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The Juice

THE JUICE: Local Winners Good For ACT

- Justin St. Louis on 17 Jun 2010

Tommy Ricker is one of a handful of lesser-known drivers to have ACT success in 2010. (VMM photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

Tommy Ricker. Miles Chipman. Jeff Labrecque.

Uh, who?

Through the first three American-Canadian Tour races of the season, headlines have been dominated by drivers that you may have never heard of. And that’s a good thing.

Nick Sweet won the Merchants Bank 150 at Barre’s Thunder Road on May 2, and while many in Central Vermont rejoiced, a few people in Maine or Connecticut or Quebec may have said, “Who the heck is Nick Sweet?”

We Vermonters know who Sweet is, of course, having watched his career develop in our own backyard, but Sweet raced only one season with ACT and has been a Thunder Road homebody for nearly his entire career. Sweet winning a race at Thunder Road is not necessarily big news anymore, but Sweet winning an ACT race surely is.

Ricker followed Eddie MacDonald across the finish line at his home track at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine on May 16. MacDonald, while not a regular competitor with the Tour, has made enough starts � and wins � over the last six or eight years that people need not be reminded of his talents. Ricker, though, had never finished an ACT race before his runner-up showing.

Chipman and Labrecque have competed only sporadically with ACT at their home track, New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway, with the occasional appearance elsewhere, but like Ricker, their results had been little more than footnotes until finishing 1-2 at Lee last Friday.

So where are the big names? Where is Brian Hoar, the guy that, ya know, won the championship last year? Where are the young stars like Joey Polewarczyk and Scott Payea? Where are veterans like John Donahue and Brent Dragon? How is ACT supposed to market its racers as the best in the region if they can’t even win a race?

“Local guys winning is the way this series was built,” said Hoar, who has three podium finishes in three starts this year, but has yet to carry the checkered flag. “And I think it’s great for the sport. Look through the history of ACT � some of the greatest races have been when Tour guys don’t win.”

A quick skim through the record books will show that Hoar is right; in the ACT Late Model Tour’s infancy, the series was little more than weekly racers running extra-distance events at Thunder Road and Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., with the occasional event sprinkled in at another track.

Once the schedule expanded in the early 2000s, so did the roster. Still, though, local drivers prevailed at home: Mainers Ryan Moore, Ricky Rolfe, and Shawn Martin all won at Oxford; Canadians Sylvain Lacombe and Donald Theetge won at Ste-Croix; drivers like Joey Becker, Dave Pembroke, and Eric Williams � drivers that raced in Barre every Thursday night � won at Thunder Road.

Chipman and Labrecque are just the latest in a long line of homegrown talent to break through on a tour with fans all over the region, and they won’t be the last.

In fact, Hoar thinks that rather than hurting ticket sales by not showcasing the “stars” of ACT, tracks can market their own drivers as the ones to watch when the invaders come into town.

“You can bet that those fans at Lee would rather have seen a local like Miles Chipman win than to see me or anyone else on the Tour win,” Hoar said.

“Ask anyone in the Barre crowd, would they rather see a guy that comes in three times a year win a race, or see someone they know and have fallen in love with beat the outsiders?”

The American-Canadian Tour is supposed to be about featuring the best drivers in the northeast. As it turns out, a lot of those drivers are waiting at home, where they always have been � in victory lane.


A well-deserved tip of the cap goes to Josh Sunn, who has been the hottest Vermont driver in any capacity over the last two years.

The White River Junction-based Mini Stock racer swept three features at three tracks last weekend, winning at Canaan Dirt Speedway on Friday, Bear Ridge Speedway on Saturday, and Big Daddy’s Speedbowl on Sunday.

Sunn was the Mini Stock track champion at both the asphalt and dirt tracks at Canaan last year, and is undefeated in five starts at Bear Ridge this year. That’s hard to beat, no matter what level a driver races at.



Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...

ACT Late Model Tour: Brian Hoar of Williston finished third at Lee USA Speedway on Friday night, with Hyde Park’s Eric Williams fourth, Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier fifth, Milton’s Brent Dragon seventh, and John Donahue of Graniteville tenth. Miles Chipman of Epping, N.H., was the winner.

Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Brandon’s Vince Quenneville, Jr., finished fourth in the Modified feature on Saturday night, and Milton’s Bill Sawyer was tenth in the Sportsman race. Rob Gordon of Milton was the Renegade runner-up wit Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax third, and Milton’s Cody Benoit fourth.

Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Whiting’s Jimmy Ryan won the Modified event on Friday night with Mike Bruno of Bomoseen ninth. Middlebury's Hunter Bates was fourth in the Sportsman race, and Fred Little of Salisbury was fourth in the Pro Stocks.

Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H., won Saturday’s Sportsman Modified “Madness” event over Adam Pierson of Fairlee and Bryan King of Corinth. King won the Sportsman Coupe feature over Steve Ellsworth of Corinth and Jason Horniak of Bradford. Tyler Stygles of Bradford won the Limited Late Model race over Will Hull of East Montpelier and Jeremy Hodge of Newbury. Josh Sunn of White River Junction won the Fast Four race over St. Johnsbury’s Kevin Harran and Andy Johnson of Wilder. Tom Placey of Bradford was the Hornet winner over Chelsea’s Mike Ryan and Karl Sheldon of St. Johnsbury. Misty Bell won the Hornet Queen race over Corinth’s Melissa King and Donna Racine of St. Johnsbury.

Big Daddy's Speedway (Rumney, N.H.): Hartland’s Ed Tobin finished eighth in Sunday’s Sportsman Modified race, with East Montpelier’s Will Hull second in the Outlaw Late Models. Josh Sunn of White River Junction won the Mini Stock feature with Kevin Harran of St. Johnsbury fifth.

Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Kevin Chaffee of Orange took his first career Sportsman Modified victory on Friday in the first event of the six-race Twin State Modified Series, with Thetford Center’s Dan Eastman fourth. Josh Sunn of White River Junction won the Mini Stock feature with Tim Hodge of Vershire third. Alan Stender of Tunbridge was the Bandit runner-up. Lacey Hanson of Orwell won the Granite State Mini Sprint Series 500cc feature, and Terry Reil of Middlesex was sixth in the 600cc race.

Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Saturday's races were rained out.

Devil's Bowl Speedway (West Haven): Mike Bruno of Bomoseen won Sunday’s Modified feature over Kenny Tremont, Jr., of West Sand Lake, N.Y., and Patrick Dupree of Saranac Lake, N.Y. Don Miller of Wells took his third-straight Sportsman win over Alex Bell of Cambridge, N.Y., and Middlebury’s Hunter Bates. Jon Miller of Malta, N.Y., was the Renegade winner over Plattsburgh, N.Y.’s Ken St. Germain and Rob Gordon of Milton. Chad Brown of Milton won the Bomber Warrior race over Essex Junction’s Nathan Woodworth and Brent Warren of Salisbury. Jason Barrett was the Duke Stock winner.

Granite State Mini Sprints: Lacey Hanson off Orwell won Friday’s 500cc race at Canaan Dirt Speedway, and Terry Reil of Middlesex was sixth in the 600cc race. Brian Gray won the 600cc race.

Modified Racing Series: Saturday’s race at Seekonk Speedway was rained out.

Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Saturday's races were rained out.

NASCAR Nationwide Series: Kevin Lepage of Shelburne finished 38th at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: David Stremme finished 30th at Michigan Int’l Speedway on Sunday for Vermont-based Latitude 43 Motorsports.

Northeast Mini Stock Tour: Saturday’s event at White Mountain Motorsports Park was rained out.

Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Davey Ofsuryk of Newport Center won the Outlaw Sportsman feature on Saturday over St. Johsbury’s Dan Sidney, and David Allen of North Troy was third in the Super Stock feature. St. Johnsbury drivers Dean Switser and Doug Duprey finished foruth and fifth in the 50-lap Street Stock feature. Lorin Vear of Waterford was the Cyclone runner-up with Sheffield’s Shaun Stetson third. Allison Barney of Granby won the Angel race over Danville’s Lisa Hodgdon and Heather Hodge of Orleans. Howard Swister of West Burke was the Dwarf Car runner-up.

Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl (Barre): Phil Scott of Middlesex won Sunday’s Late Model feature of Jamie Fisher of Shelburne and Cris Michaud of Northfield. Williamstown’s Mike Ziter and Jimmy Hebert were 1-2 in the Tiger Sportsman race with Joe Steffen of Essex Junction third. Tim Campbell of West Topsham won the Street Stock race over Joe Blais of East Barre and Billy Hennequin of Morrisville. Ken Christman of Cabot won the Junkyard Warrior feature over Brock Parrott of Williamstown and Josh Erwin of Waterbury.

Twin State Modified Series: Kevin Chaffee of Orange won the first event of the Gravco Janitorial/Jasper Engines Twin State Modified Series at Canaan Dirt Speedway on Friday, with Dan Eastman of Thetford Center fourth.

Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Rutland's Dallas Trombley finished sixth in the Late Model feature on Friday night. Chris Wilk of Mendon was the Super Street winner over Russ Davis of Cavendish, with Ascutney’s Richard Lamotte fourth. David Greenslit of Waitsfield was the Strictly Stock winner with Michael Burke of Bellows Falls third. Leitch of Cavendish was the Wildcar runner-up, and Matt Sonnhalter of East Thetford beat East Montpelier's Jeff Laquerre, Jr., to win the Sportsman youth race.

White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Saturday’s races were rained out.



Friday, June 18

Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 6:45pm (Regular Event, 50-lap Enduro)
Canaan Dirt Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 7:00pm (Regular Event)
Twin State Speedway, Claremont, N.H. -- 7:30pm (Regular Event)

Saturday, June 19
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event, 50-lap Renegades)
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford -- 6:00pm (Twin State Modified Series, Granite State Mini Sprints)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event)
Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H. -- 6:00pm (Regular Event, 50-lap Angels)
White Mountain Motorsports Park, North Woodstock, N.H. -- 5:00 (Regular Event)

Sunday, June 20
Big Daddy's Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. -- 4:00pm (Sprint Cars of New England)
Devil's Bowl Speedway, West Haven -- 6:00pm (Regular Event, 20-lap Pro Stocks vs. Super Streets)
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre -- 4:00pm (Regular Event)


ACT Late Model Tour: Sat., June 19 -- Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Me. (6:30pm)
Granite State Mini Sprints: Sat., June 19 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford (6:00pm)
Modified Racing Series: Thu., June 17 � Thompson Int’l Speedway, Thompson, Conn. (6:00pm)
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Sat., June 19 -- Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisc. (ESPN2/3:00pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sun., June 20 -- Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. (TNT/3:00pm)
Pro All Stars Series: Sun., June 20 -- Unity Raceway, Unity, Me. (3:00pm)
Serie ACT-Castrol Edge: Sat., June 19 -- Circuit Riverside Speedway, Ste-Croix., Que. (5:00pm)
Twin State Modified Series: Sat., June 19 -- Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford (6:00pm)


"I don’t care what kind of car it is. If it’s got four tires and steering wheel, I’ll drive it." --Nick Sweet

"I want a championship next year, that’s what I want. I’m gonna get it next year. If I run the full season, I’m gonna get it." --Modified Racing Series driver Steve Masse

"I’ve never had a season where we’ve had this number of podium finishes. Never. And I dare say nobody else has, either." --ACT champion Brian Hoar

"It’s crazy to think that however many years ago I was sitting in the stands up here watching my dad trying to make the race and now we’re in victory lane." --Milk Bowl winner Joey Polewarczyk

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