The American-Canadian Tour Late Model championship had already been decided when Derek Gluchacki arrived at New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday. But the possibility of ending the season the way he started was still on the table.
And for the first time since 2016, a driver started and ended the ACT Tour season in the winner’s circle.
Gluchacki prevailed in a late-race battle with Gabe Brown and newly-crowned champion DJ Shaw to win the Shoreline 150, capping off a breakthrough season for the North Dartmouth, Mass. racer.
“Everyone puts so much effort into this,” Gluchacki said, rattling off his crew one by one in victory lane. “I really couldn’t do it without any one of them.”
Saturday’s season finale was a late addition to the schedule, booked at a track that had not hosted the ACT Tour since 2018 despite counting a healthy contingent of ACT-rules Late Models among its weekly classes. Gluchacki, who joined the Tour full-time in 2020, got some extra laps in earlier in the afternoon, finishing 18th in the Pro All Stars Series North feature before strapping in for the ACT contest.
Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. and Ryan Morgan showed the way through a rough-and-tumble opening stretch, with Morgan, the 2022 Thompson Speedway track champion, taking command a few laps into the race. Renfrew, in his second start for HMS Racing, was left to fend off Gabe Brown and DJ Shaw as they climbed through the field.
On lap 27, Jordan Hadley went around in turn two, with Alexendre Tardif spinning to avoid Hadley. White Mountain Motorsports Park regular Kasey Beattie made hard contact with the left front of Tardif’s stopped car, ending the day for the Tour’s leading rookie and championship runner-up.
Brown, who had nabbed second from Renfrew before Tardif’s crash, took the lead from Morgan on the restart. Brown could not build a lead before the yellow flew again, this time for contact between Cody LeBlanc and rookie Bryan Wall, Jr. that left both racers pointed backwards.
This time, Brown distanced himself from what quickly became a furious battle for second, with Shaw and Gluchacki turning up the heat on Morgan. Gluchacki ducked inside of Morgan and tried making a three-wide pass to take second, but backed out and settled into third. Morgan held off the rush until a caution flew with fifty laps complete for Tom Carey’s spin in turn two.
Fresh off a runner-up finish in the PASS 150, Brown took charge on the restart and left Morgan to fend off the rest of the field. Gluchacki and Shaw slipped by the Connecticut racer for second and third while Beattie, soldiering on from his contact with Tardif, emerged as a top-five threat. As Beattie and Morgan dueled for position, Erick Sands crept into the top-five conversation, driving back from a lap-two spin.
Brown’s superiority began to fade, and as he worked around slower traffic, Gluchacki and Shaw closed the gap. With 54 laps remaining, Gluchacki looked inside, but Brown closed the door. Shaw countered with a similar look under Gluchacki, taking second from him momentarily, but Gluchacki battled back as Brown continued to lead. Sands closed in on the leaders as the top three battled, looking to play the spoiler.
With 38 laps to go, Gluchacki made the winning move, passing Brown and bringing Shaw along into second. Brown was left to contend with Sands, who made his pass for third and hunted down the leaders. But with the field spread out, Gluchacki was able to keep Shaw at bay.
A week after multiple wrecks denied him a shot at victory at Seekonk Speedway, Gluchacki held on for his third ACT Tour win of the season.
“Can’t complain,” he said. “Wish we had made the trip to Canada, but it is what it is. Can’t thank my guys enough, they work hard all year.”
Shaw finished second, closing out his championship year with three wins, top-five finishes in all but two races, and an average finish of 3.54. “Derek had the class of the field late in the going there,” he said. “I thought we’d have something for him until he took the lead, and then he checked out.”
Third place went to the resurgent Sands, who rebounded from his early spin with his best finish of a challenging 2022. Sands ended the year with back-to-back top tens and finished fourth in the season-ending standings.
Brown, a late addition in a car prepared for development driver Isaac Bevin, finished fourth in his third ACT Tour start of the year. After prevailing in his duel with early leader Morgan, Kasey Beattie came home with a career-best fifth place.
Rookie Tanner Woodard, who advanced from the last-chance qualifier, was sixth, with NLWS regular Jason Palmer best in class after starting in the front of the field. Hadley came back from his early spin with an eighth-place run. Andrew Molleur and rookie Wall rounded out the top ten.
Twenty-eight cars took the green flag, with local favorite Ray Christian III and WMMP veteran Quinny Welch among those who did not make the cut for the feature. Tardif was the best-finishing Canadian competitor in 23rd, bookending a solid season with his only failures to finish.
Gluchacki, on the other hand, scored wins in both the season-opening tilt at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Saturday’s season finale, making him the first driver since Bobby Therrien in 2016 to bookend the ACT Tour season.
The Seekonk Speedway graduate enjoyed success from start to finish in 2022, opening the season with his NHMS win and ending the year with three ACT Tour victories. Gluchacki also added extracurricular Late Model feature wins at Thompson, Seekonk and WMMP, where he swept the Wall’s Ford Platinum Series Triple Crown.
Travel restrictions into Canada kept Gluchacki’s team from attempting the season’s two features held in Quebec, consigning him to third in the points standings, 267 markers back of Shaw. With those two starts, Gluchacki might have been able to threaten Shaw for the title.
With those restrictions since lifted, a full Tour itinerary could once again be in Gluchacki’s future.
More success on the Tour certainly is.
Unofficial Results, American-Canadian Tour Shoreline 150 at New London-Waterford Speedbowl:
1. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
2. (04VT) DJ Shaw
3. (36NH) Erick Sands
4. (27KY) Gabe Brown
5. (45NH) Kasey Beattie
6. (68NH) Tanner Woodard
7. (17CT) Jason Palmer
8. (37CT) Jordan Hadley
9. (35CT) Andrew Molleur
10. (77NH) Bryan Wall, Jr.
11. (7ME) Dylan Payea
12. (7NH) Cody LeBlanc
13. (0NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
14. (5MA) Tom Carey III
15. (02NH) Randy Potter
16. (4CT) Reese Bogue
17. (27NH) Cam Huntress
18. (04NH) Shawn Swallow
19. (68VT) Brooks Clark
20. (31CT) Ryan Morgan
21. (73ME) Dave Farrington, Jr.
22. (30RI) Jacob “Rowdy” Burns
23. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
24. (53MA) Glen Thomas
25. (41QC) Jonathan Bouvrette
26. (33QC) Rémi Perreault
27. (6CT) Cory DiMatteo
28. (2CT) Derryck Anderson, Jr.