VALLEE-JUNCTION, Quebec — Rich Dubeau finally broke into American-Canadian Tour victory lane Saturday by taking the Claude Leclerc 150 at Autodrome Chaudiere.
Dubeau took the lead for the first time on lap 82 and dominated the second half of a rough-and-tumble event to capture the Summer Kickoff Series opener and the $5,000 top prize.
It was a landmark moment for the fifth-year ACT Late Model Tour competitor and current point leader. Dubeau had five podium finishes to his name but had yet to carry a main event checkered flag before Saturday. However, he earned his first ACT victory in grand style on one of the biggest stages of the 2019 season.
Jimmy Hebert started on the pole after earning a “+7” in his qualifying heat and led the first 18 laps. However, as the field was coming to the green following the first caution on lap 18, Hebert suddenly slowed with a flat tire. Hebert was able to get the tire changed while officials reorganized the field and defending Autodrome Chaudiere Late Model Champion Samuel Charland inherited the top spot.
Charland held the lead for the next 41 circuits even as he faced stiff challenges from Dany Tepanier and Patrick Laperle. Meanwhile, Dubeau had worked his way up from the 15th starting position to grab the fifth spot by lap 57. But the complexion of the race shifted dramatically with a trio of incidents beginning at lap 58.
First, Alex Guenette crashed off turn two to bring out the caution. Then on the restart, Colchester, VT’s Scott Payea slowed from the fourth position with a flat tire of his own, and Pier-Luc Labbe got turned around in the resulting scramble. Finally, just one lap following the second attempt at a restart, contact sent Charland around in turn four and moved Laperle to the top spot.
A rash of cautions followed over the next 20 laps, and all the while, Dubeau continued to inch closer to the front. He got around Trepanier for second on lap 81, allowing him to restart alongside Laperle one lap later after the ninth caution flew for Remi Perreault and Claude Leclerc’s tangle in turn three. Dubeau got the nose out in front on lap 83 and cleared Laperle a few laps later.
Laperle hung tough for a spell and even snuck out in front for one more circuit following a lap-103 caution for Christopher Pelkey’s spin. But Dubeau marched away on an extended green flag that following while Laperle came under attack from Trepanier and a resurgent Payea.
Three more cautions came out in the closing stages, including one when Laperle spun while jockeying for position on a restart. Dubeau held serve every time though, and after the 15th and final caution on lap 137, he sped off into the night for his long-awaited first ACT victory.
Trepanier chased Dubeau to the line in second while Payea took third. Hebert mounted a comeback of his own to finish fourth followed by Jonathan Bouvrette in fifth.
Rich Dubeau, Dany Trepanier, Scott Payea, Jimmy Hebert, Jonathan Bouvrette, Dylan Payea, Michael Lavoie, Ryan Kuhn, Patrick Laperle, Marc Begin, Karl Allard, Alexandre Tardif, Samuel Charland, Christopher Pelkey, Marco Bilodeau, Steve Godbout, Scott Coburn, Jean-Philippe Bergeron, Stephen Donahue, Claude Leclerc, Sebastien Couture, Pier-Luc Labbe, Remi Perreault, Dany Poulin, Alex Guenette, Christophe Paquet.