On September 19th, 2009, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) will become the 23rd different track to host an American-Canadian Tour Late Model event. It will also become the largest track (1.058 mile) to ever hold an ACT event, surpassing the 7/8ths mile Sanair Super Speedway in St. Pie, PQ.
Sanair Super Speedway held the inaugural ACT Late Model Tour race and was won by Norm Andrews of Warren, VT on April 26, 1992. To date, there have been 186 ACT Late Model Tour events with 57 different winners, including the non-point counting All-Star race at Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallée-Jonction, PQ held in 2008.
In 2009 there will be 12 point counting events and another All-Star race at Chaudiere before the ACT Invitational. That will bring the total events to 199 and make the ACT Invitational at NHMS the 200th event run by the American based ACT Late Model Tour.
It will also be the first time the point leaders from the nine ACT affiliated tracks will be invited to an invitational event. These nine tracks are Thunder Road in Barre, VT, Lee (NH) USA Speedway, White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH, Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway, Seekonk (MA) Speedway, Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH, Capital City Speedway in Ottawa, and Kawartha (ON) Speedway.
The ACT Invitational wouldn’t be possible without the revolutionary crate engine and spec shock programs, and their acceptance by these affiliated tracks. These programs were developed by ACT President Tom Curley to keep short track Late Model racing in the Northeast affordable and competitive. Since these programs were introduced into ACT competition, they have kept car counts up by allowing teams to be competitive without going broke. This has been crucial to keeping short track racing alive in the Nort! heast.
Short track racing will continue to grow this season with all the interest created from the ACT Invitational. Few short track drivers get the opportunity to race at NHMS, the only track in the Northeast on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. This year 36 drivers will get that rare opportunity. These 36 drivers will include the winners of each of the first twelve 2009 ACT Tour events, the first eight Serie ACT Castrol events and three non-point counting events; the TD Bank Oxford 250, the Showdown at Autodrome Chaudiere and the Governors Cup at Thunder Road. This will most likely mean more drivers will show up to these events in the hope of qualifying for the Invitational and a chance to race at NHMS.
Also qualifying for the Invitational will be the point leaders of the nine racetracks previously mentioned. The opportunity to race at NHMS should make the points battles at these racetracks even more intense and therefore the racing even more exciting.
However, qualifying for the Invitational is not a guarantee even for those who are leading the points at these tracks. They&n! bsp;must not only be 100% ACT legal, but they also have to meet experience and quality standards as determined by ACT. These requirements will ensure that only the highest quality teams will be at NHMS, therefore making the ACT Invitational field one of the stoutest to ever compete in the Northeast.
The Invitational will put more pressure on drivers to win races and earn a chance to qualify. Veteran driver Randy Potter of Groveton, NH, said, “There is a lot of extra pressure on all of us to win and get into this race. Plus there most likely will be guys who have already run the big shows in different type cars (Busch East, Cup, etc) that will come in with big budgets and try to "steal" some of the spots from the full time ACT guys by winning a race.”
Five-time ACT Tour champion Brian Hoar of Williston, VT, is back full time this season taking over the seat from Jean-Paul Cyr in the Rick Paya machine. He says, “I will always put a lot of pressure on myself and my team to win races! Winning is one of the many allusive goals that k! eep ;us coming back for more. That being said, I always look at the big picture and realize winning is not everything.” If the past is any indication, Hoar should have no trouble qualifying for the Invitational. He has won at least one race in each of his full time seasons on the ACT Late Model Tour from 1992 to 2000 and holds the record for most wins in a season with five in 1999. He also has the most total wins in ACT Late Model Tour history with twenty-three.
The opportunity to race at NHMS seems to be the hot topic among drivers competing on the ACT Tour in 2009. Hoar, who has raced at NHMS in a Busch East car, is excited to return. He continued, “I have always loved the place, the speed and had good results, which I hope to add or improve to this fall. I think the Late Models will put on an exciting race, much like the modifieds do. With the limited horsepower and tires I think the cars will race more similar to the mods than other divisions.”
Potter added “I have a short “bucket” list and one of them is to compete at NHMS. So this is the best chance I'll have.” But the race at NHMS isn’t blocking his view of his main goal, “We want to be in contention to win multiple races this year to put ourselves in a position in points to run for the title and all of the rest of that qualifying stuff will take care of itself.”
The ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will add a new dynamic to the ACT Tour and Series ACT Castrol schedules, as well as the ACT affiliated tracks with the opportunity to qualify.
The first qualifier will be determined at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH on Sunday April 19th, as the ACT Tour kicks off its 2009 season with the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150. A practice session is scheduled for Saturday April 18th.