MacRITCHIE TAKES SIP FROM GOVERNOR'S CUP by Justin St. Louis
Thunder Road Continues a Late Model Tradition
For the first time since 1988, Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl held the Vermont Governor's Cup Thursday night. Whether it was the unseasonably cool air, the beginning of Barre, Vermont's annual Homecoming Weekend, or a newly-rekindled sense of tradition, something sparked the Late Model division for the 100-lap event. American-Canadian Tour (ACT) young gun Cooper MacRitchie and veteran racer Dennis Demers waged a see-saw battle for nearly the entire distance, unofficially trading the lead at least a dozen a times, including two or three times per lap on occasion.
"I ran him as hard as I dared to," said a tired Demers. "It was an exciting race, we were side-by-side a lot. I thought it was fun."
Third-place finisher Chad Wheeler saw his seat behind the lead battle as the best one in the house.
"That was a fun race to watch," Wheeler laughed. "The way they beat the hell out of each other, I figured I'd be in first place in no time. I really had nothing for those guys, I was just keeping up. Cooper did a great job hanging on up there."
An intense door-to-door battle for fourth place by ACT Late Model Tour point leader Dave Pembroke and Pete Fecteau ended in Pembroke's favor.
"My guys worked on the car all week while I was on vacation," said Pemborke. "I think that's what they needed, is for me to be gone and out of their way. That's the best the car has been since the second race this year when we got in that big wreck."
The Governor's Cup is what everyone was after in Vermont on Thursday night. (Justin St. Louis / 51 Photos)
MacRitchie's #3 ride.
"There was nowhere to run, and I ran out of time. We picked up a bunch of points tonight, though, so it was good for us."
Jamie Fisher finished seventh, just ahead of Joey Laquerre, who slapped the wall on lap 90. Laquerre felt Fisher was to blame.
"I don't know what that was all about," he said, "but I hit so hard it bent the headrest and rib support on my seat. The spring is touching the frame rail, too. I have no idea why Jamie did that."
MacRitchie used Thunder Road's infamous outside groove to battle Demers, taking the lead for good with 30 laps remaining, then cruising to a relatively calm victory during the final 20 circuits. The easy ending was something of a relief for MacRitchie, who, with the help of Demers, nearly bounced off the "Widowmaker" wall a number of times, and was often forced to run the ragged upper edge of the track's high side.
"You have to be patient here, especially when you're the guy on the outside," said MacRitchie following the win. "I never get upset out there, I just stay focused. I needed that tonight."
MacRitchie said that while he worked hard to fend off Demers' old-school style, he wasn't taken by surprise by the veteran's tactics.
"When you run against somebody every week, you know what they're going to do. You know who's going to run you where, and I expected Dennis to push me up a little bit. It's okay, that's just how he races. I had to work for it, but I held on."
Fecteau wished he had another handful of laps to finish what he started.
"I'm quite sure I would have passed Pembroke if I had another lap," he said. "I don't know if would have had the leaders, though. That was a long race - I was up and down, up and down, and outside for every bit of it."
Thunder Road point leader and defending "King of the Road" Cris Michaud finished in sixth place, but also believes he could have done more.
Former Thunder Road Memorial Day Classic winners Trampas Demers and Joey Becker rounded out the Top 10 finishers.
MacRitchie felt an immediate sense of pride as he looked at the Governor's Cup trophy, a new silver cup that bears the names of every past champion, and will rotate winner to winner each year.
"It's pretty cool to win this race and have my name on that trophy with all those other guys. Robbie Crouch, Bobby Dragon, all of them. I don't usually make a big deal out of trophies, but that one is cool."