His cars are still numbered with #55VT and he is still listed as the owner of record. But something is very different for Brent Dragon during his 2011 ACT Late Model Tour campaign.
Sometimes, Dragon has a new ride. He joined up with the Avery Motorsports team over the off-season succeeding Ben Rowe, who had driven part-time for the New Hampshire-based operation for the past several seasons. In some races though, Dragon is back behind the wheel of his own car. In all races though, he is sporting the same number and official car owner as part of a two-teams-as-one philosophy.
So far, that is working out pretty well too. After four events on the 2011 schedule, Dragon sits third in the standings - behind two-time defending Tour champion Brian Hoar and Late Model standout John Donahue.
After finishing third in the recent ACT event at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), Dragon was quick to point out that while the actual racecars might be different and who owns what might vary from week-to-week, the teammates that he has are the same weather he is running the car out of the Avery's shop or the one that he owns himself.
“These guys have been with us when we run our car and a couple of our guys have come when we run their car,” explained Dragon. “It's worked really well. Everyone works really hard and we've had good cars every week. It's really starting to show. I think that we are getting better and better every week and we're only going to get even better from here.”
The unique structure of Dragon's team was born out of necessity. During the off-seaosn of 2010-2011, Dragon appeared to be cutting back to just a partial schedule. He might have contended for championships year in and year out, but commitments away from the track cut back the number of crew members that he had left in his corner. There just wasn't enough help to field a full-time team anymore.
That's when the Avery family stepped in. They were looking for a new driver after parting ways with Rowe. Once Dragon became a bit of a free agent, their decision was easy. Dragon's decision to join the team was easy too, as the team formerly numbered as #10NH has won multiple events on the ACT schedule with Rowe behind the wheel. What wasn't quite so easy was adjusting to a new situation.
“It was a little tough the first week and then it got to be much better,” said Dragon. “It was the second or third time when we got used to it. It was hard for me to show up at the track with just a duffle bag. I wasn't used to that. I wasn't used to not knowing what was in the car. But the Averys have prepared a really good car and that's all we can ask for.”
Despite how well things are working out for him this year, Dragon doesn't think that other drivers and teams will be following suit by doing the same thing. What works for him might not be ideal for everyone after all.
“No, I don't think so,” said Dragon. “I had a deal where was only going to run six or seven races this year because I was short on crew. These guys offered to run six or seven races to make up the Tour with their crew. That worked out for us. But I don't see that happening much on the Tour. It's pretty affordable racing and I don't think it will be a standard.”
One crew member that Dragon doesn't get to see much is one of the most visible guys. David Avery was the original driver for the team before yielding his seat to Rowe due to back problems. Avery was a fairly talented driver himself, even having a shot to win the Oxford 250 a few years back. But this season, he's been keeping busy closer to one of the family business - the racetrack of White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH).
“We never see David,” laughed Dragon. “He's been busy with his fried dough machine. He's got it at the racetrack in White Mountain. But [his father] Donny [Avery] has been here almost every week. They've been really good to work with and are really good guys.”
Ironically, the next race on the ACT schedule could be a really good one for both Dragon and his team. It's White Mountain - where the shop is located and where Dragon has already won at before.
“That's always been one of my favorite racetracks,” said Dragon. “Now it might be my favorite track for sure. We're looking forward to racing there in a couple of weeks now. It will be our next race with this car and we are all looking forward to it.”
The ACT Late Model event at White Mountain Motorsports Park is scheduled for this Saturday night, June 18th.