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Bouvrette Wins Race & Title, Payea Wins #5: Northeast Late Model Recap

Each week, Short Track Scene looks back at results and news from northern New England’s Late Model and Super Late Model competition, from the region’s premier tours — the American-Canadian Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, and the Pro All Stars Series — to the tracks and drivers that support them. Thanks to the local journalists and fans who report in from the track each week to keep their fellow fans informed.

SERIE ACT: Last fall, the very future of the Série ACT was in doubt. It was only during the winter months that new series director Marc Patrick Roy stepped forward with new backing and the promise of a six-race schedule for 2017.

That six-race schedule drew to a conclusion last Saturday night just east of Québec City at Autodrome Montmagny, where the Série ACT teams gathered for their final points race of the year.

Jonathan Bouvrette and Patrick Laperle came to Montmagny in a tight battle for the championship, and despite Bouvrette’s heat win, it was Laperle who planted himself at the head of the field during the feature. Laperle had a dominant car, but with 25 laps remaining, Bouvrette was able to steal the lead from the multi-time champion. Bouvrette led the rest of the way, taking his third Série ACT win of 2017 and clinching the championship over Laperle.

Patrick Laperle held on for second place in the race and the title chase, with Michael Lavoie finishing third in the Larue Motorsports #48QC. Dany Trépanier and Patrick Cliche rounded out the top five. Oddly enough, the results nearly mirrored the final points standings: Trépanier finished the season third in points, ahead of Cliche and longtime ACT veteran Claude Leclerc.

Eric Gagnon finished sixth in points and was named Rookie of the Year over Mathieu Kingsbury.

While the Série ACT schedule is over for the season, many of the tour’s best drivers will likely be crossing the border in late September. Many will be invitees to this year’s ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, held in conjunction with the fall NASCAR weekend at the one-mile oval. So far, a Canadian driver has not visited victory lane in the all-star event.

Reassuringly for Canadian fans, it appears the current management is working on an expanded Série ACT schedule in 2018, possibly in conjunction with the American ACT Tour. One would expect that a larger schedule would demand more tracks, but as far as paved ovals, there are only two options in La Belle Province. One, Autodrome Chaudière, bowed out of hosting ACT Late Models after the 2016 season; the other, Circuit Riverside Speedway Ste-Croix, previously hosted ACT events as recently as 2015.

ACT TOUR: For the fifth time this year, weather played a factor in the ACT Tour schedule. With heavy rains forecasted for Sunday, ACT officials opted to move Sunday’s Labor Day Classic to Monday instead, allowing the annual race to run on its namesake holiday.

With that, the ACT Tour teams made their second visit to the Tour’s home track, Thunder Road International Speedbowl. The Tour’s earlier visit in 2017 was a challenge, with extreme heat and a new coat of pavement causing tire troubles for a number of contenders. With luck, Sunday’s 200-lap feature would not be a repeat.

Only two events remained on the ACT Tour schedule. While Scott Payea had put on a clinic earlier in the season with four straight Tour wins, hard luck at White Mountain Motorsports Park had erased a chunk of his points lead. Dillon Moltz, second in points, had capitalized on Payea’s misfortune with a win. Another race like that could leave the series title much in doubt approaching the season finale.

A quarter of the way through the feature, it looked like a replay of the WMMP race could very well be in hand. A lap-48 spin stacked the field up, forcing Payea to the pits under caution for cosmetic repairs. A few laps later, Moltz slipped past “Bad Boy” Bobby Therrien for the race lead. And as Moltz continued to lead the field, Payea had to work his way back through traffic.

Moltz was not as dominant as he had been at WMMP, though. With 75 laps remaining, Moltz lost the lead to Nick Sweet. The defending ACT Tour champion, running a limited schedule, took the point ahead of defending T-Road track champion Scott Dragon. Once the two had command of the field, though, they were forced to abandon any plans to pit, lest they lose the track position they had earned.

The strategy played out well until Cody Blake’s stopped car drew a caution with sixteen laps remaining. Sweet and Dragon lined up for the restart with Scott Payea not far behind, but Payea had the advantage of newer tires. Payea moved into second and took the lead from Sweet with twelve laps to go. Payea never looked back, leading the final twelve laps en route to his fifth ACT Tour win of 2017.

Scott Dragon edged Nick Sweet for second, with the defending Tour champ holding on for third at the line. Jason Corliss, on a similar pit strategy to Payea’s, finished fourth, ahead of part-time Tour racer Tyler Cahoon. Thunder Road regular Marcel Gravel finished sixth, and Dillon Moltz came back from a pit stop to finish seventh. Christopher Pelkey and Darrell Morin finished eighth and ninth with Tour driver Josh Masterson rounding out the top ten.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott, winner of a weekly feature at Thunder Road in 2017, finished eleventh in the Tour feature. Rich Dubeau finished 15th one lap down, and slipped behind Corliss to fourth in the season points standings. Jonathan Bouvrette and Patrick Laperle, fresh from their Série ACT title battle, made the trip south to Vermont; in a reversal of their fortunes back home, Laperle finished in thirteenth while Bouvrette finished 21st after handling problems sidelined his car.

The 26-car starting lineup was missing a couple full-time competitors. Kyle Welch and Miles Chipman were both no-shows for the Monday race. Mike Ziter, another full-timer, was sidelined by crash damage during the heat races. And Raymond Christian III, returning after an unsuccessful attempt at the Oxford 250, also failed to make the final cut for the starting grid.

Payea now leads Moltz by 38 points entering the season’s final race in October. Leading rookie contender Jason Corliss has moved to third in points over Rich Dubeau and Jimmy Hebert, whose day started with a heat-race crash and never got better. With Ziter’s DNQ and the absence of Welch and Chipman, only seven drivers have started every race this season.

While the final points race is several weeks away, the Tour competitors have two major non-points races on the schedule before they settle the championship. September 23rd is the annual ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A week later is the 55th annual $10,000-to-win Milk Bowl at Thunder Road. With a few weeks of downtime, teams from both sides of the border will be prepared for these marquée events.

WEEKLY ACTION: Beech Ridge Motor Speedway closed out its 2017 weekly-racing schedule Saturday night, with championships to settle in each of its four divisions. The Pro Series title was a duel between defending track champion Curtis Gerry and 2014 champion Reid Lanpher. Lanpher entered the final feature of the season on a three-race win streak, with Gerry riding the high of last week’s Oxford 250 win. The home-track momentum would come out ahead, though, as Lanpher won his fourth straight Pro Series feature of 2017. Dan McKeage and Jacob Dore crossed the line behind Lanpher, with Gerry finishing tenth. PASS regular Dave Farrington, Jr., the 2015 Pro Series champion, finished 12th.

Lanpher’s win secured his second Pro Series championship at Beech Ridge. As the Scarborough third-mile is the only NASCAR-sanctioned track in the state of Maine, this makes Lanpher NASCAR’s Maine state champion for the season as well. Gerry finished second in track points, followed by 67-year-old veteran Mike Rowe in third.

Oxford Plains Speedway’s SLMs, part of the Oxford Championship Series, will wrap up their season schedule next Saturday.

COMING UP: The short track season winds down with another lean week for touring late-model action. The Granite State Pro Stock Series heads to Epping, NH’s Star Speedway for a 100-lap feature in conjunction with the ISMA Star Classic. Newly-crowned Oxford 250 winner Curtis Gerry has filed an entry for the event. The PASS teams return to action next week at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

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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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