As summer officially began and the month of July arrived at Thunder Road, things continued to heat up in the air and on the track. With five races scheduled for the month, including two of the biggest events of the year on the high banks, a lot was on the line in all divisions. Who would set themselves up for a run at the championship? What big names would make appearances at the top of Quarry Hill? Which former division would make its triumphant return? It’s all in the Thunder Road Season in Review: Part 2! (For Part 1, click here.)
Monday, July 3
The annual Aubuchon Holiday Spectacular was on the cards to kick off the month of July at Thunder Road – but the biggest news of the day came before the first green flag even flew. Earlier in the afternoon, an agreement was reached for NASCAR Champion Kyle Busch to race in the Vermont Governor’s Cup presented by VP Racing Fuels on Thursday, July 13. Busch would be one of the most accomplished drivers to every visit the track, and it was what everybody was talking about in the stands and in the week to follow.
The action on the track was certainly noteworthy as well. Going into the event, it had been 20 years, 10 months, and 18 days since Washington’s Ricky Roberts had visited Thunder Road Late Model Victory Lane – but this holiday night belonged to Roberts. After winning his heat and the semi-feature, Roberts wired the field in the main event, holding off Cody Blake and Bobby Therrien following several late cautions to snap the long drought and capture the first Maplewood Triple Crown of the season in the process. Therrien took second to reverse his recent slide and recapture the point lead after Scott Dragon end up 18th. Trampas Demers finished third, a harbinger of what was to come for the month ahead.
In the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, it was a Perry good night for two rookies. Rookie brothers Jamon Perry and Jaden Perry of Hardwick put on a show in the second half of the 40-lap feature with defending Street Stock Champion Jamon holding off Jaden for his first career Tiger win. Point leader Brendan Moodie snuck into third on the final lap after Jason Woodard and Dwayne Lanphear got together fighting for the spot.
In the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, Waitsfield’s Kevin Streeter earned his second win of the season. Streeter dominated the event before holding off Tom Campbell and Jamie Davis on a last-lap scramble following an incident between Greg Collette, Brandon Lanphear, and Will Hennequin. The crash allowed Reilly Lanphear to snatch the point lead from her cousin.
Thursday, July 6
Just three days later, Thunder Road was right back in action for Premium Mortgage Night. Some say that politics are a part of racing – and on this night, those people were never more correct. Vermont Governor and multi-time Thunder Road Champion Phil Scott had continued racing as often as possible following his election to the highest public office in the state, choosing to remain with the hobby that had been part of his life for the past 27 years.
After a tough start to the season marred by crashes and mechanical failures, he found himself starting up front on this Thursday, and he took full advantage. Scott went flag-to-flag in the 50-lap feature, fending off the field after four second-half cautions to earn his 30th Thunder Road Late Model victory and first since 2013. In doing so, he became the first known sitting governor in the United States to triumph in a stock car race. Darrell Morin finished a career-best second with Monday’s winner Ricky Roberts third, while Therrien and Demers sat 1-2 in points following the event – an order that would become familiar to fans.
Grand Isle’s “Double O” Joe Steffen was the second longtime veteran to stand in Victory Lane by capturing the Flying Tiger feature. Steffen held off the best of the division in the late stages of the event, getting away after Trevor Lyman and Dwayne Lanphear got into a thrilling battle for second. It was the 16th Tiger win of Steffen’s career and made it the sixth consecutive season that he has won a feature event. Lyman edged Lanphear by inches for second with point leader Brendan Moodie sixth – which incredibly, was his worst result of the season so far.
In the Street Stocks, Peyton Lanphear bucked the trend of veteran winners by capturing her second victory of the season. The 16-year-old held off a five-car pack over the second half of the 25-lap feature before holding off Jamie Davis and Stephen Martin for the win. Will Henniquin finished fifth to take over the point lead while the 15-year-old Martin would become the youngest winner in track history later that even by taking the Marvin Johnson Memorial Non-Winners Race.
Thursday, July 13
Following the announcement that Kyle Busch would be making an appearance at the Barre high banks, the 38th Vermont Governor’s Cup 150 presented by VP Racing Fuels because one of the most anticipated events in the 58-year history of Thunder Road. And after a week-long threat of rain that continued into Thursday afternoon, the skies cleared up for a full night of racing. A crowd of approximately 5,000 people was on hand to watch the NASCAR Champion tackle the famed speedway. Following a slow start to the night, Busch had worked his way up to sixth and looked ready to challenge for the win before pounding the wall on a lap-114 restart, forcing him out of the event.
With Busch eliminated, the attention turned to the thrilling event unfolding, with the spotlight eventually finding its way to Trampas Demers. The veteran showed his strong start to the season had been no fluke, leading eight laps early before coming alive in the late stages. Demers would take the lead for good from point leader Bobby Therrien just outside the 10-to-go marker for the 14th lead change of the back-and-forth event, going on to the biggest win of his Late Model career. Therrien finished second while Marcel J. Gravel took third after bucking conventional wisdom by running the entire event on one set of tires.
The Flying Tigers went flag-to-flag without a caution, and while the action was furious back in the pack, it was all Jason Pelkey at the front. Pelkey took the lead from fellow rookie Burt Spooner III on lap-seven and smoked the field from there, marking the second straight week that a rookie stood in Tiger Victory Lane. It looked for a while like rookies would sweep the podium as Kyle Streeter, Spooner, and Jaden Perry ran second through fourth. But Spooner and Perry would get together coming to the white flag, allowing Mike Martin to swipe the third spot behind Streeter. Point leader Brendan Moodie came in fifth for his seventh top-five finish in eight races.
Logan Powers became the second rookie of the night to capture a victory in the Street Stock feature. After a slow start to his first season, Powers started on the outside pole and went the distance, holding off Cooper Bouchard for the victory. Matthew Smith finished third, while Jamie Davis would become the latest driver to stand atop the point standings, leading a battle that would remain razor-close for nearly the entire season.
Thursday, July 20
FairPoint Communications Night the following Thursday at Thunder Road was notable for two reasons. First, it was the second leg of the Myers Container Service Triple Crown for the Flying Tigers. And second, it marked the return of the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors to the high banks. After competing from 2003 to 2011 as the Junkyard Warriors, the division had gone dormant for several seasons. But a revival interest meeting in June had sparked tremendous interest, leading track management to bring back the division mid-season on a part-time basis. A larger-than-expected field showed up for their season opener and numbers would continue to grow throughout the year.
In the Flying Tiger 75-lap Triple Crown event, Craftsbury’s Mike Martin took center stage. The veteran had been having an up-and-down season, but made quick work of the field with the help of two early cautions. With the final 74 laps going caution free, Martin walked away from the field, putting more than half of the starting grid a lap down en route to his eighth career win. Trevor Lyman and Dwayne Lanphear once again found themselves on the podium by taking second and third.
After having gone winless in 2016, Jason Corliss became the first two-time Late Model winner of 2017 by taking the victory in their main event. Corliss started 11th and grabbed the lead from polesitter Boomer Morris on a lap-27 restart and powered away from Bobby Therrien in the closing laps. Point leader Therrien came up one spot short of a Triple Crown after winning his heat and his fourth Maplewood Semi-Feature earlier in the night while number-two point driver Trampas Demers nipped Morris for third.
Not content with sharing the lead for most wins on the season, Kevin Streeter took his third Street Stock victory of the season. As with his previous wins, he dominated the event from the get-go, adding another highlight to a hot-and-cold season. Peyton Lanphear was back on the podium after she passed Gary Mullen in the final laps for second. Former racer Jeffrey Martin came out on top over Tyler Pepin and Ryan Ware in an entertaining debut Road Warrior feature that was well-received by drivers and fans.
Thursday, July 27
Thunder Road concluded the month of July with the annual Times Argus Mid-Season Championships. With added distance and double points on the line, tension was high as the title chases stood to take a big turn. Following a hour-long rain delay early in the program, all three divisions got to work. The Late Models saw a popular driver standing in Victory Lane with a much-needed win. Boomer Morris had endured a tough first half of the season with multiple savage wrecks, but he led all but one lap of the 75-lap feature to take the double-point victory.
Kyle Pembroke was Morris’s closest challenger late in the event, but scraped the wall with six laps remaining while trying to rim-ride to the lead and got shuffled back as a result. Trampas Demers was on the podium yet again in second, gaining ground on the top spot after Bobby Therrien finished sixth following an early spin. Defending Champion Scott Dragon bounced back from a recent slump to take third.
Trevor Lyman continued to be one of the top Flying Tiger drivers of the season by taking his third win in their 50-lap feature. Lyman flew from the ninth starting spot to first in just eight laps, then took advantage of a late four-way battle between Dwayne Lanphear, Brendan Moodie, Jason Woodard, and Robert Gordon for second. Woodard and Lanphear ended up with the second and third spots, and both made big gains on Moodie in points after significantly outperforming him in the heat races.
The Street Stocks saw sophomore driver Cooper Bouchard come out on top of their 35-lap feature. Bouchard got underneath Logan Powers just before the halfway point and kept Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear at bay for the win. In the process, Lanphear moved back to the top of the crowded Street Stock point battle while Bouchard leaped from sixth to second in points. Matthew Smith finished third.
And with that, a busy and wild month of July came to a close at Thunder Road. But August would be just as packed, with tight point battles, the first championship awarded of the season, and of course the ever-popular M&M Beverage Enduro. Read all about it and much more next time in the 2017 Thunder Road Season in Review: Part 3!