PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Wayne Helliwell Jr. won the battle and the war, grinding to the victory in the Rent-A-Wreck Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway Sunday and unofficially earning his first American Canadian Tour Championship.
He held off a late charging Austin Theriault, and 2012 Serie ACT Castrol Champion Patrick Laperle for the clutch victory.
Second-place point man Brian Hoar and Helliwell started nose to tail to start the feature that ran the first 49 laps without a caution. Helliwell had worked his way to the front earning a five-point bonus for leading a lap, while Hoar stalked him through the field. When a second caution came out on lap 62, Hoar showed his hand, ducking into pit road for fresh tires and falling to the back of the pack.
Helliwell continued to lead while Hoar methodically worked his way through the 36-car field. The fourth caution of the 200-lap event on lap 87saw race leader Helliwell, Theriault and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. on pit road for tires.
A handful of laps later, the tide had turned as Hoar’s familiar #37 assumed the lead, and it was Helliwell’s turn to fight through traffic. Hoar continued to lead while Helliwell desperately clawed his way to the front, narrowly surviving a scary lap 110 wreck that left him with front end damage. By lap 111 of the event, Helliwell had raced his way to seventh while Hoar continued to lead.
Just two laps later, it was ACT Rookie of the Year Jimmy Hebert that troubled Hoar, diving underneath him to steal the lead from the eight-time champion. Hebert and Hoar battled for the top spot, while Helliwell creeped into fourth place.
On lap 145 Helliwell had risen to third, and engaged in a tight battle with Hebert for second while they closed in on lap traffic. Just as they reached it, Helliwell slid up and made light contact with Hebert, sliding and catching the car to hang on for second place. On lap 160, Helliwell’s battered car arrived in Hoar’s mirror.
With 37 laps to go, Helliwell dove underneath for the point, and the pair traded the lead several times in a duel for the championship. Hoar swung his car in the high lane anticipating lap traffic, while Helliwell tried to steal it on the inside. On lap 167, Hoar’s plan worked to perfection when he pinned Helliwell in lap traffic and was forced back in line.
Helliwell continued to try the inside line, but to no avail as Hoar repeatedly pinned him behind the slower lap traffic. With the championship on the line and laps winding down, the gloves came off with 20 to go and Helliwell dove one more time underneath Hoar for the point. This time when he reached lap traffic he took it three wide, stealing the lead as a caution flew on lap 181 when seven-time ACT Champion Jean Paul Cyr spun into the infield taking down a light pole.
When the restart came, it was Hoar fighting back in the outside, blasting by Helliwell and leaving him to fight off third place Joey Polewarczyk to hang on to the title. A caution on lap 186 put Helliwell in the outside lane, but he flew high and wide to the lead on the final restart and ran away to claim the 2012 title.
Hoar fell from second to fourth in the closing laps when young Austin Theriault came tearing through the field, with Laperle on his tail. Hoar and Polewarcyk rounded out the top five.
Helliwell was choked up in victory lane.
“We had so much pressure coming in here, I just can’t believe it,” said Helliwell. “There are so many things running through my head, this is just unbelievable.”
Wayne Helliwell Jr., Austin Theriault, Patrick Laperle, Brian Hoar, Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Randy Potter, Jimmy Hebert, Brent Dragon, Ray Parent, Nick Sweet, Jean-Francois Dery, Patrick Cliche, Donald Theetge, Scott Dragon, Emily Packard, Glen Luce, Eric Chase, Eddie MacDonald, Ricky Rolfe, Jonathan Bouvrette, Tyler Cahoon, Brandon White, Rowland Robinson Jr., Jamie Fisher, Spencer MacPherson, Bucko Branham, Todd Davis, James Linardy, Jean-Paul Cyr, Quinten Welch, Travis Stearns, Hunter Bates, T.J. Brackett, Luke Hinkley, Sylvain Lacombe, Ben Lynch.