There will be a new team and a new driver in the ACT Late Model ranks this coming season, but in this case “new” doesn't mean unfamiliar at all.
Car owner Sallie Bolduc will field an entry for Mainer Bradley Babb in the full season of ACT touring events. They'll run #4ME on their racecars and at first glance, it will be an all-new operation. But Bolduc isn't new at all to the sport. She's had very close ties to the Shaw family of New Hampshire and has fielded racecars in the past for Dale Shaw, D.J. Shaw, Andy Shaw and T.J. Watson among others. In fact, in addition to her Late Model, she'll also be running a full campaign of PASS Sportsman events in 2010 for Mainer Billy Childs, Jr.
As far as Babb goes, if you know anything about Maine short track racing you'll recognize his surname. He's been a success in the Pro Series (Super Late Model) ranks at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) over the past year and his sister Kelsey has been racing at Beech Ridge too. Their father Bobby is a multi-time track champion at Beech Ridge and uncle Jerry has won at tracks throughout Maine as well. Currently, Jerry Babb is part of the brain trust that runs the Revolution Racing NASCAR K&N Pro Series East operation that won last week with Darrell Wallace, Jr. at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC).
You might think that living up to that famous last name would bring pressure on Bradley, but if it does, he doesn't show any signs of it.
“I'm just looking forward to racing some different tracks this year,” said Babb. “Hopefully, we will go well, but I don't really feel much pressure about it. As long as I'm having fun, it's alright.”
Babb finished sixth in the Pro Series points at Beech Ridge last season as a rookie - just one position behind the defending track champion at the time, Bub Bilodeau. He caught on quickly to racing in a higher division and took those skills on tour late in the season after the Beech Ridge season was completed. In October, Babb drove Bolduc's car to a very impressive sixth place run in the ACT Late Model season finale at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
“I feel like I am 100% of a better driver than I was at the beginning of last year,” said Babb. “At the beginning of last year, I was just about as fast as the other drivers and I was decent about knowing where I was on the track. But now I feel like I'm a lot better now. For the last few races last year, we went to White Mountain and Oxford and I feel like going to those places helped me learn a lot just about tracks in general.”
Adapting from the Super Late Model-type cars to the Late Models wasn't hard for Babb to do either.
“Not really. I actually thought it was pretty easy because it feels like you have so much more time when you are going slow. Everything happens slower. I ran the Sports Series at Beech Ridge the year before and it felt like driving one of those cars. So it felt a lot like being at home.”
Car owner Bolduc is looking forward to watching her driver continue the success that he had at Oxford.
“We have really been excited,” said Bolduc. “I think that we can do well in both series (ACT and PASS Sportsman) this year. We've good great equipment and great drivers. I've monkeyed around in racing before, but now I think we'll win some races.”
In his free time from the ACT Tour, Babb plans to revisit his roots at Beech Ridge by running his Pro Series car as much as he can.
“We'll be racing Pro Stocks at Beech Ridge as long as it doesn't conflict with ACT,” said Babb.
Meanwhile, Babb's father Bobby is just proud of watching his son do well - something that makes him barely miss driving himself.
“Not really,” answered Bobby Babb when asked if he missed getting behind the wheel. “I didn't have the time to do three cars. If he hadn't gone real good in my car last year, it would have killed me. But he went so good and was competitive all year. So it didn't really bother me. I didn't miss it too much. I drove Sal's car once and had a good time with that. So between her and us, we'll have three cars this year and I might just jump into one and race it. Who knows?”
Babb's car on the ACT Late Model Tour is a Dale Shaw-built machine wrenched by crew chief Steve Fox. The Babbs and the Shaws enjoy a close family relationship - Bradley's sister Kelsey dates NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rookie D.J. Shaw - but Bradley doesn't expect to get many tips from D.J. (who won a Late Model championship at White Mountain Motorsports Park earlier in his career) when it comes to racing in ACT.
“Not really,” said Bradley. “He was planning on racing with us quite a bit and he wants to beat me, so he won't be telling me too much.”
Kelsey doesn't plan on returning to Beech Ridge this season to race meanwhile. He is focusing on her career as a hair stylist at Hair's Gone Wild in Windham, Maine. But that doesn't mean that she won't be racing anything in 2010.
“We sold her car,” said Bobby Babb. “Then D.J. actually bought her a go-kart. She's going to do that some of the time. Between him running the East Series and ACT and PASS, she'll be busy. She's a full-time beautician. She works at my wife's hair salon and she's doing really well there. She's been there since June or July.”