Leighton Wins Labor Day Dogfight at Thunder Road by Marc Patrick Roy
Close Racing Decides The Victory in ACT Late Models
Patrick Leperle (#91), Eric Williams (#7) and Brad Leighton (#55) battle for the lead at Thunder Road. (Marc Patrick Roy Photos)
When it was back to green, Payea once again reclaimed the top spot and led until lap 122. By then, Michaud wanted to lead again and would do so until lap 125, when Payea returned to the front leading the next four laps.
On lap 133 restart, Eric Williams took over the lead.
“For the first half of the race, when ever I could, I would run part throttle or I was going to end up running out of gas. When I thought I had conserved enough, I just went for it. When the caution came out and Patrick started alongside, that was the race for me. I knew I had to be careful, I was driving like if I had an egg under my foot. On the bottom, the tires would need a few laps to get in. The worked right in on the outside.”
On lap 136, Ben Rowe, also had to survive the turn one berm.
In front of a capacity crowd, Brad Leighton won the annual BOND Auto Parts Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT. With this win, Leighton returned for the first time in five years to the victory circle and captured his first career ACT Late Model race (Leighton was the 1995 ACT champion when the Tour ran Super Late Model-type cars). Finishing behind him were Chris Michaud, Eric Williams, Ben Rowe and Patrick Laperle.
Leighton, supported this weekend by Dale Shaw, to win first had to survive! The 200 lap race was slowed down on ten different occasions. For two of them, Leighton was directly involved, as he ended up over the turn two berm. With a less than optimal setup going in and three flat tires, he visited the pits on five occasions and improved each time. With sixty laps to go, he had the fastest car on the track.
Forty-eight drivers showed up for one of the 30 starting positions. Heat race winners were: Dave Pembroke, Chris Michaud, Brooks Clark, Phil Scott and Brad Leighton. Consi races were won by Joey Polewarczyk, Nick Sweet and Jay Lacombe. Ben Rowe won the last chance race and Pete Potvin was the ACT Tour provisional.
Some big names went home early: Brent Dragon, Eric Chase, Robby Crouch, Donald Theetge, Claude Leclerc, Yvon Bédard, Ricky Wolfe, Gary Caron, Daniel Decoste, Stéphane Decoste, Rick Thompson, Brent Wheeler, Scott Dragon, Mike Bailey, Brett Wheeler, Pete Fecteau, Tony Andrews, Joey Laquerre.
John Donahue and Nick Sweet started on the front row. Donahue leading the first 42 circuits and survived the first restart (lap 40) after Leighton was a questionable return to the racetrack after he left the track outside of turn two.
On lap 45, after the second restart, David Pembroke took over the top spot and would go on to lead for two laps before Donahue reclaimed the lead (45-59) for the next 16 laps.
On lap 60, current points leader Scott Payea took over the lead for the next sixteen laps (60 - 76). Chris Michaud took the lead on lap 77 and would hang on to it until the third caution was brought out for Leighton, on lap 100, again leaving the racing surface outside of turn two. With the halfway ran, alot of the teams elected to visit the pits for fresh tires and a splash of gas.
With twenty four laps to go, on lap 176, it was now nothing but Leighton from that point on.
“This is great. We were fortunate to finish. Going twice over the berm, usually you destroy the shroud and the ductwork. We had to pit on three separate occasions for flat tires and even went on to pit five times, each time working on the chassis improving our car. With sixty laps or so to go, we had a much better car and fresh tires. After I went by the 91 of Laperle, I knew no one had anything for us from that point on. Its my first win in five years and my first with ACT in a Late Model car. I am very thankful for the support I got from Dale Shaw, he was in my pits calling the shots. I look forward to returning here for the upcoming Milk Bowl” declared a celebrating Leighton during post race inspection.
About his second place finish, Chris Michaud said: “ Our car was good on the outside and terrible on the bottom. With all the cautions we kept going back. With about fifty laps to go, we had dropped to sixth and considered pitting, we elected not to pit according to our pre-race plans and that outside starting position is what we needed.”
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS - 30th Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200
American-Canadian Tour - Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl - Barre, VT
Sunday, August 31, 2008
(# - denotes rookie)
1. (9) Brad Leighton, Center Harbor, NH
2. (13) Cris Michaud, Northfield, VT
3. (15) Eric Williams, Hyde Park, VT
4. (25) Ben Rowe, Turner, ME
5. (24) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, QC
6. (7) Randy Potter, Groveton, NH
7. (22) Dennis Demers, Shelburne, VT
8. (20) Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier, VT
9. (30) Pete Potvin, III, Graniteville, VT
10. (11) Trampas Demers, South Burlington, VT
11. (1) John Donahue, Graniteville, VT
12. (3) Dave Pembroke, Middlesex, VT
13. (21) Ryan Nolin, Georgia, VT
14. (10) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, VT
15. (29) Glen Luce, Turner, ME
16. (16) # Matt White, Northfield, VT
17. (18) Dave Whitcomb, Essex Junction, VT
18. (14) Brooks Clark, Fayston, VT
19. (27) # Tyler Cahoon, St. Johnsbury, VT
20. (2) # Nick Sweet, Barre, VT
21. (23) Doug Murphy, Tunbridge, VT
22. (4) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, NH
23. (26) Bobby Dragon, Milton, VT
24. (5) Scott Payea, Milton, VT
25. (6) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, VT
26. (17) Jamie Aube, Bow, NH
27. (8) Phil Scott, Montpelier, VT
28. (19) Chip Grenier, Graniteville, VT
29. (28) Joey Becker, Jeffersonville, VT
30. (12) Jay Laquerre, East Montpelier, VT
“We just got tacked from behind and ended up going over just like the 55 [Leighton]. We started from the back in 25th starting position and worked the tires hard getting to the front. With us being involved in the caution, having to start from the back, we got fresh tires. It helped alot. We were faster than some of the cars ahead of us, but just ran out of time” declared Rowe.
On lap 148, the eighth caution was brought out when Payea, running second to Williams drove to hard in turn three slid up, spun around and crashed into the turn four wall. He then bounced across the track and was collected by Jamie Fisher. Both cars sustained heavy damage. At the restart, on lap 149, Patrick Laperle took the lead and would go on to lead the next 26 laps.
“Under practice we had a very fast car, but when we went to the feature race we lost the stagger early in the race and the car just didn't handle the way we expected it to. Goodyear really messed up with these tires. Everyone is using the same, but its just wacky, they are not reacting the way we are accustomed to. Obviously we are pleased with where we finished with all things considered and we managed to gain some ground on Payea towards the championship. With two races to go anything
Brad Leighton in victory lane. ( Ken Spring Photo)