An Open Letter to the Teams and Fans of ACT, Thunder Road, White Mountain Motorsports Park, and the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Oval
Hello all. As we write this, it’s early November, and the racing season in the Northeast has pretty much end. With the breathtaking ACT championship event still fresh on our minds, we wanted to touch base with our family of tracks, teams, and fans to look back on 2021 and start looking forward to the 2022 campaign.
For everyone involved in stock car racing, there was a lot of uncertainty heading into to this past season. The COVID-19 pandemic raged throughout the winter, and no one — ourselves included — had any real inkling of when life might start getting back to normal. The 2020 season was perhaps the most challenging that local racing has ever faced, which came on top of being in an era were racing has fierce competition for people’s entertainment dollars. While we certainly were prepared to make it work for another year facing the same challenges, it would not have been easy for anyone involved.
Even when the restrictions on in-person attendance at events were finally lifted — thanks in a big way to our teams, fans, officials, and sponsors doing their part for health and safety — the fallout was still being felt. The national tire shortage affected racetracks throughout the country, forcing everyone to come up with solutions on the fly, from limiting tire purchases to the ultimate heartache of having to take divisions off the calendar. Many parts were hard to come by on short notice, forcing teams to scramble when they needed to get their cars fixed. While it wasn’t related the COVID-19 pandemic, weather was also a huge factor, with nearly 20 events across our spectrum being affected by rain. This forced a lot of schedule juggling and unfortunately led to a few unavoidable conflicts along the way.
Through it all, we continued to see outstanding support from everyone involved in racing. All our tracks saw great crowds this season, and nearly every division that ACT sanctions either grew or held steady. The racing was fantastic, culminating with the duel between Ben Rowe and D.J. Shaw for the championship at Seekonk. The World Series at Thompson was one of the best editions we’ve ever been a part of. We already see people making plans to move up or buy new cars for next year and have heard from people who want to get into racing for the first time. We think the ACT family is on a good path, and we are putting things in place to continue that journey in 2022.
Before we go any further, thank you to everyone who made the 2021 season possible. Thank you to the drivers and teams who put in long hours each week to make it to the racetrack. Thank you to the fans who supported us by either coming to the track or watching online — and who have made the efforts to get new fans interested in the sport. Thank you to our staff and officials who do so much work behind the scenes to make sure every event goes smoothly. Last but certainly not least, thank you to the sponsors who recognize the value of being involved with racing and provide financial support, either by partnering directly with tracks or by sponsoring the teams.
Now for a few general notes before we get into specific track and series talk. As we previously announced, the championship banquets have been postponed until next spring. We realize some teams are disappointed with this decision, but we believe it is for the best. Many other teams expressed reservations about holding large indoor events at this time, especially in shared venues, and we agreed with those sentiments. Although the region is in a better place when it comes to health and safety then at this time last year, we’re not out of the woods yet, and we certainly don’t want to do anything that could cause a setback. The details of the banquets will be announced sometime after the new year.
As for the 2022 schedules, our current plan is to release all the schedules — ACT, Thunder Road, White Mountain, and Thompson — around Thanksgiving. A few big events have already been announced, and the basic layout of the schedules should have a lot of similarities to last year. License applications, ACT full-season entry forms, Thunder Road season passes, and other forms will be available soon after the schedules are published.
We are also working on getting live streaming options finalized. This format has clearly become more important to fans over the past two years. All Thunder Road events will once again be streamed on FloRacing, and the Thompson Speedway events should again be on Speed51.TV. We’re looking at some potential options for the ACT Late Model Tour and White Mountain Motorsports Park, but we want to make sure we’re doing it the right way before committing to anything. If there is anything official to announce on either front, you will hear it from us first.
The 31st ACT Late Model Tour schedule should once again be in the 11-12 race range. At this point, we’re working on nailing down the last couple of events. A lot of the big events from last year will return, and we will again work to avoid direct schedule conflicts with the Pro All Stars Series schedule. The 2021 season directly showed the benefits of cooperation on that front, as Ben Rowe and D.J. Shaw — two multi-time PASS champions — gave us one of the most memorable ACT title finishes in the history of the sanctioning body. We also saw the next generation com into its own this past year with six first-time winners (including five in a row).
The only thing missing from ACT in 2021 was the presence of Canadian teams and fans. We held out hope all year that the border situation would be resolved in time for our Quebec friends to join us at the track, but unfortunately, things did not work out that way. It’s looking much better for the 2022 season, and we’re happy to see that, as Quebec support has played a huge role in ACT’s long-term success. We certainly appreciate the Canadians watching races online when they’re available, keeping in touch through social media channels, and doing whatever else they can to remain part of the ACT family.
Over the winter, we will also work on the New England Late Model Challenge Cup for 2022. The first season was promising, and we saw the potential of the program with several weekly drivers traveling around the region to earn points. With a few tweaks, we think this program can really thrive and be a sought-after championship in the same vein as the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series. We saw a lot of participation from drivers at ACT-sanctioned tracks, and our next goal is to get more drivers taking part at other tracks that run ACT Late Models weekly.
We’ve already released the first piece of the 2022 Thunder Road season with the announcement that the Tri-Track Open Modified Series will be on the card for the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. It’s been 11 years since Tour-type Modifieds raced on the high banks, and we know a lot of our fans have wanted to see them return for just as long. Tri-Track has been providing tech services for our open Modified events at Thompson Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and that got us talking about bringing them to Thunder Road. We’re happy it worked out, and with $10,000 to the winner, we’re sure a lot of big names will be there.
Apart from that, the Thunder Road schedule should be fairly close to last year. That includes the Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl, which is running its 60th edition. We’re working on ways to make the anniversary event even bigger than it already is. One of the things we’ve proposed is doing a “throwback” Milk Bowl with as many vintage paint schemes as possible, much like what Jason Corliss did this year in tribute to Lloyd Hutchins and Henry Montandon. The history of events like the Milk Bowl is way makes them truly special, so putting this together would be a great way to honor that history. It’s a proposal our teams seem receptive to, and we’ll work on figuring out the particulars.
At White Mountain Motorsports Park, one of the biggest changes is the announced addition of the “Mini Late Model” class. With the North East Mini Stock Tour reducing its schedule next year, we think it’s a great opportunity for everyone involved. The existing NEMST teams get a place to run more races, drivers who don’t want to commit to a full summer of racing now have a part-time option, and it helps bridge the gap between the Strictly Stock Mini’s and Flying Tigers. The exact dates for the new division will be announced along with the rest of the schedule, and as previously stated, they will not conflict with any NEMST events.
We plan to have most if not all the big events from 2021 back for 2022. That includes the ACT Tour, PASS Super Late Models, J.P. Sicard Triple Crown, and the R&R Raceparts NH Street Stock Open. The Street Stock Open was one of our biggest successes in 2021, and we were especially happy to see the number of Flying Tiger teams who participated. We think its an event that’s only going to get bigger from here.
That brings us to Thompson Speedway. 2022 will be our second full year operating the oval track. Now that some stability has been established, we’re optimistic we’ll be able to build on year one. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is returning on August 17, and the Outlaw Open Modified Series will be back as well. We also fully intend to bring back the Thompson 300 at the World Series. Many of the teams who were there contacted us afterwards to tell us what a great time they had, which is a great sign for the future of the race.
We will work on the particulars of the schedule from there. All the local divisions saw a lot of new cars show up for the World Series. We certainly hope those teams liked what they saw and will be able to make it over for at least some of the Wednesday night summer shows next year. The support we did get for those events was much appreciated and will serve as a foundation for 2022.
That about covers what we currently have on our minds. We’re sure there will be plenty more to talk about as the 2022 racing season nears, but in the meantime, stay healthy, stay safe, and enjoy the winter. We looking forward to seeing everyone on Opening Day.
Cris Michaud & Pat Malone