Montpelier – The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) honored some of the top performers of the 2017 season at the ACT Banquet of Champions on Saturday, Feb. 24. Drivers, car owners, crew members, and officials all gathered at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier to celebrate their accomplishments and officially wrap up the 32nd season of ACT competition.
Milton’s Scott Payea, along with car owner Rick Paya, were officially recognized as the 2017 ACT Late Model Tour Champions. For Payea, it was a long-awaited first ACT championship, while the title marked Paya’s ninth in ACT competition.
After finishing second in ACT points four times during his career, including his first year with RPM Motorsports in 2016, Payea had a historic run to the 2017 crown. Payea’s five wins included an ACT-record four straight during the first half of the season. He finished outside the top-5 only once during the entire campaign.
The 2017 Banquet of Champions was the first held since the passing of ACT founder Tom Curley, who played a big role in the development of many of the drivers honored on Saturday night. Payea and others spoke throughout the evening about the influence Curley had on their careers and how much he has been missed.
The Burnett Motorsports team were the other big winners on Saturday as they received a trio of special awards. Driver Jason Corliss of Barre, VT was honored as both the ACT Late Model Rookie of the Year and the Gordon R. “Doc” Nielsen Outstanding Rookie. He finished an impressive third in points in his first year competing on the Tour while also racing weekly at his hometown Thunder Road Speedbowl.
Corliss is the first two-time winner of the Doc Nielsen Award. He previously won the award in 2010 as a rookie in the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers at Thunder Road. The award goes to a driver who shows the same dedication and spirit that Nielsen valued when mentoring young racers as ACT’s Chief Scorer.
Team crew chief Andrew Hill of Georgia received the ACT Crew Chief of the Year Award. Hill was an instrumental part of the team’s outstanding 2017 performance. His leadership at the shop and at the track helped the team stay focused and quickly get up to speed at tracks they had never previously competed at.
The ACT Late Model Tour opens its 2018 season at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 15 with the annual New Hampshire Governor’s cup. The 10-race schedule includes events in four different states and seven different tracks throughout New England.