PHOTO: Having back-to-back races like the Fall Foliage (top) and the Milk Bowl (bottom) should be a good thing. Some racers don’t see it that way. We say shut up and race! (Leif Tillotson photos)
-by Justin St. Louis
I’m not willing to claim that this weekend is the biggest or most important one ever for the American-Canadian Tour, but I can’t remember a weekend that saw two of the sanctioning body’s more historic races held on consecutive days.
With the Fall Foliage at Airborne Speedway on Saturday and the rain-postponed Milk Bowl at Thunder Road on Sunday, there are about 18-22 Late Model teams that really have their work cut out for them. Add to that another 20-24 Sportsman teams that plan to run both events — and all the officials — and it sort of feels like the old days again.
Back in the 1970 and ‘80s, the same teams ran three, four, or five nights a week together. The same Late Model, Tiger, and Street Stock teams raced Thunder Road on Thursday and Airborne on Saturday for years in the ‘90s and early 2000s. For the older generation, this weekend is no big shake.
But ACT ran a Chaudiere/Ste-Croix doubleheader a month ago up in Quebec and it seemed like torture for some of the teams.
I say toughen up.
One thing I’ve never been able to figure out is why asphalt racers — at least the ones around my age — don’t like to travel. All dirt racers ever do is hit the road. Take this week’s Super DIRT Week for example: A couple hundred teams got to the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse on Tuesday to set up camp, practiced on the “Moody Mile” all day on Wednesday before loading up at racing at Weedsport, came back today to Syracuse, will race tonight at Rolling Wheels, are back racing at Syracuse on Friday and Saturday, Rolling Wheels again on Saturday night, and big at Syracuse one more time on Sunday.
Tell seven out of ten asphalt guys these days that that’s the schedule and you’ll be looking for seven new drivers. I’ve heard more complaining about this doubleheader behind the scenes than I can recall for just about any race weekend I’ve ever been around. The older guys get it, and they’re all for it. The new kids, though, they’re worried about tearing the car up or what “might” happen.
Simple solution: If you’re worried about your race car, either get better at driving it and get some confidence, or don’t do it at all.
I ran about 20 races with my four-cylinder cars when I started in 2000. We raced Thunder Road weekly and struggled hard. We began branching out to Airborne at mid-season and instantly got better at Thunder Road, just because we were forced to think outside the box.
We ran 33 races each year in 2001 and 2002, running weekly at Thunder Road and Airborne. We also went to places like Riverside, White Mountain, Canaan, Oxford, Adirondack, Twin State, and one or two others, and our results at our two home tracks improved dramatically. While the 18 year-old driver got a lot of seat time and learned how to race, the crew talked to a lot of different people and learned a lot of setup tricks and different ways to make changes.
If traveling can help a kid running a Street Stock, imagine how much it could help a Late Model team.
I’ll tell you this much: There are teams that did, do, and will complain about the Airborne/Thunder Road weekend right now. Sure it’s tough, of course it is. But the teams that use their heads and stay out of trouble will not only stand to make a few bucks — there’s more than $100,000 being paid out in that 24-hour period — they’re going to gain a ton of knowledge on the fly and they’re going to look back in 10 or 15 years and think about how much fun it was to finish 12th in the 200 on Saturday and 17th in the Milk Bowl on Sunday with the same car.
Quit whining, race your cars, and have some fun.
I got my annual “GO HABS” text message from Cris Michaud today. That means that the hockey season is officially here.
Dave Pembroke and Brian Hoar each should have gotten at least one vote in that media poll we did last week, right? I picked Pembroke at first, but figured the storyline with Phil Scott had more oomph to it, so I switched.
But NOBODY picked either of the guys that won championships THIS YEAR!?!
Nick Sweet must be better than I thought.
It’s always nice to see our tracks here at home getting some national attention. Check out Ed Hinton’s piece on the Milk Bowl over at ESPN.com.
If you’re not able to make it to either of the ACT events this weekend, tune in to the stations of Radio Vermont and WDEV — yours truly and Steve Longchamp will have the call at Airborne from 3:00pm to 5:30pm on Saturday, and the Milk Bowl’s three segments on Sunday on tape delay following the Patriots football game.
WDEV is on the FM dial at 96.1 in Warren, 96.5 in Barre, and 101.9 in the Northeast Kingdom, and on the AM dial at 550 in Waterbury, Montpelier, and beyond.
I’ve picked up WDEV’s signal in New Hampshire and New York, too.
The Fall Foliage and Milk Bowl have been won by the same driver in the same year on seven occasions, including the first year of the Foliage in 1972, then known as the “New England 200” at Catamount Stadium, when Bobby Dragon swept both races.
The late Butch Lindley of Greenville, S.C., won the New England 300 and the Milk Bowl in 1977 en route to the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman national championship.
Maine great Dick McCabe won both in 1982, followed a year later by Robbie Crouch. Jean-Paul Cabana brought both trophies home to Canada in ’87, but Crouch brought them right back again the next year.
Patrick Laperle was the last driver to win both races in the same season, six years ago.