Oxford, ME — Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe and Williamstown, VT’s Jimmy Hebert took home the glory of the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) season finale at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, October 18. Rowe broke a long ACT dry spell with his victory in the Lee’s Family Trailer Sales & Service 150 while Hebert’s third-place finish clinched his first ACT Late Model Tour championship.
For Rowe, it was the multi-time Pro All Star Series champion’s first win in an ACT-sanctioned event since 2006 — a drought of more than 14 years. Hebert, meanwhile, finally claimed a title after having finished second or third in the ACT standings four different times during his career.
Stark, NH’s Jamie Swallow Jr. set the early tempo, snatching the lead from polesitter Marcel J. Gravel amidst a trio of early cautions. Once the field got going, Swallow checked out, putting several seconds between himself and a raging battle that included Ryan Kuhn, Rowe, Tom Carey III, D.J Shaw, Derek Gluchacki, and others.
Swallow ran away again following a pair of lap-42 yellows, but when the race resumed after a lap-62 red flag for T.J. Laro’s head-on frontstretch crash, things tightened up at the front. Rowe stuck with Swallow this time around while Shaw, who entered the event as the only driver who could catch Hebert for the title, also got into the mix.
After following an increasingly loose Swallow through some lapped traffic, Rowe put his Ford to the inside entering turn one on the 81st circuit, completing the pass just before the seventh caution flag flew for Jeff Lebrecque Jr.’s spin. Swallow put his bumper back ahead for a lap following the restart, but Rowe surged in front once again the next time around.
Hebert, who by that point needed only a 16th-placce finish to salt away the championship, then put on a blitz of his own. The Vermonter moved into third following the lap-81 caution and slid into second after a lap-107 yellow when Peyton Lanphear climbed the dirt pile in front of a backstretch light pole. As Swallow and Shaw got shuffled backwards, the Massachusetts trio of Carey, Kuhn, and Gluchacki rejoined the fray.
One final caution after Lebrecque pounded the wall on the front chute set up a 36-lap shootout to end the season. As the laps wound down, Rowe, Hebert, Carey III, and Kuhn broke away, running inches apart for the win. Carey got beneath Hebert for second with five laps to go and made a run at Rowe, but the crafty veteran held him off by a car length for the win.
Carey’s second-place finish was still the best of his ACT career. Hebert took third and the championship along with it. Kuhn came in fourth while Gluchacki secured the ACT Rookie of the Year award with a career-best fifth-place result. Swallow, Stephen Donahue, Erick Sands, and Gravel rounded out the top-10.
Young hard charger Ben Belanger of Whitefield, NH put on a master class in the ACT Flying Tiger Oxford Open to pick up his second win of the season. Belanger started on the outside pole and immediately put his fender out front of Hardwick, VT’s Jaden Perry. After running side-by-side for several laps, Belanger got clear and immediately started driving away from the field.
Reigning Thunder Road Flying Tiger champion Jason Woodard got around Perry for second following a lap-23 caution for Colin Cornell’s stalled machine. Waterbury Center, VT’s Woodard did his best to try and snooker Belanger on two subsequent restarts, but Belanger had more than enough to counter.
The youngster pulled away following the final caution at lap-42 to win by a straightaway over Woodard. All three of Belanger’s career Flying Tiger victories have now come in 75-lap races, with the Oxford Plain Speedway triumph joining two at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park.
Behind the lead duo, the action stayed hot with the rest of the frontrunners swapping positions back and forth. Thetford, VT’s Brandon Gray picked his way through the pack to finish a strong third. Kelsea Woodard made a spirited run at catching Gray in the closing stages before settling for fourth. Sam Caron, Cameron Ouellette, Perry, Bryan Wall Jr., Tanner Woodard, and Kevin Streeter completed the top-10.
The 2020 American-Canadian Tour racing season is now complete. The status of the annual ACT Banquet of Champions is up in the air pending local health and safety guidelines. The 2021 schedule will be announced before the end of the year.
-ACT Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Duane Canfield