PHOTO: Eric Chase (#40) scored a career best American-Canadian Tour finish during the White Mountain 150 with a third place finish. Here, Chase races inside eventual second place finisher Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. (#97). (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. — Eric Chase has been racing with the American-Canadian Tour for over a decade with mild results. The Milton, Vt., native had never scored a podium finish in his years of racing with the tour.

That all changed Saturday night at White Mountain Motorsports Park.

“It’s been a long way to get here,” Chase said after his third-place finish. “This is not an easy league, at all. A lot of these guys have raced their whole lives. I started racing late in life and I’ve had a lot of catching up. A lot of these guys come up through street stocks and all that. So a guy like me who starts racing in a Late Model, it’s a difficult thing.”

Over the offseason, Chase overhauled his Mad Dog Motorsports racing program. He hired fellow racer Nick Sweet, who drove Chase’s car to a runner-up finish at the ACT Invitational last season, to work on Chase’s cars full time and moved the entire operation to Barre, Vt. The first four events of the season saw Sweet also competing. Sweet, however, sat out at White Mountain.

“To get to this point is hard,” Chase explained. “But we’ve had good cars in the past and we just hit on the right combination tonight. Nick (Sweet) was 100-percent behind us tonight; that’s why he didn’t bring his car. We wanted to put one foot forward. We knew we’ve run well here in the past.”

Many drivers would have given up through years of marginal success. But Chase, like 34-year racing veteran Blair Bessett who scored his first career win, ever, at Thunder Road earlier this year, races for other reasons, as well.

“Everybody does it for different reasons. I do it because I like the people and the camaraderie of it,” Chase said. “Everybody, when they come, they want to win. The nights I don’t qualify, I have just enjoyment sitting in the stands watching everyone else go. I might be a little different than the average guy. It’s hugely rewarding to get to this point, but I like it either way. The only problem is when you start being successful, I’m going to want more and more.”

After Chase’s third place run, a steady stream of fellow drivers made their way to the tech area to congratulate Chase. Chase’s Thunder Road crew chief, Jean-Paul Cyr, stopped his trailer, hopped out and greeted Chase with a hug.

“It means a lot,” Chase said of the many congratulatory gestures he received from his comrades. “This is a tough, tough league. These are the guys that are winning and normally going by me every week. We run with them and we beat them (tonight). And that’s where we want to be.”