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ACT Disqualifies Northeast Classic Winner Switser, Sanctions Engine Builder

Derek Gluchacki inherited his third consecutive Northeast Classic win while Switser and his engine builder were penalized on Thursday after a post-race engine inspection.

Jesse Switser heads out of the pits for practice before Sunday's ACT Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Switser won the race, but the upset victory was negated after a deeper inspection of the team's crate engine. (STS/Jeff Brown)

What seemed like an upset victory for Jesse Switser now has a few parties feeling upset.

American-Canadian Tour officials announced Thursday that, as a result of a post-race engine inspection following Sunday’s Northeast Classic, Switser’s surprise win in the ACT Late Model Tour season opener has been rescinded.

Not only was Switser disqualified, but his engine builder has been removed from ACT’s Approved Engine Builders list for at least one year.

And with the next ACT Tour event just over a week away, some teams may have a new hurdle to overcome.

Switser, who scored his breakthrough first win in last August’s Midsummer Classic 250 at White Mountain Motorsports Park, came on strong late in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, running down leader Derek Gluchacki to take the lead with ten laps remaining. Despite a few restarts in the closing circuits, Switser was able to pull away to claim his second career ACT Tour win.

Three teams, however, were selected after the race to submit their powerplants for further diagnostics at an independent engine builder. Switser and Gluchacki, along with fifth-place finisher Brian Hoar, surrendered their engines for the post-race test.

The engines of Gluchacki and Hoar were cleared. Switser’s engine, on the other hand, was deemed to have multiple infractions, collectively worthy of disqualification.

“After inspection this week with tech officials, industry experts and with a member of [Switser’s] team present at engine teardown, it became clear that the Redline Performance engine was not within ACT specs,” ACT managing partner Cris Michaud explained in the Tour’s press release. “We appreciate the professionalism of the #25NH team. This is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved, but the team is ultimately responsible for the parts on their car.”

A crate engine rule has been at the heart of ACT’s flagship division for many years, with ACT founder Tom Curley striving for competitive parity while keeping costs manageable for teams. Teams are required to register their crate engines and seal numbers with ACT at the outset of each season. ACT’s rulebook also names a number of engine builders who are approved by the sanctioning body to perform maintenance and upkeep.

Switser’s engine was prepared by Redline Performance Engines of Hallowell, Me., who builds engines for numerous teams competing in ACT and in the Pro All Stars Series.

And based on the infractions discovered on Switser’s engine, ACT opted to remove Redline from the Approved Engine Builders list. The soonest Redline can apply for reinstatement is April 18, 2025, potentially banning the business from ACT competition through the first race of next season.

Pete Knights, ACT’s Director of Competition, defended the stiff sanctions in the organization’s press release. “The ACT Engine Program is a vital part of our Tour,” he said. “We’ll continue to make it clear that we will do whatever we need to ensure the continued success of this program with our approved engine builders.”

Switser, in a statement on Facebook, accepted the outcome while defending Redline owner Spencer Robbins.

Switser’s statement on Facebook showed support for Redline Performance Engines and owner Spencer Robbins.

“Unfortunately something was missed when being sealed before the car was even built,” he said. “Spencer at Redline is a stand up guy, and shouldn’t be trash talked for an engine that someone else built.”

Second-place finisher Derek Gluchacki picked up the win, his first of the year and his first as a Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Gluchacki, winner of the last two Northeast Classics, inherited the victory, giving the North Dartmouth, Mass. title hopeful his third straight win in ACT’s NHMS lidlifter. Alexendre “Fireball” Tardif and Brandon Barker now round out the podium. Switser, who reportedly planned a full-season ACT Tour program this year, now finds himself with a last-place finish and last-place points heading to the next race at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Switser is the second driver to have an ACT win in the Northeast Classic overturned. Two-time defending champion D.J. Shaw took the checkers in the inaugural race in 2021, but a carburetor violation handed the win to Jimmy Hebert after post-race inspection. Nor was Switser alone this weekend; Ben Rowe’s third-place finish in the afternoon’s PASS North feature was stripped after an unspecified engine issue was discovered in post-race tech.

The looming question, though, is the ramifications this could have for other teams running Redline engines. ACT’s release did not offer any public guidance as to whether Redline-prepared engines will be viable through the season. If nothing else, they could be up for more scrutiny as the season goes on, with very few proactive measures a team could undertake on their own.

It seems unlikely that ACT, who has touted the depth of its roster this season, would make a move that suddenly eliminates a portion of the field from competition. Nor would they be able to expect the remaining four approved builders in the United States to supply ample engines to those teams in time for the next race.

Either way, even if sealed Redline engines are deemed acceptable subject to teardowns, those teams now have to find room on another builder’s schedule if maintenance is needed through the season.

PASS, which works in close concert with ACT, has not issued any statement of their own regarding Redline’s eligibility in the series. While PASS also favors crate engines, its crate program differs from that of ACT, and so the matter may be altogether moot.

For Switser, the only consolation comes from the support of his fellow racers, and the fact that a long season looms ahead. Eleven opportunities remain to pick up a redeeming win.

And if last season is any indication, it won’t be long.

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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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