Story By: AMERICAN-CANADIAN TOUR – WATERBURY, VT – For the first time in three years, the American-Canadian Tour is coming to New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway. The Lee USA 150 this Sunday, May 16 at 2:00pm is part of a showdown featuring three of the region’s top touring series.
The stars of the ACT Late Model Tour joined on Sunday by the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models and PASS Modifieds for 350 total laps of green flag action. Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Derek Griffith, Ben Rowe, Jimmy Hebert, Johnny Clark, Wayne Helliwell Jr., Ryan Kuhn, and Dylan Payea are just a few of the big names that have entered at least one of the features as part of Lee’s “May Madness” opening weekend.
Sunday’s event is the first trip to Lee USA for the ACT Late Model Tour since 2018. The tricky 3/8-mile oval is known for its high speeds and for being hard on tires. That means drivers will have to find the balance between going hard and saving something for the end.
Lee is part of a trio of Southern New Hampshire tracks joining the 2021 ACT schedule. The other two circuits, Hudson Speedway and Winchester’s Monadnock Speedway, are hosting their first ACT events since the early 2000s. Because of these long breaks, few current ACT regulars have experience on the tracks — and none of them on the new ACT Hoosier tire. It’s a combination that may level the playing field for this year’s events.
“Monadnock, Hudson, and Lee are going to kind of shake up the field — especially with the new tire,” Milton, VT’s Dylan Payea said. “We won’t have teams like the Heberts and the Helliwells with these huge notebooks on when the track was wet, when it was dry, when it was hot or cold, where they know exactly what to change. At these tracks, they’re going to be on the same playing field as everyone else.”
In addition to a new track for some and new tires for all, the ACT regulars will also have to contend with two of the most accomplished names in the series record books on Sunday. Hudson, NH’s Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and Dover, NH’s Wayne Helliwell Jr. have both entered the Lee USA 150 and are instantly on the short list of favorites.
The former champions each have a victory in ACT competition at Lee. Pole’s win came back in the 2008 New Hampshire Governor’s Cup while Helliwell claimed the 2015 edition. Each has run a partial ACT schedule in recent years and are making their first start on the ACT Hoosier tire introduced at Thunder Road. Still, both are a threat to win anytime they show up.
The ACT regulars will give their all with both a win and valuable points on the line. The Lee USA 150 marks the quarter-pole of the 30th ACT Late Model Tour season. With three races in the books, a picture will start to emerge about who is a contender for the $10,000 season-ending championship prize.
Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe currently leads the standings after top-5 finishes in the first two events. The many-time PASS champion and former Lee USA ACT winner is also second in the PASS standings. Although the season is still early, fans can start dreaming about seeing Rowe battle for both championships in one year.
The only other drivers to finish in the top-10 at both ACT events are Payea and Graniteville, VT’s Stephen Donahue and Milton, VT’s Dylan Payea. They sit fifth and second in the standings, respectively, giving these upstart teams a shot in the arm for the summer ahead.
“I’m really excited to get back (to Lee),” Payea said. “It was a very nerve-wracking race for me back in 2018 being my rookie year. I also had radio problems that race, so I had no spotter. But all said, we were running pretty well inside the top-7 when I made a bonehead rookie mistake, pitted, and got caught up in a wreck
“I think with the direction we’ve been heading as a team, and with some of the things we’re figuring out, we’re going to be good,” Payea continued. “We showed a lot of speed at Thunder Road, but we used up the tires a little too much in the heat and consi, so at the end of the feature we were struggling a little bit. But we figured out a lot of things with this car, and a couple things with the setup that I’m really happy with. Some of the success we’ve had at White Mountain I think is going to help translate to some success at Lee.”
New Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III is also running well with a third-place points position. Reigning champion Jimmy Hebert, meanwhile, is trying to bounce back after a rare mechanical failure at Thunder Road last time out. Lee USA was the site of Hebert’s first ACT victory back in 2013, and now would be a really good time for an encore. East Bridgewater, MA’s Ryan Kuhn, Carver, MA’s Trenton Goodrow, West Burke, VT’s Jesse Switser, and Hampton, NH’s Erick Sands are some of the other hotshoes expected to take the green flag on Sunday.
On the PASS Super Late Model side, fans will get to watch PASS North point leader Johnny Clark of Hallowell, ME, PASS National point leader D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, NH, ARCA Racing Series standout Derek Griffith of Hudson, NH, and rising star Kate Re of Lovell, ME among others do battle. The event is one of seven doubleheader this year for the ACT Late Model and PASS Super Late Model ranks, with at least Rowe and Shaw planning double-duty.
The PASS Modified portion of the program is more than just a support show. The Modifieds got a great turnout for their season-opener at Oxford Plains Speedway and are in a period of growth. Defending champion Tyler King, A.J. Cates, Gary Dwinal, Spencer Vaughn, and many others will bring some hard-charging open-wheel flavor to the afternoon near the New Hampshire seacoast.
The American-Canadian Tour heads to New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, May 16 at 2:00pm. Twin 150-lap features are on the card for the ACT Late Model Tour and PASS Super Late Models plus a 50-lap PASS Modified showdown. Admission is $30 for adults and $10 for kids ages 12 and under.