudon, my crew likes to come here, it’s one of my favorite tracks, so we put it all into it. A lot happened off the track with our first baby on Tuesday. Was hoping to win one to pop off the week, but still a good finish.”
Alex Labbe also had a big climb through the field, going from 30th to third. Behind him, Dillon Moltz beat out Therrien in a late battle for fourth.
ACT Late Models return home to Thunder Road next weekend for the 54th Vermont Milk Bowl.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen