Demers Planning 2002 ACT Return

 

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus

Dennis Demers has been a familiar face on pit road at Thunder Road this season. Next season, you’ll be seeing him back on the racetrack.

Demers, a regular on NASCAR’s Busch North Series, said last week that he will return to the ACT Late Model wars next season, while simultaneously cutting back his schedule on the Busch North Series.

“I’m definitely going to build myself an ACT car for next year,” said the Shelburne native, who began his career on the old ACT Pro Stock Tour before moving to the Busch North Series a few years ago. “I’ve had a good time working with (my son) Trampas at Thunder Road this year, and in all honesty, I’m getting tired of all the traveling on the Busch North Tour. I’ll keep my Busch car, but I’ll race it when I want to, instead of when I have to.”

Trampas Demers’ serves as his father’s crewchief on the BNS, with the pair reversing roles on the ACT circuit. After an expectedly shaky start to his rookie season behind the wheel, the younger Demers has made major strides in recent weeks, collecting his first checkered flag in a T-Road qualifier last week, as well as notching his first-ever main event top-10 finish.

“It took us a while to get the (ACT) car figured out,” said Dennis Demers recently. “Trampas was complaining of a vibration under braking, and we changed-out every piece of the braking system twice trying to solve it. Nothing seemed to work, and eventually, we discovered it was a bad hub. Since then, he’s been coming along pretty good.”

Demers joins Mike Olsen, Mike Bruno, and Brian Hoar on the list of current or former Busch North drivers with plan for at least limited schedules on the ACT Dodge Tour.

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Former Airborne Raceway Street Stock champion Skip Liberty of Peru, NY, was seriously injured Saturday night in a crash during the Flying Tiger feature at the Plattsburgh oval. Liberty spun in Airborne’s second turn, and was hit hard in the driver's door by another car. He was extricated at the scene, suffering from a severe fracture of the left hip, along with other injuries. After initially being transported to Champlain Valley Physician’s Hospital in Plattsburgh in critical condition, Liberty was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of Burlington’s Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Liberty underwent hip replacement surgery earlier this week, after doctors determined his shattered hip to be beyond repair. At first, the presence of blood in his lungs also caused doctors to suspect a possible torn aorta, a life-threatening condition that would have required emergency open-heart surgery. Subsequent tests, however, revealed the bleeding to be due to a severely bruised heart and lungs, and surgery is not thought to be necessary at this time.

Words of encouragement will reach Skip Liberty at Fletcher Allen Health Care, Baird 389, 111 Colchester Ave., Burlington, VT, 05401.

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Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that many of this season’s struggling Winston Cup teams are located outside the acknowledged hub of NASCAR racing; Charlotte, N.C?

Once the 600-pound gorilla of NASCAR Racing, Petty Enterprises continues to struggle from their relatively remote headquarters in Randleman, N.C. Despite returning to their Dodge roots in 2001 - or perhaps because of it - the three-car Petty team has struggled to make races this season, and only rarely has been a top-10 contender. Meanwhile, Kevin Lepage’s Morgan-McClure outfit continues to attempt to turn things around from their equally distant location in Abingdon, VA.

Teams like the Pettys, Morgan-McClure, and the Virginia-based Wood Brothers and Junie Donlavy operations say it is difficult to hire quality crewmembers, despite offering them considerably more money than their Charlotte-based competition. Why? Because most Winston Cup crewmen have families and homes in the Charlotte area, and are unwilling to transplant themselves hundreds of miles away -- no matter how attractive the financial package-- to teams that are struggling to keep up.

In addition, the constant turnover of personnel ensures that Charlotte-based teams remain on the cutting edge of technology, while the so-called “satellite teams” become entrenched in the old way of doing things.

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Short (Track) Subjects…

…The debate continues over the use of radios in the ACT Late Model division. Upset with an increasing amount of “remote control driving” in the Late Model ranks, ACT President Tom Curley banned radios from Thunder Road’s lead division recently, and the jury is still out on whether they will return. In short, many drivers have begun relying on off-track “spotters” to make their on-track decisions for them, leading to an increased number of incidents, and a “pass the buck” attitude on pit road.

While radios can be beneficial in helping drivers avoid accidents, the traditionalists (this writer included) argue that it’s supposed to be “mano a mano” out there.

…With five different point leaders in a many weeks, the Thunder Road Late Model championship appears ready to go right down to the wire. But no matter who your favorite driver is, you have to give a tip of the cap to veteran Joey Laquerre.

The 58-year young Laquerre is unquestionably the elder statesman of the ACT Late Model set, having won features on the Barre highbanks in each of the last five decades. And at an age when most of his compatriots are preparing for retirement, Laquerre speaks - without so much as a smirk - about racing another 10 years. While steadfastly refusing to look further ahead than next week, Laquerre admits that winning the 2001 “King of the Road” title would be something special.

“Considering my age and all, I guess it would be pretty neat,” said Laquerre this week. “I’m out there racing against kids half my age, and it’s tough to compete with that kind of energy and enthusiasm. But we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, keep racking up top-five finishes as best we can, then add-up the points when it’s done.”

…After making his 2001 ACT Dodge Tour debut last weekend in New Hampshire, former Series champion Brian Hoar will return to the weekly wars tonight, driving the #09 Chevrolet at Thunder Road. Current NASCAR Busch North Series point leader Mike Olsen of North Haverhill, NH, is also scheduled to make his T-Road debut tonight, at the wheel of a Late Model entry owned by New York car owner Bob Brunell.

…After a one-race tryout last weekend at Pocono, Rick Mast will drive the Eel River Racing Pontiac for the rest of the season. The Virginia veteran leaves the similarly struggling Midwest Transit team to take over the Eel River ride, formerly vacated by Kenny Wallace and Mike Bliss. Rich Bickle is expected to take his place.

…Derek White, the Jeremy Mayfield crewman who was seriously injured in a fall from the team’s transporter lift gate two weeks ago at New Hampshire, has been transferred to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC, closer to his home.

…Tonight, the Flying Tiger 50 Series headlines the card at Barre’s Thunder Road, on NAPA/Make-A-Wish Night, along with Late Models, Street Stocks, and the return of the “Run What U Brung” spectator drags. Post time is set for 7 p.m.

Saturday night, it’s Rent A Wreck Night at Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh, NY, with ACT Late Models, Flying Tigers, Street Stocks, Renegades, and “Run What U Brung” spectator drags. Riverside Speedway in Groveton, NH, presents a 50-lap feature for the American Race Truck Series Saturday night, plus a 100-lap Cyclone feature, Strictlies, Sportsmen, and a four-cylinder ladies Enduro. Post time is 7 p.m. Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway is also in action Saturday, with one of its biggest shows of the year. A large field of Modifieds is expected to invade the quarter-mile oval in search of the guaranteed starting berth into the September 29 Victoria 200 at New York’s Fulton Speedway, that will go to the night’s Modified winner. The Sportsman Coupes, Pro-Street Stocks and Fast Fours will also be in action, along with a show-closing four-cylinder Enduro. Qualifying begins at 6:30 p.m. At White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH, it’s Pat's Auto Sales Night, with all five divisions and the N.E. Modified Light Series, beginning at 6:30. The PASS Pro Stock Series heads to Canaan USA Speedway Saturday for a 150-lap event, plus a 100-lap Street Stock Open. Qualifying begins at 1:30.And finally, NASCAR’s Busch North Series travels to the Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Mass., for the Coca Cola 150.

Sunday, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven presents a full card for all its weekly racing divisions, plus a special appearance by the Empire Super Sprints, with a special, early post time of 6 p.m.