New Stars Abound in ACT Standings at Quarter-Pole Mark
Next Generation Emerging as Series Prepares for White Mountain on June 12
Waterbury, VT — The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) resumes its 2021 championship campaign next Saturday, June 12 at North Woodstock, NH’s White Mountain Motorsports Park with the Caron Fabrication Spring Green. As the ACT Late Model Tour sits at the quarter-pole of its season, many new stars are crashing the party against the series’ established contenders.
The last six seasons have seen five different ACT champions. Four of those drivers, including Jimmy Hebert in 2020, were earning the crown for the first time. Although there are still a lot of races left this year, we could well see another name added to the ACT championship list from an impressive crop of talent.
The point leader and third-place driver are familiar to Super Late Model racing fans in the region. However, they might be less recognizable to the current generation of ACT followers. Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe and Center Conway, NH’s D.J. Shaw, who’ve combined for 14 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) championships, are now aiming for their first ACT title.
Rowe and Shaw are both building on their 2020 efforts. While Ben ran a partial ACT schedule last year for his longtime partners at Richard Moody Racing, Shaw joined forces with Arnie Hill Motorsports and finished runner-up in points. This year, Rowe has averaged a fifth-place finish, while Shaw picked up his first ACT win at the Lee USA 150.
Around them are an array of racers earning notice from the ACT faithful. Graniteville, VT’s Stephen Donahue sits between the PASS stars in second. The third-generation racer finished in the top-10 in ACT points the past two seasons driving for Norm Andrews. However, although Donahue had speed, he also found himself on Lady Luck’s bad side many times.
Now, he is taking the next step. Donahue and Rowe are the only drivers who’ve finished in the top-10 in all three point-counting events. That consistency has Donahue eight points behind Rowe for the overall lead.
“We’ve been doing pretty much the same thing (as last year),” Donahue said. “Last year, we had a lot of really good races going. We’d be in the top-five, or the top-three, and something would happen. We just tried to stay upbeat about running well and said, ‘eventually, one of these days, we’re going to have some luck.’ Keeping that attitude and the mindset we’ve had, it’s finally starting to come the other way around to where we are having some luck to go along with the good cars that Norm has been giving me.”
Behind Shaw are five other drivers, many of whom have been successful in weekly Late Model competition, now making some waves on the touring landscape. New Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III started the season with a runner-up finish at the Northeast Classic. Despite some setbacks in the next two events, he has persevered for solid finishes, keeping him fourth in the standings.
Next are former ACT Rookie of the Year winners Dylan Payea and Derek Gluchacki. Milton, VT’s Payea, 2018’s top rookie, has been fast all year. Despite a late crash at Lee USA Speedway, he has hung on to the top-five in points. Gluchacki, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, has rebounded from a disappointing Northeast Classic to stand sixth overall.
Then you have the top two rookies in ACT competition. Derry, NH’s Erick Sands, last year’s runner-up at Star Speedway, brought home an ACT career-best fifth-place finish at Lee USA. Former Riverside Speedway champion Shawn Swallow of Groveton, NH was plagued by engine issues to start the season. However, his seventh-place showing at Lee USA showed what he’s capable of when the car cooperates.
Finally, at ninth place, we find reigning ACT champion Jimmy Hebert. The Williamstown, VT veteran opened the season by finally getting an elusive New Hampshire Motor Speedway win. Unfortunately, that was followed by an early mechanical failure at Thunder Road and a practice crash at Lee USA Speedway. Hebert is the defending winner of the Spring Green, though, and with nine point-counting events left, he will certainly have chances to erase a 56-point deficit.
The season’s opening stanza is yet another sign of the changing of the guard in the ACT ranks. Of the top 10 drivers in points, six are under the age of 30. As long-time stars such as Joey Polewarczyk, Wayne Helliwell Jr., Scott Payea, Nick Sweet, and Eddie MacDonald have reduced their ACT schedules, a new generation of racers has stepped in to replace them. The early returns are that these speedsters have what it takes to carry the ACT torch.
“I’ve been watching the Tour forever, with my dad (John) running it for years,” Donahue said. “It’s definitely been changing. I remember when Jimmy Hebert came into it, and Rich Dubeau when they were young and starting to tour. And I still remember back when it was my dad, and you had Scott Payea in the #89, and Brian Hoar, both Dragons, Randy Potter…I always wanted to race with those guys. I’ve gotten to race with a couple of them, but unfortunately, I was a little too young to get race with them as much as I wanted.
“So it’s kind of like I’m in my own stage when it comes to Tour racing,” Donahue continued. “There’s a lot of drivers now who are my age, or a little bit older or younger, that are really picking it up. It’s like we’re in our own new era, more or less.”
Now the ACT Late Model Tour turns its attention to White Mountain Motorsports Park. The Caron Fabrication Spring Green on June 12 is the first of three visits to White Mountain in 2021. The 121-lap showdown will also serve as a preview for the $10,000-to-win Midsummer Classic 250 on July 31 and the Fall Foliage 200 on September 26.
As such, several notable stars are joining the ACT regulars and White Mountain locals. Hudson, NH’s Joey Polewarczyk, fresh off a third-place finish at Lee USA, has entered both the Spring Green and the Hudson 150. So have eight-time White Mountain champion Quinny Welch and former ACT top-10 finisher Ryan Olsen. Both Welch and Olsen already have victories at White Mountain this year in weekly competition. They’ll go toe-to-toe with Rowe, Shaw, Donahue, Gluchacki, and many others against the backdrop of the scenic White Mountains.
The ACT Late Model Tour travels to North Woodstock, NH’s White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday, June 12 at 6:00pm for the Caron Fabrication Spring Green. They’ll go 121 green-flag laps in the annual celebration of spring. The local Wells River Chevrolet Flying Tigers, Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank Strictly Stock Mini’s, and Dads 4 By Tool & Supply Kids Trucks are also on the card. Admission is $20 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6-12, and $40 for a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids).