Brian Hoar has won in what is now called the NASCAR Camping World East Series. He also has a total of 23 career ACT Late Model victories - the most of any driver out there. In addition, he has earned the 1993 ACT championship…and the 1997 one…and the 1998 one…and the 1999 one…and the 2000 one.
So it is more than fair to say that Hoar is a very accomplished short track racer.
Yet his victory in Saturday night's ACT Late Model race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) had a “first win” feel to it. That is because it had been awhile since Hoar had been to an ACT victory lane. After winning his 2000 title, Hoar moved on to the NASCAR Busch North Series where he won Rookie of the Year honors the next season. He made a home traveling in the NASCAR touring ranks for awhile before returning to ACT with a mix of part-time, full-time and no-time schedules over the past several seasons.
Hoar had performed well in those roles, but until Saturday night at Beech Ridge, he had not won a race on the tour since the year when David Reuttiman was still a NASCAR Elite Series driver, Jeremy Mayfield was still winning Cup races and Darrell Waltrip still was attempting to qualify for Cup races every week.
So it had been awhile since the last one, did that make it really feel like the first time for Hoar?
“Yeah, it did,” said Hoar in victory lane. “It's wild.”
Hoar wasn't sure that he would get to enjoy that winning feeling at Beech Ridge. He watched Cris Michaud and Beech Ridge regular Aaron Ricker lead early in the 150-lap race Then, before the race was even one-third finished, Hoar moved into the top spot. Once there, he showed the way for quite some time. But in the back of his mind, he expected that all to change at any point.
“I was sitting there going, 'No, no, no. What is going to happen here? What is going to stop?' There were 40 laps to go and I started thinking about what could go wrong,” said Hoar. “I told myself to wait a wait because I had to stop thinking about that. Then about 30 laps to go, that [feeling came back] and with 25 laps to go, that feeling came back.”
Hoar was thinking about mechanical problems or maybe even trouble with a lapped car, but he wasn't expecting much competition late in this race. After all, he had disposed of Michaud and a very racy Randy Potter near the end. So when the race only had 15 laps to go, he was shocked to see the #7VT of Eric Williams in his mirrors. Williams had started the race deep in the field, but quietly worked his way towards the front as the laps clicked down.
“I never expected Eric to be there,” said Hoar. “By that time, I had fended off the #6 [Cris Michaud] and the #02 [Randy Potter], so I thought that we had them all covered. But there came the #7. So I thought that I needed to step it up, but then I said 'Oh, I've got nothing left.' It was tight off the center and he was good off the center, but I was good off the corner.”
“I had a good car,” said Williams. “If I hadn't gotten pinched down the bottom and trapped in for so many laps, I would have been up there in a hurry.”
“We still had a good car, but I don't know how many laps I could have held him off for,” said Hoar. “It doesn't matter though because we're here. It is a 150 lap race and we did it. I'm psyched.”
Williams is known as being a hard-nosed racer who doesn't play waiting games or “bide his time”. So to see how the race played out, you might have thought that he did exactly that on Saturday night. But that wasn't really the case at all.
“Oh no, I did pace myself and was patient, but I wanted to get up there and go,” said Williams. “I would get by a bunch of cars on the outside and see someone there who didn't look like they would go, so I'd get to the bottom. Then I would hang there, hang there and hang there. All of the cars that I had just passed, I would have to pass over. They were all in a clump and if I could have gotten by them on the bottom, it would have been good.
“On the bottom here, you get tight and then you are loose off. That is hard on your tires. I really think without that, I could have mauled them.”
Now, back to Brian Hoar. While Beech Ridge had not hosted the ACT cars for 16 years, Hoar had raced at the track in his Busch North days. It was a place that was pretty good to him too - although the two types of cars aren't even close.
“It's wider, lighter and lower,” said Hoar of his Late Model. “It has less horsepower, so it is really very different. We hold the track record for the Busch North Series here, from '02 or '03, so I like this place. It was the first place where I got a top five in the Busch North car too, so there are a few things that I really like about this place. To come back out and win our first race of the year with a new team here is awesome.”
You might think that winning at a track this significant might be a storybook tale for Hoar, but that wasn't exactly the case. He just wanted to win again….anywhere…and after countless podium finishes, bad luck days and close calls over the past few years, he wasn't picky about where he stood in victory lane.
“This is a pretty special place, but I've got to tell you. There have been a whole bunch of races before this one that I've been trying to win too. Like last weekend and the week before. I've been trying and I'll take one wherever it comes.”
Hoar's Beech Ridge victory closed out a week spent in Maine. He hails from Vermont where he runs the family business - Goss Dodge. But after leading laps and contending for victory in the TD Banknorth Oxford 250, Hoar and his family took a week's summer break in the state known as “Vacationland”.
“I don't know if I'm going to go home now,” said Hoar. “I'm really enjoying Maine.”
That might be true, but Hoar is hoping to enjoy the New Hampshire next, as the ACT Late Models will now head to Twin State Speedway in Claremont for their race there this Friday night.