The ACT Late Model Tour season tends to take its followers all over the map.
The chaos of racing at Thunder Road. The excitement of being involved in an invitational at New Hampshire. A surprising first-time winner; a veteran driver on a seemingly unbeatable roll. Toss in a little qualifying drama, some tire controversies and perhaps a stern reminder or two about rules from the head offices and you've got a rather typical ACT year.
But of all the stories that could conceivably pop up between Sunday's season-opening NH Governor's Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway and the season finale in October, there's one that seems to trump them all.
Is Brian Hoar going to win a record eighth ACT Late Model Tour championship in 2011?
"Jimmie Johnson has done it a few years in a row, so maybe we can too, who knows?" Hoar said recently. "Last year was just a phenomenal year, and the potential is obviously there to do it again. We're all feeling like we're going to be contenders."
Perhaps the most convincing part of Hoar's ACT dominance is its separation.
The Williston, Vt., driver won the first of his seven titles in 1993, just the second year of the Tour. From there, he rattled off four straight from 1997-2000 before taking off to run what is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East full-time for the next six seasons. He picked up his lone career East Series victory in 2003, not surprisingly, at the hub of ACT racing – Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vt.
He dabbled in ACT again in 2008, returning to win back-to-back titles with the now seven-time championship organization at RPM Motorsports. Five of his ACT-leading 28 career victories have come with RPM and owner/crew chief Rick Paya.
Though his first and seventh titles were separated by a span of 17 years, it was almost as though Hoar never left the series.
"There is no secret," Hoar said. "It's a hundred things – that's what it comes down to. It's chemistry. It's having the right people in the right positions.
"The biggest challenge we had (when I joined the team) was just communication. But we both had some confidence in what we were doing. But the biggest thing of all is that Rick and his guys are just really, really good with the race cars. It's just amazing how good the car is when we unload."
Hoar has been so good, it's almost as though he's found his way inside the competition's head. When other drivers talk about being in the championship hunt, it's almost always in reference to Hoar and his position at the top.
"When you are racing with the likes of a Brian Hoar... if you have one bad day, that can be the difference of a championship or second place," said last season's ACT runner-up, Joey Polewarczyk Jr.
Hoar takes the simple approach that the run to the title doesn't take shape in the dog days of summer. Right from the drop of the green flag for the first race in April, it's game on.
"Obviously, it's not the end of the world if you have a bad race, but it's a helluva lot more fun to get off on the right foot," said Hoar, who has more Top-5 finishes than any driver in ACT history. "You've kind of got to plan on having a bad race or two at some point in the year, but the nice thing is if you can put those bad races off until the end – then you can build up a point lead and have some padding.
"I'm very confident we'll go down and be competitive right off (at Lee). I haven't gone there with Rick yet and not had a great chance. I'm looking forward to what happens."
So is everybody else.