The Hardwick Gazette

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Thunder Road Season Wraps Up with Annual Banquet of Champions

photo by Alan Ward
2022 King of the Road, Late Model Champion Christopher Pelkey joins the 63-year list of top track champions at one of the most iconic speedways in the Northeast.

BARRE – The top runners of the 2022 American-Canadian Tour and Thunder Road seasons were honored with the annual Banquet of Champions in Barre on Saturday. Over 300 drivers, team members, family and series staff flooded into the Barre Elks Club to celebrate the season’s accomplishments with over $75,000 in point funds and contingency awards released to the weekly warriors of Thunder Road and the touring teams of the American-Canadian Tour.

Alongside the top-10 drivers and rookies in each Thunder Road division, including the Flying Tiger Triple Crown Series, several special awards were received by some individuals that call the Barre track home on Thursday nights. Among them, Justin “El Chopo” Blakely was awarded the Ed Carroll Sportsmanship Award for the Street Stocks for his comradery among his four-cylinder peers and stepping up to assist American-Canadian Tour events at Thunder Road and White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H., 2022.

photo by Alan Ward
ACT Director of Competition Pete Knights (right) delivers the ACT Crew Chief of the Year award to Andrew Cimonetti (left), leader of the Ford Mustang piloted by D.J. Shaw.

Fellow Street Stocker Luke Peters was awarded the annual Most Improved Driver award for the weekly track after taking huge strides in his sophomore year to end up fourth in overall points and stealing away the season ending Mini Milk Bowl in October. Dean Switser Jr. received his Street Stock Championship hardware, thanking his family for the support needed to tackle one of the most competitive four-cylinder divisions in the Northeast.

Along with his Flying Tiger Championship hardware, Milton’s Sam Caron was awarded the Thunder Road Sportsmanship Award by Head Technical Inspector Chuck Beede for his consistent good spirits, fun attitude and willingness to help others in his division and beyond. Top Flying Tiger rookie Kaiden Fisher was awarded the Doc Nielsen Award for an outstanding run in his inaugural season, tackling the top support division at both Thunder Road and White Mountain Motorsports Park in a grueling 31-event stretch.

photo by Alan Ward
Street Stock Champion Dean Switser Jr. was officially awarded his 2022 Championship trophy.

Thunder Road’s most illustrious award, the Ken Squier Award for contributions to the iconic Barre Speedbowl was given to longtime staff members Eric and Brooke Wright. Along with completing the best track safety crew in the Northeast, these brothers are seen across the racetrack property throughout the summer tackling all the projects that help make Thunder Road stand out among the crowd.

2022 King of the Road, Late Model champion Christopher Pelkey rounded out the Thunder Road portion of the ceremony with his season-ending championship speech. Highlighting the strengths of his crew and family, especially the team wives, Pelkey took time to thank everyone along the length of his career on the Barre highbanks that helped elevate him to the top. He takes great pride in having the family business etch his name in the granite monuments at Thunder Road and is looking forward to next season.

On the American-Canadian Tour side, Groveton, N.H.’s Shawn Swallow received the 2022 Most Improved Driver award after advancing his career best points finish and coming up just short of his first win in amazing fashion at this year’s Labor Day Classic behind D.J. Shaw. A banner year for the Granite Stater promises much to come in the seasons ahead.

photo by Alan Ward
Car-owner Arnold Hill (left) and driver D.J. Shaw (right) celebrate the 2022 American-Canadian Tour Championship.

Speaking of Shaw, both D.J. and car owner Arny Hill were in attendance to accept their first ACT Championship honors. While the soft-spoken Hill opted out of the acceptance speech, a very grateful Shaw thanked the team, his fellow drivers and the series itself and hinted that his ACT days are far from over. The Ford Mustang team leader Andrew Cimonetti was given the Crew Chief of the Year award by ACT Director of Competition Pete Knights after posting top-ten finishes in all 13 events partnered with Shaw and Hill, showing his strength to overcome the obstacles and changing conditions of new tracks throughout the year.

photo by Alan Ward
Longtime Thunder Road and ACT car owner Richard Green (left) earned the honor of joining the Thomas M. Curley Memorial Award, presented here by ACT and Thunder Road managing partner Cris Michaud (right).

Sophomore touring driver Erick Sands from Derry, N.H., earned the 2022 ACT Sportsmanship Award for being the light of any pit area with his can-do attitude who enjoyed all the successes, both small and large. ACT Rookie of the Year Alexendre Tardif was also awarded for his successful inaugural season that saw him in victory five times with podium finishes across the Northeast. Tardif is also the first ever American-Canadian Tour rookie to hail from Quebec and the first Canadian rookie since Ontario’s Kim Wallace took the honors back in 1992.

photo by Alan Ward
Flying Tiger Champion Sam Caron (left) is also awarded the Thunder Road Sportsmanship Award from Head Technical Inspector Chuck Beede (right).

To end the evening’s award ceremony, American-Canadian Tour and Thunder Road managing partner Cris Michaud joined the stage to gift longtime car owner Richard Green the 2022 Thomas M. Curley Memorial Award. In the vein of longtime Northeast promoter, the Memorial was awarded to Green for his contributions to the Thunder Road late model program over the last 20-plus years as he grew from humble beginnings to make his team the car to beat week in and week out. An emotional Green thanked his longtime crew for their support and success as a proud member of the Thunder Road family.

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