Quenneville repeats as NASCAR champ in Vermont
WEST HAVEN — NASCAR has officially named Vince Quenneville Jr. of Brandon the Division I Vermont Champion of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for a second consecutive year.
Quenneville clinched the title when heavy rains forced the cancellation of Sunday night dirt track racing at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway. There was an off-chance Quenneville’s closest rival for the crown, Bobby Hackel of Rensselaer, N.Y., could catch him with a win on Sunday if Quenneville finished far enough back.
More than 60 tracks across North America operate with NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) sanction, with competitions for state, provincial and national championships under a common point system title. Each driver’s 18 best results from Jan. 1 through Sept. 18 count toward the titles, which allows drivers to replace bad finishes in favor of better finishes once they’ve reached their 18-race maximum.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway, Quenneville’s home track in West Haven, ran both its half-mile Asphalt Track and its 0.03-mile Dirt Track under NWAAS sanction for the first time in 2016, with Sportsman Modifieds as the designated Division I class on both surfaces.
Quenneville competed full-time on both surfaces, running 28 races prior to last Sunday’s cutoff date, with four victories on asphalt and another on dirt. Hackel ran only 14 races, but was successful enough — with six wins on dirt — that he had a shot at passing Quenneville on the final night of the NASCAR points run.
“Bobby’s only chance to beat me was to win that race and have me finish outside the top five, but my dirt car has been running well lately and I was confident that we could hold on and get the championship,” Quenneville said. “It was a lot of hard work and dedication from my team all year, and it paid off.”
Regardless, Quenneville was happy to get the break after just missing the Devil’s Bowl Asphalt Track championship in a tiebreaker one week earlier.
“A lot of people told me before the season started that they thought I would end up as the state champion again,” Quenneville said. “We had a good start, but things started going wrong in the middle of the year. The engine in the dirt car gave us trouble, I flipped over one night, we had a couple of bad runs on the asphalt, and then Bobby started winning a lot of races. It got a little nerve-wracking toward the end.”
Jackie Brown Jr. of Hurley, N.Y., will be recognized as the 2016 Vermont State Rookie of the Year. Billy Lussier of Fair Haven finished fourth in the state standings, with Asphalt Track champion Jason Durgan of Morrisonville, N.Y., fifth. They were followed by Kenny Tremont Jr., rookie Tim LaDuc of Orwell, Ron Proctor, rookie Justin Comes of Middlebury, and Travis Bruno.
Quenneville will celebrate his championship at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards in December, held at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. He will be joined by Brown, Durgan and the winner of the Devil’s Bowl Dirt Track championship, which will be decided on Oct. 1.