PHOTO: Brian Hoar celebrates his American-Canadian Tour Merchants Bank 150 victory after holding off Wayne Helliwell, Jr., over the final 20 laps. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

BARRE, Vt. — Wayne Helliwell, Jr., appeared to be headed to his first American-Canadian Tour victory with 25 laps to go in the Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl. The Dover, N.H., racer used a lap 109 restart to take control of the lead from Nick Sweet and held off Patrick Laperle on a restart.

But a lap 128 caution flag changed that appearance for Helliwell, and reopened the door for the eight-time American-Canadian Tour champion Brian Hoar.

The two drivers who finished at top of the points in 2011 and finished one-two two weeks ago at Lee USA Speedway would restart side-by-side. Hoar powered his way to the lead on the restart and would hang on to win the Merchants Bank 150 despite being pressured by Helliwell until the checkered flag.

“I had gotten my tires really good and clean,” Hoar said about the lap 129 restart. “And it was when I really needed it. [The tires] were able to have great grip through turns one and two, and that was the difference. That restart was crucial for me to get him there, otherwise there was no chance.”

Helliwell was one of the drivers who benefitted from a lap 70 caution flag to pit for tires. He was able to get to second with other drivers pitting later, and able to take advantage of the older-tired car of Sweet on the lap 109 restart. And even though Helliwell missed out on his chance for his first career victory, Helliwell was happy with the performance.

“Just to be able to run up front for us is unbelievable,” Helliwell said. “I got into [Hoar] a few times. I could roll [the car] in and through the center [of the corner] better than he could get off. But we made huge gains this weekend.”

The final 20 laps were very similar to the season opening race at Lee, with Helliwell all over the rear bumper of Hoar. Hoar’s car appeared to lose rear end grip after taking the lead, making the battle between himself and Helliwell that more stressful.

“[It’s] very stressful,” Hoar said about battling Helliwell over the final 20 laps. “He is super talented and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He is a good, hard, clean racer. We’ve had some awesome battles, last year and now this year. There are a lot of guys who would have spun me out, but that is why Wayne has won championships at Lee. And that’s why he is going to be a total pain all year long. He has the smarts.”

Canadian Laperle, of St-Denis, Quebec held off a hard charging John Donahue for third. Donahue, of Graniteville, Vt., was fouth, while Milton, Vt.’s Jean-Paul Cyr, who led the most laps, finished fifth. Cyr had a pit miscue and pitted one lap later than most other drivers during a caution period with 40 laps to go, and caused him to restart in the 20th position.

Trampas Demers, Luke Hinkley, and Brooks Clark had impressive showings to finish sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively. Austin Theriault battled reported tramission issues and an early race spin to finish ninth. The defending champion of the Merchants Bank 150, Sweet, completed the unofficial top ten.

Hoar’s win was his 35th career American-Canadian Tour victory.

The American-Canadian Tour continues in Vermont next weekend at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway opening Spring Green 112. Post time is 1:30.

Vermont Motorsports Magazine will have more from the Merchants Bank 150 this week.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Merchants Bank 150
American-Canadian Tour — Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Sunday, April 29, 2012


1. (2) Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.
2. (9) Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover, N.H.
3. (19) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que.
4. (5) John Donahue, Graniteville, Vt.
5. (8) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt.
6. (27) Trampas Demers, South Burlington, Vt.
7. (15) Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
8. (8) Brooks Clark, Fayston, Vt.
9. (23) Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Maine
10. (3) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
11. (10) Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.
12. (13) Brett Wheeler, Waterbury, Vt.
13. (7) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H.
14. (1) Dave Pembroke, Middlesex, Vt.
15. (18) Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Maine
16. (29) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt.
17. (25) Rowland Robinson, Jr., Birch Harbor, Maine
18. (6) Mark Lamberton, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
19. (20) Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburg, Vt.
20. (14) Glen Luce, Turner, Maine
21. (24) Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt.
22. (17) Travis Fadden, North Haverhill, N.H.
23. (11) Cris Michaud, Northfield, Vt.
24. (30) Eric Chase, Milton, Vt.
25. (22) Phil Scott, Berlin, Vt.
26. (26) Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
27. (28) Cody Blake, Barre, Vt.
28. (16) Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H.
29. (12) Ben Ashline, Pittston, Maine
30. (21) Ben Rowe, Turner, Maine