PLATTSBURGH — With the American-Canadian Tour championship hanging in the balance, Dover’s Wayne Helliwell outlasted Brian Hoar in an epic 40-lap shootout to win the Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway Sunday.
Helliwell began the day with an eight-point lead, but as the race wore on, it became evident he would likely have to win the race outright to claim his first-ever ACT title.
The two drivers proceeded to swap the lead multiple times while racing side-by-side in one of the most memorable races in ACT history. The battle lasted through four late race restarts, one of which was needed when Jean-Paul Cyr crashed into a light pole in the infield and had it topple onto his car.
Helliwell took command for good in Ekeys4Cars No. 27 on a lap-190 restart, which put him on the outside of Hoar on the front row. Austin Theriault and Patrick Laperle passed Hoar for second and third in the final two laps. Joey Polewarczyk finished fifth.
“That was unbelievable,” Helliwell said. “That’s the way it should come down to it — good clean side-by-side racing. It’s been an honor to race with him. This is for my wife and kids, my father and mother, Bruce Bernhardt, my team and all my sponsors.”
“I knew I was done on that last restart,” Hoar said. “Wayne had tires that were 30 laps fresher than mine, and he drove away. I was too loose on the bottom of turns three and four. This race was almost everything I could have hoped for.”
Helliwell started sixth on the 36-car grid. He passed Jean-Francois Dery, who had led laps two through 51 and stayed on the point until pitting for tires on lap 89. Hoar had gone in for tires earlier and on lap 94 he took the lead from Laperle.
“We had been monitoring who went in for tires when and we wanted to wait a little longer than Brian did, that was a little too early for us,” Helliwell said.
No sooner had Hoar taken the lead then he was under attack from rookie Jimmy Hebert who pressed him hard and led a lap (112) himself before starting fall back. Meanwhile, Helliwell was advancing back up through the field. Polewarczyk offered the most resistance as the pair battled for fifth place for a dozen laps.
Helliwell caught Donald Theetge for third on lap 145 and Hebert for second on lap 158. Soon Helliwell and Hoar were writing ACT history. Hoar was trying for an unprecedented ninth ACT championship.
Positions sixth through 10 went Randy Potter, Hebert, Brent Dragon, Ray Parent and Nick Sweet, respectively.
Fifty ACT cars were in the pits. Dery, Laperle, Travis Stearns and Luke Hinkley won the qualifying heats.
Jessey Mueller of Olmstedville won the DIRTcar Sportsman Modified prelim.
Josh Terry of Morrisonville won the Renegade feature.