Thunder Road SpeedBowl
ACTion News 3/21/05
ACT is based in Waterbury, Vermont, and has a seemingly endless supply of talented drivers living in its home state. But ACT also has strong ties in the state of Maine. In fact, ACT President Tom Curley is a native of the Pine Tree State. Maine drivers Dick McCabe of Kennebunkport (right), Mike Rowe of Turner, and Unity’s Ralph Nason grabbed more than their share of checkered flags in the former ACT Pro Stock Tour’s formative years. In fact, McCabe was the series champion in 1981 and 1982, taking a whopping 15 wins in that two-year span. Oxford Plains Speedway legend Leland Kangas was the 1980 Rookie of the Year and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Champion Rick Zemla drove Bill Griffin’s Pepsi Challenger Buick to the same feat in 1984.

As the years went by, many drivers moved on or retired, and a new crop of “Maineiacs” stepped up to the plate. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many ACT headlines were stolen by drivers like Kelly Moore, Tracy Gordon (left), Ricky Harrison, and a young red-headed kid from the town of Bangor and nearby Wiscasset Raceway - Ricky Craven. In June of 1987, Craven took over the #09 E.J. Prescott Buick vacated by another driver you might have heard of – Shelburne, VT’s Kevin Lepage, and narrowly missed Rookie of the Year honors behind Massachusetts’ Paul Richardson.

In the early-mid 1990s, regular Late Model and Pro Stock competitors from Beech Ridge and Oxford Plains would spice up the ACT shows at their home tracks, and made off with the top prize quite often. In fact, Beech Ridge’s Mike Johnson, Bob Randall, and Glenn Cusack all visited Victory Lane, along with 8-time Oxford Plains King Jeff Taylor of Mercer. During that span, Mike Rowe returned to regular competition, and became the series champion in 1994 on the strength of four wins.

As the ACT Late Model Tour began to take shape in the early 1990s, Maine drivers were spotted in various events, including “Neon” Leon Heckbert, Bill Lagerson, Chris Hatstat, Tim Cook, and Doug Averill. After 1995, though, most Maine racers were off the ACT map as the Late Model Tour took center stage. It wasn’t until ACT’s return to Oxford Plains Speedway in May 2001, in fact, that a Maine driver made any real waves. Second-generation driver Ryan Moore of Scarborough (right), just 17 years old at the time, bested Milton, VT hotshot Brent Dragon to take the win, and rekindled the Vermont-Maine rivalry of old. In 2002, Moore would race ACT full-time, and won races race at White Mountain Motorsports Park and Thunder Road, as well as the second segment of the New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl. Moore was named Rookie of the Year, and will be seen driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2005.

Including Moore’s home-track triumph, ACT’s winner’s circle at Oxford Plains Speedway has been invaded (or defended, depending on your point of view) by a Maine-native in three of six events, as Albany’s Ricky Rolfe (July 2003), and Turner’s Shawn Martin (August 2004) have taken down top honors. (Patrick Laperle, Scott Dragon, and Dale Shaw were the ACT “regulars” to conquer the 3/8-mile.)

All told, Maine drivers have taken 56 wins in ACT’s top series (51 – Pro Stock Tour, 5 – Late Model Tour). With the emergence of current Late Model drivers like Martin and Doug Coombs, who each plan to do extensive racing on the ACT Late Model Tour in 2005, along with top OPS drivers Ricky Morse, Travis Adams, Jon Brill, Dale Verrill, and Chris Bowie, expect the win tally to increase.

We’ve also learned recently that New Hampshire racer David Avery may be loaning his car out to Maine driver on occasion in 2005. The driver is another second-generation racer, one who put a bit of ACT experience under his belt a decade ago, and has since gone on to win multiple Pro Stock championships and back-to-back Oxford 250s. According to Avery, he’ll be testing the car at Lee USA Speedway in April, and will compete in a few of Thunder Road’s regular Thursday night Late Model events. He is already considered a threat for Victory Lane, and it’s a safe bet that by the end of the summer Vermont race fans will be using the name “Ben Rowe” in everyday conversation. Look out for this guy, folks.

Did you know…?

• In 164 starts, “The Irish Angel” Dick McCabe earned 89 Top 5 finishes, an astounding 54% of his starts.

• Driving the Jim’s Salad Co. #10, Ralph Nason was famous for racing Mopar machines, and won 11 races in his ACT career. “The Sultan of Slaw” earned the majority of his victories in Dodge and Chrysler cars, but also snatched one win each in Chevrolet and Ford livery.

• Oxford Plains Speedway competitors Ryan Moore, Ricky Rolfe, and Shawn Martin have each captured an ACT at their home track. Coincidentally, each of the three drivers won their only OPS Late Model titles in the same season they won an ACT race there.

The ACT Late Model Tour returns to Oxford Plains Speedway on Saturday, May 21. Don’t be surprised if the pits are overflowing, the noise from the grandstands is deafening, and the action is as hot and heavy as ever. After all, there’s a great deal of pride on the line. The same story seems to be developing at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH, with regulars Ricky Wolf, Scott Bonney, Scott Watts, and a host of others taking on the top dogs of ACT.

Do you have a favorite rivalry story? E-mail it to justin@acttour.com. Also, if you’re an ACT-licensed competitor in the Late Model, NAPA Tiger Sportsman, Allen Lumber Street Stock, or PowerShift Junkyard Warrior divisions, don’t forget to fill out and send in your team registration form! Send ‘em to P.O. Box 296, Waterbury, VT 05676!