Barre, VT — The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) is back with a bang beginning Saturday, August 28 at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. After a break to catch its breath following a Midsummer Classic 250 that lived up to its name, the ACT Late Model Tour has major showdowns on consecutive weekends at two historic tracks.
The Oxford Plains 125 begins the back-to-back with ACT’s second visit of the year to the 3/8-mile oval. It’s part of the “Night Before the Oxford 250”, which ACT has helped anchor for the last four seasons. Oxford Plains Speedway event almost always draw big car counts, with regional racers and part-time competitors joining the likes of D.J. Shaw, Tom Carey III, Ben Rowe, Derek Gluchacki, and Stephen Donahue.
Eight days later, the Tour ships off to Barre, VT’s Thunder Road for the $5,000-to-win Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic. The 200-lap event begins a stretch of four straight ACT-sanctioned Late Models events that pay at least $5,000 to the winner. This “Show Me the Money” stretch includes the Bacon Bowl 200 at Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudiere on September 11, the Fall Foliage 200 at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park on September 26, and the Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl at Thunder Road on October 3.
Just five point-counting events remain for the 2021 season. This means there’s a lot more on the line these next two weekends than the prize money, trophy, and glory. It also makes them two pivotal stops in the chase for the 30th ACT Late Model Tour title. The champion receives $10,000 in cash plus nearly $2,000 worth of guaranteed contingency awards — plus the honor of being known as ACT’s best.
The battle for the title is one of the closest in recent memory. Center Conway, NH’s D.J. Shaw leads the standings by just one point over New Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III. Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe is a mere 13 points behind Shaw. Defending ACT Rookie of the Year Derek Gluchacki of North Dartmouth, MA sits 51 points out of first, putting him one good weekend away from being a player. Since large fields are expected at both Oxford and Thunder Road, that means large point swings could occur, too.
All four of the top point drivers have enjoyed success at Oxford Plains Speedway. Shaw and Rowe own numerous Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model victories at the track. Rowe also has two ACT victories on the legendary oval, including one at the 2020 season finale. Carey finished runner-up to Rowe in that event while Gluchacki scored his first ACT podium finish at Oxford in July.
Thunder Road figures to be more of a wild card. Rowe and Shaw each have several top-10 finishes at the quarter-mile bullring. They took fifth and sixth in May’s Community Bank N.A. 150, making them the two highest-finishing ACT Tour regulars. However, they have been shut out of the track’s hallowed Victory Lane. The closest either came was when Rowe finished second in the 2007 Vermont Milk Bowl.
Carey and Gluchacki have limited experience at Thunder Road, with a handful of starts each between ACT Tour, weekly, and special shows. Both are still looking for their first top-10 on the high banks. They finished 17th and 13th, respectively, in the Tour’s first Thunder Road stop of 2021. The pressure is on both to find some speed for Quarry Hill — or to run well enough at Oxford that they can build up a cushion to survive a less-than-stellar Thunder Road outing.
The presence of invaders is another factor in each show. A strong field of 29 cars were at Oxford Plains Speedway for the July 11 event with Hermon, ME’s Mike Hopkins going flag-to-flag for the victory. Hopkins has filed an entry for the Oxford Plains 125 and will go for the season sweep.
Part-time ACT racers like Dylan Payea, Trenton Goodrow, and Jimmy Renfrew Jr. are strong at Oxford. Several local tracks that run ACT-type Late Models take Oxford 250 weekend off, leaving their drivers free to grow the ACT field.
The Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road is expected to be one of the year’s biggest ACT events. Many weekly Thunder Road Late Model competitors also compete in Tour events at the track. They’re usually the ones to beat, too. Nine of the last 10 Thunder Road ACT events were won by drivers who consider the venue their home turf. Of the top-seven in current ACT points, fifth-place Stephen Donahue is the only one who can claim that distinction.
The generous purse, with $5,000 to win and $500 to start, will also draw cars. A provisional starting spot has been posted for Canadian teams as long they are able to cross the border. Canadian participation is eagerly awaited on all sides as these drivers are itching to join the New England racing action.
To top it all off, ACT has an incredible streak on the line. The first seven point-counting events of 2021 have seen seven different winners. This is tied for the second-longest run in ACT Late Model Tour history. An eighth different winner at Oxford would match the record for most consecutive races without a repeat victor. In both 2007 and 2014, there were different winners in the first eight point-counting show before the streak was snapped.
Gluchacki, Donahue, Payea, and Goodrow are among the leading candidates to become winner number eight. So are brothers Shawn Swallow and Jamie Swallow Jr. for any of these six, it would be their first career ACT Tour win. Even more potential contenders could roll through the gates at Oxford. This adds to a compelling two weekends of competition of ACT teams and fans.
The ACT Late Model Tour travels to Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway on Saturday, August 28 at 4:00pm for the Oxford Plains 125. The event is part of the “Night Before the Oxford 250” program that includes the Modified Racing Series, PASS Modifieds, Street Stock Triple Crown, Northeast Classic Lites, and Wicked Good Vintage Racing Association. Admission is $30 for adults and $15 for kids ages 6-12.
A live pay-per-view of the Oxford Plains 125 will be available on Speed51.TV. The Labor Day Classic at Thunder will be live streamed on FloRacing for those with a paid subscription.