ACT LATE MODELS: CANAAN LEFTOVERS by Justin St. Louis
Begin, Whitcomb, Payea, Scott and Many Others Race on a Very Warm Day
INTENSE HEAT TAKES ITS TOLL
Milk Bowl win at Thunder Road in September 2000, but don't read into that too much - Scott won the regular Thursday night Late Model feature at Thunder Road, his seventh Thunder Road win since the Milk Bowl victory.
Actually, Begin, a former Lee USA (NH) Speedway regular, has been a quiet force every time he enters the ACT Late Model Tour field. In only a handful of starts, Begin has established the fact that he can perform with the big guns of the Tour, taking a pair of Top-six finishes at White Mountain Motorsports Park over the last two seasons.
On Sunday, he put a major stamp on his arrival to ACT. Begin nosed ahead of former Tour Champion Phil Scott moments before the final caution flag flew on lap 87, and took the lead for good, driving his Hillcrest Chevrolet
With temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s at Canaan Fair Speedway (NH) on Sunday, quite a few drivers were affected by the heat, and were forced out of the race.
Reportedly, Ron Henry (who pulled off the track while running in the Top 10) collapsed from heat exhaustion when he climbed out of his RTA Aggregates Chevrolet. Some felt that many of the race's 17 caution periods were due to overheated drivers making mistakes, and between driver fatigue and wrecked race cars, only 13 of the 29 starters were running at the finish.
“I felt like a ping pong ball out there," remarked a wilted Mark Durgin. "It's so hot, I'm glad that's over. That was an awful race to be in."
WHO THE HECK IS A.J. BEGIN?
The winner of the Ferguson Waterworks 100, that's who.
VETERAN LAQUERRE HAS A LONG, LONG, LONG DAY BEHIND THE WHEEL
If there was a "Bravery Award" to be handed out at Canaan, there's no question that 61 year-old veteran Joey Laquerre would be the man to receive it. Laquerre not only ran the entire Ferguson Waterworks 100 with the ACT Late Model Tour, he also competed in the Tiger Sportsman Series 50-lap event, running the first 26 laps before his car shut down following a restart.
A.J. Begin made a name for himself at Canaan. (Alan Ward Photo)
Between qualifying, consolation, and feature races in both divisions, Laquerre ran 167 laps under green. Add in caution laps (17 cautions in the Late Model race, five in the Sportsman event) and a couple hours' worth of practice in the morning, he likely turned more than 400 laps on Sunday. Not only that, Laquerre was involved in three accidents in the Late Model Tour event and still finished in 10th place. Even more impressive, the 1982 Vermont State Champion pulled the double at Thunder Road on Thursday night, finishing third in the regular 50-lap Late Model feature and tenth in the WDEV 100 for the Tiger! Sportsman Series.
machine into the winner's circle. Two weeks ago at White Mountain, Begin was correctly confident that his team would be a Top 5 threat. At Canaan, however, he was almost shocked to have won.
"Never would I have ever imagined this," said an ecstatic but exhausted Begin in the tech area following the race.
SCOTT STILL IN A SLUMP
In what appeared to be THE race to break his five-year ACT Late Model Tour win drought, Phil Scott was denied the checkered flag again at Canaan. Scott drove from 11th to 4th in his heat race, earning a "+7" handicap rating and Ferguson Waterworks 100 pole position.
Brown's #99 looked sharp early in the race (Top - Alan Ward Photo), but had a few battle scars at the end of the day. (Justin St. Louis Photo)
PEMBROKE'S BIRTHDAY NOT SO BAD
Dave Pembroke celebrated his birthday at Canaan Fair Speedway on Sunday.
"Don't tell anyone - they've got me on those 'Young Guns' posters and all, but I'm no kid," Pembroke said.
Let's just say the number was higher than 29. Pembroke was confident of his chances, too.
When asked if he had the car to win, he said "I think we've got a pretty good... no, we're actually really good. We can win this race."
Pembroke didn't win, but after a relatively clean and consistent outing, he brought the Twinstate Communications Chevrolet home in fourth spot, and continues to hold the ACT point lead over defending champion Jean-Paul Cyr.
"WONDERBOY" DOES IT AGAIN - ROOKIE PAYEA FINISHES IN TOP FIVE
Fans of the ACT Late Model Tour are beginning to feel that rookie Scott Payea maybe - just maybe - is in fact the real deal. And why shouldn't they? The 23 year-old driver has been able to do is finish in the Top 5 in every single one of his four ACT Late Model Tour starts.
"Lately, it seems like everything he touches turns to gold," said Payea's father Jim before the race.
"I don't know what it is," said Scott Payea, "we just keep working and working. Today was rough, but we came out of it good. I just hope we can keep it up."
Payea recovered from a lap 42 spin with Eric Chase to climb his way through the field and finish fifth in the Wendell's Furniture for Less Ford.
Scott's #14 runs to the inside of eventual winner A.J. Begin. (Alan Ward Photo)
From the drop of the green, the Vermont State Senator left the field in his wake, opening up a half-straightaway lead by lap 5. The constant caution flags kept Scott from running away and hiding, though. On lap 86, a three-car spin brought out the yellow, bringing Scott and Begin together for the restart. On lap 87, the yellow flew again, but Begin had taken the lead and subsequently held the quicker inside lane on the restart.
Scott's ACT winless streak continues, dating back to his
ROCKETMAN UP, THEN DOWN,
THEN AROUND, THEN WAY UP
"Rocket" Roger Brown seemingly came out of nowhere late in the going to finish in third spot. After starting 12th, Brown began to move forward, but was shuffled around and faded to the back half of the field, falling out of the Top 20 after spinning on lap 51. By the end of the race, the Lancaster, NH driver had quietly crept back into contention, despite fighting intense heat in the cockpit.
"That was kinda wild, huh?" Brown said of the race. "We went from 12th to the lead group, then the bottom fell out. It worked out good at the end, we were coming, but I'm glad that race wasn't a lap longer, it just sucked out there. I could have had Phil at the end, but I didn't want to push it any more than I already had been. It was so hot in that car, I wanted to get out. I touched the interior tin getting out in victory lane and it burned my skin."
One of Brown's crewmembers also received a six-inch burn on his stomach from leaning inside the car.
WHITCOMB ON THE LONG-TERM REBOUND?
Dave Whitcomb, the inaugural ACT Late Model Tour Champion in 1992, looked stronger than usual at Canaan, running well into the Top 10 and even in the Top 5 at the midway point. It was a good time to run out front, too, as race sponsor Ferguson Waterworks is also a supporter of the Essex Jct., VT veteran.
Whitcomb was a dominant force in the early 1990s, winning championships on the Tour, and at Thunder Road and Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY. In 2004, he finished in the Top 10 in ACT standings for the first time in four seasons, and looks to be continuing his upward trend.
Unfortunately, a fuel problem knocked Whitcomb out at Canaan, leaving him to be credited with 15th while parked in the pits.
NEW GUYS CONTINUE TO IMPROVE
ACT newbies Mark Durgin, Lew Fortin, Dennis Botticello, and 16 year-old "Joey Pole" Polewarczyk ran strong at Canaan. Durgin, Fortin, and Botticello were each in their share of incidents, but finished strong taking positions 11th, 12th, and 13th, respectively. Polewarczyk was absolutely on rails in the second consolation race, driving from 7th to finish second behind Marc Curtis. Polewarczyk started 17th in the feature and was inside the Top 10 when his car began overheating and he was forced to pit.
Payea in the middle of a strong pack of cars. (Alan Ward Photo)
Joey Laquerre had his Tiger Sportsman and Late Model cars at Canaan on Sunday (Justin St. Louis photo)
Whitcomb's #25 (Justin St. Louis Photo)
IF IT WASN'T FOR BAD LUCK...
... then Jamie Fisher would have no luck at all. The S.D. Ireland Concrete Chevrolet pilot ran in the Top 5 through the entire Ferguson Waterworks 100, and looked to play the part of race spoiler as he caught Phil Scott late in the going. Instead, Fisher's race was spoiled on the infamous lap 87, as he and Joey Laquerre crashed. Fisher's car pounded the fronstretch wall, shearing the right front suspension off his car.
Fisher previously failed to qualify at the Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road this season as well, but is still inside the Top 10 in points... barely. Fisher is now just seven markers ahead of 11th-place Laquerre.
ACT INVADERS RUN STRONG
A handful of unexpected drivers made the haul to Canaan for the ACT event Sunday. White Mountain Motorsports Park regulars Quinny Welch and Mike Gosselin made the haul, as did Lee USA Speedway's Mike Collins and Charlie Rousseau.
Welch and Collins ran exceptionally well, each finishing in the Top 10 in the main event. In fact, Welch won the second consolation round, while Collins drove from 23rd at the start into the Top 10 early, and battled with the leaders throughout the race.
"That was the longest race I've ever been in by far," said a sweat-soaked Collins after the 100-lap feature. "I like running the ACT events, and we really surprised even ourselves today with the way we ran. I'd like to run more (with ACT), but we're second in points at Lee, and we're
on a pretty limited budget. We will be at White Mountain
and Airborne later this year, though."
SOME BIG NAMES MISSING AT CANAAN
Some of the ACT Late Model Tour's biggest names failed to show up at Canaan Fair Speedway. Former point leader and Lee USA winner Cris Michaud did not make the show, but has made it well-known that he never intended to run for the Tour championship.
Other part-timers that were expected but didn't show included Eric Williams and Pete Fecteau. Full-timers that failed to show included rookies Bill Sawyer and Jamien Deschenes, and Top 10 point men B.J. Piekarski and Dave Wilcox.
A trio of ACT drivers - Patrick Laperle, Jacob McGrath, and rookie Ryan Nolin - went north of the border for a 200-lap event at the recently-reopened Sanair Super Speedway in St-Pie, Quebec.
GRENIER WINS TIGER SPORTSMAN SERIES EVENT
Chip Grenier of Northfield, VT grabbed the lead from polesitter Robin Wood on lap 2 of the Ferguson Waterworks 50, and held off the persistent challenges of Mark "The Hammer" Barnier and later Shawn Fleury, who won the Sportsman Series' WDEV 100 at Thunder Road on Thursday night.
Grenier had a back bumper full of Barnier for the majority of the race, and the two made plans to finish 1-2 under the final caution on lap 47.
"Hammer yelled to me when we crossed over before the restart, and said 'Hey, let's finish first and second - I'll be first, you can be second!'" laughed Grenier in the winner's circle. "I figured it was such a good race, I'd be happy either way."
Fleury was actually the man to finish behind Grenier as he got by Barnier for second spot. Fleury's car shut down three - count 'em, three! - times during caution periods in the race, but restarted in time to keep its spot in line every time, and was strong enough for its third podium run in four races this season. The first round of the new ACT Street Stock Triple Crown Series was run, and Eric Johnson held off Joe Small and Alex Perkins for the win.
White Mountain Motorsports Park regular Quinny Welch (#70) won a consi and finished ninth in the 100 (Justin St. Louis photo)
Jamie Fisher's #18 car when it had all four wheels (Justin St. Louis photo)