For much of Saturday night’s ACT Late Model Tour feature event at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME), there were three drivers battling to decide the victory. They hailed from three different states and they had three different stories.
New Hampshire’s Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. enjoys a massive point lead on the Tour. He has not finished worse than fourth in any of the Tour races this year. He has not won an ACT feature yet this year. He went into the Beech Ridge race hoping for that 2014 breakthrough result. He didn’t get it. Polewarczyk finished third.
Maine driver Ben Ashline was one of the top rising stars of the ACT Tour a few years back. He won a Tour race at Oxford in 2012, but before the year was over he injured his shoulder badly while lifting a heavy box at work. The resulting surgery and recovery caused him to sit out the 2013 season. Ashline is back in full force now and a second Tour victory couldn’t come at a better time. However, Ashline would have to settle for second-place at Beech Ridge.
Meanwhile, Nick Sweet entered the Beech Ridge event as an underdog in some eyes. After all, the multi-time Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) track champion had never won a Tour event on the road. He entered the event with one top-five finish and two DNFs on his 2014 ACT Tour record.
But if you counted Sweet out at Beech Ridge, you were very wrong.
The three drivers raced in tight formation for the majority of the race. Sweet and Ashline raced side-by-side for the lead several laps in a row. Polewarczyk stuck his nose into the battle several times too. But it was Sweet who prevailed in the end.
It was not an easy battle.
“I needed that (late race) caution to wipe the sweat from my eyes,” said Sweet.
“That was probably the hardest race I have ever driven,” said Ashline. “I really have to thank Nick and Joey for racing so clean.”
The car that Sweet drove to victory lane was the No. 40 machine owned by Eric Chase. Not only was the victory a breakthrough moment for Sweet’s touring career, it was also one for the team as they scored their first ACT Late Model Tour victory. The Chase team has traveled throughout New England and sometimes even up and down the Eastern Seaboard through the years, so it was a major accomplishment for them. It was also an accomplishment that came full circle at Beech Ridge.
In 2011, Sweet had been racing regularly on the ACT Late Model Tour. Just prior to the Beech Ridge event, he found himself without a ride. Chase had been driving his No. 40 car himself, but had a scheduling conflict that kept him from competing in that particular event. The two parties hooked up and have worked together on and off since then. Sweet is a full-time employee in Chase’s shop and they have been running a limited ACT schedule together in 2014.
“This is another stepping stone,” said Sweet. “It’s the first win for Eric and I might be more excited for him than myself. I’ve dreamed of Eric getting his first win on this Tour. If you keep finishing second, eventually you are going to win one, but you never really worry if it’s going to happen, just when it’s going to happen.”
Just talking about taking the Chase team to victory lane reenergized Sweet. The driver who was talking about what a draining race it was in victory lane, had a fresh attitude while standing in the technical inspection area less than one hour later.
“I’d go out there and run another 150 laps now,” said Sweet. “Why not?”
POLE THINKS USES DISCRETION, FINISHES ON PODIUM
Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. had the best seat in the house for the lead battle between Nick Sweet and Ben Ashline. With a little bit of muscle, he could have been right in the middle of it too. Polewarczyk had at least an equal car to his rivals, but never got the position to try and make it into the lead. He was tempted though.
“I was kind of tough to pass when they were running side-by-side like that,” said Polewarczyk. “There were a few times that I wanted to make it three-wide, but that probably wouldn’t have worked out too well. I would have tried that move earlier in my career, but now when you look at the angles, you realized that all three of us probably would have ended up off the track.”
Polewarczyk finished third.
TOM CURLEY ON SPOTTING
ACT Founder Tom Curley is always one for giving words of wisdom during his drivers’ meetings. The race at Beech Ridge was no different. One of Curley’s topics of this sermon was spotters. He admitted to not being a fan of spotters, but also acknowledged their role in putting on a safe race – especially at a big track like New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Curley did offer up a suggestion for spotters though.
“Give your drivers good information and then shut up!” Curley said.
HELLIWELL GETS DIALED IN FOR DECENT FINISH
After his heat race, Wayne Helliwell, Jr. described the handling of his #27NH Ford as terrible. He had a few different ideas for major changes and decided on one that apparently worked as Helliwell had a solid run going throughout the race. Despite starting 16th, Helliwell finished seventh.
EDDIE MAC NOTCHES TOP-FIVE FINISH ON FAMILIAR GROUND
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway is a special place for two-time Oxford 250 winner Eddie MacDonald. In 2002, he won his first career race in what is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East division at the track. In 2013, he won the ACT Late Model race there as well. This year, MacDonald came back to defend that victory. At times, he was close to the lead trio of competitors who decided the race victory, but MacDonald could not quite get into that battle. After starting ninth, he was left with a fourth-place finish.
GERMAIN RETURNS TO THE MIC
Long time ACT Late Model Tour announcer Troy Germain gave up his position a few years ago when he relocated to Florida while on the fast track of a career in the automotive industry. The popular and personable announcer now travels the country for work and has carved out enough room on his schedule to return to his roots and co-announce with Aaron Maynard at a number of Tour races this season. Germain was back at Beech Ridge to call the race with Maynard. Not only was it a homecoming for Germain and the competitors, but there were also a number of family members who made the trip to Beech Ridge from his native Vermont to listen to Germain do his thing.
-By Mike Twist, Speed51.com Correspondent – Photo Credit: Speed51.com