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The Juice

THE JUICE: Pass The Cornbread, Ma

- Justin St. Louis on 25 Nov 2010

VMM is thankful for a lot of things... like being able to dodge race cars in the infield. (Buzz Fisher photo)PHOTO: VMM is thankful for a lot of things... like being able to dodge race cars in the infield. (Buzz Fisher photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

It’s been a wonderful year here at VMM, and before we get into the gizzards of this week’s cornucopia of short track news, I’ll take a minute and give thanks to the things I’m most grateful for.

I’m thankful for Late Models and Super Late Models, Modifieds and Super Modifieds, Sprint Cars and Mini Sprints, Tigers and Coupes, Mini Stocks and Warriors, and maybe the occasional bread truck.

I’m thankful for the Widowmaker at Thunder Road, pine tree jet dryers at Bear Ridge, and that poor little Styrofoam deer that got the business end of Marc Johnson’s nerf bar on the backstretch at Devil’s Bowl one night.

I’m thankful for pizza, poutine, Michigans, sausage bombs, clam strips, onion rings, macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, and a press box to eat them in.

I’m thankful for Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who has a .932 save percentage and is the best net minder in the NHL.

I’m thankful for guys like Ken Christman, who can win a dozen short-field Warrior races at Thunder Road and tell you that he thinks his accomplishments don’t mean a thing compared to Pappy Forsythe winning ten Coupe races in 1961 against Ronnie Marvin, the Ingerson brothers, Norm Chaloux, and Tony Colicchio. That’s a classy perspective from a young racer that you don’t see every day. (And for what it’s worth, a dozen wins, no matter the circumstances, are impressive.)

I’m thankful I was dragged to races all over the place by my old man when I was a kid, and I’m thankful I got the chance to repay the favor to him.

I’m thankful for VMM having the opportunity to have brought you exclusive news, interviews, and highlights throughout the 2010 racing season, from eight-lap dirt track heats to Sprint Cup press conferences.

I’m thankful for Leif Tillotson, Alan Ward, Steve Poulin, Eric LaFleche, M.P. Roy, Alex Whitcomb, Troy Germain, Jamie Williams, Buzz Fisher, and surely a few others that contributed photography and/or story content to VMM during the year. The photos, in my opinion, hold everything together and are invaluable to this website.

I’m thankful for Twitter and smart phones, and even more thankful for that one little bar of cell service in the infield at, well, pretty much every track in the northeast.

I’m thankful for the cooperation and support of the dozens of promoters and staffers at the tracks VMM visited this year, especially at Bear Ridge Speedway, Devil’s Bowl Speedway, and Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl here in our home state.

I’m thankful that it only took three street cars for me to get through the season. Each one played a significant role in the year: The 1992 Subaru made it to Waterford and back in a snowstorm in March for the first race of the year, and also went to Loudon once on a tire with steel belts showing, but the frame was basically all rust. It later finished second in the Enduro at Thunder Road with Terry Pearce at the wheel. The 1998 Neon went to the most races and served as a tent on several occasions before the timing belt snapped on the way home from somewhere. The current ride is a 1998 Saab with 226,000 miles. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m thankful to the advertisers that supported Vermont Motorsports Magazine, if for no other reason than because they believed in the integrity of the product. To RPM Racing Engines, GossCars.com, Bruno’s Towing, Fast One Motorsports, Mansfield Heliflight, Subway, BFR Chassis, C&S Screenprinting, Bear Ridge Speedway, and Riverside Speedway, thank you all.

I’m thankful that VMM was recognized by the Champlain Valley Racing Association and awarded the Howard T. Cameron Media Award for 2010. It is certainly the high-water mark for this little project in its two-year existence.

I’m thankful for Anthony Sweet Designs for taking ideas that I drew on napkins and scrap paper and transforming them into a clean, functional, great-looking website -- before the deadline -- and I recommend you give Anthony a call if you ever need anything done online.

I’m thankful for a girlfriend that didn’t leave me even though she spent our first summer together as a “racer’s widow.” I’m also thankful for the predictably unpredictable Bob Watson, who ushered said girlfriend into victory lane as the trophy queen at Lee USA Speedway in June, less than 20 minutes after she walked through the pit gate at her first-ever race.

I’m thankful for Travis Hull, who for some reason decided it would be a good idea for me to drive his car around Bear Ridge for a few laps one night. I didn’t too much damage. Just a bumper cover.

I’m thankful for every driver or crew member or official that I put on the spot that gave me -- gave you, really -- an honest answer.

I’m thankful for every team that offered food, drink, a hauler rooftop to stand on, or shelter inside their trailer during a rain storm this past summer.

Most of all, I’m thankful for everyone that has stuck by Vermont Motorsports Magazine. It’s hard to believe sometimes that a hobby blog has grown into a full-blown website and become a full-time job in less than two years’ time. But much more than that, it’s a full-time passion. I love the racing, yes, but I love the people and telling their stories even more.

There’s a sappy song for a few years ago that says “stories don’t mean anything if you’ve got no one tell them to.” Thanks to you all, we’ve had almost a quarter-million visits and hundreds of emails, Tweets, and Facebook comments. It’s nice knowing our stories aren’t going unheard.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

***

Who says there’s nothing to talk about in the off-season? There may not be any racing on the track, but there’s certainly plenty going on.

The three major New England-based sanctioning bodies released their 2011 touring schedules within the last week, each with some interesting highlights:

--The American-Canadian Tour will sanction 21 championship touring events for its Late Model division next year, with nine stand-alone events each for the ACT Late Model Tour and the ACT Castrol Edge Series, plus three events that will combine both series for championship points. All told, each schedule has 12 point-counting races including a trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in August. The annual Fall Foliage event at Airborne Speedway will serve as the championship finale for both the Tour and the Castrol Series.

--ACT will also host or lend support to some major non-championship events, including, of course, the first-ever southern swing during Florida Speedweeks in February. One the specials card are back-to-back 100-lappers at New Smyrna Speedway’s 45th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, the TD Bank Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, the fourth annual Showdown at Chaudiere all-star event, the third annual ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and the People’s United Bank Milk Bowl at Thunder Road.

--The ACT Late Model Tour has lost both of its dates at Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut, one of its dates at Airborne Speedway in New York, and has cut the Airborne Fall Foliage event back from 300 laps to 200. The ACT Castrol Edge Series will not return to its northernmost track, Autodrome St-Felicien, some 300 miles north of Montreal. On the other hand, ACT has gained another track in Vermont at Devil’s Bowl Speedway and the Spring Green is back in its home state for the first time in almost a quarter-century.

--ACT president Tom Curley says the loss of Waterford isn’t necessarily a surprise to him. ACT drew 38 teams to Waterford in June 2008, but has since been far off the 40-plus average that ACT is accustomed to; the October 2010 event saw just 25 teams compete, seven of which were regular Waterford competitors.

“Waterford has been a three-year project and we kind of faced the same old problem; it has always been very difficult [for Late Model-type cars] in southern New England to compete with the Modified success,” Curley said. “We have tried many times and not been very successful. It is too far out of our market to expect a lot of help from our fan base, and now after three years there really has not been a lot of Late Model growth to help support those events.”

Curley thinks ACT might have been a victim of its own success, at least in terms of how the Waterford car counts were perceived.

“I give [Waterford promoter] Terry Eames and [race director] Tom Fox a lot of credit for taking a shot at the October finale, but quite frankly it really did not work out for them financially, or for our competitors cost-wise or philosophically,” said Curley. “The [October] car count was probably a direct result of ‘burn out’ after a long season [and that’s] disappointing, but I don’t think one late-event car count of is a great reason to raise the white flag and surrender. Truthfully, we sometimes hurt ourselves with the large touring car counts we have had in the past several seasons. Ideally, I would like to see around 36 cars per event, [which is] sometimes more manageable and less disappointing for a large number of teams [who don’t qualify].”

--The Modified Racing Series has released a “tentative” 18-race schedule -- and we’re hearing that there will almost certainly be at least one change before the season starts -- with the usual stops at Waterford, Monadnock, Thompson, Lee, Seekonk, et al. The annual “Ricky’s Race For Kids” at Canaan has seen a major boost in purse and series president Jack Bateman is calling it his tour’s “marquee” event.

--Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut has booked Bateman’s tour -- now officially known for the next three years as the Valenti Modified Racing Series under title sponsorship from Bob Valenti Auto Mall -- twice in 2011. After a successful 100-lap debut in September, the VMRS will run a pair of 80-lappers next summer. In the NASCAR hotbed that is Connecticut, having a rival Modified tour come into your house twice is kind of a big deal. Conversely, Thunder Road and Albany-Saratoga Speedway are off the schedule next year.

--The Pro All Stars Series is back at (drum roll, please) Oxford Plains Speedway twice in 2011. And that includes the night before the TD Bank 250 in July.

As crazy and volatile as having PASS and ACT-type Late Models together on the same weekend card sounds -- especially at the freaking Oxford 250, right? -- Late Model and Pro Stock/Super Late Model fans need not get their dander up thinking that the ‘250’ is changing formats again. Oxford promoter Bill Ryan says that the race and the OPS headlines belong to the Late Models.

“The Late Models have nothing to worry about,” Ryan told VMM. “I remain convinced that the Late Models are the right car for our top [weekly] division and for the TD Bank 250. Nothing has changed in my thinking since we made the change for 2007. I have no intention of bringing back the Pro Stocks as a regular division at Oxford.”

Ryan is simply capitalizing on an opportunity to make the Oxford 250 weekend even bigger, with the Modified Racing Series event, a 150-lap PASS North Super Late Model race, and PASS Modifieds on Saturday, and, of course, the ‘250’ on Sunday. PASS will also return in October to crown its 2011 North champion.

“I had a chance to bring in a couple of events that I think our fans may enjoy,” Ryan said. “It should not be seen as some kind of statement as to the merits of the Late Models. They will remain our top division on a weekly basis and will run the 250.”

--PASS also returns to the recently-reborn Star Speedway in Epping, N.H., and makes its maiden voyage to Autodrome Chaudiere in Quebec. Add in Beech Ridge, Speedway 660 in New Brunswick, Thompson, Lee USA, Canaan, Riverside, Seekonk, and White Mountain, and you’ve got yourself a sweet little schedule. PASS president Tom Mayberry said, “It’s the best schedule we’ve been able to assemble in the series’ eleven year history; I think 2011will prove to be a banner year for PASS North.” He’s probably right.

--Speaking of Autodrome Chaudiere, the high-banked 1/3-mile Quebec track has quickly become a power player in the northeast. Beginning in 2007, the track has secured a solid place on the ACT schedule including the annual 200-lap all-star “Showdown at Chaudiere”. Now the track has announced plans for not only a 150-lap PASS event in 2011, but it has also booked the ISMA SuperModifieds for a July date. Chaudiere is not only an extremely racy track, the program runs smoothly, the food is good, the beer is cold, and the fans are outstanding. The big shows routinely draw Thunder Road-sized crowds, and (no disrespect to my T-Road home track) the cheers and boos are louder than you’ll find anywhere else. If you’re up for a weekend road trip anywhere in 2011, try Chaudiere. It’s about four-and-a-half hours from Burlington, is less than an hour from the metropolis of Quebec City (it’s located in Vallee-Jonction), and it’s totally worth it.

Gobble-gobble, y’all.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS:

"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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