PHOTO: Patrick Laperle (#91) and Joey Polewarczyk (#97) had an entertaining battle at New Smyrna Speedway on Sunday night. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — Two of the American-Canadian Tour’s brightest stars lived up to their billing on Sunday night at New Smyrna Speedway.

Before a crowd of unfamiliar fans at an unfamiliar track in an unfamiliar southern setting, Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., and Patrick Laperle put on a memorable display in the first round of the ACT Goodyear Speedweeks Cup, trading lanes and trading the lead in a thrilling 100-lap event.

Hudson, N.H., racer Polewarczyk, a five-time ACT winner in 2010, led from his front-row starting position at the outset, but found himself in a battle with former ACT champion Laperle, who came from ninth place to run second behind Polewarczyk at the race’s first caution period on lap 36.

Laperle used the faster outside lane to jump ahead of Polewarczyk on the restart, and the pair traded the lead three more times in the same fashion until Polewarczyk took over for good on lap 60. Laperle dogged Polewarczyk’s rear bumper through the balance of the race and even drew nearly even alongside Polewarczyk’s car in the closing laps, but was unable to retake the lead.

Polewarczyk’s victory was his fourth-straight in ACT-sanctioned competition, dating back to September’s ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; he also won the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl and the ACT Late Model Tour 2010 championship finale at Waterford Speedbowl.

“It was a lot of fun,” Polewarczyk said. “We got the jump on the start and we got a good lead, [but] I saw Patrick and he just kept coming and coming. We were just about the same; I don’t think he was better than me and I don’t think I was better than him. It was just whoever got that outside lane.”

Polewarczyk said that he learned all he needed to know when Laperle restarted on the outside and took the lead on lap 36: The high groove was better.

“I was trying to run the bottom but [Laperle] passed me on the outside lane after that restart, so I knew what to do then,” Polewarczyk said. “I was just hoping there would be one more yellow and that’s what happened. I was just crossing my fingers. I was using her up.”

Laperle, of St-Denis, Que., settled for the runner-up position with sophomore driver Alex Labbe a career-best third. Labbe, of St-Albert, Que., was forced to use a back-up engine after his primary engine broke during afternoon practice.

Wayne Helliwell, Jr., of Dover, N.H., was fourth with polesitter Mark Lamberton of Mooers Forks, N.Y., fifth. Williston’s Brian Hoar finished in sixth place, with Eddie MacDonald, Karl Allard, Jonathan Urlin, and Donald Theetge completing the unofficial top ten.

The top twenty finishers from Sunday’s race will be inverted to start the second and final 100-lap feature on Monday night. The winner of the ACT Goodyear Speedweeks Cup will be determined by a special points system that gives the winner of each 100-lap race one point, the runner-up two points, etc.; the driver with the lowest combined point total will be the overall winner.

Worcester’s Blair Bessett is scheduled to start on the pole position on Monday with Aaron Fellows of Croydon, N.H., second. Laperle will start 19th with Polewarczyk 20th.

Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier suffered a hard crash on the frontstretch at lap 41. Laquerre was uninjured, but his car is demolished and he is not expected to compete on Monday.