HOMESCHEDULETRACK LOCATION
A Spring Message from
Cris Michaud – 2020 Edition
Hello, everyone, and welcome to 2020! As I write this, the weather has been in the 50s all week, and the snow is melting fast. Although we likely haven't seen the last of winter yet - this is the Northeast, after all - it's starting to feel like racing season. And with the ACT season opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just over a month away, we're close to seeing cars on the track.

With that in mind, I wanted to offer some thoughts on the state of ACT, Thunder Road, and WMMP. A lot has happened with each over the past calendar year, and we think the racers, teams, and fans of each have a lot to look forward to over the coming months.

I'd like to start with a quick look back at 2019. This past season with ACT - and truly, the first two years running ACT for Pat and I - was more than we could ask for. In 2018, the ACT Tour had the largest per-event car count of any regional Late Model series in North America as tracked by Speed51.com. Then things got even better in 2019 with more than 32 cars per event. We got to bring the series to Richmond Raceway for the first time, and everyone involved put on a great show. We had a lot of great, competitive racing during the point-counting season, too. There were 11 different winners in 14 sanctioned events and a variety of storylines to follow. This success is part of what's given us the confidence to add some of the events and programs you'll be seeing in 2020 (more on this later.)

Another great thing about 2019 was the Flying Tiger Open at Oxford Plains Speedway last October. Simply put, the event was more than we ever hoped for. When Tom Mayberry first asked about bringing the Tigers, my hope was to get 20 cars. We ended up with 33 cars and some fantastic, respectful racing. Thank you once again to all the teams that made the trip to Maine and turned the event into such a success. We're hoping the Tigers can return to Oxford soon and will update teams if and when there is anything to announce.

That leads us to the 2019 season at Thunder Road. It was our third season running the track, and admittedly, the year started kind of slow - thanks in part to the weather. I don't think it was until mid-July that we'd finally run more Thursday night races than Friday night races! However, things really picked up as the year went on. The crowds at events like the Milk Bowl, the Thursday finale, and the Enduro were incredible and are a real tribute to the efforts of all of you to keep local racing alive and well. It was especially impressive to see how popular the new Forsythe Hill and Turn 4 seating became once we finally were able to complete those areas. We will continue to work on providing the best possible fan experience and adding new things without losing the essence of what Thunder Road is about.

The racing was excellent in every division, too. While the car counts in the Late Models have admittedly been a little lighter the last couple years, the fields are incredibly deep - at any given event, there are 12-14 drivers who can win. That's showed itself in how close the championship battles have been the last two years. Both the Flying Tigers and Street Stocks have been very healthy with a lot of young talent rising through the ranks and mixing it up with the veterans. And the Road Warriors are a treat every time they race. There's plenty to look forward to with each division in 2020 and beyond.

We think there's a lot to be excited about with White Mountain Motorsports Park, too. We understood going into our first year in charge that there was going to be a transition period. Any race track changing ownership is a big deal, especially with the Avery's having run WMMP since it opened. We still are approaching it as a long-term, multi-year transition.

That being said, the 2019 season went better than we expected. The support in the Strictly Stock Mini's was huge - they were our highest-drawing division almost every week and laid the groundwork for future growth in other divisions. While the weekly Flying Tiger car count was light at times, the Triple Crown Series was very successful and showed the potential of the division at WMMP. We were happy with the counts in the Late Models, Dwarf Cars, and Kids Trucks in year one and will continue work to support and grow each of these divisions.

Fans and sponsors have taken notice. The crowds steadily grew over the second half of the season. In particular, the Midsummer 250 was huge - David Avery told me afterwards that it was one of the biggest crowds he's ever seen at WMMP. It was so big there were cars parked down Route 3! Obviously, we'll be working to make the 2020 edition even bigger. A number of new sponsors have also signed on for the 2020 season. Jon Parks Tractor of Lancaster, NH has agreed to sponsor the Flying Tiger Triple Crown, and there are several other new event, program, and billboard sponsors we'll officially announce soon. Pretty much all of the 2019 sponsors are also returning. They like the direction the track is heading, and we think that's a good sign for everybody.

That brings us to the first event of 2020. As many of you already know, ACT will be opening the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18. We're excited to be returning to NHMS. As the region's biggest auto racing stage, it's a big deal for any series to race there. Ever since the last ACT NHMS Invitational in September 2017, many people have asked us about if and when ACT would be returning to "The Magic Mile". Tom Mayberry and I got to talking this past summer about the possibility of co-hosting an event at NHMS, and it didn't take long for those talks to become a reality.

We think the Northeast Classic the perfect opener for ACT and a great event for Northeast racing community as a whole. With Tour-type Modifieds, 8-cylinder Street Stocks, and 4-cylinder Mini Stocks also on the schedule, there's something for every type of race fan. Between event and full-season entries, we already are expecting well over 40 ACT cars. In particular, there is a large contingent of Quebec drivers entered, and we've also received entries from as far south as Long Island. The entry list is looking strong for PASS, too. We hope for the Northeast Classic to become an annual event on the ACT and PASS calendars, and with your support, we're optimistic it will happen.

ACT will also be ending its 2020 season at NHMS. In the wake of other changes to the track's Full Throttle Fall Weekend in September, management came to us about joining the schedule. We glad to be celebrating the 2020 ACT Late Model Tour champion at the track. By wrapping up the point-counting season in mid-September, we think it will also allow more ACT teams to attend end-of-year special events such as the Milk Bowl without worrying about it hurting their touring efforts.

You may have noticed a few other changes and additions to the schedule. We have 12 point-counting events slated, and each one of them is big in its own way. Along with NHMS, we're also returning to Riverside Speedway and Seekonk Speedway. This allows us to reach more parts of the Northeast and give more teams and fans the opportunity to experience what ACT is about. We believe the Seekonk event will be a first for ACT -- a Wednesday night event. Racing mid-week has been very successful for Seekonk's traditional Open Wheel Wednesday mid-summer event, which is why we're willing to do it for the Bay State Classic.

Beyond that, we'll have a lot of the events that have become tradition on the Tour schedule. There will again be two events each at Oxford, Thunder Road, and WMMP. This includes the Labor Day Classic, the Spring Green, the $10,000-to-win Midsummer 250, and the Night Beforethe 250. We'll also return to Autodrome Chaudiere - both for the point-counting Claude Leclerc 150 and the non-point Bacon Bowl - and have a $5,000 to win event at Star Speedway. The event at Star is part of the track's 40th-year celebration and includes a 200-lap event with PASS, one of five ACT/PASS doubleheaders this year. With races at eight different tracks and in five states/provinces, it really is a snapshot of Northeast auto racing.

Another major ACT announcement this offseason was the creation of the New England Late Model Challenge Cup presented by American Racer. While the Tour gets a lot of the headlines, we know how important strong weekly Late Model programs are to its success. Again, it goes back to the philosophies of Tom Curley. A good weekly program makes the touring program more successful, both as a feeder-type system to the Tour and from the weekly racer who run with the Tour drivers whenever they visit.

Giving weekly teams a regional championship of their own to chase is part of our mission to help support and build up those weekly programs. In addition to Thunder Road and WMMP, Star Speedway, Seekonk Speedway, and Thompson Speedway have also joined. That gives us five tracks in four states for the first season, and we believe it will only grow from there. By setting it up so a driver's 10 best events count, and allowing events from any participating track to count towards their point total, it provides an incentive for drivers in the hunt to travel on their off-weekends. This boosts car counts at all tracks while giving these drivers a small taste of the touring aspect of racing.

Thanks in part to American Racer's generous contributions, we already have a point fund in excess of $12,000 for the first season, with a minimum of $3,000 going to the winner. The fund will continue grow as more drivers register since all entry fees are being added to the payout. We've also had some great contingency partners join up. As some of you have seen from recent announcements, a Crazy Horse Racing/Port City Racecars ACT chassis will be given away at season's end, along with $500 product certificates from both ARBodies and Five Star Race Car Bodies. Everyone who registers for the Challenge Cup by April 24 and makes at least 10 starts in eligible events will qualify for these drawings. We're thrilled to have such great partners and prizes for the first Challenge Cup season, and we think the program will only grow from here.

Again: if you plan to participate in the Challenge Cup, please remember to register with the ACT office by Friday, April 24. We can't accept any entries postmarked after this date, so get yours sent in sooner rather than later.

Now onto the weekly outlook at Thunder Road and WMMP. Thunder Road will be opening for its 61st season of racing on the first weekend of May with the annual Car Show and the 22nd
Community Bank N.A. 150. As an added note, this year's Car Show will again take place at the track. Unfortunately, another event was already planned in downtown Barre for the morning of May 2 when we set the 2020 schedule. The advantage is that, unlike the last two years when weather forced a last-minute move to the track, we have more notice this year so fans can plan accordingly.

Thanks to the support of our teams, fans, sponsors, and officials, we think the track is in a great place. We've already received license applications from several drivers moving up from the Warriors to the Street Stocks and from the Street Stocks to the Flying Tigers, along with a few drivers returning to racing after some time off. In a year or so, we believe this growth will start "trickling up" the Late Model ranks. Part of the reason for the Late Models trailing off car-count wise over the last few years was that the Tigers were thin on cars for several years - this, in turn, resulted in fewer drivers moving up to the Late Models. It takes time for the ladder system to work, and with the recent positive developments in our supporting divisions, we're optimistic it will pay off across the board.

Event-wise, the biggest thing happening this year is a major milestone for the track. As it currently stands, the Aubuchon Hardware Holiday Spectacular on July 2 will officially be the 1,000th event in Thunder Road's history. We don't think it's an understatement to say this is a big deal -- particularly in a region of the country where 16-19 events a year is the norm for most tracks. Holding 1,000 events is a real testament to the dedication of Vermont racers and fans. The Independence Day event is already one of the biggest of the year at Thunder Road, and we're working on making it even bigger for this historic occasion.

Two other major scheduling notes concern two more big events on the calendar -- the Mekkelsen R.V. Memorial Day Classic and Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl. After having two PASS Super Late Model events the last two years, Tom Mayberry and I agreed to cut back to a single event in 2020. In turn, we've decided to make Memorial Day a showcase for our weekly divisions. The Classic for the Late Models has been extended to 125 laps, and we'll also open the Myers Container Service Triple Crown for the Flying Tigers with a 100-lap event. The 100-lap Tiger races from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s were some of the best races of the year, and with the racing we've seen from the Tigers over the past few summers, we think they'll pick up right where they left off.

Meanwhile, Vermont Milk Bowl Weekend has returned to a three-day event. We first held a three-day format in 2018. Many people told us how much they enjoyed this format, but we couldn't get things worked out to repeat it in 2019. For 2020, though, we have a great slate lined up. Friday night, we'll have a "PASS takeover" with the Super Late Models, Modifieds, and Honey Badger Street Stocks plus the North East Mini Stock Tour. Then we'll have the Milk Bowl and four Mini Milk Bowls (Tigers, Street Stocks, Warriors, and Dwarf Cars) spread out over Saturday and Sunday. Simply put, it's shaping up to be the biggest Milk Bowl weekend ever, with nine different divisions and three full days of racing. You won't want to miss it.

The remainder of the schedule is much like it was in 2019 -- because why mess with a good thing? We'll have the Governor's Cup, the Labor Day Classic, the Enduro, the Run-What-U-Brung, the Midseason Championship, the Flying Tiger Triple Crown, and all the other popular events and traditions. The Road Warrior Challenge will return in mid-August - it's a great showcase for these teams, and they deserve it with how much they've added to the track. We'll also be holding a special Friday night "Championship Night" in mid-September. We think it's a good way to break up the gap between Labor Day and the Milk Bowl, and scheduling for Friday night prevents us from stepping on the end of the WMMP season.

Speaking of WMMP, we're gearing up for an even bigger year there in 2020. From what we're hearing, there'll be some growth in both the Late Models and Flying Tigers. The Strictly Mini's never fail to disappoint, and we think the Dwarf Cars and Kid's Trucks will at least maintain from last year. It's exciting to have more teams signing up and believing in the program we put on, and we're confident in how things look going forward.

We've also worked to get a lot more big events at the track this year. The Modified Racing Series will be returning on Labor Day weekend for the first time in 15 years. We already know a lot of people are looking forward to the Monster Truck Throwdown doubleheader on Independence Day weekend. We'll have three PASS Super Late Model shows, both ACT Tour events will return, and we'll have two visits from the NELCAR Legends. There's also a variety of big events for each of our weekly point-counting divisions, from the New Hampshire Governor's Cup to specials for the Strictly Mini's and Dwarf Cars. Support from both teams and fans is what will allow them to become regular fixtures on the schedule. Please make sure to attend and to tell your friends about them - in racing, good word of mouth is worth more than any paid advertising!

One other change this year is that nearly all Saturday night events have been moved up to a 6:00pm post time. (The one exception is Cup weekend at NHMS, where we'll continue to start at 7:00pm so fans can attend both events.) We had gone with a 6:30pm post time in 2019; however, after talking with teams and fans, we've come to realize an earlier start time at WMMP is the way to go. Many people already dedicate their entire Saturday to WMMP, and a 6:00pm start makes it less likely they'll have to dedicate the early hours of Sunday, too. We appreciate your feedback on matters like these and will continue to try and provide the best experience for everyone just as we work to at Thunder Road.

That's all I can think of for now, and this message has already gone on pretty long. There'll be plenty more news and updates as we continue to get closer to the 2020 racing season; please follow our websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts for all the latest. In the meantime, thank you once again to everyone for your support, and we'll see you at a race track soon
 
 
 
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