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The Juice

THE JUICE: A Dragon On The Loose

- Justin St. Louis on 18 Dec 2010

Consider Brent Dragon a free agent on the ACT Late Model Tour for 2011. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)PHOTO: Consider Brent Dragon a free agent on the ACT Late Model Tour for 2011. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

Imagine the American-Canadian Tour at your hometown track -- Twin State, Oxford, White Mountain, wherever. The best Late Model racers in the northeast have come to slug it out.

Brian Hoar is there, Joey Polewarczyk and Jean-Paul Cyr, too. Patrick Laperle has come down from Canada, and he’s taking on John Donahue, Randy Potter, Scott Payea, Joey Laquerre, Glen Luce, and everyone else. Tom Curley is in the tower calling the shots, and heat races are ready to roll out onto the track.

Everything is taking place as usual, except for one missing piece: Brent Dragon.

The second-generation Milton racer -- who owns all-time records for the most starts, the most top ten finishes, and the most laps completed on the ACT Late Model Tour, not to mention one of the most famous surnames in American short track racing history -- may very well be on the sidelines for most of 2011.

Unless he lands a ride with another team owner, Dragon says that his days of full-time ACT racing are likely over. Crew members volunteering for Dragon and his wife and spotter, June, have begun spending more time at home with their young children and are unable to commit to a schedule that includes as many as 20 race weekends each summer. Dragon usually works alone in the garage during the week with only occasional help, and says the strains of working long into the night by himself are becoming too much.

“It’s pretty hard for me and June to do it by ourselves,” says Brent Dragon. “It’s hard to find good people that can spend all that time away either at the track or at the shop. During the season I’m up at 4:30 in the morning to go to work and then I’m in the shop from 6:00 in the evening until midnight under the car. It’s a lot.”

Dragon is as much the face of ACT as champion Hoar or anyone else. He is very often a representative for the series at trade shows and press conferences, and has been a spokesman for the series in conjunction with New Hampshire Motor Speedway displays.

He has nine career wins and although he’s never won the series’ championship, he has finished inside the top five in ACT standings each year since 2002, even though he says his car isn’t prepared as well as others. As more ACT teams have hired paid crew members to work on their race cars, Dragon feels he’s fallen slightly behind the curve.

Dragon cited team owner Rick Paya, whose RPM Motorsports team has won the last two ACT titles with Hoar and recently signed young Austin Theriault to drive a second car in 2011, as the barometer; Paya employs a staff of full-time and part-time crewmen to work on his cars. Before him, Todd Stone brought a powerhouse team to ACT and was a force.

“I’m at that point where I’ve decided I don’t have to have a championship before I retire, but the way to get one is not the way we’ve been doing it,” Dragon said. “Our best races come after we’ve had a week off and I can put the time in to prepare the car the right way. I don’t mean to take anything away from Ricky, but it’s changed the way ACT teams have to operate in order to win races and championships. Racing is a business for them, and there’s nothing wrong with the way they do it, but we just can’t keep up anymore with a couple of volunteers on race weekends or maybe one night in the shop.”

Just weeks after selling his car and ordering a new 2011 chassis in October from Jeff Taylor’s Distance Racing, Dragon found out that virtually none of the helping hands he had in 2010 would be able to return next year. The predicament has given him two options: 1.) Run a limited schedule, or; 2.) Find a ride.

For the first option, which Dragon said isn’t his favorite choice, he has a tentative plan: “If I ran six or seven races next year, I could probably get most of my crew guys back for those races,” he says. “I could go testing a few more times to really get the car dialed in, and I can do that alone. And if there’s no schedule to chase and I want to go to Oxford on a Saturday night to try a new setup for the [TD Bank 250], there’s no pressure. I’d go to Lee USA for the opener, then Thunder Road, and then I really don’t know where or when.”

The second option, though, is the one he hopes will come through. “I’d love to find a ride and run a full season,” Dragon said, noting that he would bring sponsorship dollars from Beverage Mart, R.R. Charlebois, and Furniture World of Vermont to any new team. “My sponsors want me to race, and of course I want to, too.”

While ACT’s present-day Late Model Tour was founded on the principle of a Saturday-night racer taking his homebuilt car and running big events, the series has seen a recent rise in “owned” teams like Paya’s popping up.

Dragon said he would consider following his cousin, Scott, to the Pro All Stars Series if the opportunity presented itself, but would prefer to stay with ACT. “The ACT schedule is super for next year and it looks like a lot of fun with all the extra events like the Milk Bowl, the 250, and two trips to Loudon, but it’s still 20 races that I can’t do alone,” Dragon said. “I’ve never been in this situation before and I hope something comes along.”

Go back to that imaginary race and try to picture an ACT pit area without Brent Dragon.

Not easy, is it?


Here’s a quick smattering of random topics from the last few weeks:

--Lee USA Speedway has dropped its ACT-legal Late Model division for 2011. While this might seem like a big blow to the Late Model program, Lee drew around only eight cars per week, and less than half of them were capable of winning races. Lee regular Miles Chipman won the annual ACT Late Model Tour event at the track in 2010 and will have a chance to do so again as ACT returns to the track in April. Track champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., will split his time in 2011 between ACT, the Small Block Super Modified division at Lee, and the Modified division at Monadnock Speedway.

--The Duke Stocks are out at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. Like the Lee Late Models, car counts were very low and none of the cars were competitive equals, so it’s not necessarily a big loss. Prior to the news that the division would be cancelled, we learned that six-time winner Garrett Given would be leaving. Given, of Cornwall, has purchased three cars to race in the new Crate Sportsman division next season. Given will drive one car weekly at Devil’s Bowl, former Mini Stock champion Kayla Bryant will drive one car weekly at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, and one car will be kept as a back-up ride.

--Canaan Dirt Speedway has announced four events for Sportsman Modified non-winners in 2011. Drivers will race in the events by invite only and may not have won a race in 2010 or 2011 prior to the date of the next non-winners’ race, and their cars must meet Canaan rules. The races will be May 13, June 3, August 19, and September 2.

--Airborne Speedway has a couple of philanthropist Modified racers, apparently. Quebec Modified drivers Richard Tisseur and Michel Viens have each put up money for winner-take-all events for the Modified, Sportsman, and Renegade events at the track next season. Track promoter Mike Perrotte says he expects Modified car counts to climb in 2011, and the class already averaged 26 cars per week last summer.

--Former ACT champion Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, Que., has filed an entry for “The Race” at North Wilkesboro Speedway next April, as has New Hampshire’s D.J. Shaw. “The Race” is a $75,000-to-win PASS event at the recently reopened, former NASCAR Winston Cup Series staple, and has drawn entries from across the U.S. and Canada including Cup drivers Sterling Marlin and David Stremme.

--Thank goodness that ACT has bumped up the Bond/WIX Tiger Tour schedule to five races. Events at Airborne Speedway and White Mountain Motorsports Park were recently added after events at Thunder Road, Riverside Speedway, and Canaan Fair Speedway were announced. Now, let’s hope that the Airborne Sportsman cars will somehow be allowed to compete with a few rule changes, and let’s hope that White Mountain has a few more “home” cars to compete against the Thunder Road regulars.

--Apologies for the lack of frequent updates on VMM these last few weeks. Yes, there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of news to report, but when the computer you use is crippled by a virus, you can’t talk about it anyway. Hopefully the bugs are all worked out and things will return to, uh, “normal” around here. Even if we’re not up and running here on the website, we’re always doing something on Twitter. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone!


"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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