Derek Gluchacki finally came into his own.
The American-Canadian Tour sophomore was untouchable as he drove to his first career ACT Tour win in Saturday night’s Sunoco World Series 75 presented by Twisted Tea, one of eight feature races making up the second day of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s 59th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing.
Gluchacki had come close a few times this season, but this evening, he put all the pieces together.
“I got my first Late Model win at the World Series two years ago,” Gluchacki reminded the press box after the race. “To get my first ACT win is pretty special.”
The North Dartmouth, Mass. racer unloaded a fast car earlier in the day, taking the win in his qualifying heat and starting fourth. It only took three laps for Gluchacki to catch polesitter Alby Ovitt. Once Gluchacki powered past Ovitt, he never looked back.
For most of the night, the action was deeper in the field. Title hopeful DJ Shaw, Tom Carey III and reigning champion Jimmy Hebert were among those racing from outside the top ten to chase down Gluchacki. Two yellow flags reset Gluchacki’s lead to zero, but he was able to break free from the pack within a few turns.
Carey, a former Thompson Speedway Late Model regular and twice a winner at the track in 2021, seemed poised to threaten for the lead. But Carey instead brought out the third caution flag, getting turned from the lead pack as the field went back to green. Carey, whose long-shot title hopes evaporated with a heat race wreck at White Mountain Motorsports Park, was relegated to the rear of the field.
Shaw restarted alongside Gluchacki, but Gluchacki opted for the top lane on the start, driving off from Shaw. Lapped traffic gave the five-time Pro All Stars Series champion some hope in the final laps. But the slower cars that Gluchacki carved through proved more of a challenge for Shaw.
Shaw held on for second. But with Ben Rowe finishing third, Shaw’s gains in the championship race were minimal. Rowe, who has yet to visit victory lane this year, leads the standings by a single point entering the season finale at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway in two weeks.
Jimmy Hebert, continuing his late-season rebound, was fourth across the line. Thompson Late Model regular and Tour-type Modified standout Woody Pitkat, making a rare ACT Tour appearance, finished fifth in the familiar #07MA entry he drove to victory in the final ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Polesitter Ovitt slipped to sixth by the finish, ahead of Ryan Kuhn. Brian Tagg, another Thompson graduate, was eighth at the finish. Mike Benevides was ninth, while NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veteran Patrick Emerling rounded out the top ten in Pitkat’s usual Thompson Late Model entry.
Carey drove his way back to 12th at the finish. All but one of the 23 starters saw the checkered flag, though Dennis Dumas was unable to take the green.
Gluchacki was one of several drivers who joined the ACT Tour last year when their weekly tracks were unable to commit to full-time racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A regular competitor at Seekonk Speedway and Thompson, Gluchacki ran the full Tour schedule last year, earning five top-ten finishes and a fifth-place run in the season finale at Oxford Plains Speedway.
The 2021 season has been an improvement for Gluchacki, who finished second at Oxford in July and was spun from the lead in August’s prelude to the Oxford 250. Gluchacki was also poised to perform in September’s Fall Foliage 200 at White Mountain Motorsports Park, leading late before sliding to fourth at the finish.
It was clearly a matter of when, not if, Gluchacki would break through.
And few tracks are more appropriate than Thompson. Gluchacki’s driving career took shape on the quarter-midget track adjacent to the Connecticut oval. And while Seekonk may be closer to home, Gluchacki’s career arc passes directly through the high banks of Thompson.
“I started racing at the ‘Little T’ down there when I was ten years old,” he said. “To come here and do as good as we did today is really special to me.”
With Saturday’s victory, Gluchacki joins five other drivers in picking up first-career ACT Tour wins in 2021. Those drivers include Shaw, Carey and Maine Super Late Model ace Mike Hopkins. It’s elite company to be included in.
With one last race at Seekonk to close out the year, Gluchacki will look to ensure a seventh driver doesn’t join them.
Unofficial Results, ACT Tour Sunoco World Series 75 presented by Twisted Tea at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park:
1. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
2. (04VT) DJ Shaw
3. (4ME) Ben Rowe
4. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
5. (07MA) Woody Pitkat
6. (35NH) Alby Ovitt
7. (72MA) Ryan Kuhn
8. (9MA) Brian Tagg
9. (50RI) Mike Benevides
10. (91CT) Patrick Emerling
11. (36NH) Erick Sands
12. (5MA) Tom Carey III
13. (27NC) Robby Gordon Douglas
14. (2VT) Stephen Donahue
15. (22RI) Mark Jenison
16. (30RI) Jacob “Rowdy” Burns
17. (78CT) Walter Sutcliffe, Jr.
18. (3CT) Glenn Boss
19. (11NH) Kevin Vaudrien
20. (49NH) Matt Anderson
21. (41VT) Jamie Aube
22. (65NH) Tom Sheehan
23. (26VT) John Donahue
DNS (15NH) Dennis Dumas