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Late Model drivers compete during a race last year. At least 38 of the top ACT Late Model racers in the U.S. and Canada will head to Virginia’s Richmond Raceway this week for the Commonwealth Classic 65.

WATERBURY — After months of anticipation, the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) is ready for the inaugural Commonwealth Classic 65 at Richmond Raceway. Over the next few days, at least 38 ACT Late Model teams from the U.S. and Canada will make the trek to Virginia for the race on Saturday at 1 p.m. Officials and fans will join them to see the long-running northeast series take on the ¾-mile D-shaped speedway for the first time.

Richmond has hosted more than 200 events in NASCAR’s top three series along with events for the NTT IndyCar Series, the USAC Silver Crown Series and the now-defunct International Race of Champions (IROC). Both Richmond Raceway and its predecessor, the ½-mile Richmond Fairgrounds Speedway, have been the site of some of the most famous moments in North American motorsports. ACT goes into Saturday’s event hoping to add at least one more moment to that list.

“We can’t wait to actually get to Richmond and get out on the track,” ACT managing partner Cris Michaud said. “The excitement for this event has been apparent from the moment we announced it. Drivers, crew members, car owners, everybody we talk to is thrilled to be heading down. We’re ready to show the fans of Richmond what ACT racing is all about, and we think they’re going to love it.”

The entry list is filled with racers that are familiar to Northeast racing fans. Some of them could end up being household names in Virginia by the end of the weekend. Five former ACT champions headline the drivers making the trek to Richmond this weekend. Saint-Denis, Quebec’s Patrick Laperle has five total championships between the ACT Late Model Tour and Série ACT. He’s also looking for his 45th ACT-sanctioned Late Model victory. Former ACT U.S. champions Wayne Helliwell Jr., of Dover, New Hampshire; Joey Polewarczyk Jr., of Hudson, New Hampshire; and Nick Sweet, of Barre, are joining Laperle in Richmond, as is 2017 Série ACT Champion Jonathan Bouvrette, of Blainville, Quebec.

A number of racers on the entry list also have track championships under ACT rules. Hinesburg’s Bobby Therrien was the 2017 Late Model Champion at Thunder Road while East Bridgewater, Massachusetts’ Ryan Kuhn captured the 2018 title at Seekonk Speedway. Rehoboth, Massachusetts’ Nicholas Johnson was also a 2018 champion at Thompson Speedway. Current ACT Late Model Tour standout Rich Dubeau, of Lebanon, New Hampshire, previously won Late Model championships at Canaan Fair Speedway and Claremont Speedway. All told, nearly one-third of the drivers in the field have a touring series or track championship in an ACT Late Model.

Still others are on the rise or have established themselves as top competitors in an ACT Late Model. Graniteville’s John Donahue is one of the winningest Late Model racers in Thunder Road history, and his son Stephen already has Late Model wins to his credit at multiple tracks. Williamstown’s Jimmy Hebert has been one of the top ACT Tour runners for nearly a decade and finished third in points this past season. Tom Carey III, Marcel J. Gravel, Mark Jenison, Boomer Morris and Marc Begin are just some of the other entries who earned wins in an ACT Late Model in 2018.

All of these racers and then some are officially committed to be part of one of the biggest events in ACT’s 34-year history. For many of the drivers traveling to Richmond, it will be their first time at the track at all, never mind their first time racing there. As such, everyone from multi-time track and series champions to brand-new Late Model teams will begin Friday’s open practice day on equal footing.

The $5,000-to-win ACT Commonwealth Classic 65 on Saturday is part of a huge card of action for the event’s inaugural edition. The Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models will run both open and crate-engine 75-lap events. Richmond Raceway will also host the Tour-type Modifieds, Mid Atlantic Street Stocks and North East Mini Stock Tour with almost $165,000 in total posted awards.

Qualifying for the Commonwealth Classic begins at 1 p.m. General grandstand admission is $40 for adults and free for kids ages 12 and under. These tickets also include tunnel access for the Fan Zone and walkway areas of the garage. Open practice for all divisions will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The Fan Zone and walkway will be open on Friday, but the grandstands will not.

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