SCARBOROUGH, Me. — The American-Canadian Tour will be missing one of its leading drivers as the series rolls into Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday. Citing a lack of funds, perennial championship contender Scott Payea has parked his car.
Payea said that a combination of low sponsorship money and a string of poor finishes led he and team co-owner Chris Companion to the decision.
“There’s just no money,” Payea told Vermont Motorsports Magazine. “We’ve been plugging along and doing what we can, but it doesn’t make sense anymore.”
The Milton, Vt., native owns five career ACT Late Model Tour victories and has been the championship runner-up in each of the last three seasons, but in six races this year has finished 14th or worse three times and has yet to earn a top-five. He currently ranks fifth in standings, 175 points behind leader Brian Hoar.
“If we had some better finishes then maybe we’d have some more purse money to play with, but it just hasn’t happened,” said Payea. “We’ve kind of seen this coming. For a few races now we’ve been looking at the bills and saying, ‘Let’s do one more, let’s do one more,’ but now we just can’t do it. It doesn’t make sense for us to travel all the way out to Beech Ridge for a small purse.”
Payea estimated the cost for his team to race at Beech Ridge, including entry fees, tires, and fuel for the race car and hauler, to be around $1,200. The 150-lap event pays $2,200 to win, with the runner-up earning $1,350 and third place taking $1,050. Thirteenth place — Payea’s average finish in 2010 — pays just $420.
Payea was one of several big-name drivers to skip last weekend’s TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, an open competition, non-ACT event with a total purse of more than $140,000. Payea finished third in the race in 2007, but for the second year in a row couldn’t justify the cost to compete in a race that didn’t pay ACT championship points.
“People are going to have to make some decisions pretty soon,” Payea said. “I don’t really know exactly what’s going on financially with every team, but there might be one or two more good teams that are close to our situation. Randy Potter and Jamie Fisher missed the 250, and Tyler Cahoon and Chip Grenier can’t afford to race the Tour at all anymore. They’re all essentially running the same deal as us. We’ve all got good cars and great teams, but we’re all lacking the funds.”
Payea said that the expansion of the ACT schedule to 14 championship races, plus six “bonus” races has put a major strain on teams. In 2009 under the “Pick 10” points format, teams needed only to compete in 10 of 13 races to have a chance at the championship.
“The fact that we’re up to 14 points races is a big deal, but it’s also the other races that we’re supposed to go to,” said Payea. “You know, the 250, the Milk Bowl, the Showdown up at Chaudiere [in Quebec], the Governor’s Cup [at Thunder Road], Loudon, those are all expensive races to be at and they’re great events, but they don’t count for anything as far the championship. We’re up to 20 races a year and we just can’t do it anymore.”
Payea said he will pick and choose the events he races at for the rest of the year.
“Right now we’re looking at the races closer to home that pay better. It looks like we’ll get to Labor Day and the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road and we want to support the 300 at Airborne, but that’s probably it,” he said. “It’s a heartbreaker. One silver lining is that I’ll be able to spend more time with my wife and my son, but it’s going to be a rough day on Saturday knowing those guys are racing and we’re not there.”
1. Scott Payea’s American-Canadian Tour Late Model will be absent at Beech Ridge this weekend. (Eric LaFleche/VLFPhotos.com photo)