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ACT Champ Helliwell Sidelined for Milk Bowl

Posted By Tj Ingerson On September 30, 2013

Categories: American-Canadian Tour | Thunder Road

Coverage of Fall Foliage 200 is presented by Fadden RacingACT Late Model Tour champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., and his Bruce Bernhardt-led team will sit out the 51st People's United Bank Milk Bowl following Saturday's incident in the ACT season finale at Airborne. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)PHOTO: ACT Late Model Tour champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., and his Bruce Bernhardt-led team will sit out the 51st People's United Bank Milk Bowl following Saturday's incident in the ACT season finale at Airborne. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

--by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
VMM Editor

Recently crowned ACT Late Model Tour champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr., will not be among the entrants for this weekend’s People’s United Bank Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl.

The Dover, N.H., driver will miss the 51st running of the race after a sponsorship issue, combined with the team’s incident in Saturday’s ACT season finale, led the Bruce Bernhardt-led team to decide to sit on the sidelines.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Helliwell said in a phone interview on Monday night. “On one hand, our Thunder Road program has gotten better over the last two seasons. I definitely think we could make a good run at it, especially with the stuff we have learned over the summer. In that aspect, it’s disappointing.

“But from the other side, with the race now being kind of a three-day deal with the new tire, I’m not going to miss having to take a day off from work and lose money and spend a whole bunch. I’m sure come the weekend I’ll be bummed out.”

Helliwell stated that his No. 27 Ford Fusion car was not as bad as it could have been, but the Bernhardt-owned team did not want to put themselves in a financial hole in case they had suffered another setback at Thunder Road with no additional monetary backing.

"It’s not the end of the world. It’s not that bad,” Helliwell said. “It needs a rear clip. A couple of night’s worth of work and it’ll be back together. I don’t think that one incident really had any bearing on making this decision.

“Ultimately, what made the decision, was that we had one sponsor on the team that usually covers that whole weekend. His business has slowed down, and there was other issues along with that, and he tried to hold out as long as could hoping it would change. And it didn’t. Unfortunately, he let us know at the end of the night at Airborne. We kind of floated about it on Sunday and talked about it again this morning and we really didn’t have it in the budget.

“If we absolutely had to, yes, but we didn’t want to run the budget down to nothing in case something similar happened like last weekend and we just put ourselves in a hole. We’ve had multiple teams offer cars and that kind of blows my mind that teams would offer up their cars that quick.”

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s incident, there was questions if Helliwell would retaliate against Brian Hoar, the driver who made contact with Helliwell into turn one on lap 181. With a better sense after stepping away from the intense situation following Saturday's race, Helliwell denied he would do something to Hoar.

“Even if we were to run this weekend, I don’t think…no, I’m pretty much a hundred percent positive that nothing would happen,” Helliwell said. “When you get the time to cool down and think about it rationally. I’m almost a hundred percent positive that it was nothing intentional and that it was just a misjudgment.

“We were at two ends of the scenario. (Hoar) wanted more and I was content with what I had and we just met at the wrong time. It’s just what it was. I hope everyone could see over the last few years I wouldn’t drive like that. I absolutely do my best to not get into people. It doesn’t look good for the tour and you don’t make friends by doing that.

“I don’t think I would ever retaliate. You don’t want to treat people the way you don’t want to be treated.”

Helliwell said the team’s next event would be at their home track, Lee USA Speedway, for their season ending event, Oktoberfest. That event also played a big part in their decision to sit on the sidelines for the Milk Bowl.

“(The Oktoberfest) is part of the decision, too,” Helliwell stated. “The other car is setup as a Pro Stock, but it’s no big deal to change it over in a night. But we have commitments to be at Oktoberfest for our main sponsor, EKeys4Cars. If something were to go wrong at Thunder Road, I wouldn’t want to put ourselves in a bad situation to disappoint them.”

A championship should be a joyous occasion to celebrate a season-long effort to be the best in the series, but Helliwell said the team has been unable to experience that.

“Everybody is kind of down in the dumps, to be honest,” Helliwell said. “It don’t make much sense to me to win the ACT Tour championship and feel so let down. It kind blows my mind to stop and think about it like that. Everybody is kind of down in the dumps and I think we all need a weekend off to regroup to move forward from here.

“You want to win every race you go to, but we were a fifth place car and we were content with that to come home with a championship. The car is in one piece and everybody stays an extra night and hang out and party. But that never really happen. And everything that happened after the race was the total opposite of what it should have been.

“It took the life right out of it.”