ACT LATE MODELS: SEEKONK LEFTOVERS by Justin St. Louis
Dragon, Payea, Piekarski, Botticello and Others
DRAGON SPEAKS OUT ABOUT OXFORD INCIDENT, LEAVES IT BEHIND HIM AND WINS
"It was sort of discouraging; it took us out of the point race. I could have come back out and probably finished tenth, but I wasn't going to. It was just a bad, terrible call, and he got me last year the same way. He left me over the bank, I was leading the race and he left me over the bank for three laps. It's just one of those things. It's over with, and we won tonight."
THIRTEEN DRIVERS SCORE BEST TOUR FINISH OF 2005
Seekonk was kind to drivers that have struggled some this season on the ACT Late Model Tour. Thirteen drivers scored their best finishes of the 2005 campaign in the Bay State 100, including eight of the Top 15 finishers. For B.J. Piekarski (3rd), Ryan Vanasse (4th), Dennis Botticello (7th), and Lew Fortin (10th), it was also the best finish of each of their respective ACT careers, and the first Top 10 finish ever for all but Piekarski.
CYR TURNS LEMONS INTO LEMONADE, BIG TIME
"The 47 [Reny] car, it was me and him, and Jean-Paul (Cyr) and Roger (Brown)," Dragon explained. "During the last 40 laps we'd all pull away, and it was definitely down to the four of us (for the win). One time, the 47 was running outside of Jean and he lost it off Turn 4 and shot in front of Roger down toward the infield - he needed the whole track to save it because he overdrove the car. After I went by, he came up behind me and started beating on me, and I said 'It's too early for this, go ahead,' and I waved and just let him back by. There's a picture on our
At Oxford Plains Speedway two weeks ago, Brent Dragon was black flagged from fourth spot with seven laps remaining for allegedly dumping the #47 of Oxford regular Steve Reny. Dragon was sent to the rear under caution, where he protested the call made by ACT race officials. When the decision was not reversed, Dragon pulled into the pits.
"I feel bad for the 8 (Lowrey)," said Piekarski, "but he checked up right when I was on the bottom of the track. I backed off as soon I got into him so he could hopefully save it. I don't think it was my fault, and obviously they (ACT officials) don't either, because I'm here in third place."
VANASSE IMPRESSIVE ON HOME TRACK
Warwick, RI's Ryan Vanasse came into the ACT Late Model Tour in 2005 as a high-profile "outsider", having won 6 Late Model events at Seekonk Speedway in 2004. The ACT newbie has had a topsy-turvy season, though - sandwiched between a pair of Top-12 finishes were three early-season events where Vanasse failed to make the feature event. His luck changed for the better on Saturday night. Vanasse drove from 18th at the start to finish in fourth place, by far his best showing in ACT competition.
Brent Dragon (#55) and Steve Reny (#47) at Oxford. (Norm Marx Photo)
"I knew we could run with these guys, man, I knew we could run with them," Vanasse excitedly said. "We just needed the situation to be right, and tonight it was all right. We kept plugging away, man, that's all I did. I don't quit, I try not to quit. I knew we'd be there at the end if we just finished and stayed out of trouble. We struggled in the heat race, and I told my guys 'Don't worry about it, we'll be alright in the feature,' and we did it."
website with his nose all folded in, and you see my car sideways with him behind me!"
"There was another restart where I let him get in front of me, and when there were eight to go, I mean, I'm not going to let anybody in at that point. We were told to do that (by Curley), that we were there to race. (Reny) got loose off of 4, and he needed to come back across the track to save it again. I was there and I slammed the brakes on, and Tom thought he (Reny) was just trying to get down.
Cyr's #32 (Justin St. Louis / Speed 51 Photo)
PIEKARSKI TAKES FIRST TOP THREE FINISH
Nashua, NH youngster B.J. Piekarski was the 2004 ACT Late Model Tour Rookie of the Year, and had only one Top 10 finish to show for his efforts. This season, he already has a pair of Top fives. Piekarski appeared to have one of the fastest cars late in the going, and drove around the outside lane with no power steering to a career-best third place. Due to incoming thunderstorms, only winner Brent Dragon was interviewed and presented with a trophy in Victory Lane ceremonies.
"I don't know if I got a trophy, but I want one," Piekarski laughed. "That's all I want, they can keep... no, I shouldn't say they can keep the money. It feels good, though."
Piekarski was involved a late-race incident with second-place runner Rich Lowrey that sent Lowrey spinning to the infield in Turn 2. Lowrey had been running behind Dragon for more than 50 laps before the spin.
The nose of Dragon's #55 shows some battle scars at Oxford. (Norm Marx Photo)
"Tom has sent us emails, he's talked to me, and he thought that the guy was trying to come down, and he thought I didn't back off. And like I said, I wasn't going to back off one way or another, whether he was coming down or not. They said my nose got ripped up there, but if you look at those pictures, my nose is ripped apart at lap 5. Tom called and said 'It was no fault of yours. I guess it was a bad call.'"
Dragon is still frustrated with the Oxford situation, but will finish the 2005 season with ACT.
Defending ACT Champion and current point leader Jean-Paul Cyr was involved in the race's only big incident, a six-car mess on lap 2. After spinning the Ehler's RV/Sticks & Stuff Chevrolet out of the eighth position, Cyr restarted at the rear of the pack, threaded his way through traffic, and finished a tight second to winner Brent Dragon.
"I wanted to come here and win," Cyr said, "but I was worn out at the end. I might have had a little bit for Brent, but I was looking at it like 'Second place looks pretty damn good right now'."
Cyr now leads Dave Pembroke by 57 points.
Vanasse reports that his team was so discouraged heading into Seekonk that their future was uncertain, and not looking good.
"We didn't know what we were going to do from here on out, we didn't even know if we were going to Thunder Road. I'm sure after tonight these guys want to go racing again with the Tour."
SCOTT NOT FAR BEHIND CYR
Phil Scott, the 2002 ACT title winner, recovered from a blown tire that sent his Formula Ford Truckland/Sonomax.com machine spinning on lap 35 to post a fine fifth-place finish.
"We rebounded," said the Vermont State Senator. "Jean (Cyr) rebounded better than I did, but we're happy. I thought people were racing with some courtesy tonight. I know when I got put on the outside I tried to stick it out there for a while, and we actually made up some ground there."
Now fifth in the points race, Scott has high hopes toward earning his second ACT crown.
"We're within striking distance, although I think Jean stepped it out some, but we're still not out of it."
Asked whether he feels his team has what it takes to deny Cyr of a third-straight ACT championship, starting with the ACTion Super Series events in September, Scott confidently replied, "Yeah, I do. We're good."
BOTTICELLO STAYS HOT IN SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND
Veteran Connecticut racer Dennis Botticello is another newcomer to ACT racing in 2005, and earned his best finish at Seekonk on Saturday night. Botticello is no stranger to success, though, especially lately - in his last three attempts in the weekly Late Model events at Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Botticello has carried the checkered flag each time in an ACT-legal, sealed crate-engine car. The wins are believed to be the first in southern New England by a crate engine car in a non-spec engine Late Model division.
Piekarski's #19 (Justin St. Louis / 51 Photo)
Vanasse's #11 (Justin St. Louis / 51 Photo)
Botticellos #03 (Justin St. Louis / 51 Photo)
Using the same car, Botticello led some laps at Seekonk - a track he'd never seen before Saturday night - and finished in seventh place after some tough battles with Brent Dragon, B.J. Piekarski, and A.J. Begin.
"It was really loose," he said, "but we had fun. I would have liked to have seen a win, but we just weren't good enough for a win tonight. We'll just keep adjusting on it and figuring it out, and we'll win eventually. It was a pretty
good race, really, not too many cautions, and it was pretty clean. I don't think they hooked a tow truck onto a car all night, did they? The guys were all showing a lot of respect. I had fun, but I wish I wasn't so loose, and then I would've had a little more fun."
Botticello and car owner Scott Fearn are excited about the upcoming ACTion Super Series events - a series of three $10,000-to-win races at Vermont's Thunder Road and New Hampshire's Lee USA Speedway.
"I really like Lee, it's a nice track," Botticello said. "This car went really good up there when we tested, so I'm pretty excited about going back."
BEGIN STEADILY BECOMING A FORCE IN ACT
Canaan Fair Speedway winner A.J. Begin scored a solid sixth-place finish at Seekonk, but you'd never know how hard he worked by watching.
"That was the hardest race I ever drove," the exhausted Massachusetts driver said following the Bay State 100. "It was worse than Canaan (a 17-caution, 95-degree affair in June). The car was pushing like a dump truck. I think my dually could've went better. That was hardcore, that was... just wow."
Despite the handling problems, Begin battled hard on the inside and outside lanes, and while he never factored into the battle for the lead, he earned his third Top-6 finish of the 2005 season.
"We found something tonight that we have to change on the car, so we'll see how that goes. We can drive it on the trailer again. I think that's a good night, when you can drive the car on the trailer."
WONDERBOY UNHAPPY WITH THE ROCKETMAN
In his rookie season as an ACT Late Model Tour driver, "Wonderboy" Scott Payea has been unexpectedly smooth and a constant threat for victory. In fact, ACT's previous event at Oxford, ME was the first event this season in which the freshman finished outside the top five - he took ninth after recovering from a late spin.
All good things come to an end, however, and Payea learned that the hard way at Seekonk, courtesy of fellow young sensation "Rocket" Roger Brown. The two made contact entering Turn 3 on lap 83, and Payea's AC Sports/Wendell's Furniture for Less Ford spun out of third place. Brown was sent to the rear for his part in the incident.
"Roger just flat-out dumped me," quipped the 23 year-old Payea. "He's a meathead. You know, Tom (ACT race director Tom Curley) was at the pit meeting saying "These cars are really equal, and you don't just go root a guy and drive underneath him like that," and that's what
Roger did to me. I knew it was going to happen, that's the way Roger is. It's just stupid. I mean, Dave Pembroke was behind me for a while, and he was content with settling in behind me for a fourth-place finish, but not Roger. He went to the outside one lap, and he knew he wasn't going to make it, so then he just drove into me. There was nothing I could do, I tried to pedal it, but around she came."
Payea was spun late in the going at Oxford two weeks ago, as well, and is clearly getting frustrated.
"I know I'm a rookie," he said, "but why is everyone else making the rookie mistakes?"
White Mountain Motorsports Park regular Quinny Welch (#70) won a consi and finished ninth in the 100 (Justin St. Louis photo)