Quenneville leads group of four drivers to Charlotte
WEST HAVEN, Vt. – This is the third installment of the “Devil’s Bowl Speedway 50th Season in Review” series. This series takes a retrospective look at an action-packed year of stock car racing in 2016 on the half-mile Asphalt Track and the 3/10-mile Dirt Track at Devils Bowl Speedway, division by division.
Sportsman Modifieds – NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Vermont State Championship
Champion: Vince Quenneville Jr. – Brandon, Vt.
Rookie of the Year: Jackie Brown Jr. – Hurley, N.Y.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway will be sending four of its Sportsman Modified drivers to Charlotte, N.C., for the annual NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards. The celebration and black-tie gala is held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Convention Center on Friday, December 9, and will honor NASCAR’s track, state, provincial, and national title winners.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) sanctions nearly 60 grassroots-level short tracks across the United States and Canada under a common point structure with “Division I” competitors using points earned in their best 18 results between January 1 and September 18 to run for the national and state titles. Since Devil’s Bowl Speedway designates its open-wheel Sportsman Modifieds as the Division I class on both its asphalt and dirt surfaces, local drivers effectively competed directly against each other for the Vermont State Championship; a handful of them raced on both surfaces to increase their odds of success.
Vince Quenneville Jr. was one of three drivers to run both surfaces on a full-time basis and earned his second consecutive NWAAS Vermont State Championship. The Brandon, Vt., racer opened Devil’s Bowl’s 50th Season by scoring the Bond Auto Parts Sportsman Modified victory on the pavement on Saturday, May 21, but he dug himself a hole with a crash at the Yorkmont Auto Auctions “Memorial Day 5000,” vaulting eventual Asphalt Track champion Jason Durgan of Morrisonville, N.Y., into the NASCAR point lead.
Quenneville rebounded nicely in the next two weeks, though, scoring a runner-up finish on asphalt on June 4 and winning one of two Central Vermont Motorcycles Sportsman Modified features at the Dirt Track opener on June 12, which put him back into the point lead.
Meanwhile, Devil’s Bowl newcomer Jackie Brown Jr. of Hurley, N.Y., was having an impressive start to his NASCAR career. As a first-time NWAAS Division I license holder, multi-time Accord (N.Y.) Speedway dirt track champion Brown competed full-time on both Devil’s Bowl surfaces as an official NWAAS rookie. Once Quenneville found himself back in the lead following the June 12 events, Brown was in second place overall and stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the rookie crowd.
Quenneville stayed in front for the next two weeks, but a dismal Independence Day weekend – which included a barrel-roll crash on the dirt – saw him slip out of the top spot. Brown posted a pair of third-place finishes during the holiday weekend to take over the lead by 16 points, and he held the position through the end of July. Bobby Hackel of Rensselaer, N.Y., in the meantime, had started his march toward the Dirt Track championship and quickly climbed the NASCAR standings, ranking fifth behind Brown, Quenneville, Billy Lussier, and Durgan.
Quenneville got back in the groove once August arrived, winning the Carrara Masonry & Concrete C.J. Richards Memorial 67 on the pavement and grabbing a podium finish on the clay. By the time he, Brown, and fellow two-track runner Lussier had each reached their respective 18th starts of the year on August 14, “VQ2” had built up a 49-point advantage. At that point, the trio’s NASCAR point totals only increased incrementally as they replaced poor finishes with better ones as the year went on. Hackel, meanwhile, was still short of his 18-race total and was already making a charge.
The largest gap of the season was a whopping 72 points for Quenneville through the final week in August, but Brown cut the deficit in half on Labor Day weekend with a pair of runner-up finishes in Twin 25s on September 4. Hackel won three out of four dirt races from August 14 through Labor Day weekend, posting himself up into third place.
The Vermont 200 Weekend on September 10-11 saw two 50-lap features on the Asphalt Track and another on the Dirt Track, with a season-high nine Sportsman Modified drivers running both surfaces. Quenneville won Sunday’s asphalt finale to boost his lead up to 37 points. Hackel hit the pavement for the first time in 2016, and his gains were enough take second place away from Brown. Lussier and Durgan sat fourth and fifth following the busy weekend, with only one more race – Sunday, September 18 on the dirt – left on the NASCAR calendar.
Hackel had a mathematical chance at stealing the title away from Quenneville if he could win the race and have Quenneville finish sixth or worse, but Mother Nature had other plans and racing on the final day of NWAAS points eligibility was washed out. With the standings finalized for the year, Quenneville clinched the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Vermont State Championship title and Brown, in third place, became the NWAAS Vermont State Rookie of the Year.
Quenneville and Brown will receive their Vermont State awards, and Durgan and Hackel will be recognized for their track titles on Friday, December 9 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Convention Center. Matt Bowling of Ridgeway, Va., will be honored as a first-time National Champion after a 14-win Late Model season at eight tracks in the southeastern U.S.; he was also the Virginia State Champion. Connecticut Modified driver Keith Rocco finished second overall with Wisconsin Late Model star Ty Majeski third. Quenneville finished 46th in national standings with Hackel 67th and Brown 71st; Brown ranked sixth in national rookie standings.
As the “Devil’s Bowl Speedway 50th Season in Review” series continues soon, Part 4 will look back at the Central Vermont Motorcycles Late Model division on the Asphalt Track.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, Vt., four miles north of Exit 2 off of U.S. Route 4 and just 20 minutes from Rutland, Vt. For more information, visit www.DevilsBowlSpeedwayVT.com or call (802) 265-3112. Devil’s Bowl Speedway is on Facebook at facebook.com/DevilsBowlSpeedway and on Twitter and Instagram at @DevilsBowlSpeed; follow the action using the #DevilsBowl hashtag.
FINAL 2016 POINT STANDINGS
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Vermont State Championship
Devil’s Bowl Speedway Dirt Track
1. Vince Quenneville Jr., Brandon, Vt. – 479
2. Bobby Hackel, Rensselaer, N.Y. – 442
3. # Jackie Brown Jr., Hurley, N.Y. – 436
4. Billy Lussier, Fair Haven, Vt. – 374
5. Jason Durgan, Morrisonville, N.Y. – 359
6. Kenny Tremont Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y. – 334
7. # Tim LaDuc, Orwell, Vt. – 312
8. Ron Proctor, Charlton, N.Y. – 297
9. # Justin Comes, Middlebury, Vt. – 281
10. Travis Bruno, Morrisonville, N.Y. – 267
11. # Justin Severance, Pittsford, Vt. – 254
12. Joey Roberts, Fletcher, Vt. – 239
13. Jimmy Ryan, Whiting, Vt. – 193
14. Derrick McGrew, Ballston Spa, N.Y. – 184
15. # Chad Miller, White River Junction, Vt. – 179
16. Wayne Stearns, Bradford, Vt. – 161
17. Codie Aubin, Plattsburgh, N.Y. – 150
18. Allan Hammond, Canaan, N.H. – 136
19. # Chuck Bradford, Addison, Vt. – 136
20. Alex Bell, Cambridge, N.Y. – 125
Photos by Nicole Laffond/Devil’s Bowl Speedway; Heather Aube/Devil’s Bowl Speedway; Dave Dalesandro/RacersGuide.com; Getty Images for NASCAR