ACT & Thunder Road Honor Best of 2020 at Banquet of Champions
Barre, VT — The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Thunder Road Speedbowl honored the top performers of their 2020 seasons at the Banquet of Champions on Saturday, May 1. Drivers, crews, officials, and special guests gathered at Thunder Road prior to the track’s season-opener for a night of celebration before throwing the green flag of 2021.
Williamstown, VT’s Jimmy Hebert was recognized as the 2020 ACT Champion. In his ninth season with the ACT Late Model Tour, the Hebert Excavation team had 2 wins and 7 podium finishes in 9 point-counting events.
Despite challenges from both fellow competitors and from navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Hebert and team were able to put everything together for their first ACT title. In his acceptance speech, Hebert credited the series for getting a season in despite the challenges and for taking care of its competitors, which helped sway his decision to defend the title in 2021.
“During the offseason, the team and I were talking about what to do for 2021, and we weren’t really sure of our plans,” Hebert said. “Then one day in December, we received an envelope from ACT. After a shortened season, with no fans in the stands at some events, we got a check for the full $10,000 (point fund money) plus $3,000 in contingency awards. How do you walk away from that?”
Hebert Motorsports team member Keith Clark was also honored as the ACT Crew Chief of the Year. It was the second time Clark earned the award after also winning in 2014.
For the second straight year, Barre, VT’s Jason Corliss and car owner Christopher Burnett took home the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model championship trophy at Thunder Road. The Burnett Scrap Metals team rebounded from an early-season snafu to post 3 wins and 11 top-5 finishes in the 13 point-counting events. Corliss also won the non-point ACT Community Bank N.A. 150 and Vermont Milk Bowl plus the season-opener at White Mountain Motorsports Park, giving him six victories on the year.
Waterbury Center, VT’s Jason Woodard was recognized for his record-setting fourth Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tiger championship. Woodard’s 2020 title broke a tie with Shawn Fleury. Morrisville, VT’s Brandon Lanphear picked up his Myers Container Service Triple Crown Series championship trophy the night before his maiden voyage for Richard Green Racing.
East Thetford, VT’s Brandon Gray got to celebrate his first racing championship of any kind in the RK Miles Street Stocks. Although the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors division doesn’t race for points, the track gave out trophies to several of its 2020 racers who helped keep the entry-level division going strong.
The top rookies in each series and division were also honored. St. Johnsbury’s Kasey Beattie received the Doc Nielsen Outstanding Rookie Award. Beattie was the Flying Tiger Rookie of the Year at both Thunder Road and White Mountain Motorsports Park. He earned seven podium finishes while showing a maturity and poise not seen in most 16-year-old racers.
North Dartmouth, MA’s Derek Gluchacki beat out a strong class to earn the ACT Rookie of the Year Award. Essex Junction, VT’s Matthew Smith was the top rookie in the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models. Kaiden “Tropical Storm” Fisher of Shelburne, VT won the Street Stock Rookie of the Year Award by a single point.
The program included many special accolades for drivers and contributors. Chuck and Fran Beede received the Don MacTavish Award, which is the most prestigious ACT honor. The Beedes have been a constant presence with Thunder Road/ACT for four decades as racers, crew members, car builders, officials, and many other roles. The award recognizes them for showing the same “live to race” attitude as the late Don MacTavish.
The Thomas M. Curley Memorial Award went to Thunder Road tow truck operator Dick Blake. He’s been working at Thunder Road for more than 60 years, which included the entire 35-year span that the late Tom Curley served as co-owner and promotor. Blake is now 90 years old, yet continues to sit at his post every Thursday night.
East Bridgewater, MA’s Ryan Kuhn won the ACT Sportsmanship Award while Williamstown, VT’s Sean McCarthy received the Thunder Road Sportsmanship Award. Both embodied the spirit of “friendly competition” that short track racing is all about. Kuhn, who’s now a finalist for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program, did so while racing against the region’s top Late Model drivers. McCarthy earned his award for helping to mentor the next generation of racers in the Road Warrior division.
Wolcott, VT’s Jamie Davis was the Ed Carroll Sportsmanship Award winner. This separate sportsman trophy goes to a Thunder Road Street Stock driver who keeps the spirit alive of the division’s late pit steward. Davis previously won the award in 2010.
The Ken Squier Award went to Peter Duto of FastOne Motorsports. Duto has led multiple drivers to championships throughout the region. He also supplies racers in all Thunder Road and ACT divisions with the parts they need to stay on the track.
Milton, VT’s Sam Caron was named the Thunder Road Most Improved Driver. Caron had the season of his life in 2020, winning two Flying Tiger features and finishing seventh in points. Berlin, VT’s Michael R. Stridsberg was given the Pete Hartt Memorial Media Award for his behind-the-scenes work as the media director of ACT, Thunder Road, and White Mountain Motorsports Park.
The American-Canadian Tour continues its 2021 season at New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, May 16. The ACT Late Models and PASS Super Late Models have twin 150-lap features along with an appearance from the PASS Modifieds. Post time is 2:00pm.
Thunder Road action resumes Sunday, May 30 at 1:30pm with the 58th Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. The Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models go 125 laps in the “King of the Road” opener. The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers have a 100-lap feature for the first round of the Myers Container Service Triple Crown Series. The RK Miles Street Stocks and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors complete the card. Admission is $20 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids ages 5 and under.