BARRE – The Memorial Day Classic proved to be one of the most spectacular in the iconic event’s illustrious career. One-hundred-and-twenty-four cars flooded the Thunder Road pit area ranging from the top oval track masters of the Green Mountain State to some of the most nationally recognized names in Tour-type Modifieds. In the end, five drivers took down wins to be crowned on Memorial Day Weekend headlined by the victorious return of the “King of Barre” to Thunder Road victory lane and a longtime racer from Ellington, Conn., getting his second major Modified win of 2023.
The Street Stocks kicked off the afternoon feature racing action with 30 four-cylinder masters taking to the high banks. Williamstown’s Josh Lovely proved he was the class of the field with a nearly half-a-track lead until the lap 21 caution, which ruined a strong run on the outside for defending champion Dean Switser Jr., after lapped traffic had been plaguing the top-10 runners. The final restart set up a dogfight between Lovely and former Street Stock champion Jeffrey Martin with time running out. Although Martin had put the outside groove to good use, Josh Lovely’s rocket was the first across the line with fan-favorite Juan “Paco” Marshall rounding out victory lane. Patrick Tibbetts and Kyle Gravel would complete the top-five finishers.
Twenty-three Late Models jumped in for a chance to win the iconic Memorial Day Classic and have their name etched in granite at Thunder Road. Second-generation drivers Scott Dragon and Chris Roberts led the field to green, quickly leading a top-seven breakaway at the front of the pack. Dragon’s early run came to an abrupt end after his rear-end grenaded leaving the lead to Nick Sweet. Sweet, the multi-time Thunder Road champion, had only made the snap decision the night before to join the event after crew-chiefing for Eric Chase and Bryan Wall Jr. at White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday night and was now fending off defending Memorial Day Classic winner Stephen Donahue.
Donahue would better his position on the lap 70 restart following a scuffle between Cooper Bouchard and Darrell Morin. Rim-riding the Widowmaker frontstretch wall, Stephen Donahue would lead from the outside lane over Sweet until lap 90 with Sweet regaining the top spot once again. Marcel Gravel would join the top-three picture after methodically battling his way up to take on Sweet, but time and laps ran out.
Nick Sweet earned his second career Memorial Day Classic and his 25th career late model win at Thunder Road after pulling an all-nighter to prepare the car, including an engine swap that they had first fired at 6 a.m., Sunday morning. The “King of Barre” returned to victory lane followed by his old rival, fellow former King of the Road Derrick O’Donnell, the “Black Night of the White Mountains.” Marcel Gravel was able to pull off his second-consecutive third-place finish of the young 2023 season with Brooks Clark coming home fourth followed by Stephen Donahue for fifth.
The Flying Tigers once again showcased their position as the Number One Support Division in North America for their Memorial Day feature event. Ty Delphia showed his rear bumper to the rest of the field through the early goings, but it was Jason Pelkey who would take over the lead just before the halfway point. The big-one hit on lap 20 when cars went all sorts of ways in turns three and four, including Brandon Gray, Mike MacAskill and others collected in the melee.
Jason Pelkey would regain the lead and never looked back to take down the holiday weekend victory followed by defending Flying Tiger champion Sam Caron for his second-consecutive runner-up finish in 2023 and Mike Billado to round out the podium. Logan Powers and Cameron Ouellette bounced back to complete the top-five.
To kick-start their tenth anniversary season, the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series returned to Thunder Road for the second annual Granite City 100. Leading NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie Austin Beers and east coast Modified standout Anthony Nocella led the field to green. The duo began the charge until the first caution on lap seven saw longtime New England standout Les Hinkley slam hard into the Widowmaker to come to a standstill at the flagstand, on his side. On the restart, six-time NASCAR champion Doug Coby took over the lead followed by Ronnie Williams, inaugural Granite City 100 winner Chase Dowling, Brian Narducci and Beers.
Williams, winner of the Icebreaker 125 at Thompson Speedway in April, took the lead away just after lap 30 and kept the pace at the front of the field until a lap 70 caution for Beers’ flat right-rear rubber. The leaders flew pit-side for their change tires with almost everyone electing to switch out their hard-used right-rear Hoosier Racing Tires for the final 30-lap sprint. Brian Narducci would call the final yellow flag in the iconic Boehler Racing Ol’ Blue No. 3 with unresponsive steering, leaving Williams to fend off Coby, Mike Christopher Jr., Woody Pitkat and Ron Silk. In the final charge, Ronnie Williams would best the field for his second $10,000 win of the 2023 season with Doug Coby able to take second followed by Woody Pitkat in third. Chris Pasteryak successfully came back from his lap-seven caution to take fourth with Matt Swanson rounding out the top-five.
To wrap up the holiday events on Memorial Day weekend, the Road Warriors entered the arena led by longtime campaigner Jason Kirby and young Ryan Sayers. Kirby would get the jump in his Bobby Dragon-inspired scheme but the pressure was on from Mini-Milk Bowl winner Taylor Sayers. The final caution on lap 23 set up a green-white-checkers between the two as they battled hard side-by-side to the very end. Milton’s Jason Kirby would take his first career Thunder Road win on Memorial Day Weekend followed by Taylor Sayers and Tyler Wheatley earning his first podium at the Speedbowl.
The season of stock car racing at Thunder Road continues in less than two weeks with Vermont’s Career Technical Education Centers and the Agency of Education Night on Friday, June 9. The annual Friday Night Special will feature the New England Supermodified Series as these open-wheeled rockets return to the Barre highbanks. The Late Models, Flying Tigers, Street Stocks and Road Warriors also join in to kick off the weekly summer racing series.
Memorial Day Classic
3. 86VT, Marcel J. Gravel. Wolcott
9. 94VT, Brendan Moodie, Wolcott
Flying Tigers – (40 Laps)
6. 36VT, Joel Hodgdon, Craftsbury Common
26. 5VT, Tyler Austin, East Calais
Street Stocks – (25 Laps)
4. 34, Patrick Tibbetts, Plainfield
5. 5, Kyle Gravel, Wolcott