Thunder Road SpeedBowl
ACTion News 12/27/04
ACT President Tom Curley announced last week that the ACT Late Model Tour will institute a brand-new Goodyear 8” tire for 2005. The new partnership will allow Goodyear to re-enter the Northeast Late Model scene in earnest after spending several years out of the general limelight. Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s Director of Race Tire Sales and Marketing, is very excited about the partnership with ACT. “By working with an organization as powerful as ACT, racers and promoters across the Northeast and across the country will take notice over the next year or two, and hopefully make the switch to Goodyear,” Stucker commented.

Several ACT drivers, including Joey Laquerre and Champion Jean-Paul Cyr, ran on existing Goodyear models at Kawartha Speedway in Ontario in 2004 to get a feel for the different compound and construction of the tires. “The Goodyears we ran at Kawartha made a huge difference in the corners,” Cyr said. “The sidewalls were much stiffer, and that took a lot of roll out of the car. We could really drive a lot harder and faster in the corners and not have to worry about the tires not sticking or having the sidewalls tear apart, which is something we couldn’t say with the old ACT tire.”

Laquerre agreed, noting that he lost a pair of Thunder Road wins due to flat tires in 2004. Patrick Laperle was in the same boat as Laquerre, as he pitted out of contention in back-to-back September events (Airborne and Lee USA) to change flats. Laquerre did the most testing of the ACT drivers, and was instrumental in developing the model that will be used in ACT in 2005. With Curley, Laquerre and Goodyear’s Akron, Ohio engineers spent over six months testing and developing the final product. The result is a state-of-the-art tire that could potentially change the face of Late Model-type short track racing across the country. Over a period of two days in October, Laquerre turned over 500 laps at Thunder Road and White Mountain Motorsports Park running the 2005 Goodyear. “This is by far the best tire I’ve run on in the past decade,” said Laquerre. “We put about 300 laps on one set of tires, and from start to finish the lap times were within a tenth of a second. With the old ACT tire, that margin would have been a half-second or more.”

Goodyear is building the new tire inside the United States, rather than Chile as in years past. Stucker mentioned that Goodyear feels better about having the new tires built in the U.S., noting that accessibility and quality control will be greatly improved, while costs will remain the same as the tire ACT utilized in 2004. Each individual tire will have exact measurements included on the manufacturer’s label, and will have scanning codes to speed up pre-race registration.

“It’s a better tire at the same price as last year’s tire, and that’s all very positive,” Laquerre concluded. “The tires worked for us, and they came into the car; I didn’t have to search around the track to feel comfortable in one certain groove, they were great everywhere. They’re consistent and they repeat themselves from session to session, and I think the new teams and the teams that generally struggle will have a much easier time than in the past. We’ve really got something here.”

Speaking of Laquerre and Cyr, the final nominees are in for ACT’s “Most Improved Driver” and “Sportsmanship” awards. Both drivers were included on the Sportsmanship ballot for Late Models, along with Eric Chase, Steve Fisher, and Ron Henry. The latter three have also been nominated for the Most Improved award after turning in breakout performances in 2004. Roger Brown and Trampas Demers join them on the Most Improved docket. Oxford Plains Speedway veteran Henry turned a rough early season into a solid effort in the middle of the ACT Late Model Tour season, ripping off back-to-back Top 5 finishes in July. Chase took a career-best three Top 10 finishes in Tour competition, and earned the first Top 5 finish of his career in a weekly Thunder Road feature. Brown, Fisher, and Demers each scored their first career wins in 2004 – Brown and Fisher in Tour races, Demers in a late-season Thunder Road Thursday night feature. Should Demers win the Most Improved award, he’ll be the first to win in back-to-back seasons since Glen Wright in 1993 and ’94.

A trio of Tiger Sportsmen is in the running for both honors as well, with veteran Brian Delphia and youngsters Justin Hart and Chris Gendreau grabbing dual honors. Other Most Improved nominees are Thunder Road runner-up Scott Payea, three-time winner Trevor Lyman, and first-time victors Adam Maynard and Brendan Moodie. Joining Hart, Gendreau, and Delphia on the Sportsmanship ballot are “Kaptain” Kerry Henry, Thunder Road Champion Reno Gervais, and Chip Grenier and Joe Steffen, who together have won the last three Sportsmanship awards in the Tiger Sportsman division.

Six Allen Lumber Street Stock drivers have been nominated for the 3rd annual Ed Carroll Memorial Sportsmanship Award, created in memory of the fallen ACT official. Street Stock veterans Lloyd Blakely, Gary Mullen, and Willy “The Weiner” Hennequin received nominations, along with Travis Paquet, Nick Sweet, and “Wicked” Wanda Burnham. Mullen, an unassuming farmer from rural Tunbridge, VT, was humble in receiving his nomination. “I’m honored that (my competitors) think enough of me to have nominated me. I guess it doesn’t matter if I win the award or not, just knowing I’ve made that many friends is enough for me. Any one of the other nominated drivers is a perfect choice.”

Did you know…?

• Four pairs of brothers have won Rookie of the Year honors in ACT competition. Between the ACT Late Model Tour and the Late Model and Tiger Sportsman divisions at Thunder Road, Catamount Stadium, and Airborne Raceway, Ron and Keith Lamell, Brett and Chad Wheeler, Jeff and Jay Laquerre, and Chris and Jamie Fisher have combined for 14 Rookie of the Year titles.

• Jean-Paul Cyr, Brent Dragon, and Patrick Laperle ran together in the 2004 ACT Late Model Tour point standings all season long, and that’s most likely because they ran on the track together all season long. All three finished in the Top 10 in the same event seven times, with at least two of the drivers in the Top 10 in all but one race. In fact, there were only four events in which at least two of the drivers didn’t finish one position away from another. Cyr and Dragon ran 1-2 at Thunder Road and 7-6 at Oxford, while Dragon and Laperle finished 2-3 at Riverside and 6-7 at Lee USA. Cyr and Laperle finished next to each other six times in a seven-race span, which included 1-2 finishes at Twin State (the first race of the streak, winner – Laperle) and White Mountain (winner – Cyr). In the seventh race, the New England Dodge Dealers 100 at Oxford, Dragon finished 6th, Cyr 7th, and Laperle 8th. There’s a quiz later.

The Most Improved Driver and Sportsmanship award winners will be named at the ACT Banquet of Champions at the Sheraton-Burlington Hotel & Conference Center in South Burlington, VT on Saturday, January 15. Also honored will be Champions and Top 10 point finishers from all divisions at Thunder Road and Airborne Raceway, as well as the ACT Late Model Tour. The deadline for ticket orders is a fast-approaching January 3. Call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.acttour.com for details.