Milton, Vermont, Catamount Ghosts, Joey Pole, Ben Rowe and Much, Much More
A TOUGH ROAD TO THE TITLE FOR CYR
Jean-Paul Cyr clinched his sixth ACT championship at The Milk Bowl by finishing 27th. That was enough to end the season with a 48-point margin of victory over Dave Pembroke for the title.
Getting to that 27th-place finish wasn’t easy.
“It was a bad day at the office,” said Cyr. Nothing seemed to go right today. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. We really couldn’t get a handle on the car. When you’re driving hard, things happen.”
Things definitely did happen for Cyr – and they weren’t good things. In segment one, he tangled in turn four with Jay Laquerre. The contact looked minor, but Cyr’s #32 slowed and pulled into the infield as the caution came out. Moments later, Cyr pulled back out the track and radioed his crew that his had injured his wrist in the incident.
“It’s pretty sore,” said Cyr after the race. “I think that it is a just sprain. We’ll have it X-Rayed in the morning. And see what we have.”
The team considered using a substitute driver for the next two segments. Busch East driver Brian Hoar, who was at the race as a spectator, was even paged over the PA system with the hopes of him being able to get into the car. But Cyr decided against a driver change and toughed it out.
“We thought about it. But the wrist really wasn’t hindering me a whole lot out on the track. I really just wanted to finish out my season.”
The finish to the season was a rough one. Cyr soldiered on to finish 13th in segment one and 25th in segment two, but with just three laps to go in the final segment, he got together with a gaggle of cars and went off the turn one banking, flipping his car and coming to a rest on his roof.
Cyr was uninjured, but done for the day.
“That [flip] was probably the easiest part of the day,” Cyr said.
A VERY GOOD DAY FOR MILTON, VERMONT
Cyr brought the championship trophy back to Milton,
...but he ended the day winning the ACT championship anyways. (Leif Tillotson
“They are awesome,” said Dragon of his townspeople. “Everyone in the town [supports us]. We do a lot of stuff with the schools and it is a big deal. They’ve been behind us and I’m sure that this will help it even more. I’m excited.”
Milton’s role in the history of stock car racing is more than just a home for drivers. While the Dragon family (most notably Brent, his father Beaver, his uncle Bobby and cousin Scott) has represented the town well by winning races throughout the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada, the town much more racing history. From 1965 to 1987, it was the home of Catamount Stadium, a track which hosted some great events through the years with drivers like Dave Dion, Jean-Paul Cabana, Randy LaJoie, Kevin Lepage, Lennie Stockwell (father of Busch East driver Kip Stockwell) and of course various members of the Dragon family racing there throughout the years.
“Catamount Stadium bred some good racers and it continues on today here at Thunder Road and on the ACT Tour,” said Payea, who might only be 26 years old, but still knows the place that Catamount holds in local racing history. “I remember going there when I was this big. My Dad raced there and I definitely remember going there when I was little.”
Brent Dragon did more than just watch racing there.
A racecar pulls through the frontgate of Milton, Vermont's Catamont Speedway over 20 years ago. The track is now gone, but the town still contributes to the sport of short track racing. (CatamountStadium.com Photo)
“The trailing arm bracket actually broke off,” said Polewarczyk. “It had broken off two laps before [dropping out] and I was just trying to baby it home. The car was just awesome and we wanted to finish that great run. It’s unfortunate, but there’s always next week.”
Despite the broken racecar, Pole and his team still left the track with their heads high.
“It really does give us confidence because we know that we can do it. We’re going to try and be there every
week. We’ve got a good car, a good crew and a good set-up underneath it, so I just need to drive it.
“So far this year, everything has just gelled. Once we starting catching some breaks, hopefully we can start backing these runs up with good finishes.”
“I got to race the very last race that they ever had there in a car that a guy gave me to use,” said Dragon. “I can’t even tell you what happened [in that race]. I wish that it was still there. It’s about five or six miles from my house.”
Unfortunately, Catamount Stadium is now gone and is currently the site of an Industrial Park. For more on storied history of the track, you can visit www.catamountstadium.com
JOEY POLE TURNS HEADS AT MILK BOWL
When 17-year-old Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. (known in these parts as simply ‘Joey Pole’) set fast time for The Milk Bowl, he raised some eyebrows.
When Pole won the first segment, ran strong all day and finished third in the grueling race, he really turned some heads.
“This was such a big thing,” said Pole of his finish. “It is incredible. I came here before in 1996 to watch my Dad. Now we were in it, we got the pole and we got a podium finish.”
Pole brushed the frontstretch wall in the second segment and got trapped behind some spinning cars (which led to him spinning) in the third segment – sending him to the rear of the field early on. But even with those obstacles, Pole never gave up hope.
“We weren’t going to give up,” said Pole. “We still knew that we had a slim chance of winning.”
Having a break between segments helped when Pole hit
the wall. During the break, he was able to check the front-end of his black #97 machine.
“It was a little off, but it was okay that it wasn’t perfect,” said Pole. “The car was still good.
“That wall still jumps out and grabs me. In that second segment, we had gotten by Brent and I thought that we were looking good. But before I knew it, we were in the wall. It didn’t realize affect us because there were only two laps to go.”
The final incident, in which Pole was just an innocent victim, set the stage for Pole to make his way back through the field.
“I was disappointed when that happened and we went to the back, but I knew that my Dad had put a great set-up under the car and we went to the outside. We ended up finishing third in the Milk Bowl, so it all worked out.”
Joey Pole checks out the front end of his car between segments. (51 Photo)
Cyr pulled into the infield with an injured wrist early on in The Milk Bowl... (51 Photo)
Brent Dragon (R) calls Milton home. (51 Photo)
MORE ROTTEN LUCK FOR LAPERLE
The summer has not been kind for Patrick Laperle. Before 2006, he had been replaced a front clip on one of his racecars. This year, he took out two – one in an ACT race at Oxford and the other on his Super Late Model in a heat race for the PASS 300. He also had a premature exit from the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford and at The Milk Bowl.
“It’s been a bad day, bad year,” said Laperle. “Everything has happened to me, but it’s always like that. You have one good year and then one bad year. They say it’s racing, but it makes me sick.”
On Sunday, he finished third in the first segment, but had trouble in the second segment after the field was inverted.
“We had a good car in the first segment. In the next one, we changed the rear tire and the car got looser and looser. They checked up in front of me and I ran into the back of Trampas Demers and that was it for us.”
Laperle still has one more chance to change his luck this season. He’ll race in the Thanksgiving weekend Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston…but you might not recognize him there.
“I’m going to change the color of the car for South Boston. We need to do something. [for better luck].”
FIRST EQUALS FOURTH FOR PAYEA
A victory in the final 50-lap segment of the Milk Bowl moved Scott Payea up from a tie for eighth after two rounds of racing to third-place in the final race rundown. It a result that he was very happy about.
“To win a segment in the Milk Bowl. That’s a good feeling,” Said Payea. “It would have been nice to have had a couple of other good segments to go with it though. We really only had one bad segment, but that’s what you need to avoid. One segment will drag you down.
“We had a really good car in that last segment. We made some pretty major adjustments for the last one and really went after them.”
Overall, Payea was very pleased with the way that the day went.
“It’s a tough race, but looking at our car now all of the
panels are in the right places. It’s not all torn up like most of these guys. So we made out really well.
“Two years in a row, we finished fourth. This race has a lot of history and it’s a lot of fun. So we’re excited to do well in it.”
LAQUERRE WINS A SEGMENT TOO
Joining Pole and Payea as segment winners was the driver of the #50 machine, Jay Laquerre. The second segment was his domain as the Vermont driver won that portion of the event over Craig Bushey.
“It’s all good,” said Laquerre. “It’s good to win a segment and then start up front. I had a clean track to run it, so that helped out. We were fighting a tight condition all day long and we were adjusting on that.”
The rest of the day was an uphill battle for Laquerre. Handling and overheating problems left him 22nd overall.
“We just didn’t have any luck. With this Milk Bowl, you need to have good luck.”
But winning a segment did serve as a bright spot in the day.
“It makes up for it. It definitely does. It helped me and
the guys. We put a lot of effort into doing stuff and it’s all about having fun. That’s why we are here.”
MICHAUD TAKES RUNNER-UP SPOT
After a rocky start in this year’s Milk Bowl [he finished 12th in segment one], Cris Michaud was very happy to come back and finish second overall.
“We are - especially after the first segment,” said Michaud. “We had to come in and make an adjustment early and that put us back to 30th. We had to work our way back up. For what we went through today and how hard these guys had to work on the car, it worked out good.”
The triple 50-lap format of the race, along with its inversion rules, worked into Michaud’s favor this year. He’s got a ton of laps around the tricky track and is a previous track champion, so he knows what he is doing out there.
“I like it. We race here on Thursday nights and we always start somewhere around 16th-20th on a Thursday night. We’re used to working our way to the front and that’s what we had to do.”
Michaud didn’t give up hope of taking the overall victory until the checkered flag waved. You might have though that he was keep tabs on third-place finish Joey Pole, who was in his mirror as the laps clicked down in the final segment, but that wasn’t the case at all.
“To be honest with you, I was focusing on Brent. In this race, besides the money, second and 30th are about the same. I was focused on the win. I really wanted to get him.”
DRAGON GETS A HANG OF T-ROAD
Early in his racing career, Thunder Road was not a place that was kind to Brent Dragon. But that has all changed lately.
“I’ve struggled at this place for years,” said the winner of the Milk Bowl. “In the last two years, we finally figured something out and know what we have to do here. It’s all come together.”
DEMERS QUIETLY RIDES TO FIFTH…UH…SIXTH
Veteran Dennis Demers was very consistent all day long at Thunder Road and finished in a tie for the fifth position. Since ties are broken by the highest finish of the final segment, he actually ended up slipping to sixth in the final rundown behind Jamie Fisher.
“I’ve done better than that, but I’ve never won it either,” said Demers. “So I’m with what we ended up with. We thought at one point that we could pull it off, but Brent had a really good car. We could see him coming. But a top five is good. You’ve got to think about where it started. There were 63 cars and you had to beat a lot of
cars just to get it the race. Then to finish fifth in a very difficult race is pretty good.”
ROWE SUBS HIS WAY INTO THE MILK BOWL
Ben Rowe won four ACT Late Model events in 2006 during his free time away from the PASS North Super Late Model Series, but running the Milk Bowl was not going to be in his plans. A scheduling conflict was going to make that impossible since Rowe would be racing (and winning actually) in the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge on the same day as Milk Bowl time trials.
He was still planning to be there for the race, serving as David Avery’s spotter. But when Avery qualified solidly in the field and had a back injury act up, he enlisted Rowe to take over the seat of the #10 car for the rescheduled-by-rain main event.
“I was headed up here last Sunday to spot with a smile on my face,” said Rowe. “His back bothered him a little more than he wanted. I told him to suck it up, but it was kind of crazy on his part. If he got hurt and reinjured it he would be out of work for quite awhile. So he called me up and since I was available, we made the driver change.
“It gave me a good opportunity to come and run the Milk Bowl. This is Late Model racing here – The Milk Bowl. It’s fun to be here. I love the Milk Bowl. I’ve watched my father in it. It’s a huge event and just to be a part of it is great.”
Rowe soaked in all of the pomp and circumstance of the big race. Before it started, it sounded more like a fan than a driver.
“I’m up by the fence watching the pre-race activities. It’s amazing what they do here and for the Labor Day Classic. Usually, we line up and go racing. But the fans love this, they are standing up and soaking it in. It also gives the teams a chance to be recognized.”
Rowe struggled to a 17th-place finish (which was actually credited to Avery, since he was the one who started the pace laps with the #10) and admits that Thunder Road is not one of his best tracks – yet.
“Sooner or later, I need to get used to this place,” said Rowe. “I plan on running here next year or the year after.
I want to come up and do some of these races and I need to get better here. I want to get the feel of the car here. I’ve struggled with that here.”
SHAW DROPS OUT EARLY
16-year-old DJ Shaw crashed hard in the first segment and finished the race in the 30th and final position. He was not injured, but his car was heavily damaged.
“I’m fine,” said Shaw. “It’s just depressing.”
Shaw got caught up in trouble when he came upon a spun car in turn four. Shaw ducked low, but the other car slid down the track and caught him. That spun Shaw around right into the frontstretch concrete.
“I thought that I was going to make it and I was almost there,” said Shaw. “I just got clipped a little bit. It was just enough to turn me the wrong way. I hit the wall with the left front corner and bent the snout pretty bad.”
Despite the wreck, being a part of The Milk Bowl was an enjoyable thing for the young driver.
“It’s good experience. I wish that it could have lasted longer, but it didn’t, so we’ll just try again. I’m sure I’ll be back. I’m going to try and finish a race here. I’ve never done that. This was my first race, but I crashed in practice here on a Thursday night too. It’s been a tough track for me.”
That last statement might sound surprising, since Shaw won the Late Model track championship at White Mountain Motorsports Park this year in his first season of racing a full-sized car. But even though Thunder Road
and White Mountain might look similar, they don’t drive alike at all.
“It’s a lot different to drive,” said Shaw. “It’s not like a White Mountain or Bristol-type track. You don’t drive down in the curve, you drive in up off the straightaway. The straightaways have no banking at all, so it all just sort of unloads when you turn.”
POLE IS ON THE POLE FOR EIGHT DAYS
With qualifying taking place a weekend before and the first attempt at running The Milk Bowl delayed by rain, Joey Pole got to sit on the pole for the race for eight days. He even got a royal welcome when he returned to his hometown of Hudson, New Hampshire after weekend number one.
“It’s been really fun,” said Pole. “We got home and drove by Dairy Queen [one of Pole’s sponsors] and went “Wow!”.”
Pole also got plenty of attention for his efforts.
“On Thursday, we got a call from ACT and they wanted us to come up on Friday. We did and we were on seven different radio stations and two TV shows. It’s been great. I think that it will help out having people start to hear my name.”
To do that, Pole had to play hooky from school…but that was okay.
“I think that they understood how big it was for a young guy like me to be starting on the pole for the biggest race in Vermont. They gladly let me out of school for the day, which was nice.”
FOLLOWING IN SOME BIG FOOTSTEPS
Brent Dragon joins some fast company as a winner of The Milk Bowl. His father Beaver and his uncle Bobby are both previous winners of the historic race.
Other victors through the years include Robbie Crouch, Randy LaJoie, Dick McCabe, Dave Dion, Kevin Lepage, Stub Fadden, Jean-Paul Cabana, Randy MacDonald, Brian Hoar and the late Butch Lindley.
That is in addition to current ACT regulars Phil Scott, Jean-Paul Cyr, Dave Pembroke, Eric Williams, Patrick Laperle and Cris Michaud.
Racers who have won segments of the Milk Bowl, but have come up short when it comes to an overall victory have included Brad Leighton, Junior Hanley, Tracy Gordon, Mike Rowe, Jeff Stevens, John Rosati, Joey Kourafas and Ryan Moore.
IN THE STANDS…
Among the thousands of fans watching this year’s Milk Bowl, there were several familiar faces from other racing series.
NASCAR Busch East Series driver Brian Hoar was watching the races with his young daughter in tow. Hoar’s trip to Thunder Road was also partially business in nature since his family’s auto dealership, Goss Dodge, was part of a display at the front gate to the track’s grandstands.
Oxford Plains Speedway Pro Stock champion and sometimes PASS North competitor Jeff Taylor was on hand as well. Taylor’s business, Distance Race Cars, built several of the chassis in Sunday’s race.
Part-time Busch East and PASS North standout Brad Leighton was on hand to check out the action as a spectator.
The only racer in recent history to win in PASS North, ACT Late Models and Busch North/Busch East, Dale Shaw, was at Thunder Road to help out his son, 16-year-old D.J. Shaw.
And finally, a big part of The Milk Bowl’s pre-race festivities are to bring out former winners of the event to greet the crowd. Retired racing legends Stub Fadden and Jean-Paul Cabana were among the drivers who were at T-Road in person this time around to do just that.
ALTERNATES: WELCH GETS TO RACE, POULIN GETS SOME LAP TIME
Quinney Welch, a Late Model regular at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) was one of 63 drivers who attempted to qualify for The Milk Bowl on Saturday, September 30th. He fell a tick short of that goal and went home early.
But when the race was delayed a week by rain and 30th-place starter Jean-Francois Dery had a previously scheduled Castrol Series event to run in Canada, Welch got the call to be added to the starting field as an alternate.
“I’m glad that we are racing here today instead of sitting in the stands,” said Welch.
Having Welch in the field moved Cal Poulin into the position of being the new first alternate. The Vermont driver got his car ready and towed it to the track on Sunday just in case any of the qualified teams had trouble in practice and couldn’t make it to the lineup. Poulin didn’t get a chance to race, but he did get a few unplanned sessions of practice under his belt.
“I was way down on the list of alternates, but a lot of guys had other things going on this weekend. I had drained the
water from my radiator, preparing it for the winter, when I received the call. I’m happy to have the extra practice.”
While Poulin did not get the chance to start the Milk Bowl, Welch made it to the finish in the 28th position.
POLE HAS A GOOD LUCK CHARM
Hanging over the pit area of Joey Pole, was an appropriate good luck charm for The Milk Bowl. A wooden cow.
“My guys ended up finding it on the road and they put it up on top of the trailer,” said Pole. “It’s brought us good luck here, so they say it is going to all of our races now. He’s our new mascot.”
DRAGON HAS SOME COMPANY
Brent Dragon wasn’t the only winner at Thunder Road on Sunday.
In support race action, sophomore NAPA Sportsman competitor Nick Sweet of Barre and Eric Badore (from where else, but Milton, Vermont), an Allen Lumber Street Stock racer, were both victorious in their respective added distance main events.
Shawn Fleury won the 2006 Sportsman championship and Badore won the Street Stock crown. Prior to this weekend, the seasons wrapped up for Thunder Road's other two weekly divisions. Maynard Bartlett Jr. was the Junkyard Warrior champ and Chad Wheeler was name the King of the Road by winning the Late Model title.
The front end damage on Patrick Laperle's #91 goes from bad to worse. (51 Photos)
Payea (#89) raced hard with Jamie Fisher (#18) and Roger Brown (#99) to win the final segment. (51 Photo)
Laquerre gets a little sideways trying to protect his lead. (51 Photo)
Michaud's #6 (51 Photo)
Demers laps Thunder Road in his #86 during Sunday morning's practice session - before the crowds came. (51 Photo)
Avery's...uh...Rowe's #10 car. (51 Photo)
Rowe enjoyed the festivities of Thunder Road. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Shaw, in the orange and white #60 tried to go low to avoid trouble (Top - 51 Photo), but it didn't work too well. (Bottom - Leif Tillotson Photo)
Joey Pole (51 Photo)
Shaw (R) talks to ACT chief Tom Curley before the races. (51 Photo)
Welch's #33 (51 Photo)
The "Pole Cow" (Justin St. Louis / 51 Photo)
Sweet's winning ride. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
population of just under 10,000 also saw two of its other residents make headlines in the race.
The town, which is 60 miles away from Thunder Road, claims Milk Bowl winner Brent Dragon and fourth-place finisher Scott Payea (who also won the race’s final segment) as residents.
It is also a place that gets behind their drivers.