It's the final weekend of the year. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...
DID A GREAT radio spot with the folks on "In The Pits" over in Maine on Friday and I was posed a question about what some of my impressions of the 2011 season had been. An innocuous enough question, of course, but it did spark an interesting debate.
I believe that 10 years from now, we're going to look back on what Brian Hoar has done this year and say that we've witnessed one of the most impressive seasons in New England racing history. Hoar won his third straight ACT Late Model Tour championship this season – his record eighth overall – and did it in about as dominant a fashion as you could imagine.
Hoar had just one finish of worse than sixth in 12 ACT points races this season, winning five times and posting nine Top-5s over that stretch. In addition, he won non-points races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Thunder Road International Speedbowl and at Autodrome Chaudiere. In a division where parity isn't just the philosophy, it's the life mission of Tour president Tom Curley, Hoar and his RPM Motorsports team has made the Tour their playground.
Across the way, so to speak, Johnny Clark had a similarly dominant season in the PASS North Series en route to his sixth series title.
That's where the debate gets interesting. How are teams able to be so much better than the competition, week after week, year after year?
The answer in both the cases of Hoar and Clark really isn't a complicated one. It's not about money or resources or full-time crew members or cheated-up parts. It isn't, and if anyone thinks it is, it's just being used as a crutch.
Both teams have been together for years, and that's where the success stems from. In a day and age of musical chairs atop pit boxes, even at the regional level, and buying the same equipment from the same chassis builder as the next guy, some staying power is the best thing a team can possess. Before Hoar came in and won the last three ACT titles, RPM had Jean-Paul Cyr in the seat for five additional championships.
I also don't think that this kind of dominance is a bad thing for the sport. We've always had the King of the Mountain in this sport – from Mike Rowe at Oxford to Ted Christopher at Stafford to Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR.
Johnson's hard crash last night at Charlotte Motor Speedway sent the social media world into a frenzy. His "failure" has opened the door, and fans are noticeably eager to see who takes his throne.
Fixtures atop the standings and at the front of the field are good for racing. They're the natural measuring stick for aspiring teams, and they're also a benchmark for which a series is measured. The ACT Late Model Tour is deep and competitive, and Hoar's ability to win races in that series is a testament to not only his talent but to the series credibility.
I THOUGHT IT was interesting that a fan grabbed Hoar in the Oxford Plains Speedway pit area on Saturday and relayed the following story.
The fan had a camper at last weekend's Milk Bowl with a PASS bumper sticker on it. One ACT fan asked him why he was a fan of the "Johnny Clark Show." The fan responded by asking him how long he'd been following the "Brian Hoar Show."
BEEN OFF FOR about a week on my first Maine Moose Hunt. Let me just say one thing: It was a memorable experience. I won't forget it.
I KNOW THAT the PASS North Series is a little off the radar in this space, but it was a very popular win taken by Scott Mulkern in the PASS Championship 150 on Saturday.
Mulkern has scaled back to a part-time schedule in recent seasons, but his team has remained a strong backer of local racing. He fields a full-time team and runs 4-5 races a year with a second, part-time car. After he won the rain-shortened race at Oxford – with far and away the best car on the track, rain or not – more than one fellow competitor went out of their way to congratulate "The Colonel."
One person in the pit area called Mulkern the mayor of the PASS North Series garage, and it's an apt title. Try finding Mulkern in his actual pit during a PASS race event.
You're better off trying to catch him in one of any of the other 30 stalls at the race track.
TWO WORDS: Honey Badger.
You can look it up.
AN INTERESTING NOTE from the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road last weekend, one presented by good friend of the program Greg Emerson.
Three different car builders, all in northern New England, took the top three spots in time trials last Sunday. Brian Hoar in a Race Basics car, Dave Pembroke in a Dale Shaw Race Cars car and Nick Sweet in a Distance Racing ride.
AM I THE only one who's worried that a 2-3 start by the Bruins could turn into 2-10, a la the Boston Red Sox.
See. Paranoia strikes deep.
YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the Island Shrimp, and don't forget to tip your waitress. Flo Rida is here, so stick around.