PHOTO: Patrick Laperle wowed the Airborne Speedway crowd to win the American-Canadian Tour Fall Foliage 300 on Sunday. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Patrick Laperle was expected to be a contender for the win at Airborne Speedway on Sunday. He didn’t disappoint.

The St-Denis, Que., driver hailed — at least in the States — as “Le Grand Laperle” recovered from a mid-race spin that left him one lap behind the leaders, earned his lap back during green-flag racing, then completed a breathtaking three-wide pass for the lead with 33 laps remaining to win the Mohawk Casino Fall Foliage 300, the penultimate race on the American-Canadian Tour championship schedule.

Laperle started on the outside of the front row and led 80 of the first 82 laps before pitting for fuel and adjustments on his No. 91 JPN Racing/LaSalle Ford Fusion. He suffered a flat tire on lap 161, spinning his car and leaving him a lap down to leaders Brian Hoar, Brad Leighton, Joey Polewarczyk, and Donald Theetge.

After changing tires and through a series of caution flags and pit stops, Laperle made his way back to the front of the field, passing leader Theetge on lap 194 to get back to the lead circuit. A lap-218 caution allowed Laperle to rejoin the lead group, eventually setting up what would prove to be the winning pass.

Hoar and Eric Williams diced for the lead on laps 255-266 until Theetge spun to bring out the race’s final caution period. Hoar and Williams bounced off each other in turn four after the restart, allowing Laperle to dart under both and grab the lead.

“I saw Brian and Eric get together and I said, ‘That’s my chance, I’m going to take it,’ and I came out of turn four with the lead,” said Laperle, who raced with strained muscles in his back from an injury earlier in the day. “We had a blast. To come back from a lap down with a flat tire, I knew we had a good car all weekend long. When we pitted we did some stuff on the car to make it tighter and the car was good after that. I was lucky that Brian Hoar and Eric Williams came together and opened the door.”

Laperle was able to distance himself from the field a little after the Hoar-Williams mix-up, then sliced through heavy lapped traffic over the final 30 laps. With newer tires than Laperle, Hoar began reel the leader in but ran out of laps.

“You’re thinking, ‘No yellow, please,’” said Laperle. “People were telling me the car lengths and [at one point] we had eight, but at the end it was maybe five. All you’re trying to do is stay focused and not make any mistakes.”

The victory was Laperle’s third-straight in ACT competition, after winning at Autodrome Chaudiere on August 28 and at Thunder Road on September 5. It was his 18th career ACT Late Model Tour win and his second consecutive Fall Foliage 300 score. Laperle says he’s not done yet, either, and will look to sweep the end of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s ACT Invitational this weekend, the ACT Castrol Edge Series championship finale on September 25 at Autodrome St-Eustache, and the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road on October 3. Laperle has four career wins at St-Eustache, has won three of the last five Milk Bowls, and finished fourth at New Hampshire last year.

“The month of September is always good for us. Next week we’re going to Loudon and we know we’ve got a good car over there. We’ve got St-Eustache and the Milk Bowl, so it’s three races that we like,” said Laperle. “It’s just great, it’s a good feeling.”

Unofficially, Hoar, of Williston, clinched the 2010 ACT Late Model Tour championship with his runner-up finish. The title marks a record-tying seventh driver’s championship for Hoar and is the seventh championship for car owner and crew chief Rick Paya.

Hoar was happy to have locked up the championship before the season finale at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl next month, but was disappointed to have lost the race in the scuffle with Williams.

“It was great right until about [lap 267],” Hoar said. “You know how physical [Williams] is. He loves to bang wheels and all that other stuff. It was one of those deals where all the ugliness happened right at the end, and I had expected to just drive away [and win], like I think a lot of people expected.”

Williams, who was upset with Hoar after the race, declined to comment.

“We came to win the race,” said Hoar, who has three wins and has yet to finish worse than eighth in any race in 2010. “The championship was all but a lock anyway, and it was just a formality, it’s clinched now. It’s been a fantastic season, but we came here to win, so to be leading late and not win is tough. As a fan, it must have been a wild race, I’ll bet it was fun to watch. When the pit strategy comes into it, it’s a lot of fun. It was a good time but I’m bummed. I mean, what can I say? I wanted to win it bad. Patrick’s a great racer but I didn’t want to lose another one to him.”

Polewarczyk, of Hudson, N.H., finished third with Leighton and Williams fourth and fifth, respectively. Randy Potter, Scott Payea, Brent Dragon, and Craig Bushey were the final cars on the lead lap. Joey Becker finished tenth, the first driver one lap down.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Fall Foliage 300
American-Canadian Tour — Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Sunday, September 12, 2010

# – denotes rookie

1. (2) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que., 300
2. (4) Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt., 300
3. (12) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H., 300
4. (6) Brad Leighton, Center Harbor, N.H., 300
5. (15) Eric Williams, Hyde Park, Vt., 300
6. (7) Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H., 300
7. (17) Scott Payea, Milton, Vt., 300
8. (10) Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt., 300
9. (14) Craig Bushey, Cambridge, Vt., 300
10. (5) Joey Becker, Jeffersonville, Vt., 299
11. (21) Dave Wilcox, Fairfield, Vt., 299
12. (1) # Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Me., 299
13. (29) David Michaud, Blainville, Que., 298
14. (3) Patrick Cliche, St-Jean-de-Chrysostome, Que., 298
15. (23) Roger Brown, Lancaster, N.H., 297
16. (18) Jeff Zuidema, North Brookfield, Mass., 296
17. (25) Claude Leclerc, Lanoraie, Que., 295
18. (19) Dave Whitcomb, Essex Jct., Vt., 293
19. (26) Yvon Bedard, St-Nicolas, Que., 292
20. (8) # Brad Babb, Windham, Me., 285
21. (11) Donald Theetge, Boischatel, Que., 266
22. (27) Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier, Vt., 253
23. (9) # Martin Latulippe, Vallee-Jct., Que., 250
24. (16) John Donahue, Graniteville, Vt., 227
25. (22) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt., 226
26. (32) Karl Allard, St-Felicien, Que., 199
27. (13) Martin Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que., 192
28. (30) Jonathan Urlin, London, Ont., 148
29. (33) Stephane Descoste, Oka, Que., 127
30. (31) Eric Chase, Milton, Vt., 114
31. (20) Mark Lamberton, Mooers Forks, N.Y., 55
32. (24) # Dave Paya, Milton, Vt., 53
33. (28) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt., 43
34. (34) Mark Hudson, Norton, Mass., 28
35. (35) Pete Fecteau, Morrisville, Vt., 0