Thunder Road SpeedBowl
ACTion News 1/17/05
The ACT Banquet of Champions has come and gone, and the 2004 racing season is officially over. The Champions and Top 10 racers from Thunder Road and Airborne Raceway's weekly divisions were honored, as were Jean-Paul Cyr and the rest of the ACT Late Model Tour's Top 10. Cyr delivered his fourth career championship speech and picked up a check for $10,000 as a lovely parting gift. Thunder Road Champions Cris Michaud of Williamstown, VT (Late Model), Reno Gervais of Island Pond, VT (NAPA Tiger Sportsman, pictured left), Joe Small of Milton, VT (Allen Lumber Street Stock), and Ron Gabaree of Barre, VT (PowerShift Junkyard Warrior), and Airborne Champions Bill Sawyer of Milton, VT (Tiger Sportsman), Richie Turner of Fairfax, VT (Renegade), and Ed Doner of Clintonville, NY (Warrior) each accepted their awards, cut a few jokes, and discussed their plans for 2005. Perhaps to the chagrin of their competitors, almost all plan on defending their titles. The exception, of course, is Sawyer, who will race as a rookie on the ACT Late Model Tour.

At just 16 years old, Street Stock Rookie of the Year Joel Hodgdon gave an enthusiastic, witty, and at times hilarious speech as he accepted the Dr. Gordon R. "Doc" Nielsen Rookie Award. Hodgdon (pictured right) reports that a second car is in the works for 2005, and he'll be going for "the big one" - which we'll assume means the Thunder Road championship. A pair of unrelated Henrys, Ron (Late Model of New Gloucester, ME), and Kerry (Tiger Sportsman of Barre, VT), were chosen by their peers as the "Sportsmanship" award winners, and each were clearly shocked and appeared somewhat humbled while accepting their plaques. Gary Mullen, a farmer from rural Tunbridge, VT, was equally speechless as he was named the recipient of the Street Stock division's Ed Carroll Memorial Sportsmanship Award. Steve Fisher and Chris Gendreau were named 2005's "Most Improved" competitors in the Late Model and Tiger Sportsman divisions, respectively.

ACT Marketing/Advertising Director Marjorie Fay was presented the Ken Squier Award for her 20 years of contribution to local stock car racing, while Tina Boutin and Dean Gallison shared the Francis "Bubby" Wilder Dedication Award. Late Model veteran and multi-time, multi-divisional champion Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier, VT was given the 36th annual Don MacTavish Award for his lifelong commitment to the world of short track stock car racing.

MacTavish was a young, talented, and very likeable racer from Massachusetts that made a living by racing four or five times a week, winning Modified races all over the east coast in the 1960s. He lost his life in a horrific crash at Daytona Int'l Speedway in February 1969, and the award was created in his memory that year. Like MacTavish, Laquerre (pictured left) races wherever he can, whenever he can, often with very little help in the pit area. Laquerre has often lent advice, tools, parts, and even entire race cars to his fellow competitors, and over the past five decades has shown that he embodies the spirit of what local racing should be, much like MacTavish was famous for. Even after having passed by the age of 60, Laquerre continues to be a tough-as-nails competitor, and keeps Thunder Road and ACT Late Model Tour fans - not to mention the drivers - on their toes every time he straps into the seat of a stock car.

Saturday night, Laquerre's name became a well-deserved part of a very special list of people that have won what many consider one of short track racing's top honors. The 1969 recipient of the Don MacTavish Award was NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. Other winners include ACT President Tom Curley, announcers Ken Squier and Dave Moody, legendary racers Jean-Paul Cabana, Beaver Dragon, and Tom Tiller, new stars Brian Hoar and Cris Michaud, and head wrenches Pete Duto, Dave MacMaster, and Smitty McKay.

Did you know...?

--Through 2004, Laquerre (in a tie with Dave Whitcomb) leads all active ACT drivers in modern-era (1982-present) wins. Combining all of ACT's five divisions that competed in 2004, Laquerre has a total of 24 career wins (11 Late Model, 13 Tiger Sportsman). Whitcomb's 18 Late Model wins lead the all-time list for that division. At 22 wins, Mark Barnier is the top-ranked driver with victories in more than two divisions, one ahead of Jamie Fisher.

--Although, he's ten wins behind all-time Street Stock win leader Steve Renaudette, Tommy "Thunder" Smith leads all active Street Stockers with nine victories. Lloyd Blakely and David Allen are tied at seven each, while Eric Johnson and Steve Violette each have four. All of Johnson's wins came in 2004 - his rookie season!

--In his days as a Street Stocker, Renaudette was simply untouchable. A three-win season in 1989 netted him the Thunder Road crown, which he followed up with six Airborne wins and the track's first ACT Street Stock title in 1990. In 1991, the Fairfax, VT driver won a staggering 11 features in 19 starts, and finished outside the Top 5 just twice. He jumped to the brand-new Late Model division in 1992, and promptly won the Rookie of the Year crown both at Airborne and on what is now the ACT Late Model Tour.

Practice schedules have been set for pre-season testing, and will sessions will take place at Thunder Road on the following dates: Wednesday, April 20 (rain date: Thursday the 21st), Saturday, April 30 (in conjunction with annual Car Show and Mechants Bank 150 opener), and Wednesday, May 25. Lee USA Speedway is also holding practice dates on the 9th, 16th, and 23rd of April (all Saturdays). Saturday, April 23 will be the first of a two-day weekend for the ACT Late Model Tour's season opening event - details on that race to follow in the coming weeks.

Teams looking to purchase or freshen a Late Model or Tiger Sportsman spec motor should contact the ACT office ASAP at (802) 244-6963. A trip to Butler & MacMaster is scheduled for next week, and all orders must be placed by Tuesday, January 24. Visit www.acttour.com for updates.