Boischatel, QC driver and 2006 ACT Castrol Champion Donald Theetge had to wait to the third ACT Castrol event of the 2009 campaign to win for a first time and also earn his invitation to the ACT Invitational 50 race to be held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next September on NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend. The AIM 150 race was held at Autodrome Chaudière on Saturday June 6th in front of a standing room crowd estimated at 4000 people by track Competition Director Pierre Lessard. Completing the podium behind Theetge were St-Jean- Crysosthome driver Patrick Cliche and East Broughton driver Jacques Poulin.
Twenty nine cars showed up for one of the twenty six starting positions in the feature race. The top six of each of three qualifying heats and the consolation round went the way of the feature. Two 100% ACT provisionals completed the field.
The story in qualifying had to be the first heat. The first of two incidents occurred when Marc-André Cliche, who was at the rear of the field, bumped Spencer MacPherson in the left rear quarter panel as they exited turn two, sending MacPherson's car going into a slide in front of the oncoming Claude Leclerc automobile. Leclerc with nowhere to go climbed on the side of the MacPherson car. No one retired from the qualifier.
The second and a separate incident occurred when battling at the back of the field local driver Marc-André Cliche and Dany Ouellette drove hard into turn three making it three wide below Claude Leclerc. While Cliche put two wheels on grass and made light contact, it was Ouellette who overshot his braking point and drove under Daniel Decoste's - car lifting it in the air that started the chain reaction. Like the ball in a pinball machine, Daniel bumped his brother Stephane into a spin and slid up into Sylvain Lacombe who was running the high line. Daniel Decoste and Sylvain Lacombe's car got wedged together and came to a stop at the exit of turn four. Both would return to the race but were not a factor... until after the checker when Daniel Decoste had some messages to deliver and wanted to deliver them personally.
In the consolation round, Sylvain Lacombe, Eric St-Gelais, Vermont driver Pete Potvin III, Stéphane Decoste, Jacques Poulin and Martin Lacombe qualified for the feature using their top six finishing positions. Claude Leclerc and Valérie Chiasson made the field using provisional starting positions. Did not qualify: Kevin Roberge, Derek White, Daniel Decoste and Stéphane Durand. In this round, Daniel Decoste's car sustained heavy right front damage as a result of a crash with Martin Lacombe. Both were battling over a two lap process with Lacombe on the inside and Decoste on the outside. Going into turn three Lacombe overshot his braking point and slid into Decoste. The two cars out of control pushed up the race track coming out of turn four and squeezing Decoste's car into the concrete wall.
The feature race's front row lined the cars of Etienne Lemay and Marc-André Cliche. When the green fell, Cliche took the commands of the race and would lead the first 31 circuits. He relinquished his top spot under yellow for a flat tire. Dany Ouellet who was running second assumed the top position until lap 34 when Justin Holtom squeezed under Ouellet. Unfortunately he was shown the black flag for his move as it was determined to have been a “bump and pass” which is not allowed by ACT Officials. Holtom, who was setting a very fast pace, went a lap down and was never able to make it up, depriving him of a potential good finish. The young Ontario driver has shown some muscle this year and as already proven he is a serious contender for a win on the ACT Castrol Series.
With Holtom retiring for his black flag, Patrick Hamel inherited the lead and would stay in the front of the field until lap 54 when eventual race winner Donald Theetge passed him during one of the few long green flag stretch (45 laps). Theetge would relinquish the top spot only once and for only one lap to Karl Allard on lap 65. He went on to win by a two car lead.
“This win is for my wife and newborn daughter. Last year, the race was rain postponed and my wife and I stayed over... which gave us our beautiful little girl. Because she was born premature, both could not be here, but I dedicate this win to them. It was also very important to me to get a win as it locks us in for the ACT Invitational race. After testing there I really wanted to go” said a jubilant Donald Theetge in victory circle.
Finishing second, Patrick Cliche had this to say about his race: “Early on I had a very good car. It allowed me to make my way to the front. At the end I didn't have anything left for Donald and Karl was coming fast, I don't think I could have held him off.”
Cliche's second place finish has boosted the team's spirit. After the race they were discussing their participation in the ACT Castrol Series next event, the CAT TOROMONT 100 at Capital City Speedway next Saturday.
“We didn't plan on going there. The last time I was there it was pitiful. I promised never to go again. The team wants to go, I didn't plan on going, but this second place may have changed my mind.”
Fourth place finisher Jacques Poulin was a surprise to many. After being involved in the first two cautions (lap 1 and 15) and again on the fifth caution (lap 31) Poulin worked his way to the front as others got involved in incidents or got penalized and sent to the rear.
Stephane Decoste finished fifth. “Finishing the race was an accomplishment by itself; I didn't have much luck in the first two races, I was fast but not there at the end. It came close again for me not to finish the race. When Eric St-Gelais went into a spin and I squeezed between him and Daniel Bergeron. It took out the complete right side of my car, but I was fortunate it did not hurt the handling.”
As if the full moon had effect on the racers and taking away their judgement, the race ran for 1h35m and was slowed on 15 occasions! None of the cautions were for serious incidents.
Patrick Laperle was sent twice to the rear for contact. “On lap 62, I did bump Jonathan Desbiens. It was not right to do so. He was having a great run and he was making his car just wide enough to prevent me from passing on the outside and he was able to run the same lines I was. I got impatient. I got sent to the back and I agree with the officials' decision. I should have waited for him to make a mistake.”
The 2007 ACT Castrol Champion and the 2008 ACT Tour Champion continued “What I don't understand is why I was penalized for the lap 123 incident. The spin occurred behind me. I was not involved. I didn't chop. I didn't push or bump anyone. I had a very fast car and I was making my way back to the front. With 28 laps to go I could have battled for a podium. I feel cheated.”
On lap 102 the 2005 ACT Castrol Champion Sylvain Lacombe was also sent to the rear for dumping Karl Allard. Laperle and Lacombe would finish 10th and 11th respectively.
Last week's winner Jean-François Déry finished ninth. “We ran all day just outside the top five. We didn't have a great car but we got caught up in the wrong line too many times.”
After everything was done, Theetge increased his lead in the Championship race to a total 269 points, 29 points ahead of Karl Allard, who moves into second place with 240 points. Laperle drops to third with 233 points, JF Déry is fourth with 277 and Patrick Hamel is fifth with 206 points.
The next race, the fourth on the championship schedule, is this coming Saturday at Capital City Speedway for the TOROMONT CAT 100. Last year's event was won by Martin Lacombe, while the 2007 edition was won by the 2008 ACT Castrol Series Champion Alexandre Gingras. Martin Lacombe will not be competing in the event.