A big field is expected for this weekend’s event as teams across New England, New York, and Quebec are eager to get the season underway. Many ACT Late Model teams got an early start on 2019 by making the trip to Virginia’s Richmond Raceway in March for the Commonwealth Classic. But for others, Oxford is their first event following a long off-season that has them itching to put the throttle down – especially after the event was postponed two weeks due to winter effects.
“I’m definitely ready to get the season started after this little delay,” defending ACT Rookie of the Year Dylan Payea of Milton, VT said. “I’m really excited this year. We have a new car that we’re going to bring to Oxford, so we’re really hoping that we can get a strong run. We’ve also picked up some more sponsor help and more help at the track, so building off last year, I’d definitely like to compete for a few wins. Hopefully we can at least get on the podium. Last year, our goals were top-10s, and this year I want to try for top-5s.”
The Oxford field will be a who’s-who for Late Model fans in the region. Three former ACT Champions have officially committed to Sunday’s event. Two-time defending ACT Champion Scott Payea of Colchester, VT, three-time ACT Champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover, NH, and 2014 Champion Joey Polewarczyk are all are expected to be at the track. Payea and Helliwell are looking for another championship plaque and know a strong start to the season is crucial.
But they’ll be far from the only notables in the pits this weekend. Two former Série ACT Champions, Blainville, QC’s Jonathan Bouvrette and Quebec City’s Jean-François Déry, have filed full-season ACT entries. A number of former weekly Late Model championships will be on hand, including multi-time White Mountain Motorsports Park Champion Quinny Welch, 2017 Thunder Road Champion Bobby Therrien, 2018 Seekonk Speedway Champion Ryan Kuhn, Canaan Fair Speedway and Claremont Speedway Champion Rich Dubeau, and Speedway 51 Champion Corey Mason.
Most of the top ACT Late Model Tour regulars from 2018 are ready for another season. Williamstown, VT’s Jimmy Hebert can almost taste his first ACT championship after being in the thick of last year’s title hunt. Veteran Chip Grenier of Graniteville, VT stated recently that he has found some additional horsepower after resolving ignition problems over the winter. All of last year’s rookie class is returning, including Payea, Christopher Pelkey, and Reilly and Peyton Lanphear. And, of course, garage favorite Jimmy Linardy of Salem, MA is back in the saddle once again.
There will be plenty of other drivers who are either already household names or could be before the weekend is over. Lanoraie, QC’s Claude “The Ironman” Leclerc is part of a Canadian contingent that also includes youngsters Jean-Phillippe Bergeron and Mathiew Kingsbury. Longtime ACT racer Rowland Robinson Jr. is getting geared up in his home state while rising weekly star Stephen Donahue tackles Oxford for the first time. Mike Foster, Trent Goodrow, Jason Larivee Jr., Joel Hodgdon and many more will roll through the gates to finally get the point-counting season on the track.
The Oxford 150 is the start of a packed early-season schedule for ACT. The schedule calls for three events in 14 days with the Community Bank N.A. 150 on Sunday, May 5 and the Caron Fabrication Spring Green 119 on Saturday, May 11. Drivers will have their own approaches to navigating this fast-paced stretch and reaching the end of it with their season-long goals intact.
“As a driver, I’m going to have to do a lot of what I did last year,” Dylan Payea said. “Last year, I had to carry it through the whole season. This year, we’re going to have to do three weeks here of just trying to survive, take what we can get and what the car gives us, and not try to push anything. We have three weeks in a row, so there’ll be some quick turnarounds.”
The ACT Late Model Tour opens its 2019 season Sunday, April 28 at 1:30pm with the Oxford 150 at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. The five-division card also includes the Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models along with PASS Modifieds, Honey Badger Street Stock Series, and North East Mini Stock Tour. An optional practice day is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 beginning at 10:00am.