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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Vermont’s Devil’s Bowl Speedway crowned not one, but two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I track champions in 2017.
No, there wasn’t a tie at the conclusion of the season. Actually, Devil’s Bowl Speedway had not one, but two race tracks sanctioned by NASCAR this season. One is a half-mile asphalt oval and the other is a third-mile clay oval, with each crowning a Division I champion.
On the dirt side, legendary dirt modified racer Kenny Tremont Jr. did something he’d never done before in his lengthy career, win a pair of NASCAR championships.
“We actually started off pretty good. We were, for the most part, in the top-five the whole year except maybe once or twice,” said the 56-year-old Tremont, who captured the Dirt Sportsman Modified track championship this year at Devil’s Bowl. “Really, compared to the year before, this was a trouble free year really. We ran really well and were able to win some races and when we didn’t win we finish really strong.”
Tremont, wheeling his No. 115 entry carrying sponsorship from S&S Asphalt Paving and Rifenburg Construction, was dominant throughout the season on the dirt at Devil’s Bowl. He won six times in 14 starts and also scored 12 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes.
Those finishes were enough for Tremont to win the dirt track championship by a mere six points over Tim LaDuc, but that wasn’t all. Tremont’s season-long consistency also garnered him his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Vermont championship by 35 points over LaDuc.
“We put a lot of work into it,” Tremont said. “We’ve got good crew members, so as far as the car, the car was pretty much bullet proof as far as finishing this year. It hasn’t always been that way through the years, but I really had a lot of confidence in the car and the car well and handled well.
“Devil’s Bowl, that small track is very tight and it’s very easy to get in trouble. Thankfully this year we were able to stay out of trouble for the most part. We did get tangled up a couple times, but thankfully it wasn’t anything that ended our night and we could get back going. It just worked out.”
U.S. state and province champions are determined by the best 18 finishes at tracks within the respective state or province.
Joining Tremont as a Division I track champion at Devil’s Bowl Speedway this year was another veteran competitor, Vince Quenneville Jr. The 51-year-old racer stood tall on the asphalt track, winning four times in 13 starts to capture his his second-straight NASCAR Division I track championship by 14 points over Ron Proctor.
“Our year was good. We had a really good car. We had very minimal incidents all year, which was great,” Quenneville said. “
Quenneville didn’t just limit his skills to racing on the asphalt track. He also took his talent to the dirt track at Devil’s Bowl, making history by becoming the first driver to win main events on both surfaces on the same weekend.
“It was a great weekend and at that point I was leading all three, the state and both track championships,” said Quenneville of his historic weekend, which came in late August. “I had a really good year going until the weekend after that on the dirt and then we had four bad weeks and that kind of really took a tole.”
Quenneville accomplished his feat in the nick of time. Mike Bruno, the owner of Devil’s Bowl Speedway, made the announcement in early August that Devil’s Bowl Speeway would focus solely on dirt racing next year.
However, that announcement came with a twist. Instead of shuttering the asphalt track and using just the third-mile dirt track, Bruno intends to cover the half-mile asphalt track with a new dirt surface.
“This decision is something that we have worked hard on for the last three years,” Bruno said in August regarding the decision to focus on dirt racing. “This is very bittersweet for me and my family. We have always loved asphalt racing and we are very proud of what we have accomplished during our six years at Devil’s Bowl. We will always be grateful for the support of our drivers and teams across all of our divisions through the good times and the bad times. Unfortunately, we feel that asphalt racing is heading in the wrong direction in this region and we have to make a change. We are excited to turn the page and start fresh with a brand new dirt track at Devil’s Bowl and build toward the future.”
Quenneville, whose No. 78 carried sponsorship from Black Diamond Builders, admits he’ll be sorry to see the asphalt track at Devil’s Bowl go, but he understands why Bruno was forced to make the decision.
“I think for the track to survive, the dirt is where it has to go,” Quenneville said. “I was a dirt racer. I started on the dirt, I raced at Devil’s Bowl on the dirt for years. I won a championship there on the dirt (in 2003). I have no problem with going back to dirt, but we had really finally had our asphalt program where it needed to be. We were serious contenders every week.
“So it’s a little bit disheartening on that part, but I completely understand where it’s going and why it has to go there. I have no problem supporting it. I’m very good on the dirt too.”
Tremont, meanwhile, is looking forward to the new challenge that the half-mile dirt oval will present in 2018.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Tremont said. “I actually enjoyed the pavement. The pavement track was great too, it just hard trouble drawing cars. The car count was down as far as the pavement side went. So I understand the move.
“It should be better racing. Not as tight, less accidents. I’m for it.”
Both Quenneville and Tremont were honored during NASCAR HomeTracks Awards on Dec. 8 at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Quenneville has had the honor of attending the ceremony a few times, but Tremont will get to experience for the first time.
“It’s really professional compared to what I’m use too actually. I’m impressed and I’m glad to be involved in it really,” Tremont said. “Your name is forever linked with NASCAR for winning a state championship, which is neat. Then winding it all up at the end of the year with a big banquet at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, everything about it is really exciting.”
Kenny Tremont Jr. won the dirt title at Devil's Bowl Speedway and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Vermont championship. Michael John Pierce