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American Canadian Tour

Northeast Late Model Recap (8/17)

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.

ACT TOUR: After a one-week postponement, the ACT Tour Late Models finally made it to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for the Coastal 100. Unlike the past few seasons, this was the sole scheduled appearance for the Tour in the Pine Tree State. Citing fewer tracks running ACT Late Model rules in Maine and fewer local teams turning out for races, the Tour had dropped events at Beech Ridge and Oxford Plains Speedway, leaving only the August 100-lapper on the 2017 schedule.

Twenty-one ACT teams were in the pits for Saturday’s Coastal 100. Only two drivers on the entry list were Mainers. But all were focused on whether Scott Payea could win his record fifth-straight ACT Late Model feature. As it turned out, it took a ringer to dethrone Payea and end his win streak at four.

The “ringer” was Eddie MacDonald. “The Outlaw” ran down Payea early in the race, stalked him for several laps, and made the pass on lap 41. From there, MacDonald was unable to get away from Payea, but Payea was unable to get back past the red #17MA. MacDonald, who has finished in the top-five in his last five Beech Ridge races (including a win in 2013), cruised to his first ACT Tour victory of the season in his third start.

Scott Payea held on for second, with Vermont’s Jimmy Hebert finishing a solid third. Canadian visitor Jean-François Déry finished fourth, ahead of Steuben, ME regular Rowland Robinson, Jr. The back half of the top ten featured strong performances from part-timers Oren Remick (sixth) and Shawn Swallow (tenth), while second-in-points Dillon Moltz could only work his way to ninth place at the end of the night.

Payea holds a commanding 59-point advantage over Moltz, with Rich Dubeau and Jimmy Hebert a distant third and fourth in the standings. After two long layovers between races, the ACT teams will assemble Saturday at White Mountain Motorsports Park for their seventh event of the season. And with only three points races remaining on the schedule (read on below), the urgency has increased for those with dreams of the Tour title.

GSPSS: The Granite State Pro Stock Series made its sole appearance at Winchester, New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway this past Saturday. Seventeen Pro Stocks were on hand for the JBH 100 on the banked quarter-mile.

With seven races complete on the GSPSS schedule, the top-five drivers in series points shared something that none of the five actually had: a win on the season. A healthy list of ringers and part-time drivers had racked up victories in 2017, with only two feature winners (Mike Mitchell and Tommy O’Sullivan) making more than three starts so far.

O’Sullivan and his brother Mike, the current point leader, were both quick in practice for the 100-lap event. Josh King, however, earned the pole for the feature and jumped out to an early lead. Scott MacMichael, one of the top rookies in 2017, took the lead from King with 61 laps complete, but King took the lead back eight laps later. A few laps after that, rain dampened the track, forcing the GSPSS field to the pits with King out front and only 72 laps complete.

Officials declared the race complete, and King, who skipped the series’ last race at White Mountain Motorsports Park, rebounded in style with his first career GSPSS victory. Scott MacMichael finished second, with 2016 GSPSS champion Barry Gray coming home third. Brothers Mike and Tommy O’Sullivan finished fourth and fifth, with Cory Casagrande finishing sixth. PASS regular Travis Benjamin, in David Frahm’s #14 car, ended the night in seventh.

With four races remaining, Mike O’Sullivan will retain the points lead, with Scott MacMichael moving to second over Barry Gray. Despite his win, Josh King will remain outside the top five in points, keeping the top five in the standings winless thus far.

The GSPSS teams have a week off, before making their inaugural appearance at Oxford Plains Speedway in support of the Oxford 250.

DEVIL’S BOWL: Pavement has been the preferred racing surface in New England in recent years. However, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in western Vermont is gambling the other way, transitioning to a clay surface for the 2018 season.

The dual-surface track, managed by former ACT and NASCAR Busch North competitor Mike Bruno, has featured both a half-mile paved oval and a three-tenths-of-a-mile dirt oval configuration since the outer track was paved in 2010. With car counts in the top paved classes dwindling, Bruno opted to resurface the half-mile with clay. To get a jump start on the construction, which includes an infield pit lane and grandstand renovations, the Devil’s Bowl season will now end on September 2nd, forcing the cancellation of the ACT Tour event that was scheduled for later that month.

Devil’s Bowl will remain the only track of three in Vermont to operate under NASCAR weekly sanctioning. However, the new surface will make Barre’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl the only paved track operating in the Green Mountain State.

This is the second track in New England to announce a transition to dirt, as Maine’s Unity Raceway will become Maine’s only regular dirt track in 2018. However, Devil’s Bowl may be simply falling in line with its nearest neighbors. Across the state line in New York, Lebanon Valley Speedway just east of Albany hosts a successful dirt program. Albany-Saratoga Speedway returned to dirt after a brief flirtation with a paved surface. Further north, Plattsburgh’s Airborne Park Speedway is enjoying a new life as a dirt track after years of being a staple on the ACT Tour. The next year or two will tell if Devil’s Bowl can profit similarly.

WEEKLY ACTION: A week after a second-place run at Thunder Road, Cody Blake snapped a two-year winless streak with a victory at the tough quarter-mile oval. Points leaders Trampas Demers and Bobby Therrien finished fourth and fifth, with the “Bad Boy” from Hinesburg, VT holding a slim edge over Demers with three points races to go.

Beech Ridge Motor Speedway returned to weekly racing after an unexpected week off. Reid Lanpher, seeking some momentum heading into the Oxford 250, found some momentum in Saturday night’s Pro Series feature. The early-season winner overtook early leaders Jacob Dore and Evan Beaulieu, then held off three-race-winner Curtis Gerry to win his third Pro Series race of the season. Lanpher now holds a four-point lead over Gerry with only a few weeks left in the season. Former track champion Dave Farrington, Jr. was in attendance as a spectator, returning from a rained-out PASS South event at South Boston (VA) Speedway.

With his weekly entry at Beech Ridge out of contention for the track title, Garrett Hall headed to Oxford Plains instead, stealing an “away” victory in preparation for the Oxford 250. Hall held off a challenge from fourteen-year-old rookie Gabe Brown, who wheeled a Dale Shaw Race Cars entry to second place in only his third SLM start. Alan Tardiff finished 19th in the 21-car field, losing some of his point lead to father and son tandem Tim and TJ Brackett in the process.

COMING UP: The American-Canadian Tour has a busy weekend ahead. While the ACT Late Models race stateside at White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday, the Série ACT competitors return to Autodrome St.-Eustache for their penultimate race. The touring Super Late Models are quiet this weekend, but with the Oxford 250 in two weekends, the weekly features at Oxford and Beech Ridge are likely to feature some PASS regulars shaking down their equipment one last time.

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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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