WATERBURY, Vt. – The best of the American-Canadian Tour is ready to head north this weekend.
The Claude Leclerc 150 at Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudiere on Saturday and the Jean-Paul Cabana 125 at Circuit Riverside Speedway Ste-Croix on Sunday are shaping up as a triumphant return to la belle province for the region’s premier late model racing series.
The biggest U.S. stars of the ACT Tour will be at Autodrome Chaudiere this Saturday racing for the $5,000 (USD) top prize, including two-time defending champion Scott Payea, current point leader Rich Dubeau, previous Canada winner Jimmy Hebert and top rookie Stephen Donahue.
Others such as former ACT Rookie of the Year Brandon Atkins, defending Seekonk Speedway champion Ryan Kuhn, and rising star Christopher Pelkey are making the trek for the first point-counting ACT Tour event in Canada since 2015.
While the Jean-Paul Cabana 125 the following day does not count for points, many U.S. drivers are expected to stay over and fire up the engines once again on Sunday. That event pays $5,000 (CAD) to win, meaning it could be a lucrative trip abroad for one or more racers.
“The doubleheader part of it is pretty cool,” Atkins said. “We’re looking forward to doing a two-race Saturday-Sunday deal. We’ve never done that in the same car. We did that a couple years ago with the Modified and Late Model at Airborne and Thunder Road, but we’ve never done two big races in the same weekend back-to-back. It’s an old-school sort of thing. I remember hearing about the Tour doing that back in the day, but it hasn’t happened for quite a while.”
For some, more than just money is on the line. The point battle is already looking like it will once again come down to the final laps. Dubeau and Hebert sit one-two in the standings as both chase their first touring championship. But Payea is just 26 points out of first after winning the Spring Green at White Mountain Motorsports Park. Donahue and Chip Grenier, Mathieu Kingsbury and Dylan Payea are among the others who could put themselves in title contention with a strong performance on Saturday.
In the end, winning is still the main thing. The doubleheader will be two of the biggest stock car racing events of the year in Quebec – and for ACT late models as a whole. For drivers such as Dubeau, Atkins, Donahue, Pelkey, Dylan Payea and Kuhn who are still seeking their first ACT-sanctioned win, capturing it on such a huge stage would be an even bigger deal.
“That would be awesome,” Atkins said. “We’ve had really good cars at both places. At Ste-Croix, we’ve never really had good luck – we’ve been caught up in some skirmishes, and sometimes, finishing is the first goal. But at Chaudiere, we had a really good car when we raced there (in 2015). We finished seventh, and we’d never even seen the place before that race. So we have some good notes to start with. To get our first ACT-sanctioned win anywhere would be really cool, but doing it up there would be excellent – especially if it was night number one. I can’t think of a better momentum-builder for a second race than a win on the first night.”
Of course, the U.S. racers must beat out some stout Canadian competition on their home turf. Patrick Laperle, one of the most accomplished late model racers in Quebec history, headlines their side of the entry list. Claude Leclerc will attempt to qualify for his namesake race as will Kingsbury and former Série ACT champion Jonathan Bouvrette. Jean-Francois Dery, another former ACT Quebec champion, will be at Sunday’s Jean-Paul Cabana 125.
Many of Autodrome Chaudiere’s weekly NASCAR late model runners, who run under ACT rules, have also entered the Claude Leclerc 150. They include defending track champion Samuel Charland, top runners Jeff Cote and Christophe Paquet, and youngster Alexendre Tardif. Add in former Série ACT racers like Marc-Andre Cliché who are dusting off their Late Models, and the two events could see some of the biggest car counts of the year for ACT.