Racers competing in the ranks of the American-Canadian Tour will have a new tire to learn this season.
The Vermont-based sanctioning organization announced this week that it will transition to Hoosier tires for all its divisions, beginning with May’s opening weekend at Thunder Road International Speedbowl.
That means a shift not only for the organization’s ACT Late Model Tour, but for the ACT’s officially-sanctioned tracks and ancillary series throughout northern New England.
What it means for the Tour’s on-track product, of course, is an unknown.
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American Racer tires, marketed by Specialty Tires of America, Inc. of western Pennsylvania, have been the tire of choice for ACT competition since 2014. The company’s McCreary tires earned a regional reputation for value and durability as the spec tire for NASCAR’s Busch North Series through the 2001 season. The company swapped the McCreary brand for the American Racer label on the circuit in 1998.
ACT’s Late Model Sportsman Tour ran American Racer tires in the early 2000s before switching to Goodyear, but when the tire titan withdrew from short track racing after 2013, ACT returned to American Racer tires the following season.
The ACT Late Model Tour will begin the 2021 season on American Racers, running the tires for April’s non-points doubleheader at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and the inaugural Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway two weeks later. A press release explained that the delayed start would allow ACT to deplete its inventory of American Racer tires and give drivers a familiar tire for the unfamiliar Hickory and the high-speed challenge of NHMS.
The second points race of the season, the Community Bank N.A. 150 at Thunder Road, will introduce the new tire package to the Tour. The ACT-sanctioned Flying Tigers and Thunder Road’s Street Stocks, regular weekly classes at the high-banked quarter-mile, will also debut with Hoosier tires of their own.
But the bulk of the attention is sure to be on the ACT Late Models, which will be riding on an all-new 8” tire developed by Hoosier Racing Tire for ACT competition. Hoosier Tire East, headed by NASCAR Modified racer Rob Summers, worked with ACT to develop the new tire to meet the Tour’s specific demands.
Indeed, the new Hoosier tire will be available for the same price as the current American Racer tire, keeping in line with ACT’s long-held focus on cost-conscious competition and warding off a sure point of contention for the ACT faithful.
In addition to Thunder Road, White Mountain Motorsports Park will introduce the Hoosier tire for its weekly divisions, including ACT Late Models and Flying Tigers. The North Woodstock, N.H. track was purchased at the end of the 2018 season by ACT co-owners Cris Michaud and Pat Malone.
A number of other tracks in the region use some variant of the ACT rulebook for their weekly Late Model programs, including Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway, Riverside Speedway and Star Speedway in New Hampshire, and Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudière. Riverside and Star will not host the Tour in 2021, but how the tire change will apply to tracks hosting non-Tour ACT-rules Late Model competition remains to be clarified.
In the ACT release, Tour managing partner Michaud praised the diligence of Hoosier Tire East in developing the new tire. “Rob Summers has been a pleasure to work with,” he said. “He understood exactly what we were looking for in a tire and has worked tirelessly to create a tire that fit those requirements. We believe this switch will be a benefit to our teams and help produce great racing for the fans.”
The release did not specify why ACT is moving away from the seven-year partnership with American Racer.
Some factors do seem less likely than others. A few teams struggled with tire failures at last year’s visit to NHMS, but a tire change that exempts the early-season stop at NHMS would fail to address that, were it a primary concern. In August’s Midsummer Classic 250, the longest race of the season, Dillon Moltz drove to victory on a single set of American Racers, turning some of his fastest laps in the second half of the race.
Specialty Tires of America did suffer a plant fire last summer that temporarily halted production and resulted in inventory scarcity, but the plant has been up and running since August, and the majority of shortages were reportedly relative to the company’s dirt racing tires.
ACT is, however, expanding its working relationship with the Hoosier-friendly Pro All Stars Series. In addition to sharing seven race weekends with the Maine-based Super Late Model touring organization, ACT and PASS are co-promoting six events at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. Thompson’s own ACT Late Models will be among the regular divisions featured in the events.
With Hoosiers the preferred tire among Thompson’s Modified classes as well, and a heavy Hoosier presence at so many ACT-attended events in 2021, perhaps making the move to Hoosier tires for the ACT Late Models was the ideal business decision. At any rate, a decision that necessitated a brand new tire design was one that was not taken lightly by either side.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series will be the only of New England’s three touring Late Model sanctioning organizations to run American Racer tires this year. The GSPSS has long favored the lower-cost American Racers. And without the burden of member tracks with tire contracts to be considered, the GSPSS seems likely to stay the course.
Plenty of questions surrounding the new ACT tire program have yet to be answered. But the two key questions outstanding are whether the new Hoosier tires will be beneficial for the racers and beneficial for the fans watching from the bleachers.
Part of the first question, the cost factor, has already been worked out.
As far as the competition questions, an answer will be weeks in the making.