A.J. BEGINS RIDES INTO CANAAN TO STEAL ACT TROPHY by Justin St. Louis
Surprise Winner Makes Name For Himself By Beating the Big Dogs
On lap 86 of the Ferguson Waterworks 100 at Canaan Fair Speedway on Sunday, most casual fans of the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) were likely asking "who is that guy in the black 66 car?" By the end of lap 87, they knew it was A.J. Begin, the next first-time winner in ACT competition.
The Merrimac, MA driver has made sporadic appearances with the ACT Late Model Tour over the past two seasons, and has shown potential on a number of occasions. On Sunday, though, he made a loud and clear statement that he will be a force to be reckoned with whenever he faces the Tour regulars.
Per ACT rules, the restart order is determined by the last completed green flag lap. As most of the drivers still running (only 14 at that point) had crossed the stripe on lap 87 before the caution flag came out, the lap was deemed official and Begin was the new race leader.
At the drop of the green, Begin and Scott battled hard for the lead, with Scott making several valiant attempts to get back to the point position. The Washington County (VT) Senator’s effort were in vain, however, as he came up a half-car length shy in the outside lane at the checkered flag. For Begin, it was a huge first win. For Scott, it meant the continuation of a five-year ACT Late Model Tour victory drought, one that extends through his 2002 championship season to the New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl at Thunder Road in September 2000.
"I'm disappointed," said a visibly upset Scott following the race. "Just very disappointed."
"Never would I have ever imagined this," said Begin, who finished fourth in ACT competition at White Mountain Motorsports Park two weeks ago. "I was in the way during the end there, and I'm just glad I held on. Phil Scott and everyone else ran me clean and hard all day long, and they're all just a class act. I really enjoy running this series."
Begin's day was not without incident, as he had to avoid a spinning Jean-Paul Cyr late in the event to remain in
The #66 car in victory lane.
...And Jean Paul Cyr didn't disappoint by winning the 100 lapper.
Begin started third in the 29-car field, thanks to a "+6" handicap rating after cruising from 11th to 5th in his heat race. Begin quickly settled in at the front of the pack, dicing with ACT top dogs Phil Scott, Joey Laquerre, Brent Dragon, and Jamie Fisher, among others, throughout the event. Former ACT Late Model Tour Champion Scott pulled away to a huge lead in the early going, but was hampered by an astounding 17 caution flags during the race. Begin, who restarted in Canaan Fair Speedway's tricky outside lane as often as the inside, held on at the head of the pack, and used the final caution flag to his benefit.
Following a restart on lap 86, Begin realigned outside Scott for the green flag. The pair drag raced around the fast 1/3-mile, with Begin nosing ahead of Scott at the line - the first lap of the event that Scott failed to lead. It would prove to be the deciding moment of the race. Just after the leaders crossed the start/finish line, Top 5 drivers Laquerre and Fisher tangled, sending Fisher hard into the frontstretch wall and off the Turn 1 banking, bringing out the yellow flag for the 17th and final time.
contention. "That 32 (Cyr) went around right in front of me, and I just took a deep breath," he said. "We got shuffled around at the front a lot today with all the restarts, and with this heat (temperatures ranged in the mid-90s all day) it was a long race. I'm just so happy to be here right now, this is great."
Following Begin and Scott across the finish line were Roger Brown, point leader Dave Pembroke, and rookie Scott Payea, who took his fourth top five finish in four career starts. Stay tuned to Speed51.com, we'll have more in the coming days.
A.J. Begin shows his excitement after his Canaan win. (Justin St. Louis Photos)