For the first time since 2008, the door has been opened for a new driver and team to be crowned as American-Canadian Tour champions in 2014.
With two-time ACT champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr. announcing in the offseason that he will be joining eight-time ACT champion Brian Hoar in running a part-time schedule in 2014, the six-year streak of Helliwell or Hoar winning the championship will come to an end this season.
Last year’s championship runner-up Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. is hoping that he will be able to use his experience gained from racing against Hoar and Helliwell to capitalize on his long-time goal of winning an ACT championship.
“I want it pretty bad,” Polewarczyk said about the 2014 ACT championship. “We’ve been doing this for quite a while now and we’ve been close a couple times. Last year we were pretty close. I think everything is in the right spot as a team to go after it and go get it.”
The absence of Hoar and Helliwell from the championship battle has put the Hudson, New Hampshire driver in a position where he will be looked at as the one to beat in 2014. Although Polewarczyk enjoys having that sort of respect, he will be the first to admit that winning the championship will be no easy task.
“It’s cool to have that sort of attention and have everyone look at you and say, ‘that’s the guy to beat right there,’” said Polewarczyk. “It’s still going to be tough. Wayne will be at a lot of races and Brian will be at a lot. Championship wise, Nick Sweet, Eric Chase and Jean-Paul Cyr are teaming up so it’s still going to be tough.
“Jimmy Hebert is going to be tough. He was tough all year last year. He had some races where he had some mechanical failures but he was up front a lot. Aaron Fellows hasn’t run a lot tour-wise, but I raced him quite a bit at Loudon and he’s going to be tough. Ray Parent and all those guys are going to be tough.”
Emergence of New Group of Drivers Expected in 2014
American-Canadian Tour President Tom Curley believes that the “climate change” the tour will see this season is part of the transition that takes place every seven or eight years in short track racing. During the tour's 22 years of competition, Curley has seen the transition with new drivers bursting onto the scene on three or four different occasions. He looks forward to watching the emergence of the young talent racing his tour this season.
“I’m excited about it because that’s become some of the fun part for me now,” Curley said about the emerging talent. “To have enough of a veteran core to show them to way, but their noses don’t get out of shape when the young kids are challenging them for the wins, is great for the series. I think we’re lucky because we’ve always had a lot of depth in ACT racing and I see that continuing.”
Hebert Hopes For a Repeat of 2013 Season Opener at Lee
Similar to the way momentum is important in their ACT Late Model race cars, momentum will also be important for team’s chasing the championship this season. Willamstown, Vermont’s Jimmy Hebert, who won last year’s season-opening Governor’s Cup at Lee USA Speedway, is hoping to once again start the season on the right note.
“The biggest thing is the confidence booster we got winning that first race at Lee,” Hebert said about his third-place finish in the 2013 standings. “That was huge. It set up momentum for the year. We’d like to repeat, but the biggest thing is to get out of there with a solid finish and build up momentum for the rest of the year.”
Therrien Enters Sophomore Season with High Expectations
Another driver who caught the eye of many last season with his win at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) is 2013 ACT Rookie of the Year Bobby Therrien.
Therrien, who was given the nickname “The Bad Boy” by ACT and Thunder Road announcer Aaron Maynard, finished last season fourth in the championship standings with four top-five finishes. With a year of experience touring with ACT, the Hinesburg, Vermont driver is excited to get back in the driver’s seat and chase the 2014 ACT championship.
“Everybody wants that,” Therrien said about the 2014 ACT championship. “For being our first year on the tour last year, I think we did pretty well. Rookie of the Year was our goal and being able to win a race was a bonus.
“The first thing is to get some consistency. If you get the consistency, you’re going to get wins more often. Once you do that the points will fall in place. I’ve never liked to use the term 'points racing' because your goal when you show up at the track every week is to win. If you start to accomplish that goal and win, the points will go where they need to be.”
Parent Hopes to Find Lady Luck and Compete for 2014 Championship
From running out of gas at Devil’s Bowl Speedway (VT) while leading to a power steering belt breaking while leading at Star Speedway (NH), if something could go wrong it did go wrong for Ray Parent in 2013.
Parent is making a full-blown effort at chasing the 2014 ACT championship this season and hopes to have a little bit of “Lady Luck” on his side this time around.
“Not even a question,” Parent responded with when asked if an ACT championship was his goal for this season. “We have the people in place for the first time in a while. I feel like we have a good group of guys. We’ve always been crew chief by committee. This year we have a crew chief, we have a spotter, and everybody will have their designated jobs. There’s a lot of confidence in the people that are around me heading into the season.”
Parent has finished seventh in the ACT standings the last two seasons running a part time schedule. He credited the short, convenient nine-race schedule this season as the reason why his team made the decision to run full-time.
Former Oxford 250 Champion Hopes to Compete in Select Events, Be Invited to ACT Invitational
Larry Gelinas, the 1996 Oxford 250 champion, is hoping that he will get the chance to compete in the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2014. The Buxton, Maine driver told Speed51.com that the owner of the Late Model he drives at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) has shown interest in having Gelinas compete in select ACT events this season.
A win in any of the eight ACT points-counting events prior to the Invitational would guarantee an invite to the yearly event held at the "Magic Mile." In addition to event winners, a select number of invites are sent out to competitors by the series prior to the event.
Maine Drivers Stearns and White File Full-Season Entries
Travis Stearns, winner of the 2013 Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road, will once again be competing full-time on the American-Canadian Tour in 2014. Stearns, who resides in Auburn, Maine, showed speed on numerous occasions last season and hopes to visit victory lane in his No. 16 LaQuinta/Richard Green Racing Chevrolet Impala again this season.
Another Maine driver, Jeff White, has also filed a full-season entry form for the 2014 season. White and his team competed in select ACT events last season. The 2011 Oxford Plains Speedway Late Model champion has one career ACT win, which came in June of 2011 when ACT visited his home track.