Thompson, CT – Millbury, MA’s William Wall emerged as the surprise winner when the dust settled after a wild finish to the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) World Series 75 at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway on Saturday, October 13. The former Thompson Late Model Champion scored one for the locals by inheriting his first career ACT Late Model Tour victory while Colchester, VT’s Scott Payea secured his second straight ACT title with a 7th-place finish.
Wall crossed the finish line second to fellow local Jake Johnson of Rehoboth, MA, who appeared to have pulled off a shocker of his own after taking the lead with four laps remaining in his first ACT start. Johnson’s joy was short-lived, however, as the young racer was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for a chassis infraction. This gave the victory to Wall, who had been strong in previous ACT events at the speedway and finally broke into the winner’s circle on Northeast Late Model racing’s biggest stage.
The reversal was just the latest twist in a race that saw many of them in the final eight circuits. Lebanon, NH’s Rich Dubeau had led the first 67 laps uncontested off the outside pole, which went clean and green with hard racing throughout the field. As the laps wound down, Dubeau had a healthy lead over Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III and seemed poised to become a first-time ACT winner himself.
But after Graniteville, VT’s Chip Grenier spun in turn two to bring out the first caution, chaos erupted on the historic 5/8-mile oval. Three more cautions would fly within the next lap alone, including one where Payea was caught up in a multi-car melee on the backstretch while running ninth. While Payea escaped damage to his car, the spin opened the door for Rowley, MA’s Eddie MacDonald, who entered the main event 25 points behind Payea, to have a shot at stealing the title.
Following the fourth caution on lap 68, Carey got the jump on Dubeau to take over the lead. Meanwhile, MacDonald sensed his opportunity and quickly sliced his way to the third position. Dubeau fought back on Carey after the initial result and was just 0.002 seconds behind him when the fifth caution flew on lap 71 for a backstretch spin involved Jared Materas and Matthew Lowinski-Loh. Payea also went for another spin just beforehand, but was moving at the time the caution flew and thus got his spot back in the line-up.
The ensuing restart would be the one that ultimately decided the championship. Coming off turn two, the top-3 cars all made contact, with both Carey and Dubeau spinning on the backstretch. MacDonald was sent to the rear of the field for his involvement, putting him behind Payea and effectively ending his title bid.
As a result, Barre, VT’s Nick Sweet unexpectedly found himself sitting in the lead with Johnson in second. But Sweet had suffered damage to the rear of his car while going through the infield to avoid a previous incident, and Johnson easily got the jump on the final restart. Wall followed Johnson up the outside into the second spot, which proved to be the winning move.
Meanwhile, Payea cut through the field following his incident, aided by the subsequent cautions, to finish seventh. The result unofficially gave him the championship by 35 points over MacDonald, who ended up 12th. It was the second straight ACT title for Payea and the 10th for his RPM Motorsports team.
Sweet inherited the second position in the final finishing order. Quebec’s Jean-Francois Dery ran with the leaders all night and became the new 3rd-place finisher following post-race inspection. Modified champion Woody Pitkat and New-London Waterford Speedbowl regular Ryan Morgan rounded out the top-5. Ryan Kuhn, Payea, Mark Jension, Jimmy Hebert, and Dubeau finished 6th through 10th. Hebert’s effort came after starting last on the grid due to a crash coming to the green flag of his qualifying heat.
The 2018 ACT Late Model Tour season is now complete. The Banquet of Champions is scheduled for Saturday, November 17 at the Capital Plaza in Montpelier, VT. More information regarding the 2019 season will be released in the near future.
-American Canadian Tour Press Release
-Photo credit: Daniel Holben