(From series press release)
WATERBURY – The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) opens its 25th season of ACT Late Model racing, along with the 33rd season of racing at Lee USA Speedway, with the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 on Sunday, April 10. The traditional ACT season opener often sets the tone for what to watch throughout the season, and the 2016 edition should be no exception.
ACT competition at the 1/3-mile speedway has historically been hard to predict. The previous 13 ACT Late Model Tour events at Lee have seen 12 different winners, with Brian Hoar’s back-to-back Governor’s Cup wins in 2011 and 2012 standing as the only repeat triumph. Former Lee USA Champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr. of Dover, NH became the latest ACT winner at the track when he captured the 2015 Governor’s Cup, the first of his four wins en route to the 2015 ACT Championship.
Surprise performances at the event also abound, and performances by these drivers have frequently led to even bigger things for them. Williamstown, VT’s Jimmy Hebert was the surprise winner of the 2013 Governor’s Cup, which kick-started a breakout season that saw him finish third in ACT points. In 2015, Windham, ME’s Brad Babb scored a then career-best runner-up finish at Lee. Babb went on to win two races and finish third in the final 2015 standings.
“That race gave us a lot of confidence that running for Joey Laquerre was the right decision,” Babb said. “It wasn’t really much of a decision at all – my mind was made up as soon as he asked me to drive the car – but it solidified that we could run up front with the best of ACT. It gave us a lot of confidence going forward for the rest of the season.
“I’ve pretty much been ready for this season since last season ended,” Babb added. “I had a lot of fun last year, and I want to get back into it again.”
Helliwell and Babb will be among the top contenders when the ACT Late Models roll into Lee, NH next month. Rowley, MA’s Eddie MacDonald, the 2014 Governor’s Cup winner, is expected to try and reclaim the title at his home track. The event marks the return of Scott Payea to ACT competition, and he does so at a track where he has posted multiple podium finishes.
As history has shown, the stage could be set for an unexpected winner as well. Kyle Welch earned a top-10 finish at Lee last year en route to his best ACT season to date. Teenager Ryan Olsen is a multi-time Late Model winner at White Mountain Motorsports Park and will make his debut for Joey Pole Racing. Former Série ACT Champion Alex Labbé has entered the event and will look to become the first Canadian ACT winner at Lee since D.J. Kennington in 2004. Multi-time White Mountain Late Model Champion Quinny Welch has also entered the event.
The New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway kicks off the 25th season of ACT Late Model racing on Sunday, April 10. Teams will have a full practice day on Saturday, April 9.
(Alan Ward photo)