In May of 2017, the short track racing community lost a promoter and a tremendous human being.
American Canadian Tour Founder and President Tom Curley passed away after a long battle with COPD. One year later, his legacy still lives on. Before he passed away, Cris Michaud and Pat Malone purchased Thunder Road Speedbowl.
Curley was in the sport of auto racing for four decades where he promoted short track racing up and down the East Coast. He ran the old NASCAR North Tour from 1979 until 1985. NASCAR dropped the NASCAR North Series back in 1985. The American Canadian Tour would be formed in 1986.
Joey Kourafas ran on the NASCAR North Tour. Kourafas told 22News that Curley had his own way of doing everything and that it was a little bit different than some.
“He was very successful. The best promoter in the Northeast,” said Kourafas.
Curley was watching what he was doing with the cost and making sure that the competitors didn’t spend any more than he had to.
“He was usually looking out for everyone’s best interest and it was hard to run a tour back in the earlier days like that. He was trying to race two times a week and doing a lot of racing in Canada. He did whatever it took to make the tour successful,” said Kourafas.
For Kourafas to race on the NASCAR North Tour with the people that were attracted to the tour.
“His connections, the people that he knew. The support that he had from everybody. Tom wouldn’t make a rule on his own. He would make a rule and everybody would get behind him and he would enforce those rules,” said Kourafas.
Kourafas told 22News that short track racing will feel Tom Curley’s loss for a long time, “Anybody that is that dedicated to the sport. The entertainer that he was. The pit meetings that he held. When Tom was on your side, things were great and when he wasn’t things were pretty miserable.”
What makes Thunder Road Speedbowl so special according to Kourafas is its fans.
“The fans they have at Thunder Road. They know racing. They live it. You don’t have many fans like that at other tracks around the country, fans that are dedicated. Fans that know that much about racing. When you go to Thunder Road, the track is also different than other tracks. You have the high banks. The high bank tight quarter mile. Not other tracks don’t have walls like the widow maker. They lean out the other way. They can suck you right in. Its a very special track. When you get the hang of it when you get a car that is working there. You can do really a lot of tricks with it with the high banks it allows you to compensate running different lines. Makes different things work. If you’re car is a little loose, you run a different line. If the nose isn’t good, you can run a different line. You can use the track to compensate for an ill-handling car or you can set the car up so that it wants to work with the track. Once you get it, boy its an awful lot of fun to drive on that track .”
The NASCAR North Tour was a very competitive series back in the day where you had Dick McCabe, Robbie Crouch, Jean-Paul Cabana, Junior Hanley, Beaver and Bobby Dragon. The list is never-ending. They would run a week of North vs. South where the top 10 drivers in points from the NASCAR Busch Series which is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series would come up and run against the NASCAR North drivers.
“If you took all the greatest drivers out of Maine and the greatest drivers out of Vermont and the greatest drivers out of Mass and the influx of Canadians that came down. The great Canadian racers we had to race against.”
“Not only was it special as far as that went. It was special. You had (Robbie) Crouch (Dave) Dion, The list would go on and on. When you had 20 cars out there, what I felt were was racing against 20 of the best racers in New England and obviously when you get that much talent on a race track, they are going to put on a great show and the fans are going to love it,” said Kourafas.
Bobby Therrien is the defending champion King Of Road Champion in the Irving/Maplewood Late Models at Thunder Road. Therrien told 22News that a little over a year later, Tom Curley’s loss is still felt.
“What’s helped it is with Cris (Michaud) and Pat Malone have revamped this place. Its really a good thing coming in as a racer to see the owners are invested in the place. Its a lot of fun coming back here. I obviously got my roots here right from go-karts coming through the ladder series that Tom (Curley) built,” said Therrien.
Joey Polewarczyk, Jr was the winner of the Pro All Star Series Super Late Model event just a couple weeks ago. He told 22News that he still feels Curley’s loss.
“Tom was always around with racing and things like that but he was always around in my life and like personal things. We talk about things that had nothing to do with racing. He just meant a lot to me,” said Polewarczyk, Jr.
Scott Dragon has raced in the Late Model division as well as the American Canadian Tour. Dragon told 22News that Tom Curley taught a lot of the older guys the right way to do things.
“Cris Michaud the new owner learned from Tom. Things pretty much feel the same other than Tom not being here. He touched a lot of us,” said Dragon.
Dragon told 22News that Tom Curley’s driver’s meetings were interesting.
Trampas Demers races in the Late Model division at Thunder Road. He told 22News that Curley’s loss is felt as a whole but not so much at Thunder Road because the new owners are doing an excellent job.
“Tom had a vision to keep cars and have quality cars show up with quantity. Tom saw a vision a long time ago way before it was a vision about racing these ACT late models and the spec rules that he put in so I think thats the lasting impact that short track racing in America is gonna feel,” said Demers.
Matt White races in the Late Model Division at Thunder Road as well as some races on the American Canadian Tour. He told 22News that Curley’s loss is definitely huge.
“Tom was just one of those people. When he was around I mean everybody like-minded their p’s and q’s a little bit more. He was great for the local short track racing. I always loved to impress him. He was a hard guy to impress. Then when you finally did impress him, like wow we did something good today. The track is definitely doing just fine with him gone. I definitely think it would’ve been nice to have him around,” said White.
The American Canadian Tour late models have grown over the last few years. A lot of the short tracks in the region for their late models run under the American Canadian Tour rules.
“There great cars. Seems everywhere we go, our car counts are still strong. We’re getting 30, 35 cars and those are good numbers. A lot of the other divisions or series are struggling a little bit and it seems like we pull it together. The price of them there still expensive cars, for the most part, it just seems like its a little more affordable for the local racer,” said White.
White told 22News that he believes Curley changed the racing for the better all around.
“Everywhere he went, the racing was always good. Way back in the tour days and to recent. We all race different because of him. You go to our ACT (American Canadian Tour) races and it seems like we stay off each other more. Were not so aggressive like some of the other series. We have some good racers,” said White.