Potter is the Surprise, and Surprised, Winner in ACT Opener by Mike Twist
Parity Gives Talented Short Tracker a Chance to Beat the Big Boys
Last week, Speed51.com previewed the season opener for the ACT Late Model Series [click here], which was held Saturday night at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). We talked about how the winner of the race could come from one of several different groups. Basically, our choices at the time of who could win the race were:
A total of 52 Late Models rolled into the pits for the season opener. Some were inside semi-trucks. Some were behind pick-up trucks. There were ACT champions, Busch North champions and track champions on the entry list right beside raw rookies. There were big teams and small teams out there. But Potter believes that the rules package of identical engines and shocks gave all of those 52 teams a level playing field.
“We’re going to run the full [ACT] Tour and the [TD Banknorth] 250,” said Potter about his plans for the season. “The only thing that we weren’t sure about was the Oxford Challenge Series. We didn’t know if we were going to run all of those races. Now this is going to put some pressure on us. I don’t know what the boys are going to think about it now. We’ll be talking it over on the way home.”
And we’ll be talking about plenty more from Oxford coming up with our ACT Late Model leftovers, so be sure to stay tuned.
As far as the ACT Late Modelers go, well they return to action this Sunday in the season-opening event at their hometrack, Vermont's Thunder Road Speedbowl.
Speed51.com will be on hand for that race as well and we'll feature it as part of our Trackside Now coverage with live, up-to-the-moment updates from the track. Stay tuned.
“It sure does,” said Potter. “The shocks and the spec motors are good. I know that a lot of people complain about it, and I even used to think that the spec motors weren’t much fun. But it is supposed to give you exactly the same thing that everyone else does. They enforce it. Like tonight, they are pulling the motors out and checking them. They’ll send them out, dyno them and we’ll get them back.
"They do a really good job with the rules package. They really do. The shock thing is big too. It was an unknown variable for us. This is the first time that we’ve run Konis since 1995. We’re very happy with them.”
Potter also hadn’t raced at Oxford since 1995. That was during his third limited season on the “old” ACT Tour, which featured cars closer to Super Late Model specs. Back in the 1990’s, Potter had logged quite a bit of seat time at the track, so to finally win a major event there was very significant to him.
Potter enjoyed a lead that was as long as a straightaway at some points. He made the right moves in lapped traffic to pull away even further. It also helped Potter that his early challengers met with bad fates. Brian Hoar kept Potter close in the first 30 laps, but exited the race with a ball of flames under his #45 Dodge thanks to a failed rear end. Phil Scott tried to use the high line to reel Potter in during the middle stages of the race. Scott’s #14 ran such an odd groove that he looked like a lapped driver pulling up to the leaders by. But the stopwatch doesn’t lie. Scott’s unconventional line could have been the way to go, but a flat tire knocked him out of the running.
It was always possible that Potter might beat himself – and a younger version of the same racer might have done just that. But not this time. As the race wound down, observer kept waiting for the point to come where Potter’s tires and racecar were used up. That point wasn’t going to come.
“I scaled it back quite a bit actually,” said Potter. “They [my crew] keep preaching to me to take it easy and I was listening. I never used to, but I’m getting older now, so I’m starting to listen more. I obviously could never have won a race like this the way that I was doing things before.
I used to think that I was always running a 50-lap race. So I’d lead 50 laps and then fall back to 16th. Nobody gives a crap who finishes back there.”
Jean Paul Cyr was the last serious threat to Potter’s winning ways. In the end though, even the six-time ACT champion had to settle for second-place.
“If we didn’t have that last caution, I think that I could have gotten him,” said Cyr. “Up until then, I thought that I had plenty for anybody. But things changed. My car tightened up on that caution. I might have been able to run him down because I was probably as fast as he was, but I wasn’t any faster than him at that point.”
Finishing behind Potter and Cyr was teenager Joey Pole, Doug Coombs and David Avery.
“It means a lot,” said Potter. “We’ve obviously raced here quite a bit. I ran Enduros here a lot. What an awesome track for that! It’s a lot of fun here.”
So while Potter left Oxford this time as the surprise, and surprised winner, he’ll never be able to wear that tag at the track again. All eyes will be on him at all of the ACT races this season – and maybe at a few more Oxford events than he had planned to run.
Not many people expected to see Randy Potter's #02NH cross the finish line first at Oxford, but after Potter's performance this weekend it won't be a surprise in the future. (Alan Ward Photo)
A.An ACT touring star B.An Oxford Late Model regular C.A Rowe – Ben or Mike D.A Canadian invader
We did not give an option for “None of the Above” – which turned out to be the correct answer.
Those who picked Randy Potter to win at Oxford were the ones with the correct answer. But we’re not even sure that Randy Potter would have made that prediction before the race started.
“No way, I had no idea this was going to happen,” said Potter of his win after the race was over.
Now, Potter is fast on the track to becoming a member of category “A.” Potter might
have been the surprise winner, but his victory was anything but a fluke. He started on the outside pole, led all 150 laps of the feature, conserved his tires to go the distance and held off the charges of a few different ACT masters to score the victory. All in all, it was a perfect day for the former Riverside Speedway (NH) and White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) regular.
And yes, it was as easy as it looked.
“At one point, I thought that there wasn’t any way that it could keep going this easy,” said Potter. “I wasn’t even cracking a sweat. I was just steering the wheel easy. I could let off (the gas) early and I didn’t have to use much brake. It was an advantage that I had never enjoyed before – starting up near the front.”
Potter in victory lane. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Rain and major flooding could have washed this race out, but thanks to some hard work, it didn't. Track crews, with the help of Mike Rowe, spent several days preparing the grounds at Oxford just to get the event in. Despite muddy portions of the parking lot (Top - 51 Photo) and a lake off the banking of the track that Rick Valentine had to brake hard to avoid (Bottom - Jamie Williams Photo), the race went on.
Jean Paul Cyr gave it his best shot late in the race, but had to settle for second-place with his #32. (51 Photo)
New England Dodge Dealers 150 - ACT Late Model Tour
Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, ME - April 28, 2007
1. (2) Randy Potter, Groveton, NH, 150
2. (19) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, VT, 150
3. (24) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, NH, 150
4. (11) Doug Coombs, Livermore, ME, 150
5. (17) David Avery, Lincoln, NH, 150
6. (6) Cris Michaud, Williamstown, VT, 150
7. (5) Mike Rowe, Turner, ME, 150
8. (20) Travis Adams, Canton, ME, 150
9. (18) Roger Brown, Lancaster, NH, 150
10. (25) Ryan Nolin, Georgia, VT, 150
11. (23) Ron Henry, New Gloucester, ME, 150
12. (9) Alexandre Gingras, Quebec City, QC, 150
13. (29) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, VT, 150
14. (1) Eric Williams, Hyde Park, VT, 150
15. (32) Ryan Vanasse, Warwick, RI, 149
16. (16) Shawn Martin, Turner, ME, 149
17. (10) Dave Pembroke, Montpelier, VT, 149
18. (4) Ricky Rolfe, Albany, ME, 149
19. (27) Jamie Aube, Bow, NH, 149
20. (14) Eric Chase, Milton, VT, 149
21. (12) Gary Chaisson, Peru, ME, 149
22. (31) Scott Payea, Milton, VT, 149
23. (21) Tim Brackett, Buckfield, ME, 149
24. (33) Mike Ferguson, Rangeley, ME, 149
25. (28) John Doanhue, Graniteville, VT, 149
26. (26) Scott Robbins, Dixfield, ME, 149
27. (30) Glen Luce, Turner, ME, 148
28. (13) Ben Rowe, Turner, ME, 147
29. (8) Phil Scott, Middlesex, VT, 144
30. (22) Steve Fisher, Shelburne, VT, 125
31. (7) Dennis Spencer, Jr., Norway, ME, 89
32. (3) Brian Hoar, Williston, VT, 39
33. (15) Marc Curtis, Jr., Worcester, MA, 34