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American Canadian Tour

ACT, PASS Return To Action After Rain-Inspired Spring Break

New England’s top fendered touring series resume their seasons this weekend, after a moist month of May kept the two series mostly idle.

Patrick Laperle's car sits in the dampened infield at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Easter Sunday, after a threat of rain forced a day's postponement of the Northeast Classic. Rain has plagued ACT and PASS this year, with both series rescheduling races due to weather. (STS/Jeff Brown)

When drivers with the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Stars Series fire their engines for this weekend’s races, it will be the first time in over a month that they do so in touring trim.

Saturday’s ACT Spring Green 122 at White Mountain Motorsports Park and Sunday’s PASS Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway will be the first races since early May for the two touring circuits, courtesy of a series of rainouts, postponements, and scheduled off-weekends.

Call it an unintended spring break.

Or call it a case study of the challenges faced by track and tour owners and promoters when dealing with the wildcard of all wildcards.

The whims of weather affect racing everywhere. In New England, where the racing season is already notoriously short, spring feels like a battleground. The region’s tracks have traditionally planned their big opening weekends in April, when the worst of winter is long past. But just as easily as the skies can deliver warm weather and sun for a given weekend, rain and cold and even the occasional snowstorm can throw a wrench into the works.

With those April weekends booked up solidly, and with weekly racing often starting in May, a rainout or rain delay can create scheduling conflicts out of the gate, if they can be resolved at all.

ACT and PASS had their share of weather issues in April, starting with the co-promoted Icebreaker weekend at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway. Cold temperatures and rain in the forecast forced the second day of Icebreaker features to be pushed out a week. More rain arrived on the makeup date, but with no prospects for a second rain date, officials waited out a window to get the day’s program in as darkness fell. The week after that, ACT and PASS were forced to delay the second Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway by one day, due to a forecast that made running all six features unlikely. Feature racing was moved to Easter Sunday, where clear skies were countered by cold and the occasional burst of snow.

But while the two sanctioning organizations battled weather, they were ultimately able to get all their April racing in.

May was another story. The month started smoothly enough for both tours at their home venues. Thunder Road International Speedbowl opened its season with the second ACT Tour event of the year on May 1. PASS’ 2022 campaign marched on a week later at Oxford Plains Speedway.

The first domino to fall was PASS’ trip to WMMP on May 15. Leading into the weekend, a wet Sunday forecast prompted PASS and WMMP to call off the touring divisions early. Saturday’s weekly features were going to proceed as planned, until rain and lightning forced them to be scrubbed from the calendar as well.

While PASS and WMMP promised a rain date, all eyes shifted to the following Sunday and a highly-anticipated ACT-PASS double-feature at Monadnock Speedway. While ACT had visited “Mad Dog” many years ago, PASS would be making its debut on the high-banked quarter-mile.

But at noon that Saturday, PASS and ACT pulled the plug, citing a forecast of rain and heavy winds due to strike around post time. PASS was quicker to document the race as “canceled,” while ACT declared it “postponed” while rain date options were considered.

Neither series was scheduled to race on Memorial Day weekend, with Thunder Road and Oxford each staging big holiday-weekend features that would attract at least some of their touring regulars. Oxford called off its Saturday program early, moving all racing to Monday, while Thunder Road’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic went off as planned on Sunday.

PASS was originally slated to return to action on June 5, but an update to the series schedule before Memorial Day nudged that event a week ahead, giving PASS’ touring teams more than a month between the fourth and fifth races of the season, and a total of three unexpected off-weeks.

The ACT Tour schedule was already more sparse by design — ACT only plans ten to twelve touring shows a year in deference to its circle of weekly tracks — but within that framework, one race off created a significant gap on the calendar.

Especially worth noting is that the ACT and PASS touring cancellations were all announced in advance, not on the day of the event. More and more promoters are making their weather decisions with caution in mind, decisions that leave some fans (and some racers) frustrated, particularly if the weather forecast turns out to be wrong.

While the frustration is understandable, so is the cautious approach.

Rained-out races are the ultimate no-win scenario for track operators and promoters. The costs to open and operate the track for a day are the same whether or not a green flag flies. The same costs apply for the rain date, without the revenue of the racers and fans who already paid admission.

Racers have their own expenses to worry about, and those extend beyond the race car. Fuel prices are at record highs, a challenge for those with a long tow to the track. A rainout forces a repeat trip, or last-minute lodging for the crew, or both. When ACT confirmed the Monadnock postponement, it pointed to the travel costs for the Canadian teams that were set to cross the border to race, only to risk driving several hours for a rainout.

But racers are obligated to travel. Fans have no such obligations. And with a poor forecast for a race, fans are likely to stay home altogether, wiping out front-gate income for the track owner or promoter.

By no means is postponement the easy way out, either. With schedules packed tightly to accommodate weekly shows and special touring events, free summer weekends are hard to come by. PASS ultimately rescheduled May’s WMMP rainout for July 15, creating a two-day doubleheader with an already-scheduled race. It also created schedule conflicts with a major regional touring race for another series and with NHMS’ NASCAR-weekend support activities. PASS’ compromise was to offer the race up as a “drop race” for full-time competitors who could not commit to the new date, a good move to keep teams happy.

A date for the postponed Monadnock feature has not yet been confirmed, with PASS hinting that another track could take the date instead.

Faced with few good options, ACT and PASS have sided with an approach that, while often easy to question with the gift of hindsight, is the best business case for teams and tracks in a challenging economy.

The last month has hardly been idle for many ACT and PASS regulars, as they have found opportunities to compete elsewhere. A few have even found victory lane in the process. ACT Tour regular Stephen Donahue earned a win in Thunder Road’s Memorial Day Classic, while point leader Derek Gluchacki won last week’s 100-lap weekly Late Model feature at WMMP in preparation for the Spring Green.

But with a busy month of June ahead, and a summer full of action beyond that, New England’s unanticipated spring break is about to be history.

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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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