PHOTO: The green flag will wave on the start of the ACT Late Model season this weekend at Lee USA Speedway for the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150. (Alan Ward photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson
VMM Editor

The date has been circled on Late Model racing fans’ calendars since December. It is like an unofficial holiday. The American-Canadian Tour kicks off their 2012 season this weekend at Lee USA Speedway for the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150.

–Nine ACT Late Model races have been held at Lee since 2003 and no driver has been able to repeat in one of the toughest tracks that the American-Canadian Tour goes to. Could Brian Hoar, Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., or Jean Paul Cyr become the first repeat winner?

–Last season, everyone pointed toward Polewarczyk to beat Hoar. Everyone looked at Polewarczyk, and forgot about Hoar. And Hoar showed everyone what happens when you forget about him: he only went out and had, what he called, the greatest season of his career. Not too many people seem to be forgetting about Hoar this season after the end of the season Hoar had.

–Tires, tires, and tires. Tires will be a major part of the equation that determines the winner of the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup. Lee USA is notorious for being extremely hard on tires, more than most tracks the American-Canadian Tour visits. While tire management was the name of the game in previous years, tire strategy will now take center stage. Will someone pit early, protect their tires, and be out in front when everyone else decides to pit. Or will someone stay out until a late race caution, come down pit to put their new tires on, and come flying back through the field looking like superman? It should be wild.

–A $3,000 payday, less contingency bonuses, awaits the winner of the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup. A total purse of $29,025 has been posted for a 26-car starting field.

–A full day of practice is scheduled for Saturday. With an abbreviated practice schedule on Sunday, due to the town of Lee’s noise ordinance, many teams are expected to take part in practice on Saturday. Practice is scheduled for noon on Sunday for the ACT Late Models, with a post time of 1:15pm. The PASS Sportsman cars will be the first heat.

–The New Hampshire Governor’s Cup will be race number 224 in the history of the ACT Late Models. Only two drivers have scored their first career ACT Late Model victories at Lee USA Speedway: D.J. Kennington in 2004 and Miles Chipman in 2010.

–So, will there be a third first-time ACT winner at Lee? Wayne Helliwell, Jr., would seem to be the favorite to score his first career ACT win. Helliwell is a three-time Lee USA Speedway track champion and a two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series New Hampshire State champion representing Lee. Helliwell finished sixth in 2010 after leading 89 laps. He finished fourth last year.

–The last driver to win from the pole was Ben Rowe in 2006. Since, the polesitter hasn’t finished better than sixth, and has finished out of the top ten twice. Hoar started 18th en-route to his win last year.

–Only three times has the driver who led the most laps gone on to win at Lee: D.J. Kennington in 2004, Rowe in 2006, and Polewarczyk in 2008.

–Five times has the season’s opening race winner gone on to win the championship: Cyr in 1996, 2004, and 2006, and Hoar in 1997 and 2011.