Longtime Thunder Road Speedbowl co-owner and promoter Thomas M. Curley passed away on Friday, May 5 due to complications from a lengthy illness. Curley was 73 years old.
Born May 10, 1943, Curley was involved in local and regional auto racing for most of his adult life. After spending considerable time at Thunder Road as a spectator and driver in the 1960s, he became the NASCAR Northeast regional director in 1978, and a year later created the NASCAR North Tour. He and Thunder Road founder Ken Squier then acquired the track in 1982 from former owner Tommy Kalomiris.
After leaving NASCAR, Curley created the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) sanctioning body in 1986. Under Curley’s leadership, both Thunder Road and ACT became household names for racers and fans throughout the Northeast, making the Barre high banks one of the most popular auto racing destinations in the region. Among his many accomplishments, he helped relaunch the famed Flying Tiger division that has competed since 1982, and created the ACT Late Model rules package used at Thunder Road and numerous other tracks.
Curley’s stewardship was driven by the philosophy of making racing more exciting for the fans and more affordable for the racers. This commitment extended to all divisions, and his “ladder system” for weekly racing became known throughout the country. Many racers who came up through his system went on to both regional and national prominence, and he also made the track a popular destination for the nation's top racing stars.
Racing Promotion Monthly named Curley the North American Promoter of the Year in 2004 in recognition of his efforts. He also received the Lowes Motor Speedway National Short Track Promoter of the Year Award in 2003 and the Trackside Magazine Promoter of the Year Award in 1992. Curley was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.
Though his health had declined in recent years, Curley continued to be a presence at Thunder Road. He and Squier had recently completed the sale of the track prior to his passing. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.