Contributed by: ACT Staff
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Fourteen ACT Late Model Tour teams took part in the “Test and Tune” activities at Lee USA Speedway, and reportedly ran quite well… but so did the Lee USA regulars. Defending champion Ricky Wolf was among the fastest, as was teenager Jeff Labrecque, Jr. Keep your eyes on those two at the Seacoast Late Model Challenge 100 this weekend. We’re not sure if they saw our website poll or not, but B.J. Piekarski, Cooper MacRitchie, and Trampas Demers led the way for the ACT crowd. In this week’s fan poll, Piekarski, MacRitchie, and Demers are three of the top four vote leaders regarding the question “Who do you think could be the sleeper at Lee USA and earn his first career ACT victory?” It seems their chances may have just increased a bit.
In the true spirit of an “open” test day, one practice session saw the ACT and Lee USA Late Models on the track with a pair of cars from the Busch North Series. MacRitchie ran against former North champion Mike Olsen, and the two turned nearly identical lap times. In a bit of a fun and ironic twist, MacRitchie “raced” against Olsen in the same Ron Bevins-owned Late Model chassis that Olsen drove at Thunder Road in the 2003-04 seasons.
Three NAPA Sportsman teams also made the trip to Lee USA. The inaugural ACT Tiger Sportsman Series will hold its season closer at the fast 3/8-mile oval on Sunday, Sept. 25, and the teams of Doug Murphy (left), Joe Steffen, and Chris Curtis went to shake their cars down. Murphy reports that with “almost no changes at all” from his Thunder Road setup, his car felt very competitive. Curtis looked promising in his ex-Ryan Nolin car. The young Massachusetts driver will have Late Model and Pro Stock veteran Blair Bessett turning wrenches on his car this season, and the pair seems to have clicked.
A half-dozen ACT Late Models hauled to Canaan Fair Speedway for an open test session, and praise for the new Goodyear tire was through the roof. Joe Becker thinks that unlike previous Late Model tires, flats will be almost a non-issue, and the cars will be more consistent during long distance races, rather than trailing off after the midway point like in years past. Jamie Fisher’s crew members sang the same tune as Becker, and were happy with the size, growth, and overall feel of the new Goodyears. Of the six cars in attendance, each was within one-tenth of a second of the others, which should likely provide some excellent side-by-side racing. In his typical right-to-the-point style, Becker summed it up pretty well: “These tires are a lot better.”
Did you know…?
• The NAPA Tiger Sportsman “King of the Road” crown has developed into a pattern recently. Ricky Dennis won in 1996, then Jimmy Young took back-to-back crowns. Dave Pembroke cashed in in 1999, then John Donahue went two-for-two. Joe Steffen was The Man in 2002, followed by Reno Gervais in the past two seasons. Notice the trend? Should Gervais repeat in 2005, he’ll become the first-ever three-time Tiger Sportsman champion, and only the second three-peat champion in Thunder Road history (Chuck Beede was the 1992, ’93, and ‘94 Late Model champ).
• In its first 45 seasons, Thunder Road has never seen a driver from Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, win a track championship in any division. South Burlington, however, can lay claim to 1970 and 1972 champion Bobby Giroux, and is currently represented by 2003 “Most Improved” Late Model driver Trampas Demers.
Folks, it’s finally here, this weekend, the Seacoast Late Model Challenge 100 at Lee USA Speedway, Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24! The gloves will be off, and the Lee USA drivers will try to defend their home turf against the Tour cars. New clutches, new tires, new bodies, wild new qualifying and handicap systems, and yes, even a few unhappy drivers. We can’t think of a season opener that has created more controversy BEFORE the green flag falls than any other, can you? We’ve posted travel and lodging information on our website, and for any other questions, you can give us a call at (802) 244-6963 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.