The 2017 Thunder Road Season in Review: Part 3

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The month of August may be the dog days of summer, but there was nothing oppressive about the action at Thunder Road. With the season beginning to wind down, the pressure was on the title contenders to make their move, while drivers who had struggled in the first half of the season looked to turn things around down the stretch. What drivers would get hot at just the right time? Would anyone see their season come apart? Who would be the first champion crowned in the 2017 season? All that and more is in the Thunder Road Season in Review: Part 3! (For Part 2, click here, and for Part 1, click here).

Thursday, August 3

WDEV/Calkins Portable Toilets Night saw a mix of new faces and old standouts in Thunder Road’s hallowed Victory Lane. In fact, the 50-lap Late Model feature saw a trio of drivers get their first podium finish of the season, punctuated by a first-time winner. Barre’s Christopher Pelkey, the 2017 Late Model Rookie of the Year and a multi-time Flying Tiger winner, had struggled in the season’s first nine point-counting events, with more major wrecks than top-10 finishes.

But on this night, Pelkey was the head of the class. After waiting out an hour-long rain delay to start the evening, he got past polesitter Shawn Fleury on lap 19, then put on a show with fellow Barre native and off-track best friend Cody Blake over the second half of the race. No less than six lead changes ensued, with the two running side-by-side for the final 14 laps following the event’s only caution. Blake made a final desperate bid to the inside in the final corner, but Pelkey was able to edge him out by less than a footfor his first Late Model win. Danville’s Tyler Cahoon completed the podium, with all three drivers thrilled about the result. Bobby Therrien and Trampas Demers finished sixth and seventh, basically resulting in a stalemate atop the standings as Therrien maintained a 13-point edge.

The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers were a case of “I can do that too!” Just a week after Hinesburg’s Trevor Lyman had earned his third victory of the season, Waterbury Center’s Jason Woodard matched him atop the win leaderboard. In fact, it was Lyman that Woodard grabbed the lead from with seven laps to go in the 40-lap event, pulling away late to reverse the finishing order of the previous week’s Mid-Season Championships. Rookie Jamon Perry nipped point leader Brendan Moodie at the line for third. While it was Moodie’s 11th straight top-6 finish, Woodard’s win closed the gap to just nine points in the standings.

While three wins are great, four are even better, and that’s what Waitsfield’s Kevin Streeter pulled off in the Allen Lumber Street Stocks. Streeter took the lead on lap eight of the 25-lap feature just after Alan Maynard went for a wild ride up the turn-four wall. He then held on through a pair of late restarts to reign supreme once again. Kelsea Woodard, the daughter of Tiger winner Jason, nearly made it a family double by finishing right on Streeter’s tail for a career-best second-place result. Hinesburg’s Cooper Bouchard took third and took the point lead as well by 11 points over Brandon Lanphear. Wolcott’s Issac Spaulding became the second first-time winner of the night by capturing the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warrior feature over James Dopp and Jeffrey Martin, while Therrien was the winner in the legendary Port-a-Potty Grand Prix.

Sunday, August 6

Thunder Road was right back in action three days later with the 33rd Annual M&M Beverage Enduro 200. “The People’s Race” once again drew a huge field as 105 drivers registered to take on the Barre high banks. A capacity crowd witnessed the usual thrilling spins, flips, and other carnage that comes with triple-digit cars on a quarter-mile track, and when it was all said and done, South Hadley, Mass.’s Wesley Johnson emerged as the winner.

Johnson had an exciting duel with Graniteville’s Frank Putney and Monson, Mass.’s Bill Davis for a good chunk of the race before Putney pitted with mechanical problems and Davis caught a piece of two on-track skirmishes. That left Johnson on a lap of his own, and he sailed to the victory and the $3,000 first-place prize. Davis and Putney both recovered to take second and third with Sean Ford and Chris LaForest completing the top-five.

The Allen Lumber Street Stocks were also on the card for the annual 50-lap Brian Perry & Sons Construction Street Stock Special. Williamstown’s Tommy “Thunder” Smith had struggled with car issues throughout the first 11 events of the season and had admitted to feeling discouraged about his performance. But in event #12, he showed why he’s the division’s all-time winningest driver, going around the outside of rookie Logan Powers just before the halfway point and holding off Lyndonville’s Dean Switser on a trio of late restarts for his 30th career win. Cooper Bouchard was third for the second straight event, opening up a 23-point lead over Jamie Davis as both Brandon Lanphear and Alan Maynard lost ground.

Thursday, August 10

The Thursday night schedule resumed on Cody Chevrolet Cadillac Night, and with it came the season finale of the Myers Container Service Triple Crown Series for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers. After his win in the second leg of the Triple Crown, Craftsbury Common’s Mike Martin entered the evening with a 13-point lead over Jason Woodard in the race to become the first champion of the 2017 season. Martin extended his lead to 20 points with a strong qualifying effort and needed to finish eighth or better in the 75-lap feature to clinch the title. But while Woodard did what he had to do and sliced his way from the 13th starting position to grab the lead before the halfway point, Martin struggled with an ill-handling car, sinking as low as 12th on the race track.

But just when all looked lost, a lap-45 caution allowed Martin to pit for badly needed adjustments. Despite going for a spin himself three laps later after sliding in water from Dwayne Lanphear’s blown radiator, Martin was able to work his way back up to seventh by the checkered flag, giving him the Triple Crown title by just three points. At the front, Woodard and Trevor Lyman finished 1-2 for the second straight week, with Woodard earning his fourth win of the season and taking the point lead from Brendan Moodie, who muddled along to a season-worst 11th-place finish. Craftsbury Common’s Joel Hodgdon finished third.

Martin wasn’t the only one celebrating a Triple Crown on this night, as Cody Blake earned one of his own in the Thunder Road Late Models. Blake continued his in-season turnaround by winning his heat race and the semi-feature before outdueling Tyler Cahoon in the caution-free 50-lap feature for the Maplewood Triple Crown. Blake took the lead from Cahoon on lap 29, but had the polesitter hot on his tail the rest of the way, and even had to fend off a final inside move inside the final 10 laps. But it was Blake earning his third career victory and third straight top-five finish. Cahoon took second with Northfield’s Matt White finishing third. Trampas Demers finished fourth in the feature to point leader Bobby Therrien’s fifth, but Therrien’s second-place finish in the semi-feature allowed him to extend his lead to 21 points.

The Allen Lumber Street Stocks saw two rookies fight it out for much of the 25-lap feature, and when the dust settled, it was Middlesex’s Logan Powers earning his second win of the season. Powers had to contend with Craftsbury Common’s Stephen Martin until a lap-20 caution, at which point Martin began fading on the outside. Gary Mullen and Dean Switser Jr. took advantage to finish second and third. Cooper Bouchard finished ninth and ended the night with a 36-point lead over Brandon Lanphear and 40 points over Alan Maynard, appearing to put him in the catbird seat with four point-counting events remaining. Issac Spaulding took his second straight win in the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors, flying from 19th on the grid to steal the lead with five laps to go when Edward Bowen Jr. got together with a lapped car. Bowen finished second with Alex Lessard third.

Thursday, August 17

U.S. Army Recruiting Night produced some of the most memorable racing of the year at Thunder Road, with a mix of intense battles and vicious wrecks. Danville’s Tyler Cahoon was a part of the former, and the result was his first Thunder Road Late Model win of the season. Cahoon had toiled for the months of June and July trying to find the handle on his car show–winning machine, but after wholesale setup changes, he had shined in the month of August. The late-season surge continued as he fought tooth-and-nail to get to the front in the 50-lap feature.

After battling for a number of laps with Cody Blake – and having a mid-race pass of Boomer Morris for the lead nullified by a hard wreck between Eric Chase and Ricky Roberts – Cahoon sat third on lap-38 following another big crash that occurred as the lead pack got crossed up in lapped traffic. Cahoon then dove underneath Morris on lap 41 to take the lead. Morris got sent hard into the frontstretch wall a few laps later, going airborne across the start/finish line and setting up a final sprint to the checkers. Cahoon held off Blake to take the win with both drivers on the podium for the third straight week. Trampas Demers took third while Bobby Therrien finished fourth and captured his fifth Maplewood Semi-Feature win to extend his point lead to 31 markers.

The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers put on an exciting show of their own with Hardwick rookie Jamon Perry emerging victorious for the second time on the season. Perry started ninth and had the lead by lap 13, but had to hold off fellow rookie Jason Pelkey on a quartet of restarts, including one for point leader Jason Woodard after he spun with a flat tire. Following the final caution on lap 28 when Dwayne Lanphear and Mike Billado tangled fighting for the third spot, Perry pulled away in the final 12 laps for the win. Mike Martin and Brendan Moodie both got around Pelkey in the final run to finish second and third, while Woodard recovered from his spin to finish sixth and maintain an 11-point lead over Moodie in the standings.

In the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, Wolcott’s Jamie Davis rebounded in a big way for his first win of the season. Davis had been forced to start-and-park the week before with his engine going sour, and it looked like his dreams of a second championship could be on ice. But he roared through the field on this night, getting underneath Middlesex’s Tom Campbell for the top spot on lap 18 of the 25-lap feature. Campbell got turned around in turn four later on the same lap, igniting a wreck that also swept up point leader Cooper Bouchard. Davis went to the win, and coupled with Bouchard’s 12th place finish, he vaulted back up to second in the standings 18 points behind Bouchard. Rookie Stephen Martin finished second while Brandon Lanphear, Kelsea Woodard, and Alan Maynard completed the top-five. This trio sat 19, 33, and 27 points behind Bouchard following the event, making the championship a wide-open race.

Thursday, August 24

The final Thursday night event of the season concluded the moth of August at Thunder Road – and for Barre’s Jason Corliss, Jet Service Envelope/Accura Printing Night was one to remember. Corliss had worked his way from deep in the field in the 50-lap Thunder Road Late Model feature to take the top spot from Eric Chase after the final restart on lap 29. But after pulling away initially, the two-time 2017 winner found himself in the clutches of a fast-closing Cody Blake, the division’s hottest driver over the previous month.

The stage was set for an electrifying finish, and that’s exactly when the fans got. Blake spent several laps working Corliss on the outside and then crossed over exiting turn two with three laps to go. As the two ran side-by-side, number-two point driver Trampas Demers got into the picture, making it a three-car tango for the win. Demers poked the nose inside both on the backstretch of the final lap, breaking Blake’s momentum and allowing Corliss to come out on top of a three-car slide across the line. It was Corliss’s third win of the season, Blake’s fourth straight top-two finish, and Demers’ division-leading seventh podium result. Bobby Therrien took fourth after a duel with Chase to maintain his 31-point grip on the top spot with just one point-counting race to go (Labor Day would be an ACT Late Model Tour event).

The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tiger feature would be an exciting race as well – but one that was ultimately decided in the tech line. Top rookie Jaden Perry of Hardwick appeared to have scored his first career win after taking the checkered flag well ahead of Trevor Lyman. But both Jaden and brother Jamon Perry, who had crossed the line fifth, were disqualified for rear-end infractions. As a result, Lyman inherited his fourth win of the season and the ninth of his Tiger career. Point leader Jason Woodard’s late-race charge turned into a second-place result, marking the fourth time in five weeks that Lyman and Woodard had claimed the top two spots. Dwayne Lanphear ended up third as Woodard extended his points lead to 22 over fourth-place finisher Brendan Moodie.

In the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, the story was both what happened on the track and in the standings. For the second time this month and 31st time in his career, Tommy Smith was in Victory Lane, grabbing the lead at the start of the 25-lap feature and cruising to the win followed by Alan Maynard and Logan Powers. But lap 18 proved to be a decisive lap in the championship chase. After Justin Blakely spun to bring out the initial caution, Matthew Smith made contact with point leader Cooper Bouchard less than a lap into the restart, sending Bouchard around and both drivers to the rear. It was the second straight week Bouchard had been involved in a lap-18 incident, and he finished 12th for the second straight week as well.

Combined with the action in the final seven laps, the Street Stock title picture shuffled dramatically. Bouchard ended the night just four points ahead of a tie for second between Maynard and Jamie Davis, with Kelsea Woodard, Dean Switser Jr., and Brandon Lanphear also within 26 points of the top spot with just two events to go. The Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors put on a show of their own, with Tyler Pepin holding off fellow Barre resident Jeffrey Martin and 24 other drivers for his first career win. Kevin Keene inherited third after James Dopp was disqualified for a camber violation. Berlin’s Justin Lawrence avoided multiple crashes to win the eight-cylinder “Run What You Brung” division behind the wheel of a 1984 Chevrolet Corvette, while former Rough Rider competitor Paul Dudley of Fayston took the four-and-six cylinder division title in a 1998 Toyota Corolla.

The month of August may have been over, but there was still a lot to be decided on the Barre high banks. Who would carry the crowns in the Late Models, Flying Tigers, and Street Stocks? What drivers would shine in the ACT Late Model Tour’s second visit of the season to Thunder Road? And what surprises would be in store at the season-ending Vermont Milk Bowl? Read about the final weeks of the season next time in the 2017 Thunder Road Season in Review Finale: Part 4!