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New England Notebook: Laperle, Déry keep ACT’s Canadian doubleheader local

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Christopher Pelkey (#64VT) and Jonathan Bouvrette (#41QC), seen racing at Star Speedway, were among the ACT Tour competitors in last weekend's ACT-sanctioned Bacon Bowl 200 at Autodrome Chaudière. (Jeff Brown photo)

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.

ACT TOUR: LAPERLE, DERY SHARE GLORY IN QUEBEC DOUBLEHEADER

After rain stifled a first attempt in early June, the American-Canadian Tour headed to La Belle Province for another try at a Canadian doubleheader. The ACT Tour Late Models returned to Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée-Jonction, Quebec in June for the Tour’s first points race in Canada in several years. This time, at least for the American competitors, only money was on the line.

Last year’s inaugural Bacon Bowl 200 was effectively an olive branch from the ACT to Quebec’s Late Model community, as tensions had resulted in a pre-season split between the ACT and its Canada-based sanctioning partner. The Bacon Bowl brought together the top racers from both organizations in a non-points high-stakes battle at Chaudière, a track that has long been friendly territory for the ACT Tour. The newly-chartered Championnat de Stock-Car Canadien (CSCC), the former Série ACT for Quebec-based Late Models, has been inactive in 2019. But with Chaudière still hosting regular Late Model events, plenty of competitors were available to compete.

With only money on the line, though, American Tour participation was sparse. Former Tour champion Nick Sweet, with a week off from his PASS title chase, jumped back into Eric Chase’s #40VT to seek Canadian glory. Fellow Vermonter Christopher Pelkey joined Sweet at Chaudière. Three other Tour regulars—Jonathan Bouvrette, Mathieu Kingsbury and Claude Leclerc—did not have to cross the border. Otherwise, the Tour’s top racers were absent.

Sweet and Pelkey were hardly lacking for competition, though. Longtime ACT supporters Patrick Laperle, Jean-François Déry and Dany Trépanier were among the entrants. Raphaël Lessard, a development driver for Toyota and Kyle Busch Motorsports, came back to his home track looking to steal one from far more familiar names.

Sweet and Laperle established themselves early with heat wins, with Martin Latulippe winning a third heat. Consi victories went to Kingsbury and Déry to set the 24-car field. Reigning track champion Samuel Charland and Michael Lavoie would lead the field to green for the $10,000 prize.

Charland and Laperle left Lavoie in the dust for the opening third of the race, swapping the lead back and forth. On lap 71, Raphaël Lessard got around Charland to take the lead, leading seven laps before Charland stormed back to the top spot.

Lessard got back around Charland just past halfway, but his time at the front was short-lived, as contact sent Lessard for a spin and handed the race lead back to Patrick Laperle. Laperle’s rival was now defending Bacon Bowl winner Jonathan Bouvrette, who wrested the lead from Laperle on a restart with just over fifty laps to go.

A caution flag for Karl Allard brought the field back together with 166 laps complete, and Bouvrette was unable to keep the top spot, instead taking a trip off-track as Laperle drove off with the race lead. Nick Sweet and Jean-François Déry joined the lead battle, taking shots at Laperle on two ensuing restarts.

However, “Le Grand Laperle” was not to be denied, holding off Sweet at the end for the Bacon Bowl 200 victory and a $10,000 winner’s check. In the tradition of the Vermont Milk Bowl, Laperle also won a kiss from a piglet in victory lane. While not a points race, the ACT-sanctioned event was the 46th win of Laperle’s storied career, moving the St.-Denis, Quebec racer into the all-time lead over the retired Brian Hoar.

Jean-François Déry was the final driver on the podium, with Raphaël Lessard rebounding from his mid-race spin to finish fourth. Lessard’s finish was enough to net him the Kennebec Triple Crown, a three-race championship at Chaudière. Alexandre Tardif was fifth, with Mathieu Kingsbury sixth.

Jonathan Bouvrette came back from his late mishap to finish 11th. Early contender Samuel Charland was 18th, dropping out after payback from Lessard. Christopher Pelkey was 19th, with heat winner Martin Latulippe 20th. Veteran Claude Leclerc dropped out just before halfway and was scored 22nd.

The teams immediately headed west to Circuit Riverside Speedway Ste.-Croix for the rescheduled Jean-Paul Cabana 125, run in honor of the veteran racer. Laperle and Pelkey were among those who did not make the drive. Those who did were joined by ACT alumni Alex Labbé and Donald Theetge, both of whom had run the previous night’s NASCAR Pinty’s Series race at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. In effect, Labbé and Theetge were running their own Riverside doubleheader.

Jonathan Bouvrette and Jean-François Déry won the heats to set the field, with Déry overtaking Bouvrette to lead the opening 50 laps. Theetge eased into the lead a few laps later, but Bouvrette took the top spot back almost immediately.

With twenty-five laps remaining, Déry clawed back into the lead, hanging on for the win and the $5,000 purse. Bouvrette finished second, with Donald Theetge rounding out the podium. Alex Labbé and Dany Trépanier were fourth and fifth, placing five former Série ACT champions in the top five.

Nick Sweet was sixth, the last car to finish on the lead lap in the short feature. Mathieu Kingsbury was ninth and Claude Leclerc tenth.

Participation in this year’s Bacon Bowl was strong, though most of the competition drew from the local Late Model and Late Model Sportsman programs in Quebec. The limited Tour participation, given last year’s Bacon Bowl, was not that much of a surprise. The big purses would seem to be a step toward combating that, though with questions around the weather and a big weekend ahead for the Tour in Oxford, teams may well have decided to skip an event that paid no dividends in the points race. Cross-border racing has been a tough nut to crack for promoters in recent years, and the business of racing likely outweighs the emotional side in that respect.

The ACT Tour will join the PASS Super Late Models at Oxford Plains Speedway this weekend for a 150-lap race Saturday evening to set the stage for Sunday’s Oxford 250. Bryan Kruczek won this year’s ACT Tour opener at Oxford, while Eddie MacDonald (who is not racing on the Tour this year) swept both of last year’s Oxford events.

WEEKLY RACING: SURPRISE WINNERS ABOUND AS SEVERAL TRACKS DODGE WEEKEND RAIN

Matt White erased a two-year winless streak Thursday evening with a feature win at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. White took an early lead and kept Cody Blake and Jim “Boomer” Morris at bay for his seventh career Late Model win on the high banks. White, who ran a few Tour races a year ago, sits sixth in the standings, with fourth-place Jason Corliss holding onto the points lead over reigning champ Scott Dragon.

At Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Travis Buzzell celebrated fatherhood with a win in the Pro Series over Nick Cusack and Corey Bubar. Trevor Sanborn finished best of the title contenders, but only managed to open five points’ worth of breathing room on David Oliver and Dave Farrington, Jr.

Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. won his third Late Model feature in the last four events at Star Speedway, racing locally after the GSPSS JBH 150 at Monadnock Speedway was cancelled for rain. Star was able to dodge the night’s storms, while White Mountain Motorsports Park was not so fortunate, suffering its fourth rainout of the year.

PASS and GSPSS part-timer Craig Weinstein stayed close to home Saturday, winning a Late Model feature at Seekonk Speedway in return for his short drive. Weinstein nipped Ryan Lineham and Tommy Adams for the feature win. In Seekonk’s Pro Stocks, Kevin Casper eked out a win over Dylan Estrella and Fred Astle, with Ryan Vanasse coming home fourth. David Darling was eighth in the 40-lap event. GSPSS competitor Angelo Belsito was 11th.

NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE

All eyes are on Oxford Plains Speedway this weekend, with the Pro All Stars Series taking center stage with Sunday’s 46th Annual Oxford 250. The ACT Late Models will square off Saturday evening at Oxford in a prelude that includes an appearance by the Tri-Track Open Modified Series.

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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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