Warwick, RI’s Ryan Vanasse could strap into a Late Model at his home track, Seekonk (MA) Speedway, and win the feature on any given night. In 2004, he did it six times.
On the ACT Late Model Tour, however, it’s a different story. On Saturday night, Vanasse took his first top five finish of the season, and only the second of his ACT career.
“Racing with this series is absolutely the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” said Vanasse. “Man, we did well tonight. A top five on Oxford 250 weekend with a big crowd, it’s great. We’ll take it and move on to Seekonk, our home, next week.”
Vanasse battled not only the 43 other teams in attendance, but his car’s setup as well.
“The thing kept getting really tight on the backstretch, but after a few laps it would get better. It came in phases and I kept fighting it all night, but I’ll take it. There’s only one donut on the whole car and we’ve got a good setup for next week. We were a seventh- or eighth-place car, but I knew if we could just finish we’d stay in the top five. It worked out. We’re getting more confident and its feels good. The only race left this year that we’re not looking forward to is Airborne, it’s such a hard track to race on for us. But we love Oxford, and we love Seekonk. I’m hit-or-miss at White Mountain, but I truly love that place, and we love Thunder Road, too. I’m excited, and this team is ready.”
ROCKETMAN’S NIGHT TURNS SOUR LATE
“Rocket” Roger Brown had a strong run going for himself, staying in the top three and top five all night long, but a late-race bump with Steve Reny sent both drivers spinning and out of contention.
ACT LEFTOVERS: OXFORD PLAINS SPEEDWAY By Justin St. Louis and Mike Twist
Rowes Streak Ends, Laquerre Keeps Ticking and More
OXFORD VETERAN SPENCER FINISHES SECOND
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dennis Spencer, Jr. was unstoppable in Oxford Plains Speedway’s Late Model Stock division. A couple of championships led to a move up to the Pro Stock division. After a few tough seasons, Spencer took some time off and stepped back to the Limited Sportsman division. After winning that division’s track title two years running, he’s back in the Late Models, and running well. Saturday night, Spencer finished second in a wild ACT Late Model Tour show.
“I thought we would be about 5th place if were lucky,” Spencer said. “The car was real loose on the bottom, but once I set it in the second groove it really came alive and it as good. The last five laps I pinched it down and held them off, it’s all I had. We started 13th and I told the guys if we got into the top 5 I’d ride around for 75 laps and see what we had at the end. Boy, we almost had it.”
LAQUERRE STILL HAS IT
A few weeks ago, Joey Laquerre celebrated his 63rd birthday. At Laquerre’s age, most people are settling into retirement. Forget about it. In fact, Laquerre races with
both touring divisions of the American-Canadian Tour – the ACT Late Models and the Tiger Sportsman Series – as well as running the weekly Thursday night events at Thunder Road Speedbowl in his native Vermont. Most nights, Laquerre is his only crew.
One guy, that’s it. No tire changers. No spotter. Just Joey.
At the Maine-ly Action Sports 100, however, he had a full crew, including his son Jeff acting as crew chief. A former racer himself, Jeff Laquerre has won races and championships with several drivers, most notably Tracie Bellerose and Cris Michaud.
“Can you beat the crew?” said an excited Laquerre. “I’ve never had a crew before. Everything Jeff did make it go better, everything. It was pretty loose, then tight, then tighter, then loose, but they made it go. These guys got me here.”
After starting sixth, Laquerre fell back to 28th place, thanks to the front bumper of fellow veteran Dave Whitcomb. Laquerre was very matter-of-fact about how he felt.
“The 25 car (Whitcomb) hit me in the rear and got me loose early,” he said. “He’s lucky I didn’t catch him, I would have put him in the wall guaranteed.”
Incident aside, Laquerre set to work, and took home hardware.
“I came back from pretty much last, but it worked out. The car was awesome, and that finish was amazing.”
“I’d have loved to win,” Brown said. “We didn’t quite have the car, but at least we were able to be up there fighting for it. We had a top five finish, easy. The Maine cars are quick, and we knew they’d be good. We made a little adjustment, and stayed there with them.”
Brown’s 16th-place finish was just a continuation of his disappointing season.
“We had a good night, but it’s the same night we’ve been having all year long – we run good all night long until something happens and we get taken out. We’re getting used to it, so we just come to have fun now.”
ACT RACE DOESN’T PAN OUT FOR 250 WINNER
Eventual TD Banknorth 250 winner Jeremie Whorff planned to also get some racing under his belt in Saturday night’s ACT Late Model feature. He was driving Nick Reno’s car for the race, but got caught up in trouble during his heat race and loaded up early.
“We just grabbed the Late Model today and wanted to have some fun, which we did,” said Whorff. “We knew that we would be up here for the weekend for the 250 and we weren’t doing anything on Saturday night. We didn’t end up so good in the heat. We were in a qualified position, but due to a bad decision by another driver we didn’t make the race. But the crew did a good job today and we’ll try again next time.”
NOLIN’S SEASON HITS A SNAG IN OXFORD HEAT RACE
Ryan Nolin was having a pretty good 2006 ACT Late Model season. The young Vermont driver entered the Oxford race third in the standings and it looked like his first Tour victory would be right around the corner.
Brown had a little flying sheet metal at Oxford. (Ward photo)
But getting caught in a multi-car melee in the consi at Oxford derailed both his plans for making the race, and possibly for continuing on with his season. Nolin hit the backstretch wall hard and severely damaged his #78 ride.
“It started off as not of a good night as I wanted,” said Nolin. “I’ve never been here and I had never seen the place until today. We adapted pretty good though, but overadjusted the car and it was way too tight in the heat race. Then I was riding around in the consi. I was riding around and I thought that I had this wrecked cleared, but a car shot out of nowhere and sent me into the wall. Then I lost the brakes and was just along for the ride.”
Nolin was most okay after the wreck, but his car suffered heavy damage to the chassis, suspension and rear end assembly.
“I have a pretty bad headache and my shoulder is a little sore, but I’ll be allright. I don’t know if we can afford to get the car ready again, so that hurts more. This may be the last of us for a little bit. I don’t know. Hopefully, we’ll be back for some races towards the end of the year.”
BAD LUCK EQUALS A NEW CLIP FOR LAPERLE
Entering this past weekend at Oxford, Patrick Laperle had never taken out a clip on one of his cars in his whole racing career. That remarkable streak came to an end Saturday night when he got sucked into a five-car wreck just 21 laps into the ACT feature.
“I braked and somebody touched me in the rear and turned me around,” said Laperle. “Then someone got me.”
Laperle remembers that last year’s ACT event on the night before the 250 was a wreckfest and he hoped that things would be different this time around.
“I didn’t want to come here with that car because last year, it was bad. I didn’t want to wreck my car. Now it needs a brand new clip. It was just a bad day for us. But tomorrow’s a new day.”
Laperle, who splits his time between running an ACT Late Model and a PASS-type Super Late Model, doesn’t know when he’ll be racing again with his ACT car.
“I really don’t know. Maybe we’ll be at the Milk Bowl. Every time I’ve raced it this year something has happened.”
HOMECOMING NOT GOOD FOR ROWE
Ben Rowe came into the Oxford race on the heels of three straight ACT victories. Given the fact that the facility is his hometrack, where he got his career started in a Volkswagen Mini-Stock over a dozen years ago, there were high hopes for him on Saturday night.
That didn’t quite work out though. Rowe’s #10 never showed itself as a top-running car in the race. Mechanical problems made the night worse and he finished 21st.
“I think that the track bar slid on the rear end or the trailing arm loosened up,” said Rowe. “I don’t know. We really weren’t great. We had a 20th-place car in the heat race. We changed everything on it and it was good. We were decent. We were 15th or so. It got so bad and I didn’t want to be one of those guys calling all the wrecks, so I pitted.”
Rowe took the end of his winning streak in stride.
“There are a lot of good cars out there and you win some, you loose some. We’ve won, but we also went to Thunder Road and didn’t even make the race. This is just a fun deal for me. We’ve won three and that’s more than anyone so until they catch us, we’ll hold our heads high.”
RENY BOUNCED OUT OF TOP 10
Steve Reny led 63 of the 100 laps at Oxford, but fell back as the race wound down and got bounced around back to an 11th-place finish. It’s not the first time that the Maine driver has seen a good race turn bad.
“It’s disappointing,” said Reny. “Last year, we were running second with seven laps to go and got taken out. We just got racing with Fisher in the back and got taken out over the corner. Before that, I thought we had it. Cautions were everything. They fell at the wrong time for me and bit us in the end.”
Ben Rowe (#10) races inside a three-wide battle at Oxford. (Ward photo)
Dennis Spencer (#8) survived the ACT race at Oxford to finish second. (Alan Ward photo)
The Nolin team had some work to do on the front end of their machine. (51 photo)
Laquerre (top, #15) races through a busy pack at Oxford. (Ward photo)
JOEY POLE OVERCOMES SETBACKS TO FINISH SIXTH
Joey “Pole” Polewarczyk was an unlikely sixth place finisher at Oxford. His laps at the track are few, his car had some fairly major body damage at the end and he started the race in the back of the field. But the young driver was able to use his head and bring home the best result possible.
“From a provisional, that wasn’t bad,” Said Pole. “We just took it easy and tried to take care of our stuff. Every restart, we were closer and closer and finally at the end we were sixth.”
The night was all about gaining experience for Pole.
“I learned a lot about this track. It’s a lot different since the last time we were here because they’ve sealed it. I was worried at first, but I found out that you could run the outside. We were stuck there for awhile and you can definitely run there. I think that we earned a lot of respect
out there tonight too. I was on the outside of Joey Laquerre for awhile and it was a lot of fun.”
DRAGON GETS BETTER AT THE END, FINISHES STRONG
Brent Dragon wasn’t a factor in much of the race at Oxford, but came on strong at the end. He drove his #55 Dodge under the radar screen to a solid fourth place finish.
“It was a good day,” said Dragon. “We had a better car. If we could have restarted on the outside for that last restart, it would have been all that we needed. But we took what we got and it turned out pretty well for us. I saw a couple of cars get turned around there at the end. It was pretty hard racing there in those top 8-10 cars.
“It started to get better in the end. My car usually does that, it gets better in the end. You put yourself in a position though where you are 8th or 10th and you’ve got to battle so hard with 15 laps to go. That’s never good. We’ve got to pick the pace up a little bit earlier in the race.”
SENATOR SCOTT NOT HAPPY WITH WILLIAMS
Joey Laquerre wasn’t the only driver peeved at another competitor. Vermont State Senator and former ACT champion Phil Scott was running in the Top 10 on lap 90 when Eric Williams dumped him in Turn 1.
“I saw him behind me on restarts, but I’d pull away from
him,” said Scott. “I was picking up a push and I knew I
wasn’t in contention, but I figured we could get a top ten.
Somebody got me loose coming off of four, it might have
been him, I don’t know, I don’t remember the whole chain
of events. I gathered it back up and I went into Turn 1
and he just drove into me. I don’t get it, I don’t even begin
to understand it.”
Scott understood that moving someone is a natural part
of short track racing, but that a blatant dump job is
“You know, it was for tenth place. If you want to loosen
somebody up here, an experienced driver with his act
together would do it coming off the corner and nobody
gets hurt. And even if you want to spin somebody out, you don’t do it going in the turn.”
Years ago Scott and Williams seemed to be at each other’s throats every race. Scott was surprised by the move.
“I thought it was over years ago. We had an ongoing feud it seemed like, and I don’t know why. I think that he feels I get favored a lot and he gets the short end of the stick most of the time, and he takes it out on me. It’s unfortunate. It just sucks – and for him, too – to come up all this way, and it’s over just like that. And for what? I don’t know what to say.”
Scott finished 17th. After being penalized for his actions, Williams finished 23rd.
"Joey Pole" (#97) races hard on the outside. (Leif Tillotson photo)
Rowe (#10) raced hard, but wasn't able to keep up his win streak. (Leif Tillotson photo)
Phil Scott, whose wounded #14 car sits up on the banking, walks after Eric Williams' #7 to show his displasure at getting wrecked. (Leif Tillotson photo)