BARRE – With a quickly turned-around and rescheduled night of racing at Thunder Road following SRX’s cancellation, the Central Vermont community returned to The Nation’s Site of Excitement in droves for First Responders Appreciation Night on July 20. The night gave way with four new winners in the 2023 season and four action-packed feature races to restart the Thunder Road championship season.
The Flying Tigers started the night off with fender-banging action at the front of the pack. After just one lap, contact between Matt Ballard and Phil Potvin started a chain reaction pile-up in Turn Three that ended the day for Cooper French with a blown radiator. On the restart Logan Powers got the quick lead over top rookie Tyler Pepin as the field stretched out behind him. A spectacular side-by-side battle from sixth through twelfth saw Mike MacAskill using the outside groove to his advantage with top runners Jason Pelkey, Rich Lowrey and Sam Caron in tow.
As the field stayed green, Pelkey began to work on third-place runner Chris LaForest as Jason Woodard dug deep and pulled up to leader Powers’ bumper under the two-to-go “popsicle stick” flags. Getting quite the drive off turn two, Woodard pulled up alongside Powers on the outside before powering up to lead the white flag lap and coming back to take his first Thunder Road win since July of 2021. Logan Powers would take second after leading the majority of the feature event with Jason Pelkey rounding out the podium in third.
The wild and wacky Road Warriors put on the show of the evening in their 20-lap dash. Milton’s Easton Garvey got the jump under the green flag while the field stacked up behind him but kept it green. Chaos would ensue up and down the 20-car field as drivers did the best with what they had underneath them. Tyler Wheatley took over the lead just three laps in with David Wilder taking the Mystery Machine into second-position as he bobbed and weaved through several rolling roadblocks. Brookfield Volunteer Firefighter Tyler Wheatley would use his lead to take his first ever Thunder Road win on First Responders Appreciation Night with David Wilder and Frank Putney in the Unofficial Thunder Road pace car rounding out the podium.
The Street Stocks stormed the field with longtime veterans Mike “The Biffer” Gay and Scott Weston at the helm. Barre rookie Logan Farrell was getting a lesson behind the leaders before Weston started dropping back and Farrell took a charge to the outside. For the first 15 laps Farrell looked like a seasoned pilot out beside the Biffer but smoke started to pour from underneath his Ford Mustang. The caution on lap 19 for a spinning Kyle Gravel on the backstretch confirmed the worst and Farrell was sent from his second-place position to the pits, after leading laps on the outside, with oil gushing from underneath his powerplant.
Biffer would edge out Chris Davis on the restart but a huge hit into the Widowmaker frontstretch wall for Gravel and Jaime Davis brought out the final caution to stack the field once again. One final showdown between Biffer and Haidyn Pearce would see the No. 3 head for the front and lead the field under the checkered flags. An ecstatic Mike Gay returned to Thunder Road victory lane followed by Chris Davis, bouncing back from a hard heat race wreck on Midseason Championships night, and Pearce to round out the top-three.
The Late Models were on hand to wrap up the night’s racing action with their 50-lap feature. Lead to green by Cooper Bouchard and Justin Prescott, Bouchard would stretch out his lead quickly as the battle for fifth became the hot ticket. After working each other for over twenty-laps, Brandon Lanphear finally took the position from Chris Roberts before defending champion Chris Pelkey used the outside to overtake Lanphear. The first, and only, caution came with the spinning Jean-Paul Cyr blocking off turn four.
On the restart Bouchard punched the gas to power away from outside starter Tyler Cahoon as desperation set in for the rest of the pack behind them. As laps wound down, Nick Sweet dove under Bobby Therrien and Marcel Gravel in turn three while Cody Blake would use the same move on Scott Dragon and Stephen Donahue just two laps later. While the top champion chasers worked it out behind him, Cooper Bouchard would take his first win of the season followed by Darrell Morin and Cahoon.
Late Models – (50 Laps)
12. 86VT, Marcel J. Gravel, Wolcott
15. 01VT, Stephen Martin, Craftsbury Common
Flying Tigers – (40 Laps)
15. 93FL, Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
19. 22VT, Travis Patnoe, Wolcott
Street Stocks – (25 Laps)
8. 34, Patrick Tibbetts, Plainfield
27. 5, Kyle Gravel, Wolcott