Payea Beats The Odds to Win at Thunder Road by Marc Patrick Roy
Keeps Mother Nature and Patrick Laperle at Bay to Win ACT Feature
Part of the opening weekend festivities at Thunder Road included a Parade through downtown Barre, Vermont.  (Leif Tillotson Photos)
One driver who was surprisingly absent on Sunday was Quebec's Donald Theetge who left Sunday morning the racing facility.  Theetge was onsite for practice Saturday, left to return to his hometown Quebec city for a family emergency.

In the feature, Quebec veteran driver Claude Leclerc and Payea started on the front row of the field that was set using ACT's plus-minus system. 

Payea quickly took over the top spot and led the first 44 circuits until Dave Pembroke,
who had been challenging Payea, used lapped traffic to take over the lead.  Pembroke
would lead until lap 110 with Payea in tow.

Taking advantage of Pembroke's fading tires, Payea jumped in the lead once again. 
Pembroke would edge by a bumper Payea twice before settling into second while
trying to hold off a charging Phil Scott.

With just a few laps under 20 laps to go,  Laperle, who started 10th had worked his
way to the front using strategy and patience on a slick and cold track, went around
Scott for third.  Just a couple laps later and with 16 to go, using lap traffic Laperle
went around Pembroke for second.

By then, Payea had a comfortable lead, Laperle was now stretching his lead over
Pembroke and Scott who were battling side-by-side now had to contend with Jean-Paul
Cyr and Ryan Nolin who were attacking fiercely.

With one to go, the young Nolin cut a tire forcing him to slow on the backstretch, as a consequence he lost 12 positions, finishing 17th.

Across the line is was Payea, scoring his third career ACT Late Model Tour race victory, followed by Laperle, Pembroke, Scott and Cyr.

“I had a great car,” said Payea.  “Dave Pembroke and I had a very clean battle and it was a blast to race him.  He set a quick pace and that's what I like to do as well, so I was happy to follow in tow.  He slowed down a bit and I saw the opportunity to take the lead and set my own pace.”

Considering the way that the forecast looked and because of the threatening skies that loomed over Thunder Road Speedbowl on Sunday afternoon, it would have been hard to think that Mother Nature could be beat and the ACT Late Model Series would be able hold their 150-lap race as part of the tracks' 2008 opening day event.
Considering how Patrick Laperle dominated the last race there in 2007, The Milk Bowl, it would have been hard to think that anyone could have beat him once the race began.

But Scott Payea came out on top of Mother Nature, Laperle and the rest of the field assembled for the race, and won the race in convincing fashion.  Laperle finished second and Dave Pembroke rounded out the podium finishers.

The first race of the day was just to get into the show.  54 drivers attempted to qualify for one of the 30 starting positions.  Jean-Paul Cyr, Patrick Laperle, Pete Potvin and Dennis Demers each won a qualifying heat race.  Finishing first in the consi races were Brent Dragon and Chris Michaud.  The B-Feature was won by John Donahue. 

Thunder Road's famed front stretch wall, the Widow Maker, reached out and grabbed another one during the heat races.  As Mike Bailey was racing side-by-side for a position in the field he was moved a little higher than he should, climbed the wall and a four car incident occurred, creating the track's own version of “The Big One”.  At the end, Bailey walked away with a sore wrist, but his car had to be taken to the pits using two wreckers performing the double-hook technique.
Mike Bailey was in the center of "The Big One" at Thunder Road.
After finishing out of the top five in the first two races of the season, Laperle was happy to be the runner-up at Thunder Road.

“Wow, this feels good,” said Laperle.  “We didn't perform the way we wanted at Lee and Oxford, were we finished eighth and seventh, so we hoped for a sixth place here.  Finishing second is really sweet.”

Pembroke was also happy with his performance and looks to be a threat anytime that the Late Models are at T-Road this season.

“This is great,” said Pembroke.  “This is our first time out and with a new race car while others already have over 300 laps in.   We will respect our sponsor commitments by running the Thunder Road championship in the first half of the season and if things are good we will set out to travel and race on the road.  I really like to race on different tracks and with different competitors.”
Scott Payea enjoys his victory at T-Road
Scott, a Vermont State Senator, made his first ACT start of the season count with his fourth-place finish.

“I was doing real good and with 30 to go I lost my radio,” said Scott.  “It didn't really make a difference but it certainly didn't help.  This is our first race so coming in four is an amazing accomplishment.  We couldn't go to the first two Tour races as I had to deal with legislation and we weren't ready to race.  We will focus on the Thunder Road championship, but we would like to travel to race, its always fun.”

The ACT Late Models return to action on May 17th at Airborne International Raceway (NY).