Tuesday, December 8, 2009

GREEN FLAG: RMR snocross revs up this weekend!

DERRY, NH — With cold air in place and even some natural snow on the ground in parts of northern New England, snowmobile race teams throughout the region are anxious to load up their trailers and hit the road.

After months of securing rides, physical training and mechanical preparation, the chance to compete has come, as Rock Maple Racing (RMR) gets set to kick off its 2009-10 snocross schedule this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12-13, at the beautiful Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg, New York.

Spectator gates will open at 8 a.m., while racing will get under way promptly at 9 a.m. Admission is $14 per day for adults or $20 for a weekend pass, $8 per day for children ages 10-18, while children age 10 and under will be admitted free with a paying adult. Pit passes valid through the entire weekend are available for an extra $10.

The Hickory Ski Center’s new owners are preparing to reopen the facility after four years of dormancy. Warrensburg is known as “the gateway to the Adirondacks,” and is easy to reach via US Rte. 9 off Exit 23 on Interstate 87.

Since this is a new host site for RMR, here is an overview of the weekend for first-time fans. Saturday’s activities will consist of qualifying races for all classes within RMR’s five major divisions (Pro, Semi-Pro, Sport, Women and Junior). These events offer points towards the coveted season championships, putting pressure on the riders as they earn their way into Sunday’s finals.

Sunday morning features the Last Chance Qualifiers (or LCQs, in snocross speak), the last opportunity to make it into the final round. After the traditional Parade of Flags and pre-race ceremonies, Finals for all classes will begin at approximately 1 p.m.

Leading the charge into Warrensburg is defending Pro champion Danny Poirier, of St. Theodore, Quebec. Poirier (Hulten Speed Sports/Polaris) won every Pro Open final he entered last season, and all but one in Pro Stock. The two-time title holder (won Pro 600 in 2004) has a new teammate in Ray & Lisa Hulten’s trailer, as talented Minnesota native Bobby LePage joins the squad. Renaud Alexandre will complete the Pro trio based in St. Johnsville, New York.

Other Pro division riders to watch at Hickory include Mathieu Morin, who joins the powerhouse Ingles Performance/Ski-doo organization for 2009-10; multi-time champion Jason Boron (D&Z Racing/Ski-doo); Vermont veteran Chris Chico (Amsoil/Arctic Cat); Jason and Matt Rudd (Ruddman Racing/Ski-doo); Brennan Berardo (DooTalk.com/Ski-doo) and Jake Melville (Ski-doo).

In the ultra-competitive Semi-Pro division, riders to watch include pre-season favorite Corin Todd, of Otego, New York. Todd is part of the D&Z Racing/Ski-doo squad and loves to shine in his home state. Other riders in a long list of legitimate podium threats include Trevor Bouchard (Team Bouchard/Arctic Cat); Robert Graeber, Brad Davis (Team Southside/Polaris), Garrett Mees, Lucas Brunelle, Lincoln Lemieux and Michael George.

Across all five divisions, there are talented riders returning to action for 2009-10.

Rock Maple Racing is the eastern affiliate of the International Series of Champions (ISOC), and is proud to be hosting the inaugural New England Nationals at Rockingham Park in Salem, NH, on Feb. 13-14, 2010. For more information, please go to http://www.rockmaple.com/.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rock Maple Racing 2009-10 Competition Preview

DERRY, NH (Nov. 13, 2009) — If there’s going to be a new face atop the northeastern regional snocross ranks in 2010, that rider will need to get past one smooth, determined athlete.

After one of the most dominant seasons in series history, 2009 Pro division champion Danny Poirier will return to action, as teams around the region get ready for the 2009-10 Rock Maple Racing (RMR) season.

Poirier, of St. Theodore, Quebec, won all but two Pro finals last season, an amazing feat in such a competitive series. When the new season revs up just one month from now, Poirier will return with a new yet well known teammate in the Hulten Speed Sports/Polaris trailer. Bobby “The Rage” LePage will join the RMR ranks this season, and he’s not the only big name headed to New England for 2009-10.

Quebec native Mathieu Morin, who won the last RMR Pro final of 2009, will join the Ingles Performance/Ski-doo squad and should be among the top contenders. Both Morin and LePage are highly-skilled athletes with national experience, adding a great deal of excitement for race fans here in the northeast.

As Poirier looks to defend his 2009 title, a host of veterans and newcomers will be after his crown. Multi-time champion Jason Boron will be back aboard the D & Z Racing Ski-doos this season. While his brother Matt has retired from snocross, Jason isn’t quite ready to hang it up. He’s one of the most consistent, rock-solid athletes to ever climb on a sled, and will no doubt be running up front again in 2009-10.

Other riders to watch this season within the Pro division include Norwegian veteran Stale (pronounced Stolay) Eggen, who joins Bruce Gaspardi’s Team Southside organization; Jason Stone, part of the powerhouse Ingles Performance squad; Chris Chico, back for his second season on the mighty Amsoil/Arctic Cat Sno Pro 600; and Renaud Alexandre, back with Hulten Speed Sports.

Team Southside is also proud to announce the return of Alaska native Robert Graeber to RMR competition. Graeber turned a lot of heads when he joined RMR as a Semi-Pro rider two years ago. He’s recovering nicely from a serious accident in March of 2008, and everybody is thrilled to see this determined, talented young man with a big heart return this season. Team Southside will also support the Ackers (Melanie, Sarah and Wade) this season, and the whole team is headed for Duluth later this month.

While Graeber will compete in the Semi-Pro division for 2009-10, two other former Semi-Pro sensations are making the move up to Pro. Vermont-based veterans Brennan Berardo (Essex) and Jake Melville (Pownal) will be part of the hottest rookie class in recent memory, which will only enhance the competition. Think RMR’s Pro division will be exciting this year? Just wait until they throw the green flag Dec. 12-13 at the Hickory Ski Center.

Rock Maple’s Semi-Pro division is where future stars hone their skills, and they provide a ton of excitement as they rise to regional stardom. While defending champion Aaron Pfeifer won’t be back, there are plenty of athletes gunning to take his place. Among the top contenders is Corin Todd (D&Z Racing/Ski-doo), who many feel is the favorite to secure a title.

Yet talented young guns like Trevor Bouchard (now on Arctic Cat), Brad Davis, Garrett Mees, Lucas Brunelle, Lincoln Lemieux and Michael George have other ideas. A newcomer to the Semi-Pro ranks this year is motocross veteran Ash Woskob, of Tyrone, Pennsylvania. Woskob (D&Z Racing/.Ski-doo) is a multi-time MX champion and finished sixth in his RMR snocross debut last spring at Windham.

One of the sport’s rising stars is making the move up from Sport to Semi-Pro for 2009-10. Joey Stock (part of Team Southside), of Bearsville, NY, won the Sport 600 title in 2009 and finished only one point shy of Joey Mosher in Sport Super Stock. Watching this young man take his program to the next level will also be entertaining this winter.

Jake Dasilva and Andrew Bailey are two more former Sport division stars making the move to Semi-Pro. These two will run part time on both the RMR and International Series of Champions (ISOC) circuits for 2009-10. When ISOC rolls into historic Rockingham Park for the inaugural New England Nationals Feb. 13-14, Dasilva and Bailey will be going all-out for wins.

While RMR’s headline Pro and hotly-contested Semi-Pro divisions are expected to have banner seasons in 2009-10, the Sport, Women and Junior divisions are full of talented riders, as well. Add those eager young racers (ages 6 through 10) on the 120cc machines competing on their own little track, and you’ve got the recipe for another fantastic winter of snocross fun.

Some of Rock Maple’s teams will get a jump on the new season later this month, as they travel to Minnesota to compete in the 18th annual Amsoil Duluth Nationals on Nov. 27-29. Look for a report on how these teams make out shortly after the event. Good luck to all as a new season of high-flying snocross competition get under way.

To follow all of the action this season or to learn more, go to www.rockmaple.com. Rock Maple Racing is the proud eastern affiliate of ISOC, the national sanctioning body for snocross.

Monday, October 12, 2009

ACT Fall 150 at Oxford Notebook

While there might have been little drama as Brian Hoar locked up his sixth career American-Canadian Tour (ACT) title Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway, the New England Dodge Dealers Fall 150 capped a strong 2009 season for the VT-based tour.
Eric Williams, who didn't know how often he would race this year after the loss of 2008 sponsor Unicel, notched the second win of 2009 and sixth of his ACT career with a brilliant drive. Joey Polewarczyk Jr. looked to have the car to beat inn the early laps, but his obsession with Oxford's often-slippery outside lane relegated him to a runner-up finish.
John Donahue was still on top of the world after winning the prestigious Chittenden Milk Bowl the previous week. The hotshoe from Graniteville led briefly and came home third in front of a cold, windburned crowd. A big atta-boy goes out to Buckfield's Timmy Brackett, who ran near the front all afternoon and brought the No. 60 machine home in fifth.
Fortunately, bright sun bathed the pit area and speedway all morning as teams rotated through practice and got ready to race. Joining the ACT warriors (53 strong in the season finale - with NO Canadian teams there) at Oxford Sunday were teams from every class that races at Oxford.
Somebody had the bright idea of combing the ACT 150, Little Guy 100s and the Acceleration Series Showdown into one rather lengthy show. In the defense of track owner Bill Ryan, time is rapidly running out this fall and temperatures are falling fast. Opportunities to race are about gone here in northern New England, so he rolled the dice and got it ALL in. I believe they completed the final 100-lap event around 8 p.m. last night, and keep in mind the pits opened at 8 a.m. THAT is one incredibly long day at the racetrack.
All in all, it was difficult to see it all end yesterday. I've enjoyed one of the best short track seasons in over a decade,. thanks to some great ACT racing and the company of Debbie Wilkinson. After 15+ years, she's still by my side at the track and I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, she carries a Nikon D40, and her digital images look fantastic. My sincere thanks to Deb, Bill Ryan and Kalle Oakes at OPS, and the entire ACT & T-Road staff for making my 2009 season so very special.
I hope all of my extended family in stock car racing can now enjoy a well-deserved break. Now I shift my focus to the upcoming season of Rock Maple Racing snocross. As I prepare for my seventh year with RMR, I ask all snowmobile enthusiasts and race fans to consider attending one of our shows this winter. It's the most exciting thing on snow - and bring your camera! I'll be posting my preseason competition preview in the coming weeks. Happy Holidays folks! They will be here before you know it...

Friday, September 11, 2009

ACT Labor Day Classic 200 Notebook

I can’t describe how lucky I feel to have been at Thunder Road on Sunday, Sept. 6, for the 31st annual Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200. I’ve attended literally hundreds of races at ‘The Nation’s Site of Excitement,’ but can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like that.
Some may find it hard to believe that 30 Late Model stock car drivers managed to go 181 laps around a tight little 1/4-mile oval without a caution. Yet I saw it with my own two eyes, and it was the finest demonstration of respectful, heads-up driving I’ve ever seen.
If it hadn’t been for Joey Polewarczyk’s spin in turn 2, Dave Pembroke would have never had to crack the throttle en route to his impressive wire-to-wire victory. And while Pembroke was building as much as a half-track advantage, all eyes were on Patrick Laperle as he charged toward the front.
Laperle started eighth on the 30-car grid and drew cheers from the Canadian fans as he powered his way to third behind runner-up John Donahue. Five-time ACT champion Brian Hoar, a two-time winner on the circuit this year, had the No. 37 machine dialed in and finished fourth ahead of Eric Williams. While only five cars completed all 200 laps, all 30 starters were running at the finish.
I’d like to draw attention to the efforts of Cris Michaud in the Labor Day Classic. As the only driver to have won a feature at Thunder Road in 2009 with the new Ford crate engine, Michaud is one-of-a-kind. He piloted the Kendell Legendre-prepared No. 6 to a solid sixth place finish, the first car one lap down.
Brent Dragon carried the momentum from winning two straight ACT events (the non-points Showdown at Chaudiere and last Friday’s ACT 100 at Twin-State Speedway) and turned it into a fine seventh-place run. I must say that Chip Grenier and Craig Bushey (finished 8th & 9th) were two pleasant surprises to see inside the top 10 for a 200-lap contest. Nick Sweet, who is on the latest list of invited drivers for the inaugural ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, rounded out the top 10 with another solid effort.
While some may feel a 200-lap race with only one caution and five cars on the lead lap is less than entertaining, I say just the opposite. How can you not respect the give-and-take it requires to go that long without wrecking? I thought about how tired their arms must have been after 150 laps or so without a rest. We all know how ACT president Tom Curley preaches respect in his pre-race driver’s meetings, but the guys took it to a whole new level last Sunday afternoon.
And after so much rain during the summer that affected so many events, it sure was nice to have wall-to-wall sunshine for the Labor Day Classic. With a crystal-clear view of the Green Mountains off to the West, fans at Thunder Road enjoyed a memorable day atop Quarry Hill.
As a proud member of the ‘gray beard’ club, I’m always pleased to see veterans like Jamie Aube show up at a racetrack. Sadly, Aube failed to put the No. 67 entry into the show, but in his defense, neither did nine other guys who’ve run at Thunder Road a lot more recently and often than he has. If Aube shows up at Airborne this weekend for the Fall Foliage 300, I’ll bet he makes the race. It never did take him long to adapt to a specific car or track, I’ve always admired his skills and knowledge of the sport.
All in all, the Labor Day Classic provided a great day of racing and a chance to share the passion we all have for this sport. I even had the opportunity to chat with Vermont racing historian Cho Lee, who is assisting Richard Lucas and me with a DVD documentary project on Northeastern Speedway. Even T-Road founder Ken Squire has agreed to tape a piece for us on his memories of the historic little 1/5-mile oval in Waterford. Look for details later this fall.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ACT teams will go for $250,000 in 30 days

WATERBURY, Vermont – As their 2009 season starts to wind down, the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) has announced that over a 30-day period (August 27 through Sept. 27), there will be purses posted of over a quarter million dollars for Late Model race teams in the Northeast and Canada.

'Money Month' starts with the Coors Light Showdown of Champions at the 1/3-mile banked Autodrome Chaudiere near Quebec City. The top eleven (11) US ACT Tour teams will go head to head with the top (11) ACT Castrol Series teams, with the winner receiving $5,000 from the $35,000 in total posted purse.

Next up isl a return to the famed Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, VT, for the 47th Annual Bond Auto Labor Day Classic. A record purse and prize posting of $45,000 has been offered.

One of the most anticipated events of the year will follow the Labor Day Classic. The long-awaited return of the Fall Foliage 300 is back on the ACT schedule in 2009. The newly renovated and redesigned Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY will again host the historic ‘300’ weekend with a posted purse of $40,000. This fall classic event was held in many forms and different numbers of laps. The inaugural event was held in 1972 and was won by Bobby Dragon of Milton, VT. Catamount continued the tradition of a big fall event until it closed in 1987. After Catamount's demise, the race moved to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine, for a three-year stop.

The championship month will continue with what has become the most talked-about event in northeastern Late Model racing of any kind this season. The inaugural ACT Invitational at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) is set for Saturday, Sept. 19. No championship title points, no pressure, just an historic day for Late Model racers throughout the region, as they race for $65,000 and a name in the NHMS record books. This year-long promotion will be the racing career highlight for many of the lucky 36 invitees. It will no doubt be among the highlights of Sylvania 300 weekend on the famed 'Magic Mile.'

Finally, the $250,000 month will draw to a close with the 47th Annual Vermont Milk Bowl. Thunder Road will cap its 50th season with a $10,000-to-win, $70,000 free-for-all. For the first time in years, this event will not be a points race for either Thunder Road or ACT teams. The three-segment format of the Milk Bowl provides the ultimate challenge for all ACT competitors, and has delighted fans for decades with its inverted finishes and wild side-by-side competition.

Without argument, 2009 has certainly been the year of the Late Model here in our region. It's been exciting to see so many blue-collar, regular Joe race teams get fired up as they pursue a chance to compete on the big stage. Let's all applaud Tom Curley and company for providing the spark that ignited such an entertaining season.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Northeastern Speedway Reunion Event Recap

WATERFORD, Vermont — Despite a fierce effort by a few neighbors to prevent it from happening, the 50-year reunion celebration at Northeastern Speedway went off as scheduled last Saturday, July 18.
The event was heralded as a huge success by the promoter and race fans alike.
Speedway owner Paul Bellefeuille had worked for 15 months to ensure the event took place, cutting down trees, smoothing the soil, planting acres of grass and meeting with town officials. And although weather forecasts called for heavy rains lasting well into Saturday morning, they moved out earlier than predicted — giving all those in attendance a bright, sunny day to enjoy the variety of cars and large number of former drivers gathered.
“This turned out better than I had ever dreamed,” Bellefeuille said. “I did the best I could to prepare and hoped for the best. What I got was larger than life; the drivers all came, we drew cars from all over New England and everyone had a great time. We wanted to recognize and draw attention to those who made this such a famous track from 1959 to 1966.”
Former drivers and officials on hand for the celebration included 1959 track champion Johnny Gammell; 1960 champion Glenn Andrews; 1964 title holder Denny Dearborn; Charlie Ely, the man who built Northeastern back in ‘59; Skip Easter, Paul Martel (3J), Pete Racine, Russ Ingerson, Junior Coffin, Ken Robinson, Buddy Bardwell, Paul Belknap, Ronnie 'Satch' Hunt, Glen Gadapee, former race director Reg Garand, Alden Aiken, editor of the original Racing News; Charlotte and Alvin Fadden, widow and son of legendary driver Stanley ‘Stub’ Fadden; Pete Blackadar, widow of original flagman Archie Blackadar; and Ricky Marvin, son of former track champion Ronnie Marvin. This group represented the very finest of early short track drivers and race officials ever assembled in northern New England.
“Our driver recognition ceremony brought tears to the faces of many, including my own,” Bellefeuille added. “It was an emotional day I’ll never forget, and I hope we’ll be able to do this annually and help keep those great racing memories alive.”
What fans discovered as they entered the grounds was a pristine old racetrack in amazing shape after over 40 years of neglect. As those fans poured in, restored Coupes from around the northeast rolled in to help reproduce the magic this historic oval once held.
With nice weather conditions and plenty to look at, fans roamed the speedway grounds all day enjoying stories, getting autographs and taking lots of pictures. The Bob Doyle Museum was in the pit area, staffed by Vermont auto racing historian Cho Lee, who knows more than anybody else on the planet about the old Coupes. Lloyd Hutchins was on hand with his beautiful restored cars, drawing attention throughout the day.
They came from northern New Hampshire, Central Maine and even the west coast, all to celebrate the rich history if this 1/5-mile paved oval in the Northeast Kingdom. Ely flew in from California to attend the event, as did Aiken.
For Paul and Lise Bellefeuille, it was the ultimate reward for tons of hard work. But for those old drivers, car owners and their families, it was a show of appreciation and respect they’ll never forget. And neither should any good self-respecting race fan. Without the efforts of the men recognized last Saturday at that tiny little bullring in northern Vermont, short track stock car racing would have never evolved into the true giant it is today here in the northeast. We all owe them a tremendous debt for laying the foundation for the sport we know and love today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road Notebook

After driving four hours through varying degrees of rainfall, we were more than delighted to see the clouds depart and sunshine prevail last Sunday afternoon at Thunder Road.
Oxford’s regular Saturday night program ran as clean as we hoped, capped by a huge fireworks display for the holiday weekend crowd. That put us in a favorable frame of mind as we headed west, and the action at T-Road sure didn’t disappoint.
Along with David Pembroke’s thrilling win in the ACT 100, the big story of the day was obviously the tremendous heartbreak suffered by Joey Polewarczyk and team when he spun out of the lead at lap 82.
Fresh from his victory the previous Sunday at Oxford, Pole was working his way through traffic like a seasoned veteran. The 19-year-old New Hampshire native was using the outside lane to stay out front, much as he did the previous week at Oxford.
Yet this time, he got a little too far out carrying a whole lot of speed into Turn 3. The resulting spin and crash cost him a second straight win, one he dearly wanted at ACT’s toughest track. Pembroke took his gift from above and ran with it — straight to Victory Lane.
Another big attraction beyond the great racing Sunday at Thunder Road was the classy memorials that have been constructed at the speedway. Six large pieces of polished Barre granite are inscribed with the names of track champions and major event winners.
The three pieces put up in front of the track entrance feature track champions, from Ronnie Marvin in 1960 to Eric Williams in 2008. Located right behind the officials’ tower at the base of the banking is a new display featuring three more pieces. These are pink granite inscribed with the names of winners in T-Road’s three major races; Memorial Day Classic, Vermont Milk Bowl and the famed Labor Day Classic.
I took some time to look over these displays and must say they are very nicely done. Since Barre is the undisputed Granite capitol of the world, these memorials are quite fitting.
There are even two new signs welcoming fans onto the property made out of granite. The whole place looked absolutely outstanding in the bright sun Sunday afternoon. My compliments to Ken Squire and Tom Curley for these world-class tributes to the drivers who made Thunder Road one of the nation’s finest short tracks. I’d love to see more tracks follow suit now to recognize their own rich history.
I was a little disappointed to see the True Value Modified portion of Sunday’s holiday doubleheader turn so ugly. Twelve cautions and a red flag in a 100-lap race is a bit excessive. Yet I don’t get to see these ground-pounding machines often any more; not like the old days when the NASCAR Mod tour ran alongside the old Busch North Series at certain tracks. So I enjoyed the chance to see Chris Pasteryak, Kirk Alexander and eventual winner Steve Masse do battle.
One comment on the Tiger Sportsman division at Thunder Road. That is, without question the nicest-looking support class I’ve ever seen. Most of the cars are well-maintained and look a lot like a Late Model. The crews all wear nice uniforms and some even have digital wraps on their enclosed trailers. It’s a hot division that puts on a great show of its own. It’s the modern-day version of the old Flying Tigers, I guess, and they really are an added attraction.
After attending four of the first five ACT Late Model tour shows in 2009, it’s time to get focused on Oxford’s weekly action. We’ll have some terrific battles up there all season, and not just with the Late Models, either. Strictly Stock, Mini Stock, Outlaw, Rebels and even the Ladies all provide fans with plenty of pop. Get out and support your local short track this summer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New England Dodge Dealers 150 Notebook

Whenever the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT) rolls into Oxford Plains Speedway, one safe bet is that the ongoing rivalry between ACT’s touring invaders and Oxford’s regular weekly teams will provide ample entertainment.
Sunday’s New England Dodge Dealers 150, Round 4 on the 2009 ACT schedule, continued that tradition in fine fashion as Oxford veteran Timmy Brackett battled eventual winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr. for the lead. Brackett led for eight laps (99-107) but settled for third at the finish behind “Irish”John Donahue.
Known affectionately as “Joey Pole” in racing circles, 19-year-old Polewarczyk is ACT’s poster boy for the “new guard” of northeastern short track racing.
Former Oxford champion Ricky Rolfe, the man who dominated this race in 2008, was also a factor Sunday until carburetor trouble took him out of contention. Rolfe led twice for a total of 57 laps and finished 17th on the lead lap.
Turner, Maine resident and Aroostook County native Shawn Martin earned the pole Sunday and led the first 29 laps in his No. 94 BRP-Oxford Networks Chevrolet. Martin’s car tends to fade on long green runs, and Sunday was no different. He did, however hang on for a solid 10th-place finish.
Brackett has done just about everything a guy could do at Oxford over the years. He’s won in several divisions and is definitely one of the good guys. Like ageless Al Hammond, who will return to action at Oxford on July 4, Brackett converted his old Pro Stock machine over to a Late Model for 2009. I knew he was fast on practice day, and he sure was impressive in the ACT race.
Looking at the geographical breakdown from Sunday’s 150, we had only six drivers from New Hampshire (but led by a pretty sharp kid from Hudson) in the final rundown; 13 from Vermont and 11 Maine natives. The Pine Tree State can boast four drivers in the top 10; led by Brackett (third); Shawn Knight (fourth); defending Late Model champion Travis Adams (sixth) and Martin (10th).
One consistent thing we’ve seen through the first four ACT races in 2009 is plenty of long, green-flag racing. Sunday’s 150-lap tilt at Oxford was slowed by only two cautions, both for minor spins. In fact, 30 cars sprinted for the first 85 laps before fill-in flagman “Magic” Marvin Galarneau needed to unfurl the yellow.
Thanks to a rain-out on Saturday night in Quebec, the ACT staff was divided into two locations on Sunday. Galarneau does an excellent job providing information to the media at most races and will return to his normal duties this coming weekend at Thunder Road.
It was tough to see young Tyler Cahoon of St. Johnsbury, VT, struggle Sunday at Oxford. Cahoon is an up-and-coming sophomore on the ACT Late Model tour and is the son of veteran short track ace Stacy Cahoon. Tyler needed a provisional to get into the 150 Sunday and limped his way to a 29th place finish. Things will get turned around for the No. 38VT gang soon, but after not making the show on May 3rd at Thunder Road I can’t imagine he’s too confident about going back for the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic.
Interesting to note on Sunday was the fact veteran Bobby Dragon was driving Pete Duto’s No. 55 Subway Ford. Bobby’s son Scott piloted the No. 71 machine that he usually drives, and wheeled it to a solid seventh-place finish. Bobby finished 15th in the car Brad Leighton drove to victory in the season-opening NH Governor’s Cup 150 at Lee USA on April 19.
When teams and fans arrive at Barre, Vermont’s famed Thunder Road International Speedbowl, they’re all in for as special treat. ACT president Tom Curley told me what he an Ken Squire have invested in memorials and capital improvements, and I’m impressed. I can’t wait to see these tributes to the men who helped build Thunder Road’s rich 50-year history.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Next up: ACT New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford

As the 2009 short track season shifts into high gear here in the northeast, there are ample reasons for fans to be excited.
When the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) kicked off its new campaign at Lee USA Speedway on April 19, we saw some great side-by-side racing. And when we got to Thunder Road to begin its star-filled 50th anniversary season, we saw more of the same.
Thanks to an open-minded arrangement between ACT and officials at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS), the excitement level is at an all-time high within ACT circles this season. Thus far, Brad Leighton (Lee), Eric Williams (Thunder Road) and Scott Payea (Airborne) have all earned the right to compete in the ACT Invitational at NHMS on September 19. The desire to win an ACT race this year and qualify for “The Big Dance” is visible in driver’s eyes.
Next up for the ACT warriors is a trip to the famed Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, May 17. The New England Dodge Dealers 150 will feature all the same ACT hot-shoes we’ve seen the last few weeks, plus a host of Oxford regulars hoping to defeat the invaders. What can we expect when this battle begins? More great side-by-side racing is pretty much guaranteed.
If this is one of the eight races Leighton is going to run for owner Pete Duto, expect the No. 55 NH to contend for the win. Leighton, of Center Harbor, NH, knows his way around the tricky 3/8-mile oval and is coming off a strong run last Sunday at Airborne. After battling with fellow Granite State native Randy Potter all day, the two-time NASCAR champion finished third.
Potter is my pick to win at Oxford, and not just because he had a solid run last time out. The veteran from Groveton blew us all away on April 28, 2007, when he won the ACT race at Oxford. Potter is a guy with good equipment, a smart crew chief (Pete Knights) and the talent to get the job done. If he doesn’t get caught up in somebody else’s mess, he’ll be a factor.
Scott Payea has finished second the last two years in ACT final points. The easy-going driver from Milton, VT (a pretty famous town for racers) fell just one point shy of Patrick Laperle in 2008, and was runner-up to Jean-Paul Cyr in 2007. This season, Payea has made his intentions clear with a win (Spring Green 100 at Airborne) and two third-place finishes. Payea finished 17th (he started 30th) in last year’s season opener at Oxford on April 26, and will be gunning for a much better outcome this time around.
Glen Luce is a Maine native now competing full-time on the ACT Late Model tour. In the season opener at Lee, the Turner native started 29th and finished in the 20th position. At Thunder Road, he rolled off in the eighth spot and was 10th at the finish (one lap down). Last spring at OPS, Luce had a dismal outing and came home 25th. Luce has the skills and experience to race up front at Oxford, proven by his second-place finish in last year’s TD Banknorth 250.
Looking at the rundown from Airborne, there are a half dozen names that could be up front when we get to Oxford. Veterans like Brent Dragon, Brian Hoar, Mike Olsen and Jamie Fisher all have great equipment and experience on the western Maine oval. Young Joey Pole is another driver that could be a factor at Oxford, having won there on June 21 last year. Pole (short for Polewarczyk) finished third behind NASCAR superstar Kevin Harvick and Luce.
And let’s not forget the Oxford regulars like Shawn Martin (two ACT wins), Tim Brackett, Tommy Ricker, Shawn Knight, Nick Brown and a host of others who were all fast in last Saturday’s open practice session.
Also in action when Oxford’s gates swing open on May 17 will be the Strictly & Mini Stock divisions, along with the Outlaws and Rebels from Oxford’s Wednesday night program. It promises to be another action-filled day of racing alongside Route 26.
As the Oxford beat writer for the Sun Journal, I’m ready to set up the laptop and see that green flag wave.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Merchants Bank 150 Notebook

Sunday’s 11th annual Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road delivered some of the best green-flag Late Model racing I’ve had the pleasure of watching in quite some time.
While some fans prefer a caution every 20 laps or so to stir up the mix, I’ve always loved long green-flag runs because it shows you two big factors in racing - car preparation and driver skill. To run up front or work your way there (like Patrick Laperle did last Sunday) during a 106-lap sprint takes a well-prepared machine and a driver that doesn’t lose his cool in lapped traffic.
In addition to the clean race we enjoyed, there were a number of other stories worth noting from the second ACT Late Model Tour event of 2009.
First up on my list was the big crowd at Thunder Road. I know, a big crowd for an ACT race at T-Road isn’t a surprise, but for that many fans to turn out during tough economic times is remarkable. Especially since Vermont has been hit hard by this financial downturn.
When teams showed up for the first practice session of 2009 on Tuesday, April 14, Nick Sweet was fast on everybody’s stopwatch. The sophomore driver from Barre backed that up in the season opener, easily qualifying for the 150 (unlike 12 drivers who did not) through his Heat (he was third in Heat 2 behind Joey Pole and Cris Michaud) and racing to a solid sixth-place finish in the feature. Sweet pilots the St. Jay Auto No. 88 Chevrolet and is one of the brightest among many rising stars in ACT competition.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is young Tyler Cahoon, of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. His 17th place finish at Lee USA on April 19 doesn’t really reflect his improvement over 2008. Cahoon won his qualifying heat earlier in the day and appeared to have the car dialed in. Yet last Sunday, the R&R Fireworks/Alomax Technologies No. 38 entry failed to qualify for the 150. In three tries (Qual. Heat, Consi and B Feature), Cahoon could not get the car into a transfer position and had to load it up early along with 11 other teams. I hope this coming Saturday at the all-new Airborne Speedway goes a lot better for the dedicated team from the Northeast Kingdom.
Going in to the 2009 ACT season, Groveton, NH, veteran Randy Potter was on my short list for drivers to contend for the tour championship. Potter has matured a great deal the last few years and is now a legitimate title contender. On Sunday at Thunder Road, the No. 02 P&R Excavating/JML Trucking Chevrolet was on a rail as Potter finished fourth in Heat No. 2 to transfer into the feature. After starting 16th on the 30-car grid, Potter smoothly wheeled his way up to eighth at the finish, the first car one lap down to the leaders.
Other drivers of note in Sunday’s Merchants Bank 150 include Brian Hoar, who drove from 13th to fifth in the Goss Dodge/RPM Racing Engines Dodge; Maine native Glen Luce, who piloted his TK & Sons Concrete Chevrolet to a solid 10th place finish; former Oxford Plains Speedway champion Ricky Rolfe, who finished 23rd after struggling all day; and seven-time ACT champion Jean-Paul Cyr, now driving his own No. 11 Chevrolet, who wound up 27th after completing just 114 laps. While he isn’t chasing tour points in 2009, I really expected a better outcome for Cyr in the season opener.
And last but certainly not least, I was interested to learn about the memorials that will be in place when we all get back to Thunder Road on Memorial Day weekend. During the Driver’s Meeting last Sunday, ACT president Tom Curley talked about plans he and Ken Squire have to erect some very classy memorials (remember, Barre is the Granite Capital of the World) to recognize some of the pioneers and stars from Thunder Road’s 50-year history.
Having attended races at Thunder Road since 1976 and studying its rich history for years, I am very excited about these planned memorials. To me, any track with that much history is right on target when they recognize the men who laid the foundation for the sport we enjoy today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NH Governor’s Cup 150 Notebook

Along with Brad Leighton’s victory in the season-opening New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150, there were several interesting story lines to emerge from Lee USA.
First off, all this talk about gloom-and-doom regarding the economy didn’t have much effect on the car count. Forty-five Late Models filed into the pits for Saturday’s practice, and every one of them attempted to qualify on Sunday. To me, that’s a pretty good indicator of a healthy tour. I know, numbers will fall off some as the season progresses, but that’s still one heck of a way to kick off a new season.
Since most of my Saturday evenings are spent trackside at Oxford Plains Speedway during the summer, I was very pleased to see such a strong contingent of Oxford cars at Lee. Shawn Martin, Travis Stearns, Ricky Rolfe and Corey Morgan all made the trip to Lee. Luck wasn’t on their side, however, as Lewiston’s Morgan was the only one to make the show.
I know, Rolfe is technically an ACT guy now, but I’ll always know him as an Oxford regular. The veteran from Albany Township was in a qualified position when contact knocked him out of contention in a Consi. Martin struggled with an ill-handling car during qualifying, but started on th pole of the B Feature. Unfortunately, is was not meant to be on this day.
Stearns, of Auburn, Maine, never quite got up to speed at Lee. The 3/8-mile oval is vastly different than Oxford, and as it turns out quite a challenge to figure out. Hopefully, the next time some of our Oxford warriors venture out to a new track, things will be different.
Vermont veteran Brian Hoar and two-time NASCAR champion Mike Olsen are looking good in their new ACT Late Model rides. Hoar will run full-time in 2009 while Olsen has a part-time in place now and is working to secure funding for more races. I spoke with both drivers just prior to the Governor’s Cup 150 about their return to ACT competition.
“This is a new role for me as a driver,” explained Hoar. “I’m with a great team, one that has enjoyed success in the past, and I’m hoping to continue that tradition. Mike and I have strong cars here today, we just hope to keep them up front and be there at the end when it counts.”
Hoar led the 150 briefly, faded during the late stages and brought the car home to a solid ninth-place finish. Not exactly where he wanted to be after 150 laps, but a solid start nonetheless.
“This is definitely a good car,” explained Olsen before the race. “I was pretty nervous in the heat race, I knew I had to get in the show. I enjoy racing in this series, the atmosphere is fun and these guys race clean on the track. These cars (Late Models) are kind of difficult to drive, they have be dialed in perfectly to run up front. With spec shocks and spec engines, there isn’t a whole lot of adjustment to them. But it’s all about controlling costs for the teams, and judging from the field of cars and today’s crowd, I’d say it’s a successful combination.”
Indeed, ACT president Tom Curley does have a winning formula with the ACT Late Model tour. And isn’t it ironic that Brad Leighton, the driver with the most wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) in NASCAR’s Camping World East Series, becomes the first to qualify for the prestigious ACT Invitational to be held on Saturday, September 19 on the famed “Magic Mile.” Leighton loves to win big races in his home state, so betting against him on that day might be a bad move.
Tyler Cahoon is a second-generation driver from St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The former standout at White Mountain Motorsports Park is starting his sophomore campaign in ACT, and is doing so with flair. Cahoon looked impressive in qualifying, winning his Heat in front of some experienced drivers.
“This is quite a difference from last year,” explained Cahoon, who failed to qualify last year at Lee. “We wrestled with a worn-our car all last season, and to drive a new one this year and have it run this good right off the bat is very satisfying. We think we’re in for better results in 2009, now I just have to go out and do my job in the feature and keep it near the front.” Cahoon finished 17th in the 150, a decent run for the young hotshoe from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.
The 2009 running of the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 is in the books. We learned the depth of talent is almost endless on the ACT circuit; with a fine mix of veterans, newcomers and locally-based talent. We expect a different crop of drivers to excel at Thunder Road on Sunday, May 3, since the Barre high-banks can be a totally different animal to conquer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Next stop: ACT season opener at Lee USA

With the 2008-09 snocross season fading into memory, it's time to shift gears and get ready to kick off the 2009 local stock car racing campaign. For many years, we did this by making the trek to Red & Judy MacDonald's beautiful Lee USA Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire. For most of the 1990s, the old NASCAR Busch North Series (now known as the Camping World Series East) got its season rolling with a 150-lap contest at Lee. These days, it's the ACT Late Model tour that draws us to Lee, and we're mighty excited to go.

Following the news of an ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) in September, Late Model drivers around the region perked up and took notice. Drivers who win an ACT tour event (both the US circuit and Serie ACT Castrol in Canada) will be eligible to compete in Loudon. I expect close to 50 entries on hand at Lee this coming Sunday (April 19), all gunning to be the first qualified driver for the Invitational. Hudson, NH, native Joey Polewarczyk won the 2008 version of the New Hampshire Governor's Cup, with Eddie MacDonald second and Cris Michaud third. Who will come out on top this Sunday? Join us to find out. I guarantee a day filled with side-by-side racing and high drama. The ACT tour delivers that every race, and those Late Models are not only fast but semi-affordable (compared to a Pro Stock) for those who race them.

After our trip to Lee USA this Sunday, we'll get ready for a trip to Vermont as Ken Squire's famed Thunder Road International Speedbowl kicks off its 50th season. The Merchants Bank 150 is set for Sunday, May 3. A lot of news has been flowing out of T-Road lately, first with Tony Stewart coming to race one of Joey Pole's cars in the Vermont Governor's Cup on Thursday, June 25. Next came the news that Bobby Allison will visit the track on Thursday, June 18. Allison last visited the track in 1999. And yesterday (April 13) the ACT office announced that "King " Richard Petty will also visit Thunder Road on July 30 as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. As you can see, fans are in for some real treats this year at "The Nation's Site of Excitement."

Congratulations to Turner's Ben Rowe for his victory this past Saturday night in the 4th annual Easter Bunny 150 at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway. Hickory was Round 2 on the 2009 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South schedule. Rowe also claimed the season opener at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, SC. Rowe is on a real hot streak this Spring, and will attempt to make it three straight wins this Sunday at Speedway 95 in Hermon, Maine as PASS North kicks off its 2009 campaign. Richard Moody Racing (RMR) puts a fabulous car under Ben every time out, and he certainly has the skills to get the most out of good equipment.

We have a great deal to look forward to in the 2009 short track season. From all the excitement surrounding the ACT tour, to the three Wallace family members (Rusty, Kenny & Steven) coming to the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford, race fans in the northeast are jumping for joy. While they may have already been racing for weeks down south, we'll have our turn in short order.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

RMR wraps up 2009 season at Windham Mountain

Boron, Morin split Pro finals in Windham for Rock Maple Racing snocross series

WINDHAM, NY (April 6, 2009) — Multi-time champion Jason Boron and Quebec veteran Mathieu Morin split the Pro finals on Sunday afternoon, as Rock Maple Racing (RMR) completed the final Central series snocross event of the 2008-09 season at the Windham Mountain ski resort.
Boron, of Leverett, MA, piloted his Outdoor Performance/D&Z Racing Ski-doo to victory in Pro Open, with John O’Malley second and Kenny Murphy third. Other than Jason’s brother Matt (Malone, NY) and Jason Stone (Barton, VT), O’Malley (Verona, NY) was the only other rider besides Danny Poirier (Hulten Speed Sports Polaris)) to post a win all season.
Morin (XP-S Ski-doo), of Val D’or, Quebec, earned a rare RMR Pro victory with a convincing performance in Pro Stock. Morin, who recently concluded his season for Warnert Racing on the ISOC national circuit, held off Boron and Renaud Alexandre for top honors.
Defending Pro Vet champion Joe Lemieux (Ski-doo) scored another final round win over Joel Santy and Rene Desrochers. Lemieux, of St. Johnsbury, VT, was on top of his game with fast and consistent runs all season. Joe’s niece Michelle also capped a strong 2009 effort with a win Sunday, holding off Janell Smith and cousin Steffanie Lemieux in the Pro Women final.
In Semi-Pro action Sunday, Aaron Pfeifer and Jake Melville both recorded final round wins. Pfeifer, of Blossvale, NY, converted the momentum built from his victory in the Shootout at Findley Lake into a win in Stock 600. Pfeifer out-gunned fellow New York rider Cory Ostrander and Melville to earn the win. Melville, of Pownal, VT, helped his chances in the final point standings with his win in Semi-Pro Open. Pfeifer finished a close second, while Nick Kelley came home third.
In Sport division action at Windham, Joey Mosher and Joey Stock each registered wins. Mosher, of Salem, NH, rode his Team Explosive Ski-doo to victory in Saturday’s Super Stock final, with Stock second and Travis Brisbin third. Stock, of Bearsville, NY, claimed Sunday’s Super Stock final over Simon Taillefer and Dylan Bisson. Stock also claimed the Sport Stock 600 final over Chris Ingles and Brisbin on Sunday.
Will Fletcher (16-17 Stock 600 Fan) and Whitney Covill (16-17 Stock 500) led a long list of winners in Junior division action in Windham. Jake Scott won the 14-15 Stock 600 Fan final over Nick Zielinski and Trevor Boutin. Maine-based rider Nick St. Amand rode his Arctic Cat to victory in the 14-15 Stock 500 final, with Scott second and Boutin third. Other Junior division winners include Leo Patenaude (10-13 Stock 380 Fan) and Hunter Sherwood (8-10 300 Freestyle Saturday & Sunday).
Other final round winners in Central series action over the weekend in Windham include Kory Bouthillier (Sport 500); Joe Klimas (Sport Stock 600 Fan); Joel Santy (Plus 35 Masters); Christian Ellsworth (Plus 25 Stock); Amanda Kirchmeyer (Women Stock 600 Sat.); Steffanie Lemieux (Women Stock 600 Sun.); Sarah Acker (Women Stock Novice & Jr. Girls 10-13 Stock 600 Fan); and Ian Liebmann (Trail 600 Saturday).
Some of RMR’s West series teams also concluded their 2008-09 season in Windham over the weekend. Riders in the Sport and Junior divisions took center stage, with several young athletes rising to the occasion.
Simon Taillefer piloted his Ski-doo to victory in Saturday’s Sport Super Stock final, while Nathan Leclaire claimed Sunday’s battle. Michael Sickler made the long haul from Harvey’s Lake, PA, worthwhile with his win in Sport 500. Ryan Jabs completes our list of Sport division winners after out-dueling Leclaire and Trevor Day in Stock 600.
In West series Junior division action, Montana Jess and Matt Cameron were up to their old tricks. Jess, of Westminster, MA, won the 10-13 Stock 380 Fan final on Saturday and Sunday, while Cameron, of Redfield, NY, won the 10-13 Stock 600 Fan final on Saturday. Other final round winners include Jesse Bonaduce (Jr. 16-17 Stock 500 Sat. & Sun.); Leo Patenaude (Jr. 10-13 Stock 380 Fan); Tyler Zuidema (Jr. 14-15 Stock 500 Sat.); Michelle Lemieux (Plus 25 Stock); and Hunter Nelson (Jr. 14-15 Stock 500 Sunday).
Rock Maple Racing would like to thank the entire staff at the beautiful Windham Mountain for hosting our 2009 season finale. Snow conditions held up for the weekend despite heavy rains on Friday. To conclude our racing season at such a fine facility is very rewarding.
RMR would also like to thank its many fine sponsors, including Amsoil, Choko, Ingles Performance, Scott Goggles, Woody’s Traction & Control, Pump-X, TekVest, Camoplast, Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse, PowerMadd, The Crank Shop, Sled Wraps, R.U. Outside, Ontario Snowmobiler Magazine, Marland Enterprises and Sunoco Race Fuels. The 2008-09 season would not have been possible without your support.
For full results in all classes from Windham or to learn more, please visit www.rockmaple.com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

RMR riders Rock in Lake Geneva

When I first read about the regional "Showdown at Sundown" concept that ISOC had planned for tonight, I was pretty excited about having representation from Rock Maple competing in the event. What I did not expect, however, was just how successful the eastern contingent would be.
For starters, defending Pro Vet champion Joe Lemieux, of St. Johnsbury, VT, won the Plus 40 final against some pretty stiff competition. Newport's Rene Desrochers helped RMR riders dominate the podium with a solid third-place run. Congratulations to Joe & Rene for their stellar performances in Lake Geneva.
Former RMR regular Darrin Mees also had a great Friday night. Mees won the Pro Open final, while current RMR Pro Jason Stone (just notched his first Pro win last Sunday) finished sixth. In Semi-Pro action during the Showdown, our own Jake Melville (Pownal, VT) claimed fourth in the Open class, while Lucas Brunelle came home seventh. Brunelle finished fifth in the Semi-Pro Stock final.
I've always felt that Rock Maple has cultivated some talented riders over the years, and tonight's results certainly suggest that is true. Just as it has in short track stock car racing, the mighty Northeast has produced some championship-caliber snocross racers. To somebody like me who has toiled behind the scenes promoting snocross and racing in general, that fact is extremely rewarding. It means that people across the country will recognize just how much talent comes from places outside Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada.
Again I offer a big congratulations to all the Rock Maple regulars who made the long haul out to Lake Geneva, WI, for the first annual "Showdown at Sundown." You've made us all very proud. I'll be back with another post later this weekend after we see how the big boys make out on the track. ISOC has some terrific point battles coming down to the wire in Lake Geneva.
Who will claim the 2009 Pro & Semi-Pro crowns? (I'll say TJ Gulla in Pro Open, Levi LaVallee in Pro Stock, with Quebec sensation Tim Tremblay sweeping Semi-Pro) It's going to be a thriller to see it all shake down.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thoughts on Hayward; All eyes on Barton, VT

March is always an exciting time of year for me. On both the national and regional snocross scenes, it's getting down to the wire. We're about to crown new champions in Rock Maple Racing (RMR) and on the International Series of Champions (ISOC) Amsoil Championship Snocross Series.
While RMR teams enjoyed a much-deserved rest last weekend, ISOC completed Round 7 of its 8-race 2008-09 schedule in Hayward, Wisconsin. Making headlines in Hayward were TJ Gulla (Pro Stock); Brett Bender (Pro Open) and Tim Tremblay (swept Semi-Pro Stock & Open). After watching Bender notch his first career Pro victory in Valcourt last month, I know he has matured and improved remarkably this season. But to win the top class again this quickly is even more impressive. And I believe he chased down and passed early leader Iain Heyden and Iron Man/former champ Robbie Malinoski to prevail. Tell me Hentges Racing team manager/ice oval veteran Tim Bender isn't SOME proud of his son. The boy is a rising star in snocross, no argument.
Back at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN, we learned just how fast & smooth Quebec native Tim Tremblay can be in Semi-Pro action when he scored his first national win. He backed that up with an impressive run at Brainerd to win Semi-Pro Open, and now proved those two wins were no fluke with a clean sweep in Hayward. I offer a hearty congratulations to Tim and the entire No. 127/NSK Ski-doo team for that kind of success. Fresh faces atop the podium are what keep this sport attractive to more fans.
And now, let's look ahead at one of my favorite regional events of the season. It's Rock Maple's annual visit to the Orleans County Fairgrounds in scenic Barton, VT, deep in the heart of the beautiful Northeast Kingdom. Having been born and raised up there in "God's Country," the opportunity to return for some GREAT trail riding on the internationally-renowned VAST system and some RMR snocross brings a broad smile to my face. I LOVE the Kingdom in winter; as any true native and snowmobile enthusiast would.
In the Pro division, we'll all watch as Danny Poirier continues his incredible dream season. As mentioned in my previous post, Poirier has won 10 of 12 finals completed this season. Will he sweep again in Barton? Come join us to find out. And who should we watch in Semi-Pro, you ask? Keep one eye on young Lincoln Lemieux, of nearby St. Johnsbury, VT. This third-generation racer may be a rookie in Semi-Pro, but you wouldn't know that from reviewing his results. He's already been on the podium, and if young hotshots like Lucas Brunelle, Aaron Pfeifer, Jake Melville and Shaun St. Onge aren't careful, this kid might steal the spotlight.
I'll be in Barton on Sunday (Mar. 15) to cover all the action and will try to post a review right here early next week. Until then, keep that sled to the right on the trails (ALWAYS play it safe) and don't let a chance to ride escape. Winter will slip away soon, and we need to savor the flavor before it's gone.
One last thought: Vermont offers the world's BEST maple syrup, so keep that in mind this Spring! When those old sugar-makers get to boiling, hey, man! It's time to celebrate!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Valcourt & Ossipee Notes - Looking Ahead

Hey, snocross fans!
I'm sorry this update has been so long in coming. I can't believe that Valcourt and Ossipee are already over, in fact, RMR West teams finished the finals left over from Stamford this past weekend (Feb. 28-Mar. 1) at the Tug Hill Invitational in Osceola, NY. In Ossipee, the BIG news was that Danny Poirier's dream season of domination rolled on - with FOUR wins in four starts.
That's right, you read it right - the guy won both Pro Stock and Open makeup races from Stamford on Saturday, then proceeded to sweep both Pro finals again on Sunday. What a roll he and the entire Hulten Speed Sports (St. Johnsville, NY) Polaris team is on this season. With Ossipee in the books, Danny has now claimed an amazing 10 of the 12 Pro finals completed this season. Can he be stopped? Probably not - but John O'Malley is closer in the points standings than you'd probably think. O'Malley, of Ajax, Ontario, is currently just 21 markers behind in Pro Stock, but trails by a seemingly insurmountable 82 points in Pro Open.
Multi-time Rock Maple Pro champ Jason Boron is third (both classes), yet time is running out for the "Iron Man" from Leverett, Massachusetts. Next stop for the mighty RMR warriors is the Orleans County Fairgrounds in Barton, Vermont. Just like last winter, they've had a ton of snow up there in "The Kingdom" this year, so Chris Wilk should be able to build a nice track. (Keep it soft, Chris).
Now, as for my day at the Grand Prix de Valcourt, wow! After five years away, it was AWESOME to get back up to the biggest snowmobile racing event in North America. I didn't get out to New York to see the ISOC Eastern Nationals, so this was my only chance to see the stars of ISOC do battle. And what excellent racing I witnessed! A big congratulations to Brett Bender on his first career Pro win in Sunday's Pro Open final. I'll be honest - like a lots of fans in attendance, I was hoping that Robbie Malinoski (Boss Racing/Ski-doo) could hold off Bender ands give Ski-doo a big win on their 50th anniversary celebration. Yet it was not meant to be...Malinoski's engine began to go away and Bender sailed on by with five laps remaining. The Semi-Pro Stock final was exciting, as well, as Dan Ebert, Cory Davis and Sweden's Christian Salemark made it 1-2-3 for Arctic Cat. Without argument, the biggest heartbreak of the day came during the 15-lap Champ 440 final, when legendary ice oval veteran Jacques Villeneuve came up short. On the second restart (third start overall) eventual winner Dustin Wahl got the jump. Villeneuve had led into Turn 1 on both the original and first restart, but the 60-year old (injured, too) athlete couldn't quite pull it off a third time. The ageless veteran ran second for 14 and three-quarter laps, then suffered engine failure coming through turns 3 & 4 on the final circuit. The loud "oh no" from thousands of his loyal french fans was moving, to say the least. They really love that man up there and I must say, I do, too. Villeneuve is a living legend in snowmobile racing and will be on my "top 10" list of great talents forever. Between the high-speed action on the famous ice oval, the always-exciting motorcycles on ice and the high-flying antics of ISOC national snocross, it was a day I won't soon forget. A big thanks to bus trip coordinator Paul Bellefeuille and veteran driver Ron Young of Premier Bus Lines (safe trip in near-whiteout conditions) for a great day in Valcourt. I've been to that world class event four times now, and I'm impressed with fan attendance and the quality of competition every time.
And now, a look ahead. ISOC gets back in business this weekend, Mar. 6-8, at the Hayward (Wisconsin) Power Sports/Johnson Bank Hayward 300, Presented by the LCO Casino, Lodge and Convention Center; while RMR is off until March 14-15. Only two more points races remain on the Amsoil Championship Snocross Series (ACSS), and the points standings are tight. Launchin' Levi LaVallee (Polaris) leads Garth Kaufman in Pro Stock by 17 points, while Vermont native TJ Gulla leads teammate LaVallee by just 10 points in Pro Open. Yes, it appears as though Hentges Racing is gonna have a title one way or the other! They've done a fantastic job of preparing their sleds all season, and their riders are running fast and smooth. It's going to be an interesting conclusion to the season - on both the ISOC national and RMR regional fronts. If you have a prediction on how these championship fights will turn out, drop me a line at: philw61@yahoo.com. I'd be interested to know your opinion.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Big weekend for Snocross Feb. 21-22!

As I look out my office window this fine Thursday morning, the snow is falling at a pretty good clip. It's right on cue, because this coming weekend is without question a BIG one for snocross racing here in the Northeast.
For starters, Rock Maple Racing (RMR) is headed for the old Mount Whittier ski area in West Ossipee, NH. This is a points-paying event for Central & East series teams, PLUS, fans who attend on Saturday are in for an extra treat. Warm weather and deteriorating track conditions two weeks ago in Stamford, NY, forced RMR officials to postpone the Pro & Semi-Pro finals. These final rounds will be completed in Ossipee on Saturday! That's right, a Pro Stock FINAL at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday. Plus, there will be a raffle for two new Yamaha sleds and a trailer (a $20,000 pkg) with ticket quantity limited to just 2,000. Plus, the good folks from the Greater Ossipee Area Chamber of Commerce are bringing in the popular Rave-X Aerial stunt/display team in from Maine. These cats do some CRAZY tricks on sleds; they've become the "Slednecks" of the East if you will. It's a natural fit with snocross and I applaud the Chamber for this move. So TONS of great racing all weekend, a killer raffle, lots of delicious food (I've had pulled pork down there from a local vendor that's to die for) and some of the nicest hosts I've ever met.
Next up: The Grand Prix de Valcourt, just outside the tiny town of Valcourt, Quebec. This is the 27th edition, and it's the most impressive gathering of snowmobile race teams (both Pro sno-x and ice oval) held annually anywhere on the planet. ISOC put on a FANtastic show last weekend in Farmington, NY, with the Arctic Cat Eastern Nationals, now it's time to bring the BIG show to Valcourt. This is Ski-doo's 50th Anniversary celebration, and it's going to be huge! A big presentation before Sunday's finals, the great Yvon DuHamel will be there - a NOT TO MISS gathering if you're a fan of snowmobile racing. I hope you'll have a chance to attend one of these two events - both will offer excellent winter-time motor sports entertainment. It's great to watch those NASCAR races on TV, but once in a while we must rise up off the couch, put on some warm clothes and actually get a life. I'll see you at the track!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Finally! It's time to go racing at Daytona

After a long off-season and rather cold and snowy first half of winter, the time has finally arrived to wave the green flag at Daytona International Speedway. We've dispensed with the formalities of the Bud Shootout (Kevin Harvick, winner), the Gatorade Twin 150s (Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch) and have established the starting lineups for Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race and the 51st annual Daytona 500.
The truck race promises to be a real barn-burner, and it's hard to believe they've been competing at the World Center of Racing for a decade now. Qualifying for the Camping World 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race (Saturday, 1 p.m. on ESPN2) is set for 3 p.m. Friday. Daytona is always full of drama and excitement; human interest stories and jubilation. Grab your favorite snacks and fluids (preferably non-alcoholic) and gather 'round the TV this weekend. It's gonna be BIG....
And how 'bout that ol' Bill Elliott? Great to see the veterans like Bil and Mark Martin (starts outside the front row for the 500) running so well in 2009. Go get 'em on Sunday guys! Mark is as stoked as I've ever seen him going into Daytona. Talk about a guy who has paid his dues...

On the snocross side of things, Rock Maple Racing has no official points race this weekend, but several RMR teams are headed for the Finger Lake Gaming Center & Resort in Farmington, NY, to participate in the ISOC Eastern Nationals. Good luck to all of our northeastern riders as they battle the best from the Great Lakes region and points beyond! For more information, go to www.fingerlakessnocross.com.

Last weekend was another mellow, relaxed one spent away from a race track. Instead, it was time to finish removing snow and ice from the roof before the big thaw (and rains) hit this past week. Luckily, the task was completed without serious bodily injury. Wednesday (Feb. 11) I was actually up on the roof in my short with big winter boots removing the last of the ice ridge. But alas, as this post is being written, the temp is dropping and we'll be returning to more winter-like conditions for the foreseeable future. Oh well, with a trip to Vermont scheduled for next Friday through Sunday (Feb. 20-22) to snowmobile, I welcome this change! I can't wait to get back out on those Fabulous VAST trails in the beautiful Northeast Kingdom. There is NOTHING better than riding a nice sled on a groomed trail through the Vermont countryside. Try it once and you'll see why I could elaborate on this subject for days...

Final note for tonight: on Sunday, Feb. 22, I'll be spending the day at one of, if not THE biggest snowmobile racing event in North America. It's the annual Grand Prix de Valcourt, in Valcourt, Quebec. Valcourt is the birthplace and home to Ski-doo, the brand that started it all back in 1959. Ski-doo is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special display at the Museum J. Armand Bombardier (the bus is topping there!) and special activities at the Circuit Yvon Duhamel. I covered this prestigious event for three straight years (2001 through 2003) for George Campbell's www.neracing.com, and loved every minute of it. I had always heard about the Gran Prix and wanted to catch the excitement for myself. It is EVEN bigger and more action-packed than you can imagine. Just a FANtastic weekend filled with the TOP snocross and ice oval racers on the planet battling for BIG trophies, good purse and of course bragging rights for a whole year. If you EVER have a chance to attend the Grand Prix de Valcourt, do it! You'll be blown away.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Great off-weekend close to home

After a great day down in Epping, NH, last Sunday, this past weekend was spent close to home. Saturday brought a trip over to Lost Valley to view the ice sculptures being prepared as part of the annual Auburn Winter Festival. The Boston-based artist who creates these beautifully-crafted pieces absolutely outdid himself for 2009 - several excellent pieces including a sea serpent and a unicorn. The afternoon was spent removing snow and ice from the roof - oh, boy, what fun! Sunday was certainly a fun day, with a ride in the Pisten Bully at Lost Valley, followed by a trip to Sabattus Lake for the radar runs (local sled club) and automobile racing (New Meadows Ice Racing Assn). Took a ride in the "Centaur," a twin-tracked grooming machine built in Ontario and powered by a 38-hp four-cyl. Isuzu diesel. A short while later, Debra took me for a nice ride up the lake in an "Argo" amphibious ATV (with tracks), one of the most unique and FUN vehicles I've ever seen. Of course, the fun had to end and we came home to do a few household chores, start the fire, etc. Overall, a great weekend - but I'm THRILLED that NASCAR is back on track this coming Friday for Bud Shootout (Sat. night on FOX) practice at Daytona. PLUS, Rock Maple gets back in action in Stamford, NY (Feb. 7-8), and ISOC is running at the famed Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota. RMR, ISOC and NASCAR all in action on the same weekend. Is life about to get Revved up, or what? Bring it on!

Friday, January 30, 2009


Hello race fans and snowmobile racing/riding enthusiasts! I've created this blog to express opinions and provide a little insight into the worlds of Rock Maple Racing snocross and stock car racing, in which I am involved. You're going to read some things on here that may upset you; but please realize I'm not out to offend anybody. Ever since I wrote my first column for the now-defunct Speedway Scene in Jan. of 1992, I've simply given my views according to how I perceive the issues. I'll also try to deliver racing-related news in a timely fashion, although there are HUNDREDS of places to find that information online. So thanks for taking a few minutes out of your busy day or evening for me. I welcome contact from fans to discuss news, current hot-button issues (like E10 gas here in Maine causing engine failure in several sleds) and misc. topics. Now get out on those sleds, and have that stock car ready for the 2009 season opener!