Once again “Old Man Winter” over stayed his welcome in the Northeast, delaying the start of many racing schedules in the region. The Late Models of the American-Canadian Tour was not immune, with the season opening New Hampshire Governor’s Cup at Lee USA Speedway being postponed two weeks with a lingering snow pack. Since then, the Spring sunshine has reclaimed the land and ACT competitors are gearing up for Sunday’s season opener.
The main theme for ACT this season is “home roots” with the Vermont-based tour running a more compact 10-race slate, with a seven-race majority in the Twin States of Vermont and New Hampshire. Along with the single season opener at Lee USA, Thunder Road (VT), Devil’s Bowl Speedway (VT), and White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) will each host two points events in 2017. Single trips to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME), Seekonk Speedway (MA) and the season finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) will be the only three events outside the Twin States.
This is welcome news for Vermont drivers, who form the majority of the 2017 roster, including last year’s points runner-up Scott Payea, who thinks that the schedule will spur more home track drivers to run additional races outside their home base while benefitting race teams.
“I think it suits us, the schedule is great, hopefully it attracts some additional teams to come compete with the Tour. Plus we go to tracks that are really good for us, close to home. It will be a good balance for racing and family life,” Payea told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Last season’s second-place points finish was the fourth in Payea’s ACT career, once again just missing that first championship. It was also the first year Payea had teamed with the RPM Motorsports No. 37VT team. The team achieved almost instant chemistry, winning in their second start at Lee last April. As for the team making changes in 2017?
“No,” replied Payea. “We clicked right off the bat, Rick and the whole RPM crew are so great to work with. Good crew, good driver, good equipment, all the right ingredients are there, just need the racing luck to go with it. I’d love to get a championship, we’ve been second too many times than I’d like to count, I want to bring it home this time.”
One of the more interesting pairs in Northeast Late Model racing has been the combination of Connecticut’s Dillon Moltz and Maine’s RB Performance under the ownership of Mark Brackett. Over the cold months of the winter, it seemed the partnership might have turned to ice, but the uncertainty has melted away in the past weeks with Moltz set to return to the No. 5CT.
“As of right now, we are going to go for the whole season in ACT and then pick up a few Pro Stock races here and there if it works for everyone’s schedule, we’ll make it happen. But we’re in it for the ACT championship,” Moltz stated.
While eager to return to the race track, RB Performance has taken advantage of the extra time to make sure that all systems are go.
“In a sense it wasn’t a bad thing, gave us some more time to go over everything on the car a few more times. Fully dot our I’s and cross our T’s and get everything 110-percent ready for Lee.”
Although there are not as many home races for Moltz and the team, they are perfectly content with the events that are planned.
“It will be fine for us. I’m looking forward to it, plus it does open some time up to possibly run the Pro Stock. As far as the tracks go, it’s the same tracks we went to last year, we’ve got some good notes from last year to go off of. I’m pretty excited about going back to White Mountain two times, that doesn’t hurt my feelings at all considering we got a win there. I love going to Devil’s Bowl, Thunder Road is a tough track but we had a good finish last year. Lee last year we started in the back, made our way to the top five and got tangled with some lap car with ten laps to go. Looking forward to getting started this weekend.”
Meanwhile, another Vermont racer Bobby Therrien mirrors the sentiment of fellow statesman Payea, who is looking forward to more relaxed travel.
“It makes for an easier summer with all the guys that take time off to do this, it’s also nice to have these guys a lot closer to home too,” Therrien said.
After scoring a pair of wins in 2016, Therrien and the No. 5VT team are coming back with a new chariot for 2017 to try and go for their first championship.
“We built a brand-new car this winter. We were finally able to shake it down this week at Thunder Road in the open practice. We’re really excited about this car, we changed up some stuff that we built off of last year. I’m looking forward to getting this car in competition.”
The other biggest news item only came out 48 hours ago with the sale of ACT’s home track Thunder Road, with owners Ken Squier and Tom Curley passing the torch on to former racer Cris Michaud and businessman Pat Malone. It has got many including Therrien excited for the track’s future.
“It’s great to hear, I grew up racing go-karts at Thunder Road and seeing the direction it had been heading the past few years has been a little discouraging. To have a professional business man like Pat Malone and diehard racer like Cris Michaud step in to take over the place, is the best news for everyone involved, I think you’re going to see the track take a major swing towards the better with those two people involved. I think of the people out there those are the two best to have in that position.”
Some of Thunder Road’s best will be throwing their hats into the ACT championship this year including Jason Corliss and defending track champ Scott Dragon. Former NH Governor’s Cup winner Jimmy Hebert and former Devil’s Bowl Speedway champion Josh Masterson will also represent Vermont on the tour in 2017.
New Hampshire’s Kyle Welch and Miles Chipman are also expected to chase the full schedule.
Be sure to follow Speed51.com this weekend and all season long with coverage of the American-Canadian Tour.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Alan Ward