PHOTO: Tom Carey, Jr., and team were on top of their game at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Tuesday. (VMM photo)
-by Justin St. Louis
Tom Carey, Jr., joined the American-Canadian Tour this year on a part-time basis. The New Salem, Mass., driver is a veteran of the NASCAR Busch North Series and had a cup of coffee in the Camping World Truck Series a decade ago.
Carey was one of the top runners in the Busch North (now K&N Pro Series East) division, especially at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He’ll be the first to tell you that he hasn’t been up to snuff this season with ACT, but he was in the zone on the New Hampshire mile during Tuesday’s test session.
“I haven’t been here since ’03, but I just told these guys it’s like home up here,” said Carey, who made 24 total starts at the ‘Magic Mile’ in his NASCAR days. Carey can count a Busch North victory in 1999 and three poles among his NHMS highlights.
After more than five years out of the seat of a race car, Carey reenlisted with the Summit Ice No. 07 ACT team.
“This is our first year with this ACT series and I’ve got my hands full. It’s like a whole different style of driving for me,” Carey said. “I liked to drive [the Truck and Busch North car] hard and use a lot of brake, but these cars are the total opposite. It’s just an acclimation thing because I’m used to big horsepower cars and this thing is just totally different, night and day. It’s a lot harder than I thought [it would be] when I got into it, but we’ve only raced four races, too, and I guess I expect a lot. I don’t think I feel like a rookie, but I just feel like I’m not in my element, I guess.”
Before the first practice Carey bounced ideas off his competitors — several of whom he competed against on the Busch North Series, drivers like Brad Leighton, Jamie Aube, Brian Hoar, and Eddie MacDonald — to get a feel for the track.
Said Carey before his first laps Tuesday morning: “I talked to [Leighton] and he said the fast guys are driving it in pretty deep, they’re not using any brake at all. I’m pretty open-minded about my first time out here. I’m going to just work my way into it and get a feel for it, and try to get behind somebody who goes good, too. That’ll speed it up a lot.”
Carey took almost no time to get up to speed; he was 11th fastest in the first practice session and third fastest in the next two.
Carey was all smiles at the lunch break. “I think we’ve got it,” he said. “It feels so good to be back.”
John Donahue was fast at New Hampshire on Tuesday, which wasn’t a huge surprise. He didn’t say much, either.
VMM: “John, are you using the brakes entering the corners?”
Donahue: “You want the truth? No.”
I know I’m not the only one who will miss John Hoyt.
I won’t say that I’m entirely shocked by the split between Austin Theriault and Rick Paya’s RPM Motorsports No. 57VT team on the ACT Late Model Tour. I’m a bit puzzled by the timing of it, seeing as how Theriault grabbed his first top-five finish of the year at Beech Ridge last week, but there were obviously some underlying issues.
People are screaming that they saw this coming after Theriault brought his own car to the TD Bank 250 at Oxford and then finished third (beating the lead RPM car driven by Brian Hoar in the process), but I don’t believe that was as big a factor as people want it to be.
Paya’s statement yesterday: “I wanted to make some personnel changes to the crew … that I felt were needed to take the team to the next level. They weren’t comfortable with that,” says it all. Clearly there was something within the team that wasn’t working internally.
Push came to shove, and shove didn’t give. That’s all there is to it.
Theriault proved at Oxford two weeks ago — and throughout the 2010 season — that his family-based team is solid, so there’s no worrying about him. The RPM gang obviously has top-notch equipment (see: ACT statistics, 2007-present), and I’m hearing that the team plans to finish the year with a new driver at New Hampshire next week, so they’ll be fine, too.
If anything, ACT just gained another full-time team, and that’s all that happened.