It's ACT vs. Locals in An Event That Is Rich With History
A racer wants to win anytime that he or she straps themselves into their seat. But everyone knows that there are a few events over the course of the season that mean just a little bit more to win. Those races might pay a little bit more, have a more storied history or could hold just a little more prestige.
One thing that all competitors – weekly or touring – share at Thunder Road is an appreciation for how tough it is to get around the track. No matter how many races a driver has won there, they still never find racing there as easy task.
“Thunder Road is a tough track and a lot of the big names struggle here,” said Scott Payea, who worked his way through the track’s weekly classes before joining the ACT Late Model tour. “I haven’t quite nailed the set-up yet but I think we are getting close. Every time we come here we get better and better. I remember a few years ago Brent (Dragon) just got it and has been running well here ever since. There are so many drivers that can win here each week and to add the weekly drivers to our regular Touring guys will be interesting and the competition will be tough.”
“Thunder Road is a tough track,” said Michaud. “There are a lot of guys who have raced here for years and don’t have many wins to their credit, that should tell you something.
When it comes to ACT Late Model racing, there are a few such events. One of those is easily this coming weekend’s Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road.
In addition to being a point counting event for the Tour’s season long championship, the Labor Day Classic is the second of three designated races in the 2006 ACTion Super Series. Each of the trio of special events has a purse in excess of $50,000, with $10,000 of the posted funds going to the winner.
“It’s just an honor to have the chance to race in one of the big races like the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic,” said ACT regular Ryan Vanasse. “I would love to win the event as the first driver from Rhode Island to do so. That
A race with a storied history, the winners include famous Thunder Road names like Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Dion, Bobby and Beaver Dragon. The race has undergone several incarnations over its lifetime, including several seasons as a Busch North and ACT event in the late 90s and early 21st century. Yet no matter its nature, the event has always held special meaning for those involved.
“The history of Thunder Road and the Labor Day race go back to when the granite sheds were the primary employment for Barre residents,” said Phil Scott, who won the 2006 Thunder Road track champion and competes regularly in ACT. “The workers would need a place to unwind on Labor Day weekend after a long summer of working in the sheds. Thunder Road really became part of the social fabric when granite workers embraced Thursday racing and the special events. As a driver, I like to look into the stands and see families sitting together and enjoying the races. I have yet to win the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic, but I would certainly love to add my name to the list of former winners such as Bobby & Beaver Dragon, Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Dion and others.”
While the list of winners of the Labor Day Classic is few,
the number of fans who have watched the race is far from
it. Every year, the hillside stands at Thunder Road are
packed for this event.
“The Labor Day Classic is a very special race,” said Scott.
“Being from Barre, coming to Thunder Road on Thursday
nights was a given. I think a lot of the local race fans
would agree with that. Thunder Road is a really special
track. The ticket prices are unbeatable, which is good
for a blue collar town like Barre. The stands are always
full because Tom Curley recognizes the need to keep
ticket prices down - I don’t think the crowds would be
as large if the track was in Burlington or somewhere else for that matter.”
Speed51.com will be on hand at Thunder Road this weekend to bring you all of the stories of the race.
The 28th annual Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 is slated for Sunday, September 3. As it was last year, the race is part of the three-race ACTion Super Series and will pay $10,000 to the winner. To date, over 50 Late Model drivers from across the Northeast, representing all six New England states and New York have filed entries.
The ACTion Super Series opened on July 9 at Quebec’s 7/8ths mile Sanair Super Speedway tri-oval. The Mega Classique, a three segment event, was won by Maine’s Ben Rowe. In addition to the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200, Thunder Road’s New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl (Sept 30/Oct 1) will conclude the ACTion Super Series, as well as the 2006 ACT Tour’s season. The Milk Bowl, which will celebrate its 43rd edition this year, is the original three-segment, Monza style race. It also will award $10,000 to its winner.
Packed grandstands and full pits are a sign of racing at Thunder Road. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
would be an incredible honor. The $10,000 to win is huge for the low budget teams so I’d have to say that it’d be nice to win the race and go back to RI with the big check!”
While that cash is nice, it is still nothing compared to the prestige of winning the race.
“I’d sure like to win it. I won the Milk Bowl a few years ago and to know that I am in the history books for that race makes wanting the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic win even more special and important for me and my crew,” said Dave Pembroke.
The Labor Day Classic gives weekly competitors at Thunder Road a chance to race against the ACT tourers on equal footing.
“It’ll be cool to race against the Tour regulars, weekly drivers and some outsiders,” said Thunder Road regular Craig Bushey. “It’s a big race and $10,000 would help me a lot. I haven’t raced weekly or one the Tour because of some financial hardships. I’m having a great time coming here and racing some of the weekly shows, the competition is tough and I can’t wait to go up against some of the big name Tour drivers like Jean-Paul Cyr.”
“There are a lot of great drivers on the Tour and the weekly drivers run here week in and week out. We know the quirks of the track and we know how to adjust our car accordingly,” said Cris Michaud.
The racing at Thunder Road is always good - but the Labor Day Classic is just a little bit more special to racers and fans. (Alan Ward Photo)
“I love Thunder Road, that wasn’t always the case though,” said Brent Dragon. I used to dread coming here, but I’ve matured as a driver and my crew has always worked really hard at giving me cars I can win with here at Thunder Road.
Stock car racing and Labor Day weekend have gone hand in hand at Thunder Road for nearly half a century. From “the Flying Frenchman” Norm Chaloux’s win in the very first Labor Day Classic in 1960, to Jean-Paul Cyr’s victory in 2005’s $10,000 to win Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200, the first weekend in September on the Barre, VT high banks has never been short on excitement.
Jean Paul Cyr (#32) and Scott Payea (#89) go wheel to wheel at T-Road. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Local drivers like Eric Williams (#7) will take on tour drivers like Brent Dragon (#55) this weekend. (Leif Tillotson Photo)