PHOTO: Is Scruffy Linardy going to win at New Smyrna? Probably not. But who cares? (Leif Tillotson photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

I’ll be honest with you, here. I had a big, fat, piece of negativity penned and ready to publish last week.

I was ready to raise questions about whether or not the American-Canadian Tour should even bother going to the World Series at New Smyrna Speedway next month. I was ready to take back everything I said two months ago about how it wasn’t a huge gamble. I was ready to call Tom Curley a buffoon and make outrageous claims about his 35-year career being a waste of everyone’s time and money. I was ready to throw in the towel.

I had good reason. There were only 14 teams signed up for what had been advertised as a 24-26 car field at New Smyrna, and half of them had never visited an ACT victory lane. In terms of a drawing card — or even a full field — the show was looking like a flop, and the entry deadline was looming large.

Thankfully, I had just as much reason to throw the article out.

ACT officials wanted a couple dozen cars for New Smyrna, and they got 28. They wanted a decent representation of the opportunity that the regional Late Model rulebook has created, and they got drivers from seven states and two Canadian provinces. They wanted big names, and they got the three biggest names they have in Brian Hoar, Patrick Laperle, and Joey Polewarczyk. Now all they need is a solid two-night show and they’ll have hit a home run.

Since Tuesday’s press release announced the 28 entries, people everywhere have been complaining about ACT scraping the bottom of the proverbial talent barrel to get cars at New Smyrna.

Here’s what I say: Knock it off.

There are only two races, and therefore only two drivers will win. Yes, ACT’s “spec” program has done a lot to help level the playing field a bit, but in reality there are only six or eight teams that are truly contenders every week — which is double what most short track series can say — and at the end of the southern trip, there will only be three or four that truly deserved to win either of the races.

Just… like… every… other… ACT… race.

So what if the field will be filled with guys like Peter Yetman, Kyle DeSouza, and my beloved Scruffy Linardy, guys that nobody in Vermont has heard of? Big deal. Go to Massachusetts and I’ll guarantee you not many people have heard of Blair Bessett. Besides, the races are in Florida anyway, where most people haven’t even heard of ACT.

That’s not the point of the show. If ACT can reel off a couple of decent nights that aren’t crash-filled and embarrassing (and those bloodlust types of shows have become a rarity in ACT, thank goodness), then the experiment will be a success.

Will thousands of New England and Canadian race fans make the trek to watch ACT at New Smyrna? Probably not. Oh well. This trip south isn’t about that, either. This trip is very simply about two things: Tom Curley rewarding his racers for their support, and selling the ACT product.

Curley is considered a leader in the short track racing industry because of his innovative ideas and willingness to take short-term losses in order to reap long-term gains. He is often a guest speaker and workshop leader for Racing Promotion Monthly, a newsletter and conference series for short track promoters in North America. In 2004, the organization of about 1,000 members named him its Auto Racing Promoter of the Year (think The Oscars of racing promotion).

Not so coincidentally, RPM’s big annual conference is being held in nearby Daytona at the same time as Curley’s two-night New Smyrna stay. There’s little doubt that he will bring a group of people that operate asphalt tracks around the country with short fields of expensive divisions to sell the cost-saving ACT “spec” concept to them.

Clearly the concept works. If you need proof of that, take a look around the entry list and figure out what half of those drivers were spending to race five years ago.

Curley could have shown his series off fine enough with a field of 16 cars (provided they were the right 16 cars), so 28 is just extra gravy on the poutine.

Guys like Hoar, Polewarczyk, and Laperle are going to be contenders for this New Smyrna thing. So, too, will be Allard, Theetge, MacDonald, Helliwell, Urlin, Theriault, Laquerre, Lamberton, Chase, Bruno, Labbe… If anything, this event will showcase the best competition ACT will have to offer in 2011.

The drivers that some people are complaining about as off-the-pace field fillers will probably live up to that hype, just as they do every year at Thunder Road or Twin State or — gasp! — Loudon. Every race at every track has a lot more drivers that can’t win than drivers that can, so get over it and cheer for the other 12 or 14 “good” cars.

Take the advice I should have given myself last week: Relax. Everything is going to be fine.


I am chomping at the bit to get the news from the Champlain Valley Racing Association on Friday.

I have my theories about what the “historic announcement” is that will “rock the foundation” of northeastern racing, but I won’t speculate here. All we know is things are changing at Devil’s Bowl and Albany-Saratoga speedways, and they begin with this letter to competitors last week.

Stay tuned to our Twitter account on Friday and Saturday for the breaking news and information from meetings in Queensbury, N.Y., and Rutland.

Also, keep track of that same Twitter account for live updates from the ACT/Thunder Road Banquet of Champions on Saturday night.


Get those votes in, people!!!

Voting closes on Friday night for the Vermont Motorsports Magazine 2010 Driver of the Year Awards, and the races simply could not be closer.

It’s been fun to watch the results behind the scenes here over the last ten days or so, and we think you’ll be surprised at the winners of the some of the awards if the trends continue like they have been.

Every driver in every one of the ten categories has received at least 50 votes, which is a huge (and very exciting) jump from last year’s numbers. Some of the Facebook campaigns we’ve seen since voting opened have been pretty entertaining, and they’re clearly getting the message across.

While we won’t hint at any of the winners, we will tell you that as of Wednesday afternoon the top two nominees on six of the ten ballots were currently separated by a razor-close five percentage points or less. In fact, one category has four drivers separated by just 3% for the win, and another has five drivers separated by only 47 votes.

So what are you waiting for? Support your drivers and crown the VMM 2010 Drivers of the Year! CLICK HERE TO VOTE


About a year and a half ago, I wrote a couple of articles about Kevin Lepage and how I thought he should just quit “racing.”

Lepage was in the throes of what looked like a whimpering end to a pioneering stock car racing career. The kid from Shelburne started from humble beginnings in the 1970s and ‘80s and blazed a trail all the way to the seat of one of Jack Roush’s cars.

Along the way he had carried an entire state on his shoulders. He carried you and me on his shoulders. We bought the diecast cars, clipped the newspaper articles from Homestead and Bristol and Atlanta. When he won races and poles, I cheered, and so did you. When he didn’t, we all felt let down.

But when he became irrelevant, we were all just disappointed.

So I wrote my articles, and unfortunately a lot of people agreed with me. One friend of mine wrote back and told me I was being harsh. Yes, the racer we had all looked up to was now a “start-and-parker” but he was doing what he needed to do to survive, in the mean time waiting for a decent ride to open up so he could get back to being competitive.

I didn’t buy it. I thought it was an easy way out. I thought Kevin Lepage should come back where he belongs and start winning races again like he deserves to, or that he should get out entirely and save his dignity.

Well, a year and a half later, I’m glad to say that it looks like that ride might have opened up. Eric McClure has taken his sponsorship and left the seat of Ed Rensi’s No. 24 cars on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and Lepage has found himself a new home.

Rensi’s best days came with Bobby Hamilton, Jr., behind the wheel nearly a decade ago, but the team still fields solid, competitive equipment. Lepage showed last year that he hasn’t lost any of his skills by driving a third-rate car to some incredible qualifying runs, only to have to park it after the first (and only) set of tires wore out.

This deal is much better, and, given his age, likely Lepage’s last shot to finish his career strong. The Rensi team is currently seeking sponsorship, but still plans to campaign Lepage in full races on a full schedule in 2011.

Again, I should have told myself this a couple years ago: Relax. Everything will be fine. Patience is a virtue.

Congratulations to Kevin Lepage, and good luck.