Patrick Laperle Dominates 2007 Milk Bowl by Mike Twist
Kissing a Cow Is a Tradition at This Thunder Road Classic
The Milk Bowl is not supposed to be a race that someone can run away with.  The annual classic at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) currently utilizes ACT Late Model cars with spec engines and spec Koni shocks.  It is made up of three 50-lap segments where the field is inverted each time.  It attracts some exceptional drivers from throughout New England and Eastern Canada to take out some pretty stout T-Road regulars.

“All weekend long, we’ve been perfect,” said Laperle.  “I won the heat race yesterday after starting ninth.  Brad Leighton, Benji Rowe and Scott Payea were in that race.  Those were big guys to pass.”

Perfect might have been too strong of a word for Laperle to use though.  Even as the rest of the pit area named him as the guy to beat on Sunday morning, the #91 team led by his twin brother Eric kept making major changes for practice in an effort to make a great car even greater.

“It’s never perfect,” said Patrick Laperle.  “This morning, we changed shocks, springs, sway bars….all kinds of stuff.”

“Last weekend, I took it easy at St-Eustache to win the championship and it was boring,” said Laperle.  “Every time I get into a racecar, you need to get in and go fast.  You need to try and pass everyone.”

But, that doesn’t mean that Laperle would get too aggressive with such high stakes either.  He admits to being a little cautious in the race’s second segment.  That is when he “only” passed 21 cars in 50 laps.

“I’m not stupid,” laughed Laperle.  “The second segment, I was patient.  I tried to pass everyone that I could, but I waited until there was room in front of me.  The car was so easy to drive.”

Laperle knew all weekend long that he had a great car under him.  That was apparent during practice and heat races on Saturday.

But even with all of those equalizers, there are times when some team and driver will just have everything together and beat up on the competition.  Larry Demar (1967), Dave Dion (1975) and Robbie Crouch (1986) have done that by being the only drivers in the 44-year history of the event to sweep all three segments.

On paper, Patrick Laperle did the opposite on Sunday afternoon.  He didn’t win a single segment of the event.  In reality though, Laperle’s performance was about as dominating as possible under the current rules package.  The Quebec driver used segment finishes of second, seventh and fourth to win over Ben Rowe by a margin of nine points.

“The only thing that we didn’t do was to win a segment,” said Laperle.  “But I was going for it.”

Laperle almost got his segment victory in the first 50-lap race, where he fought a spirited battle with Phil Scott, but came up just a bit short at the finish.  Then, he almost got the segment victory in the final 50-lap mini-race.  That was when he was running in a three-car pack battling for the lead in turn four.  Dave Pembroke got into Joey Pole, who spun
in front of the field.  While that happened, Laperle got into the brakes and lost a few spots.  Pembroke won the segment, but Laperle won the war by finishing fourth and accumulating enough points to be crowned as the overall winner.

“I was going for it, but when I saw the #97 spin, I had to back off,” said Laperle.  “I hoped that he would be up to the wall and stay there.  He did.”

Don’t get the impression that Laperle was taking it easy though.  He did that the week before to clinch the 2007 ACT Quebec Series championship by finishing second in the tour’s season finale at St-Eustache Speedway and he didn’t like it.  That was not the plan for any of the Milk Bowl segments.

Phil Scott (black #14) and Laperle (white #91) cross the line for the first segment almost in a dead heat.
And while Laperle’s day went perfect, a few drivers had anything but trouble-free afternoons.

2000 Milk Bowl winner Phil Scott won the first segment, but was collected in a wreck on lap six of the final segment, which left his #14 going back to the pits on a tow truck.  Polesitter Joey Pole showed plenty of speed in segment one, but got tagged and sent into the wall on the opening lap of segment two.  Somehow his team worked to get their #97 back to being a quick car, but while leading on the final lap of the final segment, he got spun again and dropped to 18th in the final rundown.

Jean Paul Cyr won segment two, but finishes of 15th and 17th to bookend that result left him with an overall finish of ninth.

Ben Rowe was quick and consistent in each segment, but did not finish high enough in any one segment to topple Laperle.  Entering the final segment, Rowe knew that he was pretty much racing for second-place.
“I only knew if Patrick had trouble and we had seven or eight spots between us, that there was a chance,” said Rowe.  “When he came up through and we were fourth or fifth, I didn’t really race him too hard.  I was worried about the #32 and the #55 then.  I just knew that I had to beat as many cars as I could and let the points take care of themselves.”

When all of the points were tallied, Rowe was credited with second place ahead of Dave Whitcomb, Brian Hoar and Mike Rowe.
But only one man got to enjoy a Milk Bowl tradition in victory lane.  That is the kissing of the trophy cow.  Each year, a local farm hauls out a dairy cow for the race winner to kiss, cuddle and pose for victory lane photos with.  Just like with the drivers, sometimes there are different cows in victory lane and sometimes there is a repeat.  This year, Leperle, who also won the race in 2005, saw a familiar face after the race and that was of Dickens the cow.

“It was the same cow [as before],” said Laperle.  “There have only three guys who have kissed her – me, Eric Williams and Dwayne Lanphear.  I missed her so much, but she didn’t recognize me.”

Maybe, if everyone is back in the same place in 2008, she will recognize her old love the next time around.

The Laperle team stands in victory lane after a job well done.

The Milk Bowl starting field.
Patrick Laperle kisses the trophy cow, Dickens, in victory lane.  (Leif Tillotson Photos)