Vermont Motorsports Magazine

Anthony Sweet Designs

Helliwell Beats Hoar in Fall Foliage, Scores Championship

Posted By Tj Ingerson On October 8, 2012

Categories: Airborne | American-Canadian Tour

Coverage provided by DevilWayne Helliwell, Jr., Bruce Bernhardt (lower right) and the No. 27 Ekeys 4 Cars/Unique Ford team celebrate their American-Canadian Tour championship. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)PHOTO: Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Bruce Bernhardt (lower right) and the No. 27 Ekeys 4 Cars/Unique Ford team celebrate their American-Canadian Tour championship. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

--by T.J. Ingerson

Wayne Helliwell, Jr., entered the final 40 laps of the Rent-A-Wreck Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., with a unwelcoming familiar sight in his windshield -- the No. 37 RPM Racing Engines Dodge of Brian Hoar. Hoar had picked up the bonus points for leading the most laps and set up a winner-take-all, head-to-head showdown between the two for the American-Canadian Tour championship.

Helliwell and Hoar dueled over those final 40 laps that saw the two trade the lead back-and-forth. Helliwell, however, pulled away on the final restart and claimed the Rent-A-Wreck Fall Foliage 200 win and the American-Canadian Tour championship.

“Unbelievable. Its mind blowing right now,” the Dover, N.H., driver said moments after his championship clinching victory. “Last year, we finished second and I thought it was a fluke. And to start the season like we did, finishing second to Brian and how it turned out; I would have never imagined it.”

Helliwell worked from his sixth starting position to grab the lead on lap 52 from Canadian Jean-Francois Dery. A caution flag just eight laps later shaped the race for the rest of the 140 laps.

Hoar and his crew chief Rick Paya threw the first curveball in the championship showdown as they elected to pit on that lap 60 caution period for right side tires. Their hope was use pit strategy to get to the front of the field and lead the most laps -- something they had to do to win the championship if Helliwell finished second.

Helliwell led until a lap 87 caution flag when him and no less than 11 other lead lap cars pitted for their fresh tires. That handed the lead to ACT Castrol Series champion Patrick Laperle, but Hoar was to his outside on the restart, having seen his strategy propel him to the front.

Hoar snagged the lead in a back-and-forth battle with Laperle on lap 94, but Laperle fought back and retook the lead shortly before another caution flag flew. Hoar grabbed the lead on lap 100, and briefly relinquished it on a lap 111 restart to rookie Jimmy Hebert. Hoar picked the lead back up on a lap 115 restart, and began to click off the laps.

Helliwell was marred in traffic, but he slowly picked up positions. The lap 115 restart saw Helliwell sit in the sixth position after being as far back as 13th -- and almost last on the track with lap cars factored in.

The orange No. 27 Ford Fusion of Helliwell marched toward the front from that point and moved into the third position on lap 144. Helliwell snatched the second position from Hebert on lap 157, and put his sights on Hoar.

Helliwell stalked Hoar after he drove to Hoar’s back bumper, and began to look for a way around the lead car. Helliwell used his traditional low line approach to sneak under Hoar, and grabbed the lead on lap 166. Hoar was able get Helliwell trapped behind lap traffic and retook the lead on lap 168. The duo battled again on lap 174, with Helliwell fighting to the lead on lap 177. A caution flag was displayed for a spin, which set up a final 20 lap showdown.

Helliwell held onto the lead when another caution flag flew for Jean-Paul Cyr, who backed into an infield light pole and subsequently fell. A long caution period ensued, which allowed Hoar to take the lead on the restart and began to pull away from Helliwell. Helliwell, however, fought back and had worked to the back bumper of Hoar before one final caution flag was displayed.

A ten-lap shootout put Helliwell to Hoar’s outside -- and Helliwell got the restart of his life. The second place runner powered to the lead on the restart and drove cleanly to the race win.

“That’s unreal; that’s a lot of pressure -- no one should have to go through that,” Helliwell joked about his final showdown with Hoar. “On the long run, I knew we were better. He couldn’t stay on the bottom and I knew we could rotate the center and kind of roll up out. I knew if I got up beside of him, we could get him. I got up there once or twice. But we had that long caution and I let the right-front tire cool down too much.”

Helliwell and Hoar have had their fair share of restarts over the course of the season, with Hoar coming out on top of most of them. Helliwell wasn’t going to allow the final one to go Hoar’s way.

“We’ve had a lot of restarts over the year and he’s gotten the jump,” Helliwell said. “And he’s beat me. I just wanted to make sure that this is the one that paid. We got the good jump and it stuck.”

Hoar, although disappointed, was one of the first drivers to congratulate Helliwell in victory lane.

“I said it’d be great if it came down to the two of us at the end,” Hoar said. “They were better. They won it fair and square. We had our shot. We were just too loose.”

As the pit strategy played out, Helliwell’s car owner and crew chief Bruce Bernhardt remained confident that their strategy would still win.

“I knew we’d get back up there, but I didn’t know if we’d be able to get by him,” Bernhardt said. “I knew he took tires too early, and I knew he wanted to go lead the most laps. And it put us in a position we had to win or we finished second. I wanted to wait even later for tires, but we couldn’t let the other fast cars get ahead of us.”

Austin Theriault marched his way from his 22nd starting position to finish second. The Fort Kent, Maine driver was able to get by Hoar after the final restart and had chased Helliwell down when the checkered flag flew. Laperle, of St-Denis, Quebec, fought after his pit stop to finish third. Hoar, of Williston, Vt., crossed the line in the fourth position and, unofficially, finished 16 points behind Helliwell. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., of Hudson, N.H., worked from an 18th starting position to finish fifth.

Randy Potter rebounded from his crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to finish sixth. Hebert settled for seventh. Brent Dragon crossed the line in the eight position, while Bond Auto ACT Invitational winner Ray Parent finished ninth. Nick Sweet, who started on the pole after a ‘+9’ qualifying effort, finished tenth.

Bernhardt and Helliwell tried to put into words their American-Canadian Tour championship.

“It was awesome,” Bernhardt said. “Wayne’s been driving me for the last five or six years and I know what he can do. He makes the magic happen. This is just one of the happiest days.”

“To beat Brian, to beat that whole team -- they’ve been on top of their game for I don’t know how long, forever it seems. I’m honored, this whole team is honored to win the championship,” Helliwell said. “Finally, someone dethroned Brian and we’re bringing this championship back to New Hampshire.”

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Rent-A-Wreck Fall Foliage 200
American-Canadian Tour -- Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Sunday, October 7, 2012

(# -- denotes rookie)

1. (6) Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover, N.H.
2. (22) Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Maine
3. (3) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que.
4. (8) Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.
5. (18) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H.
6. (19) Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H.
7. (21) # Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown, Vt.
8. (9) Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt.
9. (15) Ray Parent, Tiverton, R.I.
10. (1) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
11. (2) Jean-Francois Dery, Quebec, Que.
12. (13) Patrick Cliché, St-Jean-Chrysostome, Que.
13. (16) Donald Theetge, Boischatel, Que.
14. (26) Scott Dragon, Milton, Vt.
15. (7) Emily Packard, East Montpelier, Vt.
16. (31) Glen Luce, Turner, Maine
17. (30) Eric Chase, Milton, Vt.
18. (12) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.
19. (23) Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Maine
20. (4) Jonathan Bouvrette, Blainville, Que.
21. (29) Tyler Cahoon, Danville, Vt.
22. (33) Brandon White, Kahnawake, Que.
23. (10) Rowland Robinson, Jr., Birch Harbor, Maine
24. (20) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt.
25. (34) Spencer MacPherson, Carleton Place, Ont.
26. (25) Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
27. (32) Todd Davis, Claremont, N.H.
28. (36) Jimmy Linardy, Somerville, Mass.
29. (35) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt.
30. (28) Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
31. (11) Travis Stearns, Auburn, Maine
32. (17) Hunter Bates, Pittsford, Vt.
33. (14) T.J. Brackett, Buckfield, Maine
34. (24) Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
35. (5) Sylvain Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que.
36. (27) # Ben Lynch, Derry, N.H.