Barre – To complete a rain-free weekend in central Vermont, the sights and sounds of Barre’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl went off without a hitch on Sunday for the 45th Labor Day Classic. The American-Canadian Tour once again put on an international showdown while the weekly warriors of the Thunder Road highbanks wowed the large crowd.
Under the command of Robert Catchapaw and Kevin Wheatley, the Road Warriors led the pace for the first feature event of the afternoon. Wheatley quickly took over but it was Frank Putney in the “Unofficial Thunder Road Pacecar” that stole the show on lap-3. The caution for a slashing 03 across the front stretch sent both Catchapaw and Windsor Hodgdon into the turn-two wall and restarted Nate “Tater” Brien alongside Putney. A second caution for Corey Martin’s smack into the turn-one tire barrier set up a new showdown between Putney and young-gun Karsen Murphy. In the end, the veterans schooled the Northfield Marauder with Frank Putney taking the victory over Nate Brien and Murphy.
With Thomas Peck and Scott Weston showing the way, the Street Stocks slowed early on lap-one as Taylor Hoar slammed into the turn-four wall ending her day. Back under green the Crunch Bunch continued to thrash with Weston going around in turn-four, collecting point leaders James Dopp and Cam Powers among others. Finally, under a long green flag run, Peck ran away at the front as Trevor Jaques and Dean Switser Jr. attempted to make space mid-pack as laps wound down. Thomas Peck triumphantly took down his first career win in front of the packed holiday crowd after starting in the four-cylinder Street Stock ranks back in 2017. Haidyn Pearce and Trevor Jaques completed the winner’s circle podium.
Outside pole sitter Luke Peters began to slide back early in the Flying Tigers making an interesting chase out front. Pole-sitter Matt Ballard made it look easy as he extended his lead while Tyler Pepin and Robert Gordon dug deep to reel him in. Cooper French came from an early slide to rim-ride the outside lane around the top-five, setting his sights on Ballard. Slowly but surely catching up to his top adversary, French came to within a fender-length under the white flag with lap-traffic playing a hand ahead. The Northfield kid took one last shot at the win but time ran out even as Ballard’s right rear sliced off Craig Bushey’s fender to send him sideways across the line. Ballard’s win would be stripped in tech for an unapproved clutch assembly giving Cooper French his first-career Flying Tiger win with Tyler Pepin in second and Kevin Streeter in third.
After leading the pack with his plus-two in the Mighty Mini Stock Tour heat races, Kevin Boucher led the field to green alongside Kodi Sabins. Boucher kept the early charge going but increased heat from Cody LeBlanc kept the pressure on through the halfway point. LeBlanc would take charge just after the crossed flags and never looked back en-route to Thunder Road victory lane with Kodi Sabins and Kevin Boucher joining the podium.
After two rounds of qualifying, Brandon Lanphear and Darrell Morin brought the field to green with both sharing the lime-light as an ACT lap leader at their home track. With former King of the Road track champions Chris Pelkey and Bobby Therrien quickly joining the scene, Lanphear and Morin continued to battle hard for the top spot. Therrien would overtake on lap 38 as the Thunder Road heroes continued to show-up the touring stars.
Although Pelkey and Therrien swapped the lead on several restart periods, it was Therrien’s race through and through. Even as the American-Canadian Tour championship battle between Gabe Brown and D.J. Shaw got hot and heavy behind them, Therrien, Pelkey, Marcel Gravel, Kaiden Fisher and Kyle Pembroke proved seat-time and experience are the ultimate aid at Thunder Road.
After a wild ride for longtime Thunder Road ladder-climber Jaden Perry on top of the turn-one tire wall, Gravel and Therrien fought hard on the restart. Ultimately, it was just a one-man game. After subbing in for Governor Phil Scott during this summer’s State of Emergency following the unprecedented July flooding, Bobby Therrien took all his 2023 experience to a second Labor Day Classic 200 win in victory lane. Marcel Gravel and Kaiden Fisher rounded out the podium.
American-Canadian Tour – 45th Labor Day Classic (200 Laps)
2. 86VT. Marcel J. Gravel, Wolcott
14. 94VT, Brendan Moodie, Wolcott
25. 92VT, Jaden Perry, Hardwick
29. 01VT, Stephen Martin, Craftsbury Common
Flying Tigers – (40 Laps)
20. 23VT, Matthew Potter, Marshfield
Street Stocks – (25 Laps)
10. 34, Patrick Tibbetts, Plainfield
11. 5, Kyle Gravel, Wolcott