PHOTO: The No. 37 of Brian Hoar has had incomparable success since Hoar and Rick Paya paired together in 2009. Hoar and Paya will look for their fourth straight ACT Championship this season. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

WILLISTON, Vt. — Brian Hoar’s three straight American-Canadian Tour championships have been well documented. It is no secret he is one of the greatest American-Canadian Tour drivers ever; he has a record leading eight championships and 33 series point counting victories, almost more than double the driver who is second. He is a three-time Milk Bowl champion and has enjoyed enormous success since teaming up with Rick Paya and his RPM Racing Team.

But that success almost never happened for the Williston, Vermont driver.

After 23 wins, five American-Canadian Tour championships, track championships at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl and Airborne Speedway, and two Milk Bowl victories, Hoar moved his team to the NASCAR Busch North Series in 2001.

“When we left after 2000, we were on top of the world,” Hoar said. “I would all but say we were welcomed to leave. We were a really talented team, still winning a lot of races and doing well. But, I think our chemistry fell apart in the Busch North Series. We were running in a series where money could buy speed. We were running with technologies coming out of the south that we just couldn’t compete with and it was really tough. When I came back [to ACT] in 2007, my attitude was entirely different than it is right now. I was mentally beat up by the sport. I didn’t know if I had it anymore.”

Hoar rebuilt his family team and headed back to the American-Canadian Tour. Hoar hoped to be re-energized by racing something he loved, Late Models, and being able to spend more time with family by not traveling as much.

That did not happen.

“The whole thing blew up in my face, unfortunately,” Hoar said. “We had a chemical breakdown [within the team] and wanted to kill each other halfway through the season. It didn’t go as planned. We had some medical issues with the family, and at the end of the year, I said we’re done. I pulled the plug.”

Hoar stayed on the sidelines for most of 2008, running only the Milk Bowl. He finished tenth.

“I did race one race in 2008, and it was an okay experience,” Hoar said. “But I can tell you that my plan was to run a couple shows in 2009, maybe. And that may still be where I’m at if Rick [Paya] didn’t come along and say ‘I want you to drive my car.’ It was a fresh of breath air.”

Hoar has added ten point counting wins, three championships, and three non-championship wins to his record since 2009, and called 2011 the best year of his career. The reason for their success isn’t the equipment, Hoar says, but the chemistry they have built within the team.

“Everybody that doesn’t win championships and races often points to the car or the equipment that they can’t compete with,” Hoar said. “In this series, it’s not that and has never been that. It doesn’t hurt to have up-to-date equipment. But I can’t buy better shocks than the next guy, I can’t buy better brakes, I can’t buy better engines, I can’t buy better transmissions, or better bodies, or better chassis. But can we assemble them better? Can my guys do their job of prepping the car for the race, and endurance and finishing, and not breaking? Yup. Can we have new parts more consistently so maybe there isn’t a chance of failure? Maybe. But is that what really, on a given day, opening day, gives us an advantage over the next team? No. It’s always about the team and the chemistry. And that is the hardest thing to keep. We have to keep the team together, the chemistry alive, keep clicking as a team, and have no cancerous attitudes so everybody stays positive throughout the year. The true test of a team is not when you’re winning.

“The biggest thing we have to do is to make sure all of us, including myself, don’t get cocky and don’t get overconfident. That will bite you so fast. We remind each other. If we think for a minute that we’re better than these guys, we’re going to be running tenth. That kind of stuff happens, and it’s an evolution that happens. It’s not on purpose. I’ve been there and done it.”

While there isn’t much Hoar hasn’t accomplished in the American-Canadian Tour, he is having fun as he chases his ninth championship.

“We’re just going to work hard to have fun like we did last year,” Hoar said. “That’s why we do it. There are no guarantees in this sport. There never has been and never will be. Our greatest years may be all behind us. But we’re geared up. We have great equipment and a great team. We’re going to give it hell again and have fun. Obviously we’re competitive and try to win races and run for the championship. But we just try to keep everything in prospective. The odds aren’t good that we’re going to continue with the kind of success we’ve had. But, who knows.”

Hoar will begin his quest for his ninth American-Canadian Tour title at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H., in the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150.