Connect with us

American Canadian Tour

Tardif tops ACT Tour field for breakthrough win in Claude Leclerc 150

The talented young racer conquered his home track to become the first Canadian to visit the ACT Tour winner’s circle since 2022.

Alexendre Tardif earned his first ACT Tour win Saturday evening in the Claude Leclerc 150 at his home track, Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée-Jonction, QC. (Photo courtesy VT&NH Racing News/Merrick Cote)

After going back on the road in 2024, it took a trip home for Alexendre “Fireball” Tardif to score his first American-Canadian Tour win.

Well, his first with the “American” ACT Tour, anyway.

Tardif dominated Saturday night’s Claude Leclerc 150 at Autodrome Chaudière, claiming his first ACT Late Model Tour checkered flag at the track closest to his Quebec roots.

Somehow, the Canadian racer with the nickname “Fireball” winning at a track whose name translates to “boiler” just seems fitting.

One of few events in the Northeast not to cancel in anticipation of rain, the annual tribute to ACT’s octogenarian “Ironman” was delayed slightly by afternoon showers. With a strong assembly of American racers on hand to challenge the local base of Canadian Late Model aces, motivations were strong to get the show in without necessitating an extra day on site.

Once the skies cleared, four heats and two consis were run to set the grid of 33 Late Models for the green flag. Tardif rolled off on the outside of the front row, needing only a few laps to plant himself at the front of the field.

Even with veteran Patrick Laperle breathing down his neck, Tardif turned in a dominant performance in front of his home crowd. (Photo courtesy VT&NH Racing News/Merrick Cote)

Veterans Raphaël Lessard and Patrick Laperle ran near the front early, even as Tardif maintained an advantage on his fellow Quebecers fifty laps into the feature. A caution with 35 laps remaining kept Tardif from getting too comfortable out front, promising to make the final shootout that much more engaging.

Lessard ran into trouble before the laps ran out, leaving Tardif to fend off “Le Grand Laperle” for the win. The 2008 ACT Tour champ, running Sullivan Family Motorsports’ car number on his familiar orange entry, was unable to unseat Tardif from the lead in the closing laps.

Tardif had come close plenty of times, with four runner-up ACT Tour finishes to his name so far. But he was not to be denied Saturday, sealing the deal at long last and becoming the first Canadian to win with the ACT Tour since Laperle’s Fall Foliage 200 win in September of 2022.

Laperle, a 20-time ACT Tour victor, came home a stout second, with Gabe Brown the best-finishing American driver in third.

Defending champion D.J. Shaw fought to a fourth-place finish. Rookie Kasey Beattie continued to impress with a fifth-place finish in his first trip to Chaudière.

Local racer Jeff Côté was sixth, with New Hampshire Motor Speedway winner Derek Gluchacki battling his way to seventh. Jonathan Bouvrette, Will Larue and Patrick Cliche rounded out the top ten.

Claude Leclerc, the race’s still-active namesake, soldiered home four laps down in 23rd. Active with ACT since its inception as the NASCAR North Tour in 1979, the 82-year-old racer has attempted every Tour race this season.

So has Tardif, who made his Tour debut in 2019 with four starts and a best finish of seventh at Oxford Plains Speedway. Any hopes of racing full-time in 2020 were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, though, as restrictions and travel bans largely stifled motorsports activities in Quebec and kept Canadian racers out of the States for the better part of two years. Tardif did score a big win in 2021, claiming Chaudière’s Bacon Bowl 200 that fall.

Tardif won twice last year with the Quebec-based Série ACT LMS, the organization’s Canadian affiliate tour, but Saturday was his first win with the United States-based ACT Tour. (Photo courtesy VT&NH Racing News/Merrick Cote)

Tardif and his Arold Roy-owned team made the step to the Tour full-time in 2022, finishing second in points to Shaw with four podium finishes and seven top tens in 13 starts. In 2023, Tardif split his time between the American Tour and the reintroduced Série ACT LMS, a ten-race contest split between Chaudière and Autodrome Montmagny, two of Quebec’s last active paved bullrings. In eight Série ACT starts, Tardif won twice at Montmagny. Success came harder on the US-based Tour, but in his last three starts of the year, Tardif scored two top-ten finishes plus a runner-up result in the season finale, earning respect for battling race winner Shaw cleanly in the closing laps.

For Tardif, a win on the Tour was a matter of when, not if.

Saturday’s race came only days after a shakeup with ACT’s cross-border sanctioning partner. Following a post-race officiating decision rendered by ACT’s stateside officials, Série ACT co-promoter André Poulin tendered his resignation, handing the reins to series partner Howard Romanado. Romanado, late of the defunct Autodrome St.-Eustache, promotes Montmagny, while Poulin is the promoter at Chaudière.

The high-banked quarter-mile nestled in the province’s Beauce region is only a few miles from Tardif’s hometown of Notre-Dame-des-Pins. The only paved track in Quebec presently sanctioned by NASCAR, Chaudière has been a reliable partner with ACT for years, as well as a home venue for plenty of the Tour’s Canadian combatants.

ACT is one of few organizations that manages the precarious balancing act of racing on both sides of the international border, a routine that dates back to an era when making the crossing required little more than a driver’s license. The challenges today are greater than ever, yet ACT remains true to its name with a competitive presence in Quebec.

Gluchacki’s seventh-place finish should keep him atop the unofficial standings four races into the season, but both Brown and Shaw were able to chip away at the Massachusetts racer’s ample advantage. Tardif, sixth in points so far, will move well into the top five as the championship battle begins to take shape.

The ACT Tour teams have a couple weeks to regroup before the Tour’s next race, the Spring Green 124 at Seekonk Speedway. Last year’s race, in a story that certainly looks familiar to this year, was postponed by rain until the middle of summer.

After the last several weeks, even going back to 2023, ACT could use a ray of sunshine or two.

At least for now, ACT has a “Fireball.”

Unofficial Results
American-Canadian Tour Claude Leclere 150
Autodrome Chaudière

1. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
2. (0NH) Patrick Laperle
3. (47NH) Gabe Brown
4. (04VT) D.J. Shaw
5. (45NH) Kasey Beattie
6. (51QC) Jeff Côté
7. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
8. (41QC) Jonathan Bouvrette
9. (45QC) William Larue
10. (44QC) Patrick Cliche
11. (19QC) Dany Trepanier
12. (72QC) Louis-Philippe Lauzier
13. (36NH) Erick Sands
14. (18VT) Kaiden Fisher
15. (77NH) Bryan Wall, Jr.
16. (27NH) Cam Huntress
17. (33QC) Rémi Perreault
18. (7MA) Jeremy Sorel
19. (33P) Philippe Poulin
20. (33D) Laurent Dejardins
21. (37QC) Dany Gariepy
22. (66QC) Simon Roussin
23. (11QC) Claude Leclerc
24. (78QC) Michaël Lavoie
25. (48QC) Raphaël Lessard
26. (25NH) Jesse Switser
27. (17QC) Maxime Gauvreau
28. (01VT) Stephen Martin
29. (65QC) Daniel Verner
30. (15QC) Christopher Bedard
31. (92QC) Jonathan Desbiens
32. (69QC) Vincent Rivard
33. (57QC) Carl Poulin

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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




More in American Canadian Tour