HOMESCHEDULE
OFFSEASON SPOTLIGHTS
2020-2021
(Daniel Holben photo)
(Alan Ward photo)
Offseason Spotlight:
Beattie Sweeps Flying Tiger
Rookie Awards at Thunder
Road and White Mountain
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Youngster Planning Big Moves for 2021
Barre, VT and N. Woodstock, NH - The Rookie of the Year is one of the most sought-after awards for young racers. In some ways, it may be even harder to win than a championship. The reason is simple -- once you join a division, you only get one shot at the honor.

That is, unless you're St. Johnsbury, VT's Kasey Beattie. The 16-year-old pulled off a rare feat in 2020, sweeping the Flying Tiger Rookie of the Year Award at both Barre, VT's Thunder Road and North Woodstock, NH's White Mountain Motorsports Park. With numerous top finishes, he outclassed his fellow first-year competitors in two different states.

Beattie entered the season coming off an impressive career in the Street Stock division. He was the co-champion at Riverside Speedway in 2018, and in 2019, he finished fourth in rk Miles Street Stock points at Thunder Road. After the team purchased a Flying Tiger late in 2019, Beattie made his debut in the Oxford Open, then set his sights on a 2020 rookie campaign.

"Some of my biggest goals were really to get top-10s, top-5s -- hopefully at least get a couple of those," Beattie said. "I really exceed my goals, especially at White Mountain with getting a win there. Another big goal was to drive it in the trailer every week, and we succeeded at that every single week. I was happy about that."

Accomplishing the last part was even bigger when considering the scope of Beattie's first Flying Tiger season. Instead of just one track, Beattie and his team decided to double up. They would run the Lenny's Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers on Thursday nights at Thunder Road, then head to White Mountain Motorsports Park for the Wells River Chevrolet Flying Tiger showdowns on Saturday night. He also ended up running a Honey Badger Street Stock Series event at Thunder Road and the Open at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Even with the late start of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beattie unofficially competed in 29 events. Thanks to the support of sponsors like Mark Baxter at Creative Counters, Andy Mitchell at The Auto Shed, and Verizon Wireless -- plus a large pit crew of family and friends -- Beattie packed two years of racing into one summer.

"We mostly did it for the experience," Beattie said of running two tracks full-time. "It was nice to get two seasons of experience in one season. It was really expensive, but it was definitely nice to get two years of experience in one."

While learning a new car is a challenge for anyone, Beattie got comfortable behind the wheel of a Flying Tiger car faster than he thought. He finished 10th in a 22-car field at White Mountain's non-point season opener, then closed out the month of June with 3rd- and 4th-place finishes. On the Thunder Road side, he managed to qualify for the first three events and post solid finishes while coming from the back.

This set the teenager up for a torrid month of July. To kick things off, Beattie surprised even himself by picking up his first Flying Tiger win at White Mountain. He grabbed the lead on lap 6 from veteran Matthew Potter and ended up winning the 50-lap feature by a quarter-track -- doing so in front of one of the season's biggest crowds that had come to watch the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour make its WMMP debut.

"I definitely did not think that the car was going to amazing like how it was that night -- and definitely not that early in the season," Beattie recalled. "I was just hoping for a couple of top-3s around midseason. To get a win early in the season was crazy. It kept my confidence up, too. That's a big thing with racing -- you've got to have confidence."

He took that confidence into the Myers Container Service Triple Crown opener at Thunder Road on July 9. What followed was a thrilling race-long duel between Beattie, eventual winner Brandon Lanphear, and Jaden Perry. Beattie ended up third but was ecstatic with the result.

"That was probably my favorite race of the entire season," Beattie said. "That race means more to me than even the win at White Mountain. We had a really fast car, and it was an amazing battle with Brandon and Jaden. I tried making a move on Brandon, but couldn't get it done."

Beattie ended the month of July with another pair of trophies. On July 24 at Thunder Road -- a special Friday night show thanks to Mother Nature -- Beattie took 10th in a make-up feature, then second in the double-point Midseason Championships. The next night, he headed to White Mountain and came home with another second-place trophy. It seemed everything was going right for the high schooler from Caledonia County.

However, some rough waters were ahead. Although Beattie continued putting up respectable results at White Mountain, his Midseason runner-up at Thunder Road was followed by four straight finishes of 23rd or worse.

"We mainly just lost the balance of the car," Beattie said of his late-summer struggles. "Some weeks, we were going back and forth from really loose to really tight. We just couldn't find the balance for awhile."

"We did a lot of maintenance on the car," Beattie continued. "We tore every single bit of the car apart and then put it back together how we thought it should be. We still weren't as good as we were at the beginning of the season, but we definitely improved down the stretch."

The swoon also tightened up the Thunder Road Rookie of the Year battle. While Beattie was the clear front-runner all year at White Mountain, he found himself under pressure from Bryan Wall Jr. in the Green Mountains. The fellow teenager won two races and closed to within a single point of Beattie following the August 13 event.

"It was really fun," Beattie said of the battle. "Me and B-Wall are really good friends, Even throughout the battle, we still stayed friends and talked all the time. We went over to each other's trailers and everything after races. It was really intense, though. Later in the season, I definitely thought he was going to get us, but we were able to hold him off with a couple of good finishes."

Beattie was finally able to right the ship in late August. He rolled to a runner-up finish at Thunder Road on August 20 with a fourth the next week. At White Mountain, he finished seventh or better in the final five events of the season. The youngster did so while also having to master the differences between the quarter-mile speedplants.

"White Mountain is a really heavy braking track," Beattie noted. "At Thunder Road, unless you're in deep traffic, you don't really touch the brakes. And at Thunder Road, you've really got to get up on the wheel and drive it. At White Mountain, I feel you can be more smooth and hit your marks a lot better."

When the checkered flag fell at White Mountain on September 26, he had officially sewn up both Rookie of the Year titles. He finished third in overall White Mountain points and 14th in Thunder Road points. Including non-point features, Beattie posted 1 win, 6 podium finishes, 11 top-5s, and 19 top-10s. At White Mountain, he was the only Flying Tiger driver to finish in the top-10 of every feature. He did so while learning a lot behind the wheel and having fun with his family every step of the way.

"It definitely means a lot to me," Beattie said of the Rookie of the Year awards. "I proved to myself that I can do it and be competitive. That was the biggest thing -- I'm a really competitive person, so if I wasn't competitive, I didn't want to do it. (Winning both awards) proved to myself that I was competitive and could roll with the big boys."

One notable aspect of the season was Beattie's success in long-distance events. In the eight Flying Tiger events that were 75 laps or longer, he finished in the top-10 six times. This put him in the top-10 in Triple Crown Series points at both Thunder Road and White Mountain.

"I really like long races, even back to the Street Stocks, when we ran long races and had that Twin State series between Thunder Road and Groveton," Beattie said. "I did really well in the long races. I can get in a groove and hit my marks a lot better, and I just feel like those nights, the crew gives me an amazing car, so I can drive up through the field and stay consistent."

Beattie will get to run a lot of long races in 2021. He revealed during our interview that his team recently purchased a Late Model from Joey Laquerre and plans to run for another Rookie of the Year honor at White Mountain in 2021. He said his goals are to get top-10 finishes, try to finish in the top-10 in points, and again drive the car into the trailer after every event.

"We're not a big-budget team, and I drive like that," Beattie said. "I don't like to beat and bang off people, because I know stuff can break and things can go wrong. I like to keep my head on my shoulders, drive smoothly, and not try to move people and wreck people."

In the meantime, Beattie is honing his racing skills virtually via iRacing. He got his start in the popular racing simulation two Christmases ago. This winter, he has been competing in the Inside Groove iRacing Challenge, where he sits seventh in points going into the regular season finale on Wednesday, January 20. Beattie is one of many Thunder Road, White Mountain, and ACT regulars racing, which fans can watch live at 7:30pm on facebook.com/InsideGrooveTV.

"I didn't run much asphalt stuff at first -- I ran a lot of dirt," Beattie said. "But I started getting into the asphalt lately, especially with The Inside Groove. It's definitely making the time fly, because it's the offseason, but you still want to race. It's super-fun with all the guys like Jimmy (Hebert), Ryan (Kuhn), Logan (Powers) -- they're all really good racers, and it's fun to still race with them weekly."
PREVIOUS OFF-SEASON SPOTLIGHTS HERE
(Mark Alan Sumner photo)
 
(Daniel Holben photo)
(Mark Alan Sumner photo)
Offseason Spotlight:
Perry Snags Tiger Triple Crown
as Part of Busy 2020 Season
N. Woodstock, NH - September 12, 2020 was a big night in the racing career of Hardwick, VT's Jaden Perry. The young star of the Wells River Chevrolet Flying Tiger division wrapped up the Jon Parks Tractor Triple Crown Series title that night -- making him a champion for the first time.

It was the second straight year that a Vermonter won the Triple Crown at the New Hampshire track. However, no one could call Perry an interloper. The title was just part of a busy 2020 campaign that saw Perry finish in the top-10 in points for four different tracks and series.

It was quite the way for the 24-year-old to spend his summer. Perry won the Flying Tiger Rookie of the Year Award at Thunder Road in 2017, then took 2018 off and ran a "renegade" schedule in 2019. This past year, he decided to come back in a big way, making the commitment to run his #92VT Brian Perry & Sons Construction Chevy full-time at both tracks.

"I built a house when I was racing part-time, and my finances finally caught up to me to where I could afford to race both tracks, and I had time to race both tracks," Perry said of the decision. "We just have so much fun over at White Mountain, but I've always wanted to win a championship at Thunder Road. I feel that Thunder Road is the most competitive track around, and I've gone there since I was a little kid, so we decided to do both."

Things got off to a roaring start for Perry. After the start of the season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Perry kicked things off with a second at White Mountain in the point-counting opener on June 13. He picked up his first win at the track the following week, showing he had the speed going into the first Triple Crown race on June 27.

"I place a lot of importance on (the Triple Crown races)," Perry said. "I've always wanted to race long races. I want to move up to the Late Models someday and do 100-, 150-lap races. So I always liked the longer races, and I've always wanted to win one of them. I've finished second in a lot of them, but I've never won one."

One of those second-places finishes came at the June 27 event. Perry started on the pole and followed Stephen Donahue for most of the event before Sicard got around him late in traffic. As such, it was Sicard inheriting the win following post-race inspection with Perry becoming the runner-up. Perry admitted Sicard was able to get past because he was being cautious in lapped traffic, not wanted to tear his car up with a Thunder Road event in a few days.

Still, Perry looked like the man to beat early on. At Thunder Road, he picked up another second-place in their Triple Crown Series opener on July 9. At that point, Perry was leading the overall standings at both tracks. In addition to having a single setup that worked well, Perry had also gotten used to the differences in how to approach the features at each set of high banks.

"At White Mountain, you have room out there, and you just go," Perry said. "You can pass cars, and it's more like an ACT race, where the fastest cars can make their way to the front. But at Thunder Road, you're often just trapped in traffic. There were 30 cars there the whole year, and there's just no room. So you can't really go three-wide or make any moves. You just ride in traffic, and hopefully you can catch a break. In 40 laps, I could usually get up to about the top-5, and then I'd run out of time."

However, things took a turn the final weekend of July. Due to a series of rainouts, Perry was faced with running four features in three days. After mechanical problems felled him on Friday night at Thunder Road, his car was torn up in a freak incident the following morning while troubleshooting the issues. Although Perry was able to complete the weekend thanks to a loaner car from Donahue, the effects were felt for several weeks afterwards.

"I just couldn't get the car to handle after that," Perry said. "I had to switch my setup for both tracks, and I couldn't get it to handle at both. I got it handling at White Mountain, but I couldn't get it around Thunder Road anymore."

Fortunately, Perry had figured things back out at White Mountain for the second Triple Crown event on August 22. Yet again, he took second, with a late charge against Ben Belanger coming up a little short. Sicard finished third that night, and although the two were tied in Triple Crown points, Perry said he felt like it was his championship to lose now that his car was strong again.

Before the final Triple Crown event, though, Perry managed to pull off another impressive feat. On Labor Day weekend, he scored a weekend sweep, winning the Flying Tiger feature at White Mountain on Saturday and at Thunder Road on Sunday. It was the first time a driver did the double in any division at the two tracks since they came under the same ownership.

"That was my final major rebound from the July incident," Perry said. "It felt good that I had it in my car and had the speed again. I also had felt like I didn't have any luck at Thunder Road, because I couldn't make it past lap 30. I just kept wrecking. I blew a tire twice, and another time I hit water while leading the race. I finally finished a race there, so I was happy. That was only my second win at Thunder Road, so I was really excited. At White Mountain, I knew that on any given weekend, we were a good bet to finish in the top-3. The win was, I don't know - it felt kind of normal over there."

Armed with this momentum, Perry came into the Triple Crown championship round determined to take it down. With laps winding down, he was running second to Belanger again, and in front of Sicard like he needed to be. Perry wanted the win, though -- and his bid to get that victory almost cost him the title.

"Like I said earlier, I really want to win a 75-lap race," Perry said. "We were coming down with two or three laps to go. The leader caught lapped traffic, and I went to dive underneath him. I had too much rear brake in the car, and it kicked my car sideways, and we made contact. He ended up spinning out, so I had to go to the back, and I thought I'd lost the championship and everything right there."

Luckily for Perry, the third-place running Sicard also got a piece of the incident and had to pit. Still, their misfortune gave others such as Colin Cornell and Kasey Beattie a chance to steal the championship.

"You just gotta go," Perry said of his approach to the final laps following the incident. "If you spin out again, you spin out again, but I had to go as far to the front as I could. I think I ended up passing five or six cars in the last two laps."

That ended up being enough, with Perry edging Sicard and Cornell for the Triple Crown title by two points. After coming close so many times of the years, it felt good for Perry to call himself a champion.

"It's the first championship I've ever won," Perry exclaimed. "I finished second four or five times in my career in go-karts and Street Stocks. It actually meant a lot to me, because I've always finished second in all my sports I've ever played. I finally got over the hill, so hopefully this will open it up so I can win some more championships."

Perry also continued to give Sicard his all for the weekly title. Sicard eventually won the title by 20 points, with the two so evenly matched on some nights that it was simply a matter of who got the breaks.

"At White Mountain, I figured it was whoever got to the front first between me and Shane," Perry said. "Even if I caught him, I could never pass him because we were just so close in times and so competitive with each other. There was no way I could get around him, and I think he felt the same way. It was whoever got the lane right or who started in the right position."

No matter how you slice it, Perry's busy summer was also a successful one. Between White Mountain, Thunder Road, and the Flying Tiger Open at Oxford Plains Speedway, Perry officially made 28 starts. In those events, he posted 3 wins, 10 podium finishes, and 18 top-10s. In addition to his high standing at White Mountain, Perry finished 10th in both the Thunder Road weekly points and Triple Crown points. Most importantly, he and his team had a good time.

"I had a blast racing both tracks," Perry said. "The best thing was that I made friends doing it. I was always around a certain group with the Donahues, and Brandon Gray at the end of the year. We traveled everywhere together, and we were always pitting next to each other, so it was just a fun experience."

In 2021, Perry plans to throttle his own racing back a bit. While he will attempt to defend his Triple Crown title at White Mountain, Jaden has chosen to focus his weekly efforts on Thunder Road. Late in 2020, the team also repurchased the car that his younger brother Jamon won two races with during his lone Flying Tiger season. They fielded the car in several events to end the year, and Jamon will likely run the Thunder Road Triple Crown.

Jaden also hopes to try a Late Model, but doing so would be dependent on funding. In the meantime, he'll continue to race and also enjoy watching some action as a fan, too.

"I like watching the races almost as much as I like racing, and you can't watch that much when you've got your own car at the track," Perry concluded. "I needed a break so I could watch about halfway through the year. I think this year, I'll have the right amount of races so I can do both."
(Alan Ward photo)
 
(Alan Ward photos)
Offseason Spotlight:
Sicard Reigns Over Flying Tiger
Division for Third Straight Year
N. Woodstock, NH - For three years running now, the rest of the Wells River Chevrolet Flying Tiger division has been looking up at Shane Sicard. The Barton, VT veteran completed the trifecta at White Mountain Motorsports Park in 2020, putting together another outstanding Flying Tiger campaign to capture his third straight title in the #4NH Foley Oil & Propane Chevy.

Any racer would have been hard-pressed to match the season Sicard put together in 2019 while earning title number two. Sicard posted an incredible 8 wins that year, taking home the first-place trophy at more than half the events. This included two different four-race winning streaks along the way. Still, Sicard wasn't resting on his accomplishments as the team prepared for their attempt at a three-peat.

"We did a lot of work on the car in the offseason," Sicard recalled. "We still had a pretty good idea how we wanted to set it up to start the season. But It didn't start well for me, that's for sure."

Indeed, the spring saw multiple monkey wrenches thrown into the mix. First, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the White Mountain season by a month. When cars finally got on the track for a non-point event on June 6, Sicard was involved in a hard crash, almost ending his title quest before it could even begin. Then, the veteran wrecked hard again a month later at the Independence Day event, forcing more long nights in the shop.

"That was tough to deal with," Sicard admitted. "I haven't crashed like that for a long time. The first one, I didn't know if we were going to bounce back from it. We did a lot of work in a week to bring it back so we could actually start the opener of the points championship chase. We got it back together, and the car seemed to be alright. We still had to tweak on it. Then when I did it again (on July 4), that was hard to take."

One of the marks of a true champion, though, is how they respond to adversity. Faced with his first big setbacks in nearly two years, Sicard roared back from each with a vengeance. After the June 6 wreck, Sicard returned one week later to take the win in the official championship opener. He followed that with a second and then another victory in round one of the Jon Parks Tractor Triple Crown Series on June 27.

Sicard overcame the second big crash, too. The week after that smash-up -- and the 15th-place finish that resulted -- Sicard took second in the double-point Midseason Championships. He followed that with back-to-back wins, giving him four on the year.

"We really needed that," Sicard said. "Wrecking like that, and coming back and getting a first and second, it was good. We spent a lot of late nights putting it back together, because my car stays down in New Hampshire, so I have to travel two hours to go work on it...we have a handful of us that I can count on if I need them to help me and spend some late nights -- they'll do it."

More than just statistical improbability, pandemics, and hard pileups were standing in Sicard's path. The car count in the Flying Tiger division more than doubled in 2020. Fields were even larger at the Triple Crown events. This included competitive racers such as Jaden Perry, Michael Clark, Kasey Beattie, and Matthew Potter that were added to the weekly mix, posing a challenge to Sicard's reign. Still, Sicard relished the challenge.

"I enjoyed it, actually," Sicard said. "It just put more adversity into it, and I like having more cars. If I start 20th and finish 3rd, it's just as good as if I start 10th and finish 1st. You have to work a lot harder."

Even with the strong field to fight through, Sicard continually rose to the top. His back-to-back wins were part of a stretch of six straight podium finishes. Along the way, he wrestled the points lead back from Perry. However, the youngster remained hot on his heels even as other rivals fell out of contention.

With two events to go, it was between Sicard and Perry for the title. First up was the Triple Crown finale on September 12 -- which the duo also was battling neck-and-neck for. Both made their way to the front before Perry tangled with Ben Belanger while fighting for the win with three to go. Sicard and Ryan Ware were too close to avoid the carnage and sustained damage that forced them to pit. Sicard ended the night 8th to Perry's 7th, losing out on the Triple Crown title by just two points.

"For some reason, I just can't seem to close the deal on one of those Triple Crowns," Sicard lamented. "It seems I do well in the beginning, and then something happens. A bunch of us got together, and I missed it by one or two spots. Those races are tough. They bring more cars, and they seem to be a lot wilder than a normal weekly race."

Despite the heartbreak, Sicard entered the September 26 finale with an 18-point edge in the hunt for title #3. Because his four wins gave him the tiebreaker advantage, Sicard only needed a 10th-place finish on NAPA Championship Night to clinch the title. After biding his time at the start of the 35-lap feature, Sicard made his move, coming from 10th on the starting grid to take the lead at the halfway mark and seal the championship with his fifth win of the year.

"We tweaked the car a little bit more the week after that 75-lapper," Sicard remembered. "I liked it, and the car liked it. After I went out and practiced with it, I was confident I had a car that I could win with fairly easily -- depending on traffic, of course. You never know what's going to happen when you start towards the back. I knew the car was good -- I just had to mind my P's and Q's and keep calm. Everybody in the pits and my crew were telling me to just keep calm.

"I feel I've gotten a lot better about that, as far as staying calm at the beginning of the race, getting what I can get, not banging the car up," Sicard continued. "And at the end, when you have competitors like Jaden, you have to go. You know you have to go or they're going to be right there with you. I got to a point in the race where I knew I could go, and I knew he was close to me, so I felt that was the time to go. This is the time to show what the car has, and it was going to come down to me or him. I knew as long as I was close to him or ahead of him, I'd be fine. He had to beat me."

In sealing a third title, Sicard once again put up video-game numbers. He won 5 of the 12 point-counting races and posted a remarkable 10 podium finishes. Even with the crashes, he still had an average finish of 3.25 in point-counting events -- almost as good as his 2019 season against fields more than twice the size.

"It meant a lot for the simple fact that there were more cars and more competitors," Sicard said. "In past years, there wasn't as many competitors, though we knew we had a fast car. This year, there were more fast cars. It felt like more of an accomplishment with more competitors. It wasn't just that I knew I could go out and win all the time -- I had to race and earn it."

As of our conversation, Sicard's plans for 2021 remained up in the air. While he certainly isn't going to stop racing, he has not decided whether he will run a full season at White Mountain. Some of the possibilities that have been discussed include getting a second car and running some races at White Mountain's sister track Thunder Road. Regardless, Sicard will be giving his all whenever he rolls through the gate.

"I am definitely going to be at the track in some form," Sicard said. "How much, we'll see. I would like to do a full season again, just to see if I can do it again."
(Mark Alan Sumner photo)
 
(Daniel Holben photo)
(Mark Alan Sumner photo)
Offseason Spotlight:
Andy Hill Takes Late Model
Rookie of the Year Honors
While Realizing a Racing Dream
N. Woodstock, NH - For 26 years and counting, Waterford, VT's Anthony "Andy" Hill has been a fixture at race tracks throughout New England. The veteran got his start as a teenager, and had worked his way from Enduros up to being a two-time Dwarf Car champion at White Mountain Motorsports Park. His slow-but-steady rise was capped by a 2019 season where he won an incredible seven events between White Mountain and Barre, VT's Thunder Road.

In 2020 at the age of 44, Hill finally got to realize a dream by running his first full season in the Foley Oil & Propane Late Models. Despite the inevitable challenges that come with jumping to the top weekly stock car racing division in the region, Hill had several impressive moments throughout the summer and eventually took home the coveted Late Model Rookie of the Year award.

Hill had two tastes of Late Model competition prior to 2020. He spent most of the 2018 season at White Mountain pitting next to Scott Corey, which led to a deal to run the car at that year's $10,000-to-win NAPA Blue & Gold 250. Hill qualified for the feature and finished 12th -- a remarkable debut against a stout field filled with weekly and touring champions. The next fall, Hill stepped in the car again for the Fall Brawl 150, coming from 17th on the starting grid to finish 5th. Based on those efforts, Hill received and accepted an offer to run the car weekly in 2020.

"We were coming off of two seasons where we won the championship in the Dwarf Cars, and we obviously had a pretty stellar year in 2019, so we were excited at the thought of doing something different," Hill said. "Everyone knows that, in New England, the top ranking division is usually the Late Models. I started racing in 1995, and I've raced off and on pretty much every year since then...and I'd always dreamed about driving a Late Model. Any serious racer at any level, in any (local) division, I think they all dream about driving a Late Model. That's really as good as it gets."

While preparing for the season, Hill set goals of winning a feature and finishing in the top-5 in points. However, circumstances quickly led to him re-evaluating those goals. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the season, and the team saw an ownership change once the season began, with longtime local racing supporter Gene Pushee of P&H Transportation taking over the reins.

The team also suffered engine and transmission failures at different points during the summer. All the while, they were working to figure out the Late Model cars while going up against a high-quality weekly field. As Hill noted, they could find some speed one week, and then bring the same setup back the next week only to have a completely different outcome.

"This year was very humbling for me and for us as a team," Hill recalled. "We certainly had our fair share of struggles. It's one thing to be able to do it, but to be able to do it well is something totally different, and boy did we find that out the hard way. Nothing that I thought I knew about race cars transitioned over to this Late Model deal. We're still working on it."

Still, the team persisted, with Hill's competitive nature driving them. On August 1, as part of the White Mountain Showdown 200 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Hill outdueled Jeff Marshall for his first career Late Model victory.

In a post-race interview, Hill half-jokingly thanked the Modifieds for coming, as the tire rubber they put down had helped the handling on the #8VT Waweco Repair Dodge. Still, to get a victory was a big deal for the team, and it was made even more meaningful by beating one of the most accomplished Late Model racers in the state of New Hampshire.

"I knew pretty early on in the feature," Hill noted while recapping that night. "After the first caution, I knew. The car was driving very well. I remember coming across the radio and telling the guys that the car was really, really good. I was excited at that moment. Things worked out where I able to go forward and get up towards the front, and then we had that (midrace) restart. Jeff Marshall was in the lead, and having the ability to pick which lane he wanted on the restart, he chose the outside. I said, 'well, he's going to pick the outside, and I'm going to go as hard as I can on the inside and try to stay with him as long as I can.'

"I never imagined that I would beat Jeff Marshall on a restart on the inside," Hill continued. "In recent years, the outside has seemed to be the preferred lane at White Mountain. And Jeff Marshall's no slouch. He's been racing Late Models for a long time, and I've looked up to Jeff over the years. I did a lot of racing at Riverside early on, and he raced up there as well, and I've always said he's one of those guys that could race a wheelbarrow if you gave him one. To beat him cleanly on the inside on a restart like that was pretty special for me."

Just over a month later, Hill proved it wasn't a fluke by capturing a second victory in the September 12 feature. Once again, he made the inside line work on a restart, this time beating out Joel Hodgdon with 16 laps to go. A fifth-place in the season finale gave Hill 2 wins, 3 top-5s, and 10 top-10 finishes in the 11 point-counting events. It was more than enough to run away with top Rookie honors while also finishing seventh in the overall standings.

When reflecting on the season, Hill called learning how to work on and drive a Late Model "the hardest thing I've ever done in a race car by tenfold". The constant battling his team had to do gave him a new appreciation for the champions and veterans of the division, and also helped him appreciate the accomplishments of the team, even though one of their pre-season goals wasn't met.

"It's hard to do this at any level -- and especially this level," Hill said. "You sit in the stands and see guys racing these cars, and you think 'I could do that. It can't be that hard.' But to see the guys that win races consistently -- guys like Jason Corliss, Scott Dragon, Quinny Welch, Stacy Cahoon who win races year in and year out -- I have a lot more respect for those guys now, and I have a new appreciation for what they do and how hard they must work to make that happen and be consistently fast every week."

"We certainly had our struggles, but for a rookie team to accomplish what we accomplished this year, I've very proud of that," Hill went on. "I beat myself up because I feel like we should be doing better, but when the smoke all settles, and I look back on the season as a whole, I'm very proud of the effort."

Hill also made multiple trips to Thunder Road, where he'd posted multiple Dwarf Car wins in special events. After getting his Late Model feet wet there in a late-season weekly event, Hill took on the 59th Vermont Milk Bowl. Hill noted that, at the time, he still wasn't sure whether he would still be in a Late Model come 2021, and he wanted make sure he checked off as many "bucket list" items as he could while the opportunity was there.

The weekend didn't start well, with rain scuttling the Friday practice session and a tire problem sidelining Hill early during Saturday qualifying. However, after using every minute of practice time that was available Saturday evening, he raced his way into the Milk Bowl through the B-feature by passing Ricky Roberts in the final corner.

Unfortunately, his day ended early in Segment 2, when another car's mechanical failure put grease all over the track in turn 1. Hill ended up hard in the turn 2 wall, watching the car get the famed "hammock job" back to the pits.

Despite the outcome, the team has set its sights on the Barre high banks for 2021. Hill revealed that the team is planning to switch to Thunder Road weekly racing next year, and despite the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic, they are hard at work getting the car ready and looking forward to the new challenge of the "Nation's Site of Excitement".

"Thunder Road is a place that, partially because of the divisions I've chosen to race in over the years, wasn't always a track that was on my radar as far as racing regularly," Hill said. "But I love Thunder Road. Every time I go there, I love being there. I feel like it's a different vibe than White Mountain. That's nothing against White Mountain -- I've raced at White Mountain for years now, and it will always be a special place for me. But there's just something about Thunder Road. It's always just a notch above every other track around here. It always has been, and I hope it always will be, because it's that kind of place."

"Other than the immense amount of work that we had to do at the Milk Bowl, I was super-happy with the way things went," Hill said later. "I liked being there -- people are pretty friendly, and I just feel like it's a good group of guys. Another big part of it is the schedule. I have a young family, and being gone every Saturday from 8:00 in the morning until who knows what time at night every weekend is challenging on a young family. The Thursday night schedule will make some of those issues a little easier. And from a Late Model standpoint, I mean, it's Thunder Road. You're going to race against the best of the best when you race at Thunder Road. That's just how things go -- the guys that race at Thunder Road are some of the best Late Model racers around, and I like the challenge. If I decide to walk away from this Late Model experience, whether it turns into 1 more year or 5 more years, I want to say that I did everything I could to race against the best guys, and gave myself the biggest challenge as a driver to work hard and be as good as I can be."
(Alan Ward photo)
 
(Daniel Holben photo)
(Mark Alan Sumner photo)
Offseason Spotlight:
Ageless Wonder Cahoon
Becomes "King of the Mountain"
for the Sixth Time
N. Woodstock, NH - From 2005 and 2014, every Late Model driver who aspired to win the White Mountain Motorsports Park championship knew they had to go through Stacy Cahoon. The St. Johnsbury, VT veteran was the track's dominant force during that 10-year span, taking five championships.

Since then, though, Cahoon had found himself taking second billing to Quinny Welch, who won every title between 2015 and 2019. Going into 2020, it would have been hard for most non-Cahoon fans not to pick Welch for a sixth straight championship (and ninth overall).

However, one of the best stories in sports is that of the aging veteran who rises back to the top. In 2020, the 62-year-old Cahoon authored his own version of the classic tale, outdueling Welch and others down the stretch to reclaim the White Mountain crown.

Despite coming up short for the last five years, Cahoon recalled there was no doubt he'd be back in 2020 for another year behind the wheel.

"That's just a disease that I caught 34 years ago," Cahoon said. "The racing bug bit me, and it's always been in my blood since then. I don't have any other hobbies. I don't play golf, I don't hunt, I don't fish -- I'm just always had a need for speed. That's still what motivates me today, and I feel very fortunate that, at my age, I still am physically able to do what I love to do and still feel that I'm able to do it competitively...I have a lot of people and supporters that have been behind me for so many years, and I'm so fortunate to have those people behind me that enable me to continue to do what I love to do."

While the motivation was still there, the challenge would be finding more speed to claw atop the heap. Such a challenge would be no small task considering Cahoon has been racing his current mount since 2005, making it a relative dinosaur even by short-track standards.

As such, during the offseason, Cahoon sought out some family help. His son Tyler, a weekly Late Model competitor at Thunder Road, had been updating his program by working with Pard Brothers Racing. Together with his oldest son Pat -- who serves as crew chief for both teams -- Stacy went to work seeing how to make this same technology and knowledge work for his #83VT R&R Fireworks/P&H Transportation Chevy.

Like every driver at White Mountain, Cahoon had to race through the fallout of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The start of the season was postponed until early June. The opener on June 6 was a non-point event, and the following week was the ACT Late Model Tour Spring Green. That means the Foley Oil & Propane Late Models didn't even run a point-counting event until June 20. Although they didn't impact the championship chase, Cahoon attended both of those early events trying to get his #83VT dialed in.

"At one point, we didn't even know if we'd be able to get on the racetrack at all this summer," Cahoon recalled. "We had to make a decision: do we just not continue to do what we're doing to prepare the cars to make them ready? Or do we do it and whatever happens in the world happens? And that's what we did - we continued on and prepared them just as if we were starting out in early May just like we would every year. As luck would have it, at White Mountain, things did open up to where we could get on the track."

The veteran also had to deal with a much larger weekly field of cars than in 2019. The increased fields were ultra-competitive, too. Young guns Joel Hodgdon, Andy Hill, and Christan Laflamme all took multiple wins on the year, while experienced racers like Michael Bailey, Jeff Marshall, and Joey Laquerre were all a factor. Cahoon noted he had to reset his expectations on what a good night was, and in some cases focus more on avoiding trouble than getting to the front.

Once the title hunt got under way, the first four events seemed on the surface like the same old song and dance. Welch reeled off four straight top-5 finishes to put himself atop the standings while Cahoon was sitting third overall after two 4ths, a 7th, and an 8th. Perennial contender Oren Remick sat sandwiched between them. But while things may not have looked it to the average observer, Cahoon already knew the offseason work had made a difference.

"I had a real boost of confidence because I liked what Pat had learned over the winter from working with Pard Brothers and the technology that we were able to adapt to my car," Cahoon said. "I just had a real strong feeling that it might be the edge that we'd been looking for the past 4 or 5 years. It didn't jump right out (in the results) off the bat, but Pat was able to smooth out the rough edges with what we had adapted to my car and then read my mind as to what I was feeling I needed different in the car to make it comfortable for me. He was able to make those adjustments and make it work. Leading into the season was like any other one -- I really didn't know what to expect. But the first time I jumped into the car for the first practice laps, I knew right off that I had something I'd been lacking for quite a few years."

The fifth event on July 25 finally opened the door for a potential sea change. Welch was involved in a mid-race incident and ended up 16th in the final rundown. Coupled with Cahoon's 6th-place finish and Remick missing out on the bonus-point semi-feature, Cahoon surged to the overall lead.

Welch took the point lead back the following week, but after the non-point Midsummer 250 on August 8, Cahoon found a roundabout way back to the top of the standings. Although Welch finished 2nd in the August 15 feature to Cahoon's 4th, Cahoon was the only driver of the top three to make the semi-feature. The 8 bonus points he picked up gave him a 3-point lead with the homestretch dead ahead.

Cahoon showed he was in it to win it one week leader. Following 3rd-place finishes in his heat and the semi, Cahoon snapped a winless streak of more than two years in the main event. The victory came following post-race technical inspection, and Cahoon admitted he still doesn't feel like the winner as a result. Nevertheless, the impressive night gave him a 13-point edge over Welch and 23 points over Remick.

The next two weeks tightened things right back up. Cahoon finished fifth and third in the two features, but watched Welch compete in both semi-features from the grandstands. That tightened the margin to just two points entering Championship Night on September 26. To take us through how the night, we go to the words of Cahoon, who is never short on them:

"We gained a point in qualifying, which put us up three points. So going into the feature, I knew I either needed to be ahead of Quinny to win the championship, or at least have him right close to being on my front bumper -- one or the other. I knew if I kept him right in my windshield that I'd be okay, too. Right off the bat, as I recall how it played out in the feature, I wasn't in the right lane, and he got by. But I was able to pull out and get behind him, and I actually followed him for the first 10 laps or so going around some slower traffic. Once we broke free, I said, 'Okay, I'm going to settle in and follow him for a couple laps.' And it seemed like his car wasn't turning as well as he'd like it to in the middle of the corner, even though he was running the upper (preferred) groove. So I said, 'Well, we're all alone here. Let's try this.' I gave it a shot and went low in turns 3 and 4, and was able to keep the car there through turns 1 and 2. We went through 3 and 4 the next lap, and then I cleared him down the frontstretch, and I never really saw him again."

Cahoon got as high as third in the running order behind a side-by-side duel between Laflamme and Bailey as Welch languished in traffic. While it looked a couple of times like there was an opportunity for Cahoon to force the issue for the lead, he thought better of it every time, knowing he was exactly where he needed to be in the big picture. Cahoon eventually crossed the finish line fourth -- and at age 62 years, 134 days, the ageless wonder was officially a champion for the sixth time. Cahoon dedicated the title to the people who have supported him and allowed him to remain a part of the sport he loves.

"To be able to give them something back, per say, by winning this championship is what it means to me," Cahoon said. "It's my gift back to them for everything they've done for me in the past -- and they've worked so hard to get me to this point -- by rewarding them with this championship. I guess that's what means the most to me, is being able to give back to them for something they've worked so hard to enable me to do."

For anyone who knows Cahoon, it will come as no surprise that -- barring any difficulties from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic -- he plans to be back in 2021 for another go. At the time we spoke, he had just picked up his and Tyler's engines following an offseason refresh, and was waiting on new body panels to arrive. While he knows he'll have to get out of the driver's seat someday -- and has been asked about it many times -- he doesn't anticipate that day coming in the near future.

"As long as I feel that I am competitive, and the people I'm surrounded by feel I'm competitive, I'm going to continue to do this as long as I can and as long as I'm physically able," Cahoon declared. "I don't really mind if they have to lift me out of the car after the race is over with -- but if it gets to the point where they have to lift me into the car before the race starts, I might have to think about giving it up."
(Mark Alan Sumner photos)