Donahue Scores First Win at Thunder Road’s Labor Day Classic 200
$6,000 Victory A Surprise To Some
American-Canadian Tour (ACT) stock car racer “Irish” John Donahue of Graniteville, VT scored an upset first career win in the $50,000 ACTion Super Series 29th Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 at Barre, VT’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl on Sunday afternoon. Donahue battled polesitter and race leader Scott Payea of Milton, VT for 94 laps before taking over for good and driving virtually uncontested to a victory worth more than $6,000.
“Lapped traffic really helped us at the end. The 05 (Henry) was coming up through pretty quick, but the lapped cars helped me keep a gap. This is just an unbelievable feeling to win this race.”
Not many people would’ve expected Henry to be coming on as quick as he was at the end of the race. Henry is the epitome of a low-buck racer doing it all with a crew full of family and hometown friends. The New Gloucester, ME native had been a competitor on the ACT tour since 2004, which was the season in which he scored his previous career-best finish, a fourth at Groveton, NH.
Henry drove a car that is, well, old. He doesn’t even know how old it is, but he knows it was good enough to get close to Payea for the Thunder Road win, but not close enough.
“It’s roughly 25 or 26 years old,” said Henry. “It had spent some time down South for quite a while. It’s really our best guess where the car comes from. Jeff Taylor refurbished the car and he did a good job with this thing. The car’s very successful now.
“This is incredible. I wasn’t really pushing the issue at the end, either. I probably had a little bit more, but I was happy with what I had. I had never even been able to get a top-three finish in a 100-lap race, let alone a 150-lap race. I’m very happy with what we had.”
Cyr came home a distant third, followed by Demers and Hoar.
Hometown rookie Shawn Sicard earned his first career win in the 40-lap NAPA Tiger Sportsman division feature ahead of fellow freshman driver Kyle Tatro of Hyde Park, VT. Tommy “Thunder” Smith of Williamstown, VT copped the 30-lap Allen Lumber Street Stock victory, while Donny Yates of Barre, VT won the 18-lap Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior event.
The ACTion Super Series is back in action at the state-of-the-art Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, ON on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 6:00 pm, and back at Thunder Road on Sat./Sun., Sept. 29/30 for the 44th Annual Chittenden Milk Bowl. For more information, call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.acttour.com or www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.
Welcome Back, Tracie
The capacity crowd at Thunder Road had plenty of feel-good stories to cheer for at the front of the field in Payea and Henry, but the loudest ovation during pre-race introductions went for Tracie Bellerose. Perhaps the most successful female racer in New England racing history, Bellerose developed a fan following in her years in the ACT ranks that had been waiting for Sunday’s race for three years.
Bellerose took three years away from the seat to take care of other priorities, but she was back with a vengeance on Sunday, her first race back on the ACT Tour. She had to transfer through the consolation race, but had a strong car at the start of the 150-lap feature before suffering a flat tire, relegating her to a 26th-place finish.
John Donahue picked up a "upset" win on a special day for his sponsor, the National Guard.. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
“It seems like we couldn’t do anything wrong all day,” Donahue beamed in the winner’s circle. “We finally got a Tour win, and we did it at Thunder Road. Yes!”
On a day when his main sponsor, the National Guard, swore in a group of new soldiers in a pre-race ceremony led by Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie, Donahue controlled his Ford Fusion through lapped traffic with ease.
Despite three restarts bunching the field after he took the lead, no other driver was able to keep pace with Donahue.
Groveton, NH veteran Randy Potter made a late charge after pitting for fresh right side tires on lap 135, and passed perennial ACT Late Model Tour Champion Jean-Paul Cyr of Milton, VT for second place with 14 laps remaining. Cyr earned his ninth top-five finish in ten season starts with a third-place effort.
Brent Dragon, also from Milton, VT, finished a strong fourth on the outside lane. Turner, ME’s Ben Rowe scored a career-best Thunder Road result in fifth place.Brad Leighton of Center Harbor, NH finished sixth ahead of Payea.
Shelburne, VT’s Jamie Fisher, David Avery of North Woodstock, NH, and Rowley, MA driver Eddie MacDonald rounded out the unofficial Top 10 drivers in the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200. All of the top ten finishers were on the lead lap.
Rusty Berger crashed hard in qualifying, but walked away. (Gene Gagne photo)