Waterbury, VT — The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) is just days away from its first-ever trip to North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway. The Hickory 125 on Friday, April 2 and the Easter Bunny 125 on Saturday, April 3 are already a historic prelude to the 30th ACT Late Model Tour season. Known as the “Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars”, Hickory is one of the most revered race tracks in North America, with a history of winners that ranges from Lee Petty to defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott.
As if visiting such an important track wasn’t enough, at least two racers are planning double-duty with both the ACT and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model events. Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe and Herman, ME’s Mike Hopkins are both officially committed to both features on both nights. With potentially 550 laps of feature racing for each plus qualifying, these respected racers have a busy Easter weekend in store.
Rowe is easily the most accomplished racer at Hickory of anyone stepping into an ACT car. The eight-time PASS champion won the Easter Bunny 150 in 2009 and 2016. In doing so, he joined a list of Hickory winners that includes 18 NASCAR Hall-of-Famers such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Tim Flock, Junior Johnson, Jack Ingram, and Dale Jarrett. Nevertheless, Rowe was there racing two weeks ago to prepare for his upcoming quartet of features.
“The first time I ever went (to Hickory), it was just the history of the racetrack,” Rowe said. “All of the Cup people, when they got started back in the day, that was one of the Cup tracks. When you walk in, you’ll see it. The history is still all there. It’s an old, wore-out place. The concrete wall is old, there’s cracks in the concrete. It’s just neat to see. The people that have raced there over the years is something.
“As for the track itself, I think it’s more similar to tracks that we run on up here in New England,” Rowe went on. “It’s not a really high-banked, fast, big speed track like a lot of the southern tracks are — it’s a wore-out, finesse, rough-type track like we run on a lot up here.”
Hopkins is no slouch at Hickory, either. The veteran finished second at the most recent Easter Bunny 150 in 2019. More notably, Hopkins sailed to victory in the 2019 Commonwealth Classic at Virginia’s Richmond Raceway, one of three victories he’s earned under the PASS banner. For the ACT doubleheader at Hickory, Hopkins is debuting a new Port City Chassis car.
Those running the double are on a still-growing list of names entered for Friday and Saturday’s shows. The ACT features are headlined by champions such as Wayne Helliwell Jr., Bobby Therrien, Quinny Welch, Aaron Fellows, Jake Johnson, and Alby Ovitt. The pair of PASS Easter Bunny 150s will star Derek Griffith, D.J. Shaw, Cole Butcher, Travis Benjamin, Kate Re, and others. Fields of 30+ drivers are expected for both the ACT and PASS features on Friday with most expected to stick around for Saturday.
They’re competing at a track that has a special place in stock car racing history. Hickory Motor Speedway opened in 1951 and hosted 35 NASCAR Cup Series racings between 1953 and 1971. When the NASCAR Xfinity Series was forming in 1982, Hickory was on the inaugural schedule and hosted 42 events through the 1998 season. Other series that have made their mark at Hickory include the NASCAR Dash Series, the All-Pro Series, the SMART Modified Tour, and the X-1R Pro Cup Series.
The Hickory Motor Speedway trip is a preview for the 2021 ACT schedule ahead. Six more doubleheaders are currently planned for the ACT Late Model Tour and PASS North Super Late Models, beginning with the Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on April 17. Fans will get a double-dose of spectacular full-fender racing action almost every month. Furthermore, there are no direct conflicts between the two series, meaning drivers can run both as often as they have time for.
Rowe and Center Conway, NH’s D.J. Shaw are taking advantage with plans to chase both titles. Hopkins, Johnson, and many others now have both ACT and PASS cars, meaning the cooperation between the series will likely lead to higher car counts and more big names across the board.
“Having tracks, promoters, and series working together in the Northeast is great,” Rowe said. “I think it’s great. For me to try and support both will be fun. A lot of them are a same-day race. And even when they’re not, we’ll race somewhere on a Friday night, then we’ll travel across New England and run an ACT race on a Sunday or something like that. I think it’ll be fun. It’ll be a lot of time and hard work from the guys working on them, but they’re all up for it, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
The American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Stars Series travel to North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway on Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3. Friday’s program features the ACT Hickory 125 and the 2020 PASS Easter Bunny 150. Saturday is the ACT Easter Bunny 125 and 2021 PASS Easter Bunny 150. Qualifying begins at 5:15pm both nights.
Grandstand admission tickets are available at the gate. Speed51.TV also is offering a live stream broadcast. The pay-per-view is $24.99 for one night or $39.99 for both nights. Sign up at www.speed51.tv/products/ppv-easter-bunny-weekend-pass.
Hickory 125 and Easter Bunny 125
Entry List (As of March 30, 2021)
Car # Driver Hometown Team
2VT Stephen Donahue Graniteville, VT Donahue Motorsports Chevy Monte Carlo
3NH Mike Kenison Lancaster, NH DK-N-Sons Auto Repair Chevy Impala
4ME Ben Rowe Turner, ME Richard Moody & Sons Ford Mustang
4NH Jamie Swallow Jr. Stark, NH Axion Specialty Contracting
5MA Tom Carey III New Salem, MA Brookside Equipment Sales Chevy Camaro
5VT Bobby Therrien Hinesburg, VT Casella Waste Management Chevy Camaro
8VT Anthony Hill Waterford, VT Creative Counters/Waweco Auto Repair Chevy SS
9VT Chip Grenier East Barre, VT Grenier Motorsports Ford Mustang
10ME Jesse Switser West Burke, VT Laflamme’s Landscaping/Papa Bears Trucking
15MA Jake Johnson Rehoboth, MA Lin’s Propane Trucks Chevy Monte Carlo
15ME Mike Hopkins Herman, ME Port City Racecars/Hopkins Energy Chevy Camaro
15VT** Joey Laquerre E. Montpelier, VT Laquerre’s Marine Ford
22VT Peyton Lanphear Waterbury, VT Alchemist Chevy Impala
27NH Wayne Helliwell Jr. Dover, NH EKeys 4 Cars/Unique Ford Ford Mustang
29NH Aaron Fellows Croyden, NH Crazy Horse Racing Ford
31MA Trenton Goodrow Carver, MA Trent Goodrow Designs TGD Chevy SS
32NH Jeff Marshall Gilman, VT Kundson Salvage Chevy Impala SS
35NH Alby Ovitt Candia, NH R&R Public Wholesalers/R&R Race Parts NH Chevy SS
38VT Tyler Cahoon Danville, VT Berlin Optical Expressions Chevy Camaro
39VT Mike Foster Williston, VT KMI Freight Bookers Ford Mustang
40RI* Mike Mitchell Cumberland, RI M&M Home Improvement Toyota Camry
45NC Reilly Lanphear Waterbury, VT Reilly Lanphear Racing Chevy Impala
45VT Derek Ming West Burke, VT Ming Motorsports Ford Mustang
55MA Randy Cole Jr. Middleton, MA Cole Companies/Newhall Services Chevy Camaro
68VT Brooks Clark Waitsfield, VT Clark Motorsports
78NH Quinten Welch Groveton, NH Joey McGinnis Snow Plowing Chevy Camaro
86VT Marcel J. Gravel Wolcott, VT Pete’s Equipment Sales and Rentals Toyota Camry
90NH Floyd Bennett Jr. Guidhall, VT Caron Fabrication Chevy Impala SS
00NH Jimmy Renfrew Jr. Candia, NH R&R Public Wholesalers/R&R Race Parts NH Chevy SS
03MA Derek Gluchacki N. Dartmouth, MA All Phases Renovations Ford Mustang
04NH Shawn Swallow Lancaster, NH North Conway Incinerators Chevy Impala
-ACT Tour Press Release
-Photo Credit: Norm Marx
*Entered for Friday event only
**Entered for Saturday event only