As Jimmy Hebert’s full-time driving career winds down, he’s closing out the year in style.
The reigning American-Canadian Tour Late Model champion passed Derek Gluchacki with 25 laps remaining to win Sunday afternoon’s Fall Foliage 200 at White Mountain Motorsports Park.
And before the green flag dropped, a heat race crash eliminated one driver from an outside shot at the Tour championship.
The Fall Foliage moniker returned to the Vermont-based Tour’s itinerary for the first time since 2016, when the race was contested at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Maine. Nick Sweet won the rain-postponed 150-lap feature en route to the season championship. Hebert, running a part-time schedule, was not in the field.
Nor was the Williamstown, Vt. veteran in the hunt for the first half of Sunday’s edition of the historic event. Multi-time WMMP track champion Quinny Welch asserted himself among the Tour regulars early on, fending off a charge by Ben Rowe to lead all but one of the first fifty circuits. Welch, who has struggled the last two seasons adapting to a new car, looked poised to score a long-awaited first ACT Tour win.
Alby Ovitt, one of Welch’s regular challengers at the North Woodstock, N.H. quarter-mile, emerged as a threat after a lap-50 yellow flag, battling to the point on lap 63. Welch parried back, taking the lead a lap later and leaving Ovitt to contend with the Tour specialists working their way from mid-pack.
A caution flag at lap 110 gave everyone a chance to catch their breath. But it opened the door for Derek Gluchacki to slip past Welch on the restart. The series sophomore nearly broke through for his first ACT Tour win at Oxford Plains Speedway in August, but late contact spun the Massachusetts driver from the point.
Still hungry for his first Tour victory, Gluchacki drove away from the field, leaving Hebert to duel with Dillon Moltz for second. When Hebert finally prevailed in the runner-up battle with forty laps remaining, Gluchacki had a two-second advantage.
Hebert carved away Gluchacki’s lead in a hurry, catching the leader as he negotiated lapped traffic. A clean battle for the point lasted only a couple laps, with Hebert taking the lead with 26 laps to go.
A winner in the short-distance Spring Green at WMMP in 2020, Hebert pulled away from the pack to secure his third win of 2021 and his third at the high-banked oval.
Moltz, the runner-up in last week’s Pro All Stars Series bout at WMMP, ran down Gluchacki as well, making his move with only a few laps remaining to match his PASS result of a week ago. Winless in 2021 so far, Moltz has another second-place finish earlier this season at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway.
Granite State Pro Stock Series points leader Gabe Brown had a challenging day, spinning early in the race and gathering his car up in front of the leaders without drawing a caution. Brown, a two-time weekly Late Model feature winner at WMMP, drove back into contention, catching the field under a later caution and clawing his way into the top five. Brown made a last-lap move on Gluchacki to finish third, a career best in only his third Tour start.
Gluchacki’s late fade still resulted in a strong fourth-place finish. Ovitt, the mid-race challenger, held on to the end for fifth.
Ben Rowe was sixth at the finish, while recent PASS winner DJ Shaw was seventh. Thunder Road regular Tyler Cahoon was eighth, with Quinny Welch and rookie Erick Sands rounding out the top ten.
Twenty-four cars started the race, with eleven finishing on the lead lap. Also in the pit area was 2019 ACT Tour titlist Rich Dubeau. Dubeau quietly stepped away from racing last summer, following the death of his brother and crew chief David. Sunday’s race would have been Dubeau’s first start in over a year, but an early heat-race exit left him on the sidelines.
Rowe’s performance was enough to hand him a one-point advantage over Shaw in the point standings. Only two events remain to decide the 2021 ACT Tour champion.
Tom Carey III was not so fortunate. The second-year Tour challenger was collected in a heat-race crash that damaged his car beyond field repairs. Carey, third in points entering the weekend, was unable to take the green flag, ending a long-shot title bid.
Hebert’s hopes of a repeat title suffered the same fate in May. At Lee USA Speedway, a practice crash forced the defending champ to load up early. His fortunes failed to improve through the summer, as Hebert struggled to finish races. Hebert finally turned his luck around at Oxford with his second win of the year. A second-place finish at Thunder Road in the Labor Day Classic kept his team’s newfound momentum high heading into Sunday’s race.
Formerly the hard-luck story of the 2021 season, Hebert is the winningest Tour driver this year, one of only two to win multiple features. In his entire Tour career, Hebert has never before won more than twice in a season.
The last two races of the year, stops at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park and Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway, are the sort of races likely to disappear from Hebert’s itinerary. The veteran driver plans to step back from full-time Tour competition in 2022 to spend more time with his family.
But with momentum finally on his side, Jimmy Hebert is poised to add one or two more big road wins to his record first.
Unofficial Results, ACT Tour Fall Foliage 200 at White Mountain Motorsports Park:
1. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
2. (5ME) Dillon Moltz
3. (47NH) Gabe Brown
4. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
5. (35NH) Alby Ovitt
6. (4ME) Ben Rowe
7. (04VT) DJ Shaw
8. (38VT) Tyler Cahoon
9. (78NH) Quinny Welch
10. (36NH) Erick Sands
11. (04NH) Shawn Swallow
12. (32NH) Jeff Marshall
13. (1NH) Corey Mason
14. (10NH) Bryan Mason
15. (22RI) Mark Jenison
16. (17ME) Kris Matchett
17. (2VT) Stephen Donahue
18. (22VT) Peyton Lanphear
19. (49NH) Matt Anderson
20. (69ME) David MacDonald
21. (0VT) Scott Dragon
22. (21VT) Reilly Lanphear
23. (4NH) Jamie Swallow, Jr.
24. (00NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
DNS (5MA) Tom Carey III
DNS (30NH) Rich Dubeau