Leftovers: ACT Late Model Milk Bowl at Thunder Road by Mike Twist and Marc Patrick Roy
Hoar, Laperle, Joey Pole, the Rowes, Leighton and More
Joey Pole came back from this to come within one corner of winning a segment of the Milk Bowl. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
POLE COMES BACK TO EARTH AND ALMOST WINS THIRD SEGMENT
Nobody could have expected much from Joey Pole after watching the first lap of the Milk Bowl’s second segment. Pole was the fast qualifier for the event and finished fourth in the first segment, but right after the green flag was waved for segment two, his #97 was crowded up into the frontstretch wall and sent airborne.
“We had a great run in the first segment,” said Pole. “On the second segment, I guess Whitcomb got loose. I know that he didn’t mean to do it, but he got into us and we parlayed the wall probably the hardest that I’ve ever hit here.”
Pole came down to the ground, and was far from out. His team worked on their Late Model and actually got it back to its old, fast self.
“I can’t believe that it didn’t bend anything. It only knocked the toe out and caused some body damage,” said Pole. “Everyone worked hard. The hardest that I’ve ever seen them work, to get this car looking good after the wreck. I wanted to win it [the third and final segment] for them because they were working so hard.”
Pole almost got to do that. He led the final segment until the final corner of the final lap, when a three-wide battle for the lead between himself, Patrick Laperle and Dave Whitcomb went bad. Whitcomb’s #25 made contact with Pole’s car and Pole went spinning out of the lead and into a finish of 18th. (NOTE - As the writer, I got my Daves crossed up. As reported in our Trackside Now coverage, it was Dave Pembroke, and not Dave Whitcomb, who made contact with Pole. It was a typo and I apologize for the error - MT)
“We really wanted to win that last segment. The car was good, but not on restarts. It took us about five laps to get going. Well, I had him…” said Pole, with his voice trailing off in disappointment.
“I saw the checkered flag waving, and I had a feeling in my stomach that it was going to be a good end to the day, but I got spun around. I threw it in reverse and went as fast as I could go in reverse. That’s racing they say. I guess.”
Pole’s eventually overall finish of 19th brought back memories of the 2006 race, where he also won the pole position and had one of the fastest cars before getting caught up in trouble.
“Last year, it started out good. We won the pole and won the first segment. We were running very well in the second segment when I hit the wall by myself and bent the car. We had to battle back from that and came up a little bit short.”
HOAR IS TRULY BACK HOME AGAIN
Brian Hoar got to watch the Pole/Whitcomb incident unfold from the best seat in the house. He was several car lengths back and used the incident to advance to a second-place finish in the final segment behind Whitcomb.
“It all worked out coming off turn four for us,” said Hoar. “I picked up four spots in an eighth of a track. That’s cool.”
This year’s Milk Bowl marked a coming home celebration for Hoar. The Vermont driver won this race in 1998 and 1999 before becoming a NASCAR Busch North Series regular. This year, he returned back to ACT full-time and this race was his first Milk Bowl in seven years.
“The last time that I raced here was 2000. It’s just a fun event. It’s prestigious and you can see that by the pre-race show and what they put into it. It’s a great event and it’s really tough now. It is tougher than it ever was. It’s a fun event and very exciting. But it’s stressful and I’m glad that it is over.”
Hoar was credited with a fourth-place result overall, but he also knew that he was just like most of his competition in the fact that they had nothing for race winner Patrick Laperle
“There was only one guy here today who really had the competitive edge. I think that we all know who that was. Patrick made us all look like we were in a different zip code. He did a great job, but the rest of us all looked very average.”
When Hoar says “competitive edge” is that just a nice way of saying that the Laperle car isn’t kosher? Not at all. Hoar knows what it is like to be on top of his game, he has 23 career Tour victories and won four championship in a row [and a total of five so far in his career]. He also knows what is it like to have people gossiping about the legality of his racecars and understands the position that Laperle is in after having a car that was heads and shoulders above everyone else’s at Thunder Road.
“I’m not even going to go there,” said Hoar. “They have done there homework. When I was winning all of the races, everyone accused us of cheating. I didn’t say that they are. They have a competitive advantage. That is why he was able to pass cars and that is what everyone else is lacking. Everyone else is so equal and that makes it tough. If all of the stars line up just right, you can pass cars and all of his were certainly lined up really well.”
LAPERLE’S EXCELLENT WEEK
The weekend before the Milk Bowl, Patrick Laperle clinched the ACT Quebec Series championship. On Sunday, he won the Milk Bowl for a second time. It was a very good week for the Canadian racer.
Brian Hoar in the middle of a pack at the Milk Bowl. (Jamie Williams Photo)
“It’s so sweet,” said Laperle. “Both of those are worth $10,000 each. That’s 20 grand in one week. That’s fun. When there’s big money, that means it’s a big race too. That’s fun. We won three Super Series races and the other one we missed. We didn’t come for the Labor Day Classic, now I wish that we did. We could have won.”
Actually though, Laperle’s hot streak has been going on for longer than just a week.
"Four wins and three second places in the last seven races,” recalled Laperle. “The car is awesome. We found something at the St. Eustache race, and since we have been on rails. Eric, my crew chief, [and twin brother] gives me the setups and adjustments I am looking for. Focusing on one type of car and a championship, as opposed to running outlaw and in different types of cars, did give me my best career year: one championship (Castrol Series) and the Milk Bowl its something I couldn't have dreamed of. Next week I am going to race the Scott Fraser automobile at Shediac's Antigonish speedplant, and it will be an honor for me to drive it. Don't know yet if we will race at the Mason-Dixon race [PASS South’s Mason-Dixon Meltdown to be held at North Carolina’s Concord
Rowe's #4 (Jamie Williams Photo)
This is the end of Patrick Laperle's #91 that most of the racers at Thunder Road saw on Sunday. (Jamie Williams Photo)
WHITCOMB ON THE PODIUM
Longtime Vermont racer Dave Whitcomb won the final Milk Bowl segment and took home a fine third-place finish from this year’s race. He thinks that was probably his best Milk Bowl finish in his career.
"We were hoping to finish good, but looking at the field of cars, we didn't know,” Said Whitcomb. “I don't know if I finished top three in the Milk Bowl before, maybe in the Tiger Milk Bowl, but I know we never won one. We bought two sets [of tires] yesterday, and we couldn't use one. We ended up running the same set in two of the segments. I drove my heart out, but we don't think we had enough for Patrick he was very fast."
“To come out of here second in the Milk Bowl is like a win to me,” said Rowe. “This is a car that we built in our own shop and I’m proud of these guys to come up here and run as well as we did. I’m tickled to death to finish second, that’s like a win when you have 70 cars here.
“We started the second segment real good, and cut a tire with 10 laps to go. We tried to battle back, but it didn't work out as good as we would have liked. For us to come to Thunder Road and get a top-three finish is like a victory for us. Coming here is always fun, its the toughest race with the inversion, but its fun. Before this year 17th and two laps down was my best finish at Thunder Road. You come here they race you as hard for fifth as they do for 25th, it’s a lot of fun.
“The car was real good. We were looking really good in the second segment and had a right front flat. That kind of backed up us four or five spots. But I don’t think that we had anything for Patrick. He was real good all day.”
Motorsport Park in November], we need to get the car ready and still would need an engine. Other than these two races we think its pretty much done for this year, we will now enjoy and celebrate our 2007 successes."
Laperle’s great week did look to be in jeopardy at the start of segment two though. That is when he was directly behind Joey Pole’s encounter with the wall at the start. Laperle wasn’t worried though, even if everyone in the stands was.
“There was nobody behind me. If I had been in the middle of the pack, that would have meant trouble, but I think that only Kip Stockwell was behind me, so that was all right.”
A ROWE IS THE RUNNER-UP
Ben Rowe took his time getting used to Thunder Road. Before this summer, he had never finished on the lead lap there. On Labor Day weekend though he collected his first top five finish at the Vermont track. He backed that up by finishing second with his Richard Moody Racing #4 at the Milk Bowl.
Rowe has raced in many of the biggest short track races out there, and won a fair share of them. He says that the Milk Bowl is as unique of an event as any race out there.
“This is the toughest race period,” said Rowe. “Three segments where you start at the rear, there’s no hiding. I’m not the type of driver who gets up on the wheel and moves people out of the way, but that’s what you need to do here. You get into some people and you hate it, but that’s what you have to do. You’ve got to go. Every lap, you need to pass somebody.”
LEIGHTON GETS AN ENGINE CHANGED JUST IN TIME
Brad Leighton is no stranger to the Milk Bowl or ACT racing. He was a tour champion fifteen years ago when the series used Pro Stock (Super Late Model) cars. But lately, he’s been more well known for his Busch North/Busch East accomplishments. This year, he was back to his roots.
“I ran it about four or five years ago with these guys in one of Phil Scott’s cars. It wasn’t that long ago.”
Leighton almost didn’t make the starting grid for this year’s race though. He had no trouble qualifying for the event, but a failed engine in Sunday morning practice almost kept him from rolling out to the grid.
“We broke a motor in the very last practice and we had about an hour and a half to replace it. The team made a gallant effort. These guys had to go back to the shop (about a 20-minute drive) because we didn’t bring a spare motor with us. It was well-orchestrated.”
Leighton’s race highlight was a runner-up finish in segment two, but all in all, his feature didn’t go much better than the rest of the weekend.
“We just didn’t run that well. The car was really difficult all day. We just couldn’t get it. So I have no idea where we finished, but we did finish.”
For the record, Leighton’s overall finish was 14th.
ANOTHER ROWE IN THE TOP FIVE
Finishing a few spots behind his son Ben was Maine racing legend Mike Rowe, who was credited with an overall result of fifth in Mike Lux’s #24 Late Model.
"It was a good race, we started back there and we got boxed in,” said Rowe. “We finished fifth so it’s not too bad. This was our second race here at Thunder Road, so it’s not too bad. Next for me is the PASS race at [All] Star (on Saturday in Epping, NH) and then White Mountain (for the October 14th PASS North season finale]."
DEFENDING WINNER FINISHES SIXTH
Brent Dragon won last year’s Milk Bowl. This year he had to settle for a finish of sixth.
"We put ourselves in a big hole to start with,” said Dragon. “After a good qualifying run, we qualified fourth. We cut a tire on the first lap of the qualifier which made us start 19th in the first segment. You have to finish in the top five of the first segment to have a chance to win it, that's what we needed. Off to Oxford next week, and maybe the Oktoberfest at Lee after that and a couple well paying races. We might as well go try them."
Whitcomb's #25 (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Rowe's #24 in a tight battle with the #44 of Dave Pembroke. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Brad Leighton's bad day wasn't just limited to a bad engine - he also bounced off the fronstretch wall. (Jamie Williams Photo)