51 Leftovers: ACT Late Models at Oxford Plains Speedway By Mike Twist
Dragon, MacDonald, Laperle, Adams and More
DRAGON COMES UP THROUGH THE PACK
Brent Dragon didn't qualify for the first ACT race of the year last season at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). This year, he didn't start out much better. Dragon needed to run a consi race to get into the show. He started the feature way back in the 12th row, so you might think that would have killed any chances of him pulling out a decent finish.
Nope, Dragon ended up finishing on the podium in the third position.
“It was a good day,” said Dragon. “The car went really good. I probably should have started racing a little harder earlier. To begin with, I wasn't racing that hard. The first 50-75 laps, I was just taking positions as I got them. Then I started to run a little harder and moved up more.”
Dragon might have even had a shot at the victory if not for a few lapped cars that restarted between the two leaders and him on the final caution with seven laps to go.
“When I got to those lapped cars at the end, it screwed things up a little bit,” said Dragon. “Neither one would get out of the way. That was a problem. But it's part of racing. They were racing for position too and I know that. I'd like to have had one more restart to have a shot at the leaders, but it was a good day…a real good day from 24th.”
ANOTHER RACE, ANOTHER TOP FIVE FOR EDDIE MAC
So far in 2008, Eddie MacDonald has run three races. He has ended each one of them in the top five. The young Massachusetts driver finished fifth in the NASCAR Camping World Series opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, second in the ACT Late Model opener at Lee USA Speedway and fourth in Saturday's ACT race at Oxford.
Brent Dragon goes three-wide at Oxford. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Eddie MacDonald (51 Photo)
“That's a good start to a season.” said MacDonald. “I think that we just started too far back in that one and ran out of tires at the end.”
MacDonald got to see a little bit of the battle between Ricky Rolfe and Jean Paul Cyr for the victory, but was too busy behind the wheel to follow it to the final lap. In fact, he even had a question for Speed51.com while he was being interviewed after the race.
“Those guys up front had a good run,” he said. “Who won?”
Over the final few laps, MacDonald had his hands full with an evil handling racecar. In fact, he got into the #78 coming out of turn two as a result of that problem - and was sorry for the contact that sent Nolin sliding along the backstretch wall.
“I got up into the side of that #78 and he lost it,” said MacDonald. “I feel bad about that. My car was worn out and it got sideways. I did the same thing the next lap.”
The Oxford ACT race was the third race in three states that MacDonald and his crew chief Rollie LaChance had run. But now, they've got a bit of a break before hitting the track next.
“Iowa [for the Camping World Series] is our next race on May 18th,” said MacDonald. “That gives us a little bit of time to get some work done.”
LAPERLE OFF TO A SLOW START?
Patrick Laperle finished eighth at Lee and seventh at Oxford. He is currently ranked fourth in the ACT Late Model point standings.
And he's not the least bit happy about it.
“You want to know the truth? It's not the start that I expected,” said Laperle. “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 and his team aren't just going to sit around and complain about their self-perceived slow start though. They plan to work to overcome it.
“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.”
This coming weekend's race at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) might just be the place for Laperle to turn things around. He has a history of success at he track and won the last race held there - the 2007 Milk Bowl.
“Hopefully, we can [do well at Thunder Road],” said Laperle. “We were thinking of not practicing on Saturday to save from buying tires for the car, but now we're going to be the first in line at the pit gate. We need to change this because the way it's going is pretty boring.”
RACECARS SEPERATED AT BIRTH?
At short track around the country, you'll see that the paint schemes of famous racecars
often serve as inspiration for Saturday night racers. You'll find Petty Blue #43s, Black
#3s and red and black #8s at tracks all over the map.
At Oxford though, we spotted a paint scheme that actually appeared to be inspired by
a famous short track machine. “Neon” Leon Heckbert's #5 looked very similar to the
orange #5 Super Late Models fielded by Richie Wauters for drivers like JR Norris and
Steve Wallace over recent seasons.
EARLY EXIT FOR TRAVIS ADAMS
When the ACT Late Models last stopped at Oxford Plains Speedway, the series
regulars got whipped pretty good by OPS track champion Travis Adams, who wheeled
his green #03 right to victory lane in the fall race there.
This time, Adams only lasted seven laps before retiring from the race.
“Something broke in the engine,” said Adams. “We're not sure if it is the distributor
or something internal. There are no holes in the bottom, so hopefully it's not too bad.”
The mechanical failure will make for a busy week for Adams, who begins his title
defense in Oxford's weekly Late Model season opener this Saturday.
“Yup, it's going to be tough,” said Adams. “I'm not going to sugar coat that, but we'll be here….hopefully.”
Even still, Adams doesn't regret the decision to enter the ACT race, which did not award any points towards the track championship.
“Not one bit,” said Adams.
TOUGH DAY FOR JOEY POLE
After winning the season opener at Lee USA Speedway one week before, lady luck decided not to ride with Joey Pole at Oxford.
First, the teen was turned around in his heat race. Then he needed to run a consi to make the starting field. A long green run at the start of the feature didn't help him much and he went a lap down early. Eventually, Pole ended the day finishing in the 18th position.
NO SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR ROLFE
Race winner Ricky Rolfe builds cars under the Racebasics banner for many of the top competitors on the ACT Tour and at Oxford Plains Speedway. Jean Paul Cyr and Travis Adams are just a few of the guys who wheel one of his creations.
Heckbert's #5 (Top - 51 Photo) and Wauters' #5 (Bottom - Norm Marx Photo)
Joey Pole in his heat race. (51 Photo)
This past winter was a busy one at Racebasics, so even though you might think that Rolfe would be tempted to spend all kinds of extra time and effort on his own car, that certainly wasn't the case. Unlike many of his customers, Rolfe didn't even have a new chassis for 2008.
“This is last year's car,” reported Rolfe. “I didn't even start working on it until March.”
OUTSIDE IS WHERE IT WORKED FOR CYR
Jean Paul Cyr started 15th and finished second. He did almost all of his passing in the outside lane of the track, one that not every driver dares to use.
But it worked out well for Cyr.
“I had a good car today here,” said Cyr. “It was a lot of fun to pass cars and we did that.
We usually do most of our passing on the outside and it [worked]. That was probably
just dumb luck today.”
LOTS OF COMPANY AT THE EXITS
There were 50 entries for the Oxford ACT race, but only 33 spots on the starting grid.
That meant that plenty of talented drivers with good racecars went home early.
Among the DNQs were Ricky Wolfe, Bobby Dragon, Eric Chase (who won a Crate
Late Model feature in February at Florida Speedweeks), Mark Hayward, Gerald Parlin,
Joey Doiron, Tim Pendergast, Brandon Watson, Mark Hudson, Nick Sweet (who slid
over the track's turn one banking after the checkered flag in one of his qualifying races),
Steve Fisher, Spencer MacPherson, Stephane Decoste and Steve Fisher.
Brandon Watson (Yellow #19) and Mark Hudson (Blue #82) both wrecked in their heat races - and ended up loading up early. (51 Photo)