PHOTO: Martin Roy’s “Martin Shuffle” victory dance has become a common sight for Airborne fans. They dance, however, may not be seen in 2012 as Roy will not return to defend his track championship. (Ricky St. Clair/VMM photo)

–by Ricky St. Clair

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Martin Roy will not defend his title at Airborne Speedway in 2012. It was confirmed in a recent press release that the two-time DIRTcar Modified track champion and Napierville, Que., native has announced plans to compete in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series this summer.

Roy was the first Canadian driver to win a track championship in Airborne Speedway’s headline division in 2009 since Denis Giroux in 1971. The driver of the Gamache Truck Center No. 90 participated in a limited number of Canadian Tire Series events last year, although he failed to crack the top ten in any of his four starts.

Overseeing Roy’s operation for his new racing venture is car owner Jean-Claude Fortin. Fortin has been the backbone for Roy’s two track titles at Airborne, and numerous wins on the dirt surface at tracks throughout the Northeast.

“Martin is getting to a stage in his career where he wants to go to the Canadian Tire Series,” Fortin said last September. “He’s getting to an age and a level of competition where he’s got to do something, and it’s time to make that move right now. It’s too bad for all of the fans, but sometimes in life you have to keep moving up, and you cannot wait too late. We’ve found great sponsors, and we’ll get a lot of exposure by being on television.”

Fortin was approached by a team competing in NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA events for information on another Quebecois driver in 2011.

“They called me up looking for the driver’s number,” Fortin said. “I told the gentleman, ‘I’ve got a good driver for you – we’ll have Martin drive your car.’ He said, ‘Your driver is too old.’ So, the time for him to move up is now. We’re not saying we won’t be back at Airborne (this year), but the priority is the Canadian Tire Series.”

Roy is a 20-year veteran of stock car and Modified racing in Quebec. He’s collected four Autodrome Granby track championships to go with his two Airborne titles, and began competing at the Plattsburgh half-mile in 2007. He spent several seasons racing full-body stock cars with the American-Canadian Tour in 1990s.

According to one source, the Fortin team has begun their transition to a new level of auto racing by recently selling at least one of their DIRTcar Modifieds to a fellow Quebecois.

Roy will make his 2012 debut on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series on May 20 at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont.