–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Eddie MacDonald had hoped for a top-five finish with 47 laps left in Saturday’s Egglefield Ford/Interstate Batteries Spring Green 116 at Airborne Park Speedway.
He got a lot more than that.
The Rowley, Mass. driver surged from fifth to second in less than 15 laps, chased down leader Nick Sweet in lapped traffic, worked to Sweet’s outside and used a lapped car as a pick to take the lead on lap 107 and claim the win.
The win for MacDonald was the sixth of his ACT Late Model Tour career and his first at Airborne.
“I was just really hoping for a top five with the way the weather was. I thought we were only going to run to halfway,” MacDonald said. “This car, it seemed, as the run went on, the harder I drove it the faster it went.
“Luckily, the lapped cars really helped us; it slowed Nick (Sweet) down a little bit. I tried to use that to help us get by him.”
After rain delayed the start, the front row duo of Alex Labbe and Brandon Atkins traded the lead back-and-forth before Labbe took control of the lead on lap nine. Labbe controlled the top spot through lap 35 when multi-time American-Canadian Tour champion Patrick Laperle worked to Labbe’s inside and claimed the lead.
Laperle held the lead to a lap 49 restart when he would be paired up with Nick Sweet on the front row. Sweet utilized the track’s preferred outside lane on restarts to claim the lead, but lost it one lap later due to another caution flag. Laperle would lose the lead just three laps later to another restart, and Sweet held onto the when a lap 60 caution flag flew.
The looming showers then hit and forced a 26-minute delay while the cars circled the track. Laperle then reclaimed the lead on the restart, but the race’s final restart came just nine laps later which saw Sweet take the lead, a restart that saw MacDonald sit in the sixth spot.
The long, uninterrupted run to the end might have benefitted MacDonald the best.
“It almost seemed like (the car) stayed, if not get a little bit better,” MacDonald said. “We started to burn up the tires. I figured we were only going to go to halfway so I went hard right from the beginning.
“I’m excited. This is the first win we’ve had with Exit Realty on the hood and Hancock Electric. I’m excited for those guys.”
MacDonald reeled in Sweet as the leader worked lapped traffic and then jumped to his outside on lap 105. The two would battle side-by-side until MacDonald attempted to use a lapped car as a pick, a move Sweet countered by going three wide. However, MacDonald proved to be too tough on the high side and claimed the lead.
“You had to be careful because it was a combination of running as hard as you can and being smooth on the throttle so I wasn’t sideways coming off of (turn) two,” MacDonald said of the race winning move. “Luckily, we kind of got Nick pinched off there and we were able to make a little bit of ground. It was a great run.
“We usually struggle here so this is huge for our team.”
While Sweet admitted lapped traffic didn’t help his cause, he was unable to mount a full defensive charge due to a slightly ill handling race car at the end.
“The difference would have stemmed from the beginning of the race. We just made the car too tight,” Sweet said. “It just wasn’t as good as it needed to be. I could tell as Eddie was coming. I was trying to drive it as hard as I could and lapped cars, they didn’t help me at all.
“They weren’t bad at all, but, I didn’t need lapped cars there. I don’t think he would have been able to pull me in, but the lapped cars slowed me up a bit. But that’s racing.”
The Barre, Vt. driver Sweet finished second when the checkered flag flew and, unofficially, took over the point lead. He also led a race high 45 laps.
“It’s just good to be running good,” Sweet said. “The points will fall where they fall, but it’s just a real good feeling for this MadDog (Motorsports) team to be running good. We’ve really turned the program around a little bit since earlier in the season.”
Laperle, of St-Denis, Que., finished third after he led 26 laps during the event. Atkins, of nearby AuSable Forks, N.Y., finished fourth after he led six laps early in the event. Scott Payea of Milton, Vt. appeared to have a car that could content for the win early in the event as he quickly moved from his 11th place starting spot to third, but dropped back on the race’s final restart and finished fifth.
Labbe finished sixth after he earned the pole position start with a “plus-six” score in his heat race and led 29 laps. Jimmy Hebert finished seventh after starting in the 16th spot while Rowland Robinson Jr. raced inside the top-ten for the entire event and finished eighth. Dillon Moltz finished ninth after starting 14th while defending series champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. battled back from a mid-race incident and penalty to finish tenth.
Point leader Bobby Therrien was involved in a mid-race incident that forced him to retire from the event. He was credited with a 29th place finish.
The ACT Late Model Tour travels to New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday, May 21 for the first race in the Southern New England Tripleheader series.
VMM will have more from Airborne Park Speedway this week.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Egglefield Ford/Interstate Batteries Spring Green 116
ACT Late Model Tour – Airborne Park Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
(# — denotes rookie)
1. (13) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.
2. (6) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
3. (3) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que.
4. (2) Brandon Atkins, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
5. (11) Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.
6. (1) Alex Labbe, St-Albert, Que.
7. (16) Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown, Vt.
8. (8) Rowland Robinson Jr., Steuben, Maine
9. (14) Dillon Moltz, Waterford, Conn.
10. (12) Wayne Helliwell Jr., Dover, N.H.
11. (10) Scott Dragon, Milton, Vt.
12. (21) Todd Davis, Claremont, N.H.
13. (17) Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
14. (26) # Devin O’Connell, Madison, Conn.
15. (7) Josh Masterson, Bristol, Vt.
16. (18) Kyle Welch, Newport, N.H.
17. (22) Rich Dubeau, Lebanon, N.H.
18. (23) # Ryan Olsen, North Haverhill, N.H.
19. (5) Brad Babb, Windham, Maine
20. (20) Emily Packard, East Montpelier, Vt.
21. (19) Jonathan Bouvrette, Blainville, Que.
22. (25) Gaetan Gaudreault, Quebec, Que.
23. (29) # Mark Jenison, Warwick, R.I.
24. (24) Matt Anderson, Franklin, N.H.
25. (27) Claude Leclerc, Lanoarie, Que.
26. (28) Mark Hudson, Norton, Mass.
27. (4) Dany Trepanier, St-Edouard, Que.
28. (9) Mike Ziter, Barre, Vt.
29. (15) Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg, Vt.
PHOTO: Eddie MacDonald celebrates his sixth career ACT Late Model Tour win on Saturday evening at Airborne Park Speedway in the Spring Green 116. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)