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ACT unveils 2019 Late Model Tour schedule

The ten-race schedule includes a points race in Canada, a 250-lap midsummer showdown and a return to Star Speedway.

Oxford Plains Speedway will open the 2019 ACT Late Model Tour season on April 14th. (Jeff Brown photo)

The American-Canadian Tour released its 2019 touring schedule last Friday, the first of the region’s fendered touring series to do so. The itinerary for ACT’s Late Model Tour shuffles some familiar tracks on and off the schedule while remaining true to the heart of New England’s longest-running Late Model touring organization.

ACT’s Late Model Tour will compete in ten points-counting races in 2019, a number the Tour has followed in recent years as a practical balance for the touring teams. The schedule begins in April and runs through mid-October, visiting four New England states and the Canadian province of Quebec. Two additional non-points events offer substantial purses for teams seeking an additional challenge through the year.

The 2019 season opens on April 14th at Oxford Plains Speedway. The race, a doubleheader with the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Models that call Oxford home, is also the season opener for the historic speedway. The ACT teams will return to Oxford in August as the Saturday-evening preamble to the PASS-sanctioned Oxford 250.

The Tour returns to its native Vermont for the second race of the year at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. The tough quarter-mile, the de facto home track of the ACT, hosts two points races again in 2019. September’s Labor Day Classic is the second-to-last points race on the schedule, setting the stage for the Tour championship battle.

Thompson Speedway in Connecticut will also host two Tour events next year. For several years, the Tour has wrapped up its season at Thompson’s high banks as part of the track’s World Series in October. In June, Tour teams will make an additional stop at the fast oval, marking the halfway point of the season.

ACT owners Cris Michaud and Pat Malone purchased White Mountain Motorsports Park this fall, and the New Hampshire quarter-mile will expand its presence on the Tour schedule. WMMP opens its season with the Spring Green 119, the third event on the ACT Tour calendar. The event marks the 44th running of the Spring Green after a year’s absence. WMMP also hosts the longest event on the schedule, August’s Midsummer 250. Run this year as part of WMMP’s postseason 25th-anniversary celebration, the race will be a marquée event on the Tour schedule in 2019, with a $10,000 winner’s purse at stake.

True to the Tour’s name, the ACT Late Models will compete for points in Canada in 2019. Autodrome Chaudière, a track familiar to the Tour faithful, will host the first ACT points race in Canada since 2015. The quarter-mile oval, located in Vallée-Jonction, Quebec, was a late addition to last year’s schedule with the non-points Bacon Bowl 200.

Also returning to the Tour schedule is Star Speedway. The Epping, N.H. bullring added a late model division modeled on the ACT rulebook to its weekly program last year. Strong fields and a pledge to fully implement the ACT ruleset in 2019 paved the way for a Tour return. June’s race at Star will mark the ACT’s first visit to the quarter-mile oval since 2013.

In addition to the ten points races, two tracks will host big-dollar non-points events under the ACT flag. Autodrome Chaudière will host its second Bacon Bowl, pitting Tour challengers against Quebec’s Late Model stars with a $10,000CAN prize on the line. And in late September, the region’s top Late Model racers will head to Thunder Road once again for the 57th Vermont Milk Bowl. The Milk Bowl, billed as one of the country’s toughest short track races for its full-field inverts and a Monza-style scoring system, promises at least $10,000 to the race winner.

June’s races at Chaudière, Thompson and Star will comprise ACT’s “Summer Kickoff Series” for 2019. An evolution of last year’s Summer Showdown Series, the three-race program promises $5,000 winner’s purses for each race, with an additional $5,000 bonus if a driver sweeps all three.

ACT has traditionally structured its schedule to be heavier in the beginning and end of the year, in order to conflict less with weekly racing schedules. In 2019, this effort leaves two large breaks in the schedule, one through the month of July and one spanning from the first week in September to the season finale in mid-October. These breaks serve multiple purposes; they avoid conflicts with large touring events scheduled at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in those months, and the fall date allows preparation time for the Milk Bowl in late September. They also provide options for rain dates should weather prove uncooperative.

But with only four points-counting races spanning July through October, ACT’s marketing team will have a task ahead to keep momentum surrounding the title battle from midsummer through the fall.

The Tour’s new dates also leave three tracks from the 2018 schedule without a date in 2019. Most noticeable is the absence of Lee USA Speedway, a track that hosted its first Governor’s Cup ACT feature in 1987. The New Hampshire track had held the season-opener slot on the schedule since 2011, but late winter weather forced the track to delay its race several times in recent years, including last year’s thrice-rescheduled event. Also missing from the schedule are Speedway 51 in Groveton, N.H. and New London-Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, both of which returned to the Tour roster last year.

Worth noting, though, is that each track on the 2019 schedule, with the exception of Oxford, also features ACT-compliant Late Models among the track’s regular racing program. With healthy fields of weekly racers eligible to square off against the visiting Tour teams, full and competitive fields are certain at each stop on the ten-race Tour. Three races in 2018 were won by track regulars, with Jason Corliss sweeping Thunder Road and William Wall winning the season finale at Thompson.

These moves further reinforce the American-Canadian Tour’s mission to serve as more than a touring organization. Rather, the ACT is a cohesive platform for competition, from the weekly circuit to the regional tour, with racers following the same rulebook at each step along the way. And with an eye to the weekly racer as well as the touring racer, the Tour continues a long tradition of being friendly to the racer’s budget as well.

In their second year at the helm of the American-Canadian Tour, Cris Michaud and Pat Malone have organized a promising schedule for 2019. Racers can look forward to competition as they can afford to participate, whether they opt to spice up a weekly schedule with a few schedule-friendly touring races or run the complete Tour and the non-points races as well. Fans can look forward to competitive racing at familiar and accessible tracks all season long.

Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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