Prior to 2019, Bryan Kruczek had only eight career starts in American-Canadian Tour Late Model competition. Saturday night at Oxford Plains Speedway, he drove to victory lane for the second time in six starts this season, sweeping the ACT Tour’s appearances at Oxford.
Kruczek took the lead from Jesse Switser just past halfway, then held on through two late caution flags to beat Stephen Donahue for the win in the ACT 150, a preliminary event to Sunday’s Oxford 250.
Starting 13th by virtue of his April win, Kruczek patiently worked through traffic in the race’s first half, passing Donahue for second on lap 72. When a caution drew the field back together a lap later, Kruczek seized the opportunity, taking the race lead away on lap 77. The Newmarket, N.H. racer kept Switser at bay for the next green-flag run, then fended off Donahue in a series of restarts to secure his second career ACT win.
“It’s amazing, it’s definitely one of the big races I want to win if not the 250 at least,” Kruczek said in Victory Lane. “This is a huge stage. I mean, the place is packed tonight. It’s a Saturday night and there’s thousands of people here; it’s a good time.”
Switser and Tour rookie Donahue were only two of the White Mountain Motorsports Park regulars who took full advantage of a week off for their weekly haunt. WMMP rookie Cody LeBlanc won a consi and started from the pole, leading the opening laps before Tour veteran Bobby Therrien moved to the top spot. Switser took second from LeBlanc and stalked down Therrien, taking charge 43 circuits into the race. Switser set a fast pace at the front of the field before a yellow flag erased his lead over Kruczek.
Donahue, running all but one Tour event this year while competing weekly at Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl and WMMP, earned his second consecutive runner-up finish and his second top-five run of the season.
“It’s only second but for me here it feels more like a win because we were second to last all practice all day long,” Donahue said after the race. “We were struggling, the car just wouldn’t react, it was spinning the tires all over the place, and then we bolted the new tires on for the heat race and it took off. We picked up eight tenths from the practice to the heat race.
“Finishing second is awesome and it’s Oxford. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I finally got to race here this year and I struggled here the first time I came, but to get second in only my second attempt I’m very happy.”
Reigning Tour champion Scott Payea came out on top of a dogfight for third place, with championship leader Rich Dubeau battling through traffic to finish fourth. Dylan Payea, younger cousin of Scott, came from the 26th starting position to round out the top five in a career-best effort.
“I feel great, I feel like we won,” Payea said. “We’re either really good or really bad here, there’s nothing in between, and today we were bad all day long. It was terrible, but the team never gave up. We changed more things today than I think we have in two years. It’s a tough track, the outside wasn’t really there, so we’ll take what we can get and we feel good about it.”
Points runner-up Jimmy Hebert was sixth, with Quebec’s Alexendre Tardif, rookies Ryan Kuhn and Trent Goodrow, and WMMP multi-time champion Quinny Welch rounding out the top ten.
Early leaders LeBlanc and Switser faded in the closing laps to finish 18th and 19th, while Bobby Therrien was involved in a multi-car crash with 14 laps remaining. Thirty-six cars took the green flag, with only one team sent home after a heat-race incident.
Kruczek’s victory also marks the second Tour win for first-year car owner Bobby Webber, Jr., owner of Star Speedway. Webber, who introduced ACT-type Late Models as a weekly division at the Epping, N.H. quarter-mile, fielded a part-time entry at Star last year before investing in a former Jimmy Hebert car for Tour competition this season. Webber called on Kruczek to wheel the #19NH entry in 2019, with plans to run part-time in anticipation of a full Tour schedule in 2020.
Prior to joining forces with Webber, Kruczek was a fixture on the Pro All Stars Series North schedule, with 2015 wins at Oxford and nearby Beech Ridge Motor Speedway to his credit.
Celebrations for the Webber team were sure to be short, as they shifted their attention to their Oxford 250 entry. Kruczek and Ryan Kuhn were both slated for double duty on the busy race weekend.
With his fourth-place finish, points leader Rich Dubeau was able to stretch his lead on Jimmy Hebert with only two races remaining on the ACT Tour itinerary. Scott Payea was able to gain points on Dubeau for the first time in weeks, but the two-time champ remains a distant third as Dubeau chases his first title.
The penultimate event of the 2019 schedule, the Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road, is next Sunday. The ten-race ACT Tour schedule concludes in October as part of the annual World Series at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park.
American-Canadian Tour Oxford 150 Unofficial Results:
1 19NH Bryan Kruczek
2 2VT Stephen Donahue
3 37VT Scott Payea
4 30NH Rich Dubeau
5 7NH Dylan Peyea
6 58VT Jimmy Hebert
7 21BC Alexandre Tardif
8 72MA Ryan Kuhn
9 31MA Trent Goodrow
10 78NH Quinten Welch
11 31CT Ryan Morgan
12 19QC Dany Trepanier
13 28ME Rowland Robinson, Jr.
14 5MA Tom Carey III
15 00NH Jimmy Renfrew Jr.
16 73ME Dylan Turner
17 36VT Joel Hodgdon
18 55NH Cody LeBlanc
19 25NH Jesse Switser
20 9QC Mathieu Kingsbury
21 64VT Christopher Pelkey
22 41QC Jonathan Bouvrette
23 11QC Claude LeClerc
24 72VT Scott Coburn
25 50RI Mike Benevides
26 61NH Ryan Olsen
27 04VT Bobby Therrien
28 04NH Shawn Swallow
29 15VT Craig Bushley
30 24VT Steve Fisher
31 47NH Brockton Davis
32 22VT Peyton Lanphear
33 16VT Scott Dragon
34 26VT John Donahue
35 69ME David MacDonald
36 21VT Reilly Lanphear
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