It took a top-five finish in the season’s longest race to right the ship that was Bryan Kruczek’s American-Canadian Tour season thus far. And once the ship was pointed straight, Kruczek found himself Saturday night where he and his team had expected to be all along.
Kruczek led almost every lap from the pole in Saturday night’s Gardiner & June Leavitt Memorial 150 at Riverside Speedway to take home his first ACT Tour win of the season.
And based on the efforts of Kruczek and his Bobby Webber, Jr. Racing team, the first win of the year was long-overdue.
Kruczek may have started first, but the Newmarket, N.H. driver was kept honest by DJ Shaw, who put up a spirited battle for the lead early on. Shaw, still in the thick of the ACT Tour points battle, was looking for his first Tour win at the Groveton, N.H. quarter-mile.
But for the second week in a row, tires stymied Shaw as a flat tire sent him to the pits on lap 87. Stephen Donahue moved to second, pressuring Kruczek for the top spot until a broken wheel ended his night 26 laps from the finish.
Points leader Jimmy Hebert inherited second from Donahue, then dogged Kruczek for the lead over the final green-flag run. Kruczek kept Hebert at bay, though, hanging on for his third career ACT Tour win.
Ryan Kuhn finished third, with Shaw rallying back to fourth. Jesse Switser crossed the line fifth, his best finish of 2020 and his first top-five in Tour competition since 2017.
Shaw’s Pro All Stars Series teammate, Gabe Brown, made his first ACT Tour start in relief of Christopher Pelkey, who had a family commitment to attend. Brown’s debut ended with a stellar sixth-place result, placing four Dale Shaw Race Cars chassis in the top six.
Riverside weekly regular Shawn Swallow was seventh, with Marcel Gravel eighth, Bryan Mason ninth, and Randy Potter tenth in his first Tour start since 2015.
Kruczek, a two-time PASS North feature winner, joined forces last year with car owner Bobby Webber, Jr. for a part-time ACT Tour run. Webber, who owns Star Speedway, was retooling his race team to focus on ACT competition after introducing ACT-rules Late Models as a weekly division. The Kruczek-Webber pairing found instant success, winning their second race together. Webber expanded the team’s schedule, with Kruczek scoring another win and five top-five finishes in seven Tour starts.
Buoyed by the team’s results, Webber spared no expense in preparing for an all-out title assault, ordering a new Dale Shaw chassis and hauler in preparation for the ten-race Tour schedule.
But as the 2020 season got off to a late start, Kruczek’s early output was far short of the input. A mid-pack finish at White Mountain Motorsports Park was followed by an axle failure while running third at Oxford Plains Speedway. A home-track win in a weekly feature at Star was a confidence-booster, but back-to-back struggles at Thunder Road left the team scratching their heads heading into the Midsummer Classic 250 at WMMP.
The struggles appeared to continue in the mountains, as Kruczek needed to win the night’s B-feature to advance to the big show. But even after getting caught up in an early-race spin, Kruczek and team buckled down, played tire strategy well, and even got the #19NH out front for a few laps before settling for a fifth-place finish.
Saturday night, Kruczek finished second to Derek Gluchacki in his heat, but started out front based on the plus-minus pool. And when the green flag flew, those early-season struggles were quickly forgotten.
Kruczek’s stellar night, coupled with misfortune for those ahead of him in the points race, should bode well for the veteran driver, but Jimmy Hebert’s second-place run will keep him atop the standings, with DJ Shaw and Ryan Kuhn not too far behind. Shaw should be good to go for Oxford Plains Speedway in two weeks, but his first scheduling conflict of the season looms a week later, meaning his results at Oxford will likely dictate whether he opts to stay in the ACT Tour points battle.
The American-Canadian Tour’s next event is at Oxford Plains Speedway, where teams will wage war on the eve of the Oxford 250. Former Tour champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr. won June’s event at the legendary Maine oval, but Kruczek swept both Oxford races last year.
Official Results, ACT Tour Gardiner & June Leavitt Memorial 150 at Riverside Speedway:
1. (19NH) Bryan Kruczek
2. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
3. (72MA) Ryan Kuhn
4. (04VT) DJ Shaw
5. (25NH) Jesse Switser
6. (64VT) Gabe Brown
7. (04NH) Shawn Swallow
8. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
9. (10NH) Bryan Mason
10. (02NH) Randy Potter
11. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
12. (1NH) Corey Mason
13. (7NH) Dylan Payea
14. (49NH) Matt Anderson
15. (21VT) Reilly Lanphear
16. (69ME) David MacDonald
17. (12NH) Jeff Lebrecque, Jr.
18. (2VT) Stephen Donahue
19. (22VT) Peyton Lanphear
20. (5MA) Tom Carey III
21. (45VT) Derek Ming
22. (35NH) Alby Ovitt
23. (50RI) Mike Benevides
Editor’s Note: This story and the results have been updated to reflect changes in the official race results published mid-week. The original race report credited Kruczek with leading all 150 laps, and one driver was not credited for all of his completed laps.