-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

The American-Canadian Tour is up and running at New Smyrna Speedway for the first of two rounds of the ACT Goodyear Speedweeks Cup, held during the 45th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Although we’ve only seen practice sessions, we haven’t been without drama. The biggest story so far is that of Alex Labbe. The sophomore racer from St-Albert, Que., was a house afire in the opening hour-and-a-half session on Sunday afternoon; in the three segments of the first session, Labbe never ranked lower than second.

During the second and final rounds, though, Labbe’s car sat on jack stands in the infield as his team changed out a broken engine for a new Butler & MacMaster ACT spec power plant. The car has a new engine installed, but Labbe never got back onto the track.

Labbe, the 2010 ACT Castrol Edge Series Rookie of the Year, is driving a new car built by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran Mario Gosselin, a Quebec native now living in Florida.


Quick Notes:

–Almost every team experienced the same rear end gear trouble in the early practice session. With most of the 28 ACT teams at New Smyrna hitting their engine’s rev limiters halfway down the straightaways, they were forced to change gears after their first few laps. Many also found that their front suspensions were too soft entering corners and the chassis were bottoming out and scraping the race track.

–Patrick Laperle, was fastest in three of the five timed segments of practice. Laperle has two cars on site, each a Junior Hanley-built chassis. One carries a Chevrolet body and one has a Ford body, although both are Chevy-powered. He’ll be driving the “Chevy” in tonight’s 100-lapper.

–Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., turned the fastest lap of the day in the final practice session at 19.124 seconds and 94.125 mph.

–Just because Brian Hoar and Austin Theriault are racing for the same team doesn’t mean they’re on the same page. While Hoar has been among the leaders all day, Theriault has struggled. Theriault says that he’s having fun, and that he expected growing pains. “It’s more like two different teams here,” he said. “Brian has a crew and I have a crew. He and I will talk after tonight and I’ll ask his advice, but we’re doing our own thing.”

–Two-time TD Bank Oxford 250 winner Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., is struggling with his new Dale Shaw Race Cars chassis. MacDonald has changed springs and shocks in his car twice, but ranked no higher than 16th in any practice session.

–Ray Parent of Tiverton, R.I., has signed Amtrol water heaters and will attempt a full season schedule with the ACT Late Model Tour in 2011. Parent is a regular at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts and has ACT starts at Seekonk and Lee USA Speedway.

–Pete Yetman of Peru, Mass., is at New Smyrna running his first-ever ACT Late Model event. Yetman is a former Late Model competitor at Thompson Int’l Speedway in Connecticut and was 11th in the final practice session of the day.

–Blair Bessett of Worcester, Vt., is returning to ACT Late Models for the first time since 2001 at New Smyrna. Bessett is driving the car campaigned last year by Dave Paya and has Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl legend Clem “Desperate” Despault turning wrenches this weekend.

–Mark Lamberton of Mooers Forks, N.Y., has been solidly in the top ten in each practice session. He said his Richard Green Trucking team made only minor adjustments throughout the day.

–Eric Chase of Milton, Vt., was pretty unhappy with his car today, but he was proud to have been tagged by VMM as the driver with the “best hair in ACT” earlier this week. He also was one of several to sample the kielbasa sausage that Joe Polewarczyk, Sr., cooked in a Tupperware container on the radiator of his son’s car during the early afternoon.

We had some, too. It was freaking delicious.

Heat racing starts at 7:30pm. Vermont Motorsports Magazine will have live updates on Twitter, and Speed51.com will broadcast the trackside call from Ken Squier beginning around 8:30pm.

PHOTO: Alex Labbe was among the fastest in practice at New Smyrna Speedway before his engine blew. Here, his crew pushes the car to an engine hoist in the infield. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)