–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – The ACT Late Model Tour landscape looks vastly different from when the series entered Airborne Park Speedway for the annual Spring Green event one year ago.
Bobby Therrien leads the series into the Airborne at the top of the standings after an unanticipated win at the season opening event at Oxford Plains Speedway. The Hinesburg, Vt. driver has used a pair of top-ten place finishes to sustain his lead at the top of the standings, one year removed since his FastOne Motorsports team stepped away from full-time ACT Late Model Tour competition. Therrien heads to arguably one of his best tracks, and one he proclaims is on his list of his most favorites.
After his win at Thunder Road, Nick Sweet jumped from 11th to second in the standings and sits just 12 points back of Therrien. The win for the Barre driver was his first top-ten finish of the season, but earned himself a maximum points day for car owner Eric Chase with a win in the heat race and leading the most laps. Sweet earned the win in the ACT International at the track in July after he received no practice on qualifying day.
Everyone believed that the Scott Payea-Rick Paya tandum would be successful, but the team jumped into immediate success with a win at Lee USA Speedway and a third place finish at Thunder Road. Payea, of Milton, Vt., heads into the track he won the first race on the new configuration in 2009 and with a team that is no stranger to the half-mile d-shaped oval having won the Fall Foliage at the track last season.
Jimmy Hebert sits fourth in the standings after he posted his best finish in over two years on the ACT Late Model Tour. The Williamstown, Vt., driver stated that his intention is to not run the full season, but a fast start – especially after a dismal season one year ago – might make him rethink he plans.
Eddie MacDonald sits fifth in the standings, just 22 points back of Therrien. The Rowley, Mass. driver has posted three top-ten finishes this season, including a podium finish at Oxford. MacDonald also rallied back from a midrace run-in with the wall at Thunder Road to finish eighth one week ago.
Three-time and defending ACT Late Model Tour champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. sits sixth in the standings after of early season top-five finishes were derailed by a 19th place finish at Thunder Road when the Bruce Bernhardt-led team suffered a flat tire. Helliwell, of Dover, N.H., however, is a former race winner at Airborne and could erase the bad result of one week ago with a win.
Brad Babb of Windham, Maine sits seventh in the standings on the effort of three top-ten place finishes. Freshman ACT campaigner, but no stranger to Late Model success, Dillon Moltz put forth a surprising top-ten finish one week ago and sits eighth in the standings. Rowland Robinson Jr. sits ninth in the ACT Late Model Tour standings after he posted a career best finish at Oxford.
Other drivers look to use Airborne to jumpstart their season and make headway toward the top-ten in the standings.
Kyle Welch sits just outside the top-ten in 11th while Emily Packard claims the 12th spot. Local Airborne driver Brandon Atkins will look to use his home track – one he has had some ACT Late Model Tour success at – to jump into the top ten and potential contend for his first career win.
For other drivers, such as rookies Ryan Olsen and Devin O’Connell, figuring out Airborne’s multi-groove track may come easy or difficult. For O’Connell, he had an impressive effort going at Thunder Road before a midrace pitstop under green derailed the good run. For Olsen, he hopes to utilize the knowledge of reigning Spring Green winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr. to his advantage and earn a solid finish for the new driver development team.
The Egglefield Ford/Interstate Batteries Spring Green will go green for heat race qualifying at 5:00pm.
PHOTO: The ACT Late Model Tour will run the annual Spring Green this Saturday at Airborne Park Speedway. (Alan Ward photo)