Patrick Laperle's Perfect Day by Mike Twist
Canadian Wins Championship and ACT's Biggest Race in One Afternoon
An emotional Patrick Laperle holds his championship Cup up high, while his brother and crew cheif Eric watches. (Jamie Williams Photos)
Earlier in the day, Laperle didn’t think that there was anything that he could do to become champion. He rated his chances of winning the championship as slim at best. Laperle seemed confident in his chances of winning the race, but he was also expecting Payea to post a strong finish at his hometrack. Knowing that there was little that he could do to chase the championship, other than to try and win the race and let the chips fall wherever they would, Laperle instead looked back on missed opportunities throughout the season.
“I was thinking about the championship, but I didn’t feel too good about it,” said Laperle. “I was figuring that maybe I would lose by two or three points. I was counting them up. Yesterday, I told Benji Rowe that he might have cost me the championship. The last time that we were here, he passed me two laps from the end of the race and stole two points from me. I finished fifth and he finished fourth. I asked Benji ‘How come you did that? I’m going to lose the points because of you.’ So he said…’Well…I’m sorry’.
Over one week has passed since the 2008 ACT Late Model season ended with the running of the 45th Annual Chittenden Bank Milk Bowl at Vermont’s Thunder Road Speedbowl. But the memory of the event hasn’t faded one bit for Canadian Patrick Laperle. It will likely be one of those that only gets better with age, and it is certainly one that will carry him through the racing off-season with plenty of momentum.
It was a rarity in racing – a perfect day, or as close to perfect as anything in this sport gets. Laperle won the biggest and most historic race on the ACT schedule and in doing so, came from behind to capture the 2008 tour championship over Scott Payea, who led the standings for much of 2008.
Laperle only won the Milk Bowl by two points, or more simply two positions on the race track over the course of the event’s three segments of racing. Even closer was the championship battle, after 12 races on the schedule (of which drivers were allowed to drop their worst two finishes), that came down to a single point – one position on the racetrack throughout the entire season.
“You can’t ask for a better day,” said Laperle. “We had a blast. We won by two points for the Milk Bowl and one point for the championship. It is unreal.”
Just minutes removed from victory lane, Laperle was already making plans to celebrate.
“Let me tell you, the beer is going to be good tonight. We’ll going to stay here tonight now. We’ll go home tomorrow morning. I’ll just after to take a shower because I’m all wet with milk.”
Although the more formal celebrations, that will come later in the off-season, were already making Laperle nervous.
“ The problem is that I’m going to have to make a speech [at the ACT banquet] in English now,” said the native of Quebec. “I’ve got to keep from saying the F-Word and be good. I’ll have to work a lot on that and I don’t like it too much….but for ten grand, I’ll do anything.”
“We're going back to the drawing board because something is wrong big time. We're going to fix it. It costs a lot of money to go racing without a sponsor and we need to finish up front to make money.”
So Laperle did pick up the pace and really hit his stride late in the season.
“I had to stop thinking about that shit and started to focus on winning races,” admitted Laperle. “I did that and then we won at Oxford, we won at Kawartha, we won the Shootout, we won here and I won a race in the Castrol Series, that that was five wins. Now, to win a championship is nice.”
And even though Laperle has a reputation as a hard charger who chases checkered flags and not points, he did adjust his strategy a little bit during the Milk Bowl. After early contender Joey Pole was sent to the pits for contact with another competitor, Laperle became concerned with home track hero/villain Eric Williams. In the final segment, Williams chased down Laperle. Then he passed him, but Laperle didn’t let him get too far ahead.
“I knew that Eric Williams was only four points behind me. I kept asking them where
Eric Williams was and they said he was coming and coming and that he was going to
try and pass on the outside. I said “oh no”. I was trying to give him room and he was
trying to pinch me down a little on the backstretch, but it was racing. It was racing for
the win…well, he was racing for the race. I was racing for the win and the championship.
There was a lot of pressure, but I think we did a great job.”
Laperle himself wasn’t immune to the threat of being penalized at Thunder Road either.
At one point while racing with Pole, he was given the “Miss Piggy” flag by race director
Tom Curley for hogging up the track. A few laps later, he was given the flag again. A
third offense would have resulted in a black flag and really ruined this perfect day.
Laperle claims to have not adjusted his driving after the threat of a penalty, but he didn’t
raise the ire of race officials again either.
“I got sideways [in front of Pole] and I wasn’t going to spin myself to the infield. So I did
what I needed to. I just tried to stay with my line. I wasn’t nervous though [about the
potential penalty]. If they put me to the back, I was going to cry, but that was all I could do.”
In addition to sharing the victory with his crew and fans, Laperle also had a few other special people on his mind during this perfect day. First, was his grandfather, who laid in a Canadian hospital unable to speak after a trachometry earlier in the week. Laperle dedicated the victory to him.
Then, it was another of Laperle’s elders who shared his moment. That was Quebec racing legend Jean Paul Cabana, who had won the Milk Bowl twice himself and tried to put the vex on Laperle during an interview over the PA earlier in the day at Thunder Road. After all, Cabana wasn’t sure that he wanted his student to win the race more times than himself.
“He does give me a hard time,” said Laperle. “ He came to our place this week and asked ‘Are you going to beat me?’ because he won [The Milk Bowl] two times. I told him, ‘I’m going to beat you this week then’. We had a lot of fun. Now, I’m with Kevin Lepage. He won three Milk Bowls. ..Wow.”
It was then pointed out to Laperle (by this writer) that he was only one victory behind Robbie Crouch on the all-time Milk Bowl win list, and then by racing photographer Jamie Williams that he is still young…and the sky is the limit when it comes to future Milk Bowl success.
Earlier in the season, Laperle had been even less optimistic after what he claimed to be a slow start to the ACT season.
“At the beginning of the year, the championship was our goal,” said Laperle. “But then things started to go wrong…”
A look back through our archives, at the Leftovers from the April event at Oxford Plains Speedway documents that.
“You want to know the truth? It's not the start that I expected,” Laperle told Speed51.com back at Oxford after the second event of the season. “I thought for sure at the beginning of the year, I would have a top five or something like that. We had an eighth place finish at Lee and were ninth or tenth here. We were coming here and thinking about the championship, but now I don't know. Last year, I was sick and we did better than that.
Laperle (#91) raced with Joey Pole (#97) early on at The Milk Bowl.
Those two facts really got the racer to become speechless.
That was all that Laperle could say at that point.
And finally, Laperle got to share the moment with his new American “lady friend”. A Milk Bowl tradition is that the trophy queen of the race is a real live dairy cow. For Laperle’s 2005 and 2007 victories, that queen was Dickens, who Laperle met in victory lane. This season, “Miss Kitty” a farm-mate of Dickens came instead.
“I love the cows,” laughed Laperle. “And she almost looked like Dickens. But she had a white stripe."
Laperle (Center) appears with Ken Squier (Right) and two-time Milk Bowl winner Jean Paul Cabana (Left).
Laperle lays a kiss on his new friend at Thunder Road.