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THE JUICE: Clowns, Cows, And A Big, Big Mistake

Posted By Justin St. Louis On September 16, 2011

Categories: The Juice

Get a good look at Alex LabbePHOTO: Get a good look at Alex Labbe's No. 36 car. You won't be seeing much of it for a while. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor


For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Alex Labbe was thinking. Last Sunday, there sat an opportunity for the rising 18 year-old star to win a 200-lap race against the toughest field of competitors in Quebec all season long, and he blew it.

Labbe crossed the finish line first and passed the technical inspection that the American-Canadian Tour required for the event. But when two competitors -- Patrick Laperle and Patrick Hamel -- filed an official protest, ACT requested to impound Labbe’s engine.

Labbe inexplicably refused.

Here’s what I see wrong with this: First of all, everyone knows better than to screw around with Tom Curley’s rules. ACT’s tolerance for rules violations -- especially those regarding the “spec” engines, tires, and shock absorbers that the series mandates -- is less than zero.

Second, Curley offered the Labbe team three chances -- which is two too many -- to comply with the protest. That shows a lack of respect for the rules, the series, the competitors, the sponsors, and the fans. If you want to win races, you’d better be willing to at least appear that you’re doing it legally. To refuse an inspection is admitting guilt before the questions are even asked.

Third, and this point came from our Canadian media buddy Marc Patrick Roy in a conversation we had while the dead body in the Labbe controversy was still warm, even if the engine was illegal, at least have it inspected. There’s always a chance -- maybe not a great chance, but a chance nonetheless -- that you won’t get caught.

Am I condoning cheating? Of course not, but I’ll give you this first-hand example: When I was 16 and racing Street Stocks, I finished in the top three and was sent to inspection. I had purchased a car with illegal rear springs, but I didn’t have any spares or the money to replace them, so that’s what I used. When the inspectors asked for those springs, I started shaking, knowing that I was going to get disqualified. But I turned them over, and for some reason I passed. In fact, I moved up from third place to second when another driver in front of me was disqualified. I don’t know why it happened that way, but it did. Human error accounts for a lot of things, and who knows whether or not Labbe’s engine would have been caught.

In reality, nobody really knows for sure except the Labbe team and the last person to turn a wrench inside that engine whether or not the motor was legal. But out-and-out refusing to have your car inspected -- on a major touring series and in a prominent race -- is either unnecessary and inappropriate pride, or admittance of guilt. Either way, it’s a stupid way to lose a win and interrupt what appears to be an outstanding future.

***

For the record, I like Alex Labbe. He’s a nice kid with a fun sense of humor, and he’s got more natural driving ability in his pinky finger than half of the drivers in this region have in their whole bodies, combined.

I’ve seen Labbe do some incredible things in his cars, and I have really enjoyed watching the first couple of seasons of his big-league career. If I had a chance to send one of the kids racing ACT down south for an opportunity in NASCAR, he’d be on the short list of candidates with guys like Sweet, Theriault, and Polewarczyk.

My guess is that Labbe will end up converting his equipment to PASS Super Late Model specs, where he’ll struggle for a year or two against Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe, just like everyone else. By the time he figures it out, he’ll have turned 20 or 21 years old and wasted two solid years of his career.

My hope is that I’m wrong. My hope is that he’ll pay his ACT fines and come back, or that if he doesn’t, that he’ll get a grip on PASS sooner than later.

Either way, what a shame that all that had to happen.

***

Bozo vs. Patof. Get on board. #battleoftheACTclowns

***

We’ve been able to confirm that the rumors about Devil’s Bowl Speedway are true: Mike Bruno is in the middle of talks with owner C.J. Richards and his family about purchasing the facility.

Bruno, of Castleton, won seven feature races at the track this year in NASCAR Modified and Pro Late Model competition, and has been a part-time competitor at Thunder Road in Barre, Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., and on the American-Canadian Tour.

Bruno has never promoted a race track before, but says he has several new ideas and is hoping to bring the West Haven track back into a profitable status. Bruno believes he will keep the track in its current form as an asphalt facility, and reported earlier this week via Twitter that he has met with NASCAR officials, presumably to extend the Whelen All-American Series sanction agreement currently in place at Devil’s Bowl.

We’re obviously keeping close watch on the situation and will have more news as it becomes available.

***

I’m sorry, but I just can not get on the edge of my seat about the Timmy Hill vs. Blake Koch battle in NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie points. I mean, even Landon Cassill offered up a few top-tens in his half-schedule, lone-rookie run a few years back.

***

Sergio Pena, huh? I’m starting to buy it. Darrell Wallace, Jr., too. And that Brian Hoar kid just might make it, too, if he keeps at it.

***

What an embarrassment. (Alan Ward photo)A big thank-you goes out to “Awesome” Tom Placey for letting me take that little Hornet car of his out for a 75-lap Enduro jaunt around Bear Ridge last week. I had no idea that we’d end up winning the thing, but I was absolutely sure that I was going to do the Charleston on the roof once I did win. And I did. And it was good.

So was that victory lap in reverse.

I’ll get another chance on Sunday as VMM tackles the six-hour endurance race at Airborne Speedway. Aboard a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero left for dead by my girlfriend, we’ll try to see who can do the, uh, not-worst in what is believed to be some sort of obstacle course race.

The rules allow a team of three to six drivers, so we’ve assembled an all-star cast to pilot the VMM Oldsmobomber:

“The Cadyville Comet” Ricky St. Clair, Cadyville, N.Y.
“Terrible” T.J. Ingerson, Lisbon, N.H.
Anthony “Race Geek” Sweet, Barre, Vt.
Brittni “The Wrench” Simmons, Winooski, Vt.
Jason “The Pich’” Piche, Winooski, Vt.
“The Winooski Weapon” Justin St. Louis, Winooski, Vt.

We’re not sure how we did it, but we drummed up a little bit of sponsorship for the race, too, from Rent-A-Wreck of Plattsburgh, N.Y., Begor’s Supply of Mooers Forks, N.Y., and C&S Screenprinting of Richmond, Vermont.

Chris Burnett of C&S Screenprinting has been working on the car at all hours of the day and night, and will be thanked every day until I’m 74 years old. Special thanks to John “The Birdman” Adams and my uncle Jeff, too, for assistance with parts.

We figure we probably won’t win the race, so we’re going for the other big prize: Airborne is paying 250 bones for the best paint scheme. We’re going with a Vermont theme:

Moo.

***

RESULTS:

ACT Late Model Tour: Brian Hoar of Williston won Saturday’s Budweiser Showdown at Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallee-Jonction, Que., a non-points, all-star event. On Sunday, Hoar inherited the Can-Am 200 victory at Circuit Riverside Speedway in Ste-Croix, Que., when apparent winner Alex Labbe was disqualified. Nick Sweet of Barre was third and Milton’s Brent Dragon was fifth.

Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): On Saturday, Castleton’s Speedy Bresette finished third in the Mini-Modified feature and clinched the championship, and Bristol’s Ray Germain finished fourth in the Bomber race. Sheldon’s Aaron Bartemy finished sixth in Sunday’s 100-lap Big Block/Small Block DIRTcar Modified Challenge, Hunter Bates of Pittsford was the runner-up in a special Sportsman Modified event, and Dave Rabtoy of Swanton finished tenth in the Sportsman feature. Milton drivers Don Franklin and Robert Gordon finished second and third, respectively, in the Renegade feature with Swanton’s Kevin Boutin fifth and Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax sixth; Boutin won his second-straight championship.

Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): On Friday, Sept. 9, Hunter Bates of Pittsford was the NASCAR Modified runner-up. Jeremy Jones of Leicester was the Renegade runner-up with Hydeville’s Bill Duprey fifth, and Eddie Bruno of Fair Haven was 11th in the Bomber Warrior feature.

Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford, Vt.): Joe Krawiec of Bristol, Conn., won Saturday’s USAC Dirt Midget Association feature and clinched the championship; Scott Holcomb of Granby, Conn., and Tony Montesi of Roxbury, Conn., were 2-3 in the race. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center won the DIRTcar Sportsman Modified feature over Middlebury’s Justin Comesand Adam Pierson of Fairlee. Gene Pierson, Jr., won the Sportsman Coupe feature over Josh Harrington of Topsham and rookie Jeff Robbins of Woodsville, N.H., and Bradford rookie Jordan Fornwalt won the Limited Late Model feature over Robert Tucker of East Corinth and Tyler Stygles of Bradford. Travis Hull of Graniteville won the Fast Four race over Danny Doyle of Barre and St. Johnsbury’s Kevin Harran, and Eric Lang of Groton won the Hornet feature over Mike Stender of South Strafford and Bradford’s Tom Placey. Kodie Pittman of Corinth won the Hornet Stinger youth race ahead of Travis King of Corinth and Geoff Durphey of Springfield, and King clinched the championship. Rich Crooker of Nashua, N.H., won the 600cc race for the Granite State Mini Sprints over Jake Williams of Center Tuftonboro, N.H., and Monkton rookie Scott Preston, and 11 year-old Dylan Rock of Enfield, N.H., won the 500cc feature over Troy Boissoneau of Bedford, N.H., and Lacey Hanson of Orwell.

Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Rookie Joey Scarborough of Brandon finished third in the Modified feature on Friday, Sept. 9 with Dan Eastman of Thetford Center fourth and Ed Tobin of Hartland seventh.

Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Chris McKinstry of Thetford won the Super Street feature on Saturday, and Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier was tenth in the Late Model feature. White River Junction’s Thomas Coates, Jr., was third in the Pure Stocks, and Lenny Garduno of West Fairlee was fourth in the Bandit race.

Lebanon Valley Speedway (Lebanon, N.Y.): Cullen Howe of South Londonderry was the Sportsman runner-up on Saturday, and Manchester’s Frank Hoard, III was sixth in the Budget Sportsman race.

Legion Speedway (Rumney, N.H.): Terry Reil of East Barre finished fourth in the 600cc Mini Sprint race on Sunday, and Orwell’s Lacey Hanson was third in the 500cc event.

Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): On Saturday, Putney’s Dana Shepard finished ninth in the Super Stock feature, and Joe Rogers Ludlow was the Mini Stock runner-up. Pat Houle of Vernon won the Lightning Stock race over Dickie Houle of West Brattleboro, and Vernon’s Hillary Renaud was fifth in the Young Guns feature.

Pro All Stars Series: Scott Dragon of Colchester finished seventh in the PASS North Super Late Model 150 at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H., on Sunday. Johnny Clark of Farmingdale, Me., was the winner.

Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Danville’s Bruce Melendy finished third in Saturday’s Outlaw Sportsman race with Aaron Smith of Irasburg seventh. Bear Lapan of Highgate won the Dwarf Car feature with Rod Knudson of Lunenburg sixth. Dean Switser of St. Johnsbury was the Street Stock runner-up, with Morrisville’s Billy Hennequin fourth, Dana Graham of Brunswick fifth, Rob Isham of St. Johnsbury sixth, Brownington’s Tom Sokolis ninth, and Brett Rowell of Concord tenth. Waterford’s Lorin Vear was fifth in the Cyclone Enduro with Graham tenth. Shawna Whitcomb of Lyndon Center won the Angel race over Heather Hodge of Orleans, and Granby drivers Vanessa Brown and Allison Barney. Jared Plumley of Guildhall won the Daredevil Veteran youth race over St. Johnsbury’s Kristian Switser and Anthony LaCoss of Lyndonville, and St. Johnsbury drivers Colby Bourgeois and Cody Smith finished 1-2 in the Daredevil Rookie race.

Sprint Cars of New England: Kevin Chaffee of Fairlee was the runner-up on Sunday at Legion Speedway in Rumney, N.H., with Orwell’s Lacey Hanson seventh. Clay Dow of Barnstead, N.H., was the winner.

Twin State Speedway: On Saturday, Don Miller of Wells posted his second Modified win of the year, with Robert Hagar of Windsor seventh. Ascutney drivers Colby Hodgdon and Tyler Lescord finished second and third, respectively, in the Super Street feature with Hagar fourth and Hartland’s Joseph Olmstead fifth. Brian Tarbell of Springfield won the Strictly Stock feature over Jacksonville’s Kaitlin Stone, with Tara Tarbell of Springfield fourth and Evan Burke of Bellows Falls fifth. Nelson Rickert of Cavendish won the Wildcat race, with Rob Leitch of Cavendish third and North Springfield’s Jeremiah Losee fourth. Chris Emerson of Chester was third in the Redneck Enduro.

White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Derrick O’Donnell of Bradford finished third in his first-ever Late Model race on Saturday, with Bernie Lantagne of McIndoe Falls fourth and St. Johnsbury’s Stacy Cahoon and Tyler Cahoon seventh and eighth, respectively. Michael Moore of East Haven finished fifth in the Tiger Sportsman race, and Barton’s Jody Sicard was the Strictly Stock runner-up Bradford’s Lucas Wheeler fourth. Lisa Hodgdon of Orleans was third in the Strictly Stock Mini race with Derby’s Kyle Willis fourth, and Irasburg drivers Brandon Croteau and Mark Puffer were 1-2 in the Kids Truck feature with Amanda Wheeler of Bradford third.

***

COMING UP:

Friday, September 16, 2011
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.) -- Hinkley Oil Co. Night (Subway Triple Crown Series/Modified Championship Finale) -- 7:00pm
Mohawk International Raceway (Akwesasne, N.Y.) -- Mr. DIRTcar 358 Modified Series 75 -- 7:45pm

Saturday, September 17
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford, Vt.) -- 99ROCK Night (Demolition Derby) -- 6:00pm
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.) -- N.E. Outdoor Furnaces Championship Night -- 6:00pm
Lebanon Valley Speedway (West Lebanon, N.Y.) -- $1,000-to-win Budget Sportsman 50 -- 6:00pm
Mohawk International Raceway (Akwesasne, N.Y.) -- Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified 100 -- 7:45pm
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.) -- Coca-Cola Super Saturday Season Finale -- 2:00pm
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.) -- Bond Auto/WIX Filters ACT Tiger Tour John Clark Memorial 101 -- 1:00pm
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.) -- Regular Event -- 6:00pm

Sunday, September 18
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) -- Liquor & Wine Warehouse 6-Hour Endurance Race -- 12:00pm
Mohawk International Raceway (Akwesasne, N.Y.) -- Slick Track Enduro -- 2:00pm

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PHOTOS:
1. Get a good look at Alex Labbe's No. 36 car. You won't be seeing much of it for a while. (VMM photo)
2. What an embarrassment. (Alan Ward photo)
3. The VMM Oldsmobomber doesn't sleep. It waits. (VMM photo)