New ACT Schedule Means Busy Start To Season

ACT Late Model Tour regulars such as Chip Grenier (9VT) will be running three events in 14 days to start the 2019 season. (Daniel Holben photo)

WATERBURY, Vt. – The American-Canadian Tour will finally get rolling on its point-counting season on Sunday at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway.

Once the season starts rolling, it will be a fast and furious start to the ACT Late Model Tour campaign with a trio of events in short order.

The rescheduling of both the Oxford 150 and the Community Bank N.A. 150 at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl due to leftover winter snow has created a quick and action-packed start to the Northeast racing schedule. The events will now be held on back-to-back weekends, with the Oxford event on April 28 and ACT traveling to Thunder Road on May 5. Just six days after that, ACT heads to White Mountain Motorsports Park for the Caron Fabrication Spring Green 119 on May 11.

The stretch of three events in 14 days means that teams will have to be on the ball early. With little time off between events, they must stay out of trouble on the track both to assure a solid finish and avoid long nights in the shop between races. It also means teams and fans may know by mid-May who the early frontrunners are for the $10,000-to-win ACT championship.

“Once you’re on the track, you kind of keep that in the back of your head,” Chip Grenier said. “I think most racers are still going to race the race that’s unfolding in front of them. I’m not a points racer, so for me I don’t actually mind it. It might actually be beneficial to me compared to some of the guys that may not go out and be as aggressive for the first race.”

What is already known is that some of the top ACT Late Model racers in the region are expected at all three events. Defending ACT Late Model Tour champion Scott Payea and three-time champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. will both be in attendance. The two drivers are early favorites to make a title run and look to get off to solid starts at tracks where both have had continued success.

Many top regulars from the 2018 season are returning for 2019. Jimmy Hebert, Lebanon, Rich Dubeau, Dylan Payea and Claude Leclerc are looking to build on top-seven points finishes from a year ago. Grenier had several great runs in 2018 and is optimistic for a strong start and a strong season after finding some additional power during offseason work.

“We found some things over the winter with our ignition wiring, and I’m thinking I was down 25 horsepower last year compared to everyone else,” Grenier said. “That’s going to be a significant change, which believe it or not, will probably hurt me at Oxford, because I was able to flat-foot it around that place before. But at Thunder Road, it will be beneficial. So I’m hoping to see a better finish this year than what we’ve had the past few years.”

All of last year’s full-time rookies are back for another season, including Payea, Christopher Pelkey, and Reilly and Peyton Lanphear. In returning, they aim to build upon the growth they showed throughout their first season with ACT.

Notable new names are joining the ACT Tour this year as well. Defending Seekonk Speedway Late Model champion Ryan Kuhn has committed to the full season as have former Série ACT champions Jonathan Bouvrette and Jean-François Déry. Young Legend Car standout Trenton Goodrow has joined the Tour along with 2018 Canadian Stock Car Championship Rookie of the Year Jean-Phillippe Bergeron.

In addition to those entered for the full season, four drivers have filed individual entries for each of the first three events. Bobby Therrien, Stephen Donahue, Quinny Welch and Bryan Kruczek have all had success in weekly and/or touring Late Model racing. A strong start for any of them could lead to a full-season campaign.