Thunder Road SpeedBowl
ACTion News 1/31/05
While much has been said about the interest shown in the ACT Late Model Tour for 2005, the NAPA Tiger Sportsman division and the new Tiger Tour seem to be moving – nay, rocketing! – forward, Joey Laquerre’s entrance notwithstanding. Over forty licenses have been sold to date, and we’re hearing more rumors than a high school freshman at their first big dance. Should things pan out as told to us by folks allegedly “in the know”, Laquerre will be one of at least four veterans returning to the Sportsman class with more than one championship under their racing belts. We won’t say anything officially until it becomes official of course, but it sure does look like the Sportsmen are in for a wild season – their 24th consecutive year of racing on the Barre high banks!

The veterans aren’t the only ones making noise this season, either, as it looks like a strong group of first-year drivers are stepping up to the plate. Leading the way are Allen Lumber Street Stock hot dogs Nick Sweet (#50, left) of Barre, VT and Travis Paquet (#71, left) of Graniteville, VT. In the past two seasons, the two have accounted for five wins and an impressive 14 podium finishes (Sweet – 8, Paquet – 6). Other potential Rookie of the Year candidates include M&M Beverage Enduro 200 winner/PowerShift Junkyard Warrior part-timer Matt White of Northfield, VT, 16 year-old Gene Gagne of Winooski, VT, and former Street Stock and Renegade driver Rich Watson of Milton, VT.

Tiger-Sportsman-grads-turned-Late-Model-racers Joey Becker, Roger Brown, and Dave Pembroke have made pretty good names for themselves lately, and give the new (and old) guys something to look forward to in the future. In case you’ve been asleep for a couple seasons, those three have spent a fair amount of quality time in Victory Lane, and have made a habit of only winning the exciting races, you know, the ones that leave you guessing until the checkered flag falls. Pretty sneaky of them, really. You can bet the farm that this year’s large group of Late Model rookies will be under a race fan-operated microscope. Along with a very strong – perhaps even underestimated? – bunch of Granite Staters and southern New England drivers, Sportsman racers Bill Sawyer, Ryan Nolin, and Scott Payea will be fighting it out to become the best of the greenhorns. When you put them all together, the three have earned 18 wins, an Airborne Tiger Sportsman Championship, a Street Stock Tri-State Series title, and enough trophies to make anyone jealous. Sawyer and Payea have filed full season ACT Late Model Tour entries, and want the title held in 2004 by young B.J. Piekarski.

Did you know…?
• Before 1992 introduced the current-day Late Models, the NAPA Tiger Sportsman division was the hot ticket. We knew them back then as the Flying Tigers, and they produced some fantastic racing. For two seasons, the eight-race Flying Tiger International Series held events at Thunder Road, Airborne Raceway, and the 1.3-km Sanair Super Speedway tri-oval in St-Pie, Quebec. With wins at Airborne and Thunder Road, Dwayne Lanphear of Morrisville, VT was the 1990 champion. Brent Dragon of Milton, VT took a win at Sanair and the title in 1991. Steve Miller was the series runner-up both years.

• Recently-announced returnee Norm Andrews won the very first Flying Tiger International Series race, April 22, 1990 at Sanair. Two years and four days later, Andrews won the very first ACT Late Model Tour race, also at Sanair.

• Dragon, Miller, Andrews, Jim Cilley, and Dave Whitcomb finished in the Top 10 both years of the International Series as well as the first year of the ACT Late Model Tour. Dragon and Whitcomb stayed in the Top 10 through 1995, and it wasn’t until 2001 that Whitcomb finally fell out (20th). He came back to finish 8th overall in 2004.

The weather looks good for the coming week – it’s probably a good time to grab the shovel and dig all the Junkyard Warriors out of the snow bank. As an added bonus, you can cut the roof off and make a toboggan out of it, plus get the double purse for racing a convertible! Any interesting winter/racing stories? E-mail them to justin@acttour.com.