Thunder Road Speedbowl honored the top performers of the 2018 season at the annual Banquet of Champions at the Barre Elks Club on Saturday, November 3. A packed house was on hand to commemorate the 59th season at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement”, which featured some of the greatest moments and accomplishments in the track’s history.
Milton’s Scott Dragon was officially crowned the 2018 “King of the Road” as champion of the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models. It was the second time in the last three seasons Dragon earned the track championship for Richard Green Racing. He became the 16th driver to earn multiple “King of the Road” titles. His his father Bobby, who won championships in 1973 in 1976, is also a member of that exclusive club.
Dragon topped one of the closest multi-way title battles ever at Thunder Road. He posted back-to-back wins at the VP Fuels Vermont Governor’s Cup and the Times Argus Mid-Season Championships in July, then took the points lead for good in the second-to-last championship event of the season.
Overall, Dragon earned 10 top-5 and 13 top-10 finishes in 14 point-counting events. This helped him edge out Barre’s Jason Corliss by 11 points and South Burlington’s Trampas Demers by 23 points. The trio had entered the final point-counting event separated by just 10 markers.
“What a battle we had,” Dragon said during his acceptance speech. “The first half of the season, I felt like the underdog just chasing those two. Then in the middle of the season, we hit on something and started to pick up the pace a little bit. That’s when I thought, ‘hey, maybe we’ve got a chance to win this thing.’
“The last two or three races, it could have gone either way,” he added. “It basically boiled down to luck. All three of us could have won it – it was just where you lined up. That’s really what it boiled down to. We got lucky, and it worked out well.”
In addition to thanking his car owner and crew, Dragon also thanked track owners Cris Michaud and Pat Malone, along with the Thunder Road staff, for their work running the track. He took special note of the new track lighting that was installed in time for the Vermont Governor’s Cup.
Craftsbury Common’s Joel Hodgdon celebrated his first Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tiger championship. The veteran had run an “outlaw” Thunder Road schedule in recent years, but committed to a full schedule early in the 2018 season after it became clear he could be a title contender.
He ended up running away with the championship on the strength of 3 wins and 15 top-10 finishes in point-counting events. Two of those wins came in the Myers Container Services Triple Crown Series, which helped him secure that title as well. He then added a fourth victory in the non-point Northfield Savings Bank Tiger Mini-Milk Bowl by sweeping both segments.
Fellow Craftsbury Common racer Stephen Martin was honored for a historic Allen Lumber Street Stock championship. The 16-year-old became the youngest racer ever to win a title at the speedway. Martin earned the first two wins of his career as part of a torrid second half that saw him take the point lead in early August and pull away down the stretch.
Barre’s Jeffrey Martin was the Twin State Street Stock Series champion. In his return to the Street Stocks following several years off, Martin won all three series races that were held at Thunder Road and at Groveton, NH’s Speedway 51.
Thunder Road also honored the top rookie in each division. Wolcott’s Brendan Moodie was the Late Model Rookie of the Year. The former Flying Tiger champion earned his first Late Model victory at the Aubuchon Hardware Holiday Spectacular and added five other top-10 finishes.
Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear was the Rookie of the Year in the Flying Tigers. He was a surprise winner in the Triple Crown Series opener and added six other podium finishes to rank third in the overall standings. 15-year-old Bryan P. Wall of E. Kingston, NH was the top Street Stock rookie on the strength of nine top-10 finishes in point-counting events.
The track also presented several special awards to drivers, crew members, and officials. Joey Becker received the Don MacTavish Award for his passion, dedication, and positive spirit. Becker was a racer for two decades and is now the crew chief for reigning “King of the Road” Scott Dragon. He has also built tech equipment for Thunder Road and offered assistance to those learning the high banks.
Garrett Townsend won the Ken Squier Award for contributions to Thunder Road. Townsend began working for the track and for the American-Canadian Tour nearly a decade ago. During that time, he has held roles such as track safety worker, tire compound crew member, pit steward, and groundskeeper.
Milton’s Robert Gordon was bestowed with the Thunder Road Sportsmanship Award. A multi-time Super Stock Champion around the region, he has demonstrated an endlessly positive attitude while transitioning to the Flying Tigers the past two years, and he has also helped other racers make the same transition.
Derby’s Tim Hunt received the Ed Carroll Memorial Sportsmanship Award for the Street Stocks. Hunt, who lost his left arm as the result of a teenage boating accident, was an inspiring figure in his first full year in the Street Stocks. He embodied the spirit of local short track racing while never letting his physical disadvantage hold him back.
Waterbury Center’s Kelsea Woodard was the recipient of the Doc Nielsen Outstanding Rookie Award. The 17-year-old Flying Tiger racer earned the award for her efforts on the track, where she finished seventh in points, and off the track as s representative of the Race to Read program.
Barre’s Christopher Pelkey was named Thunder Road Most Improved Driver. Pelkey overcame a slow start to finish sixth in Late Model points, the best result of his career. In doing so, he posted as many top-10 finishes as he had during his first two years in the division combined.
Jack Fitzsimmons of WCAX television received the Pete Hartt Memorial Media Award in recognition of his summer-long “Families of Thunder Road” series. Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warrior driver Eric Chase of Berlin was named the inaugural CVTsport.net Thunder Road Highlight Star of the Year for making the most appearances on the media outlet’s weekly highlight videos. The entire Warrior division was also recognized for the fun and excitement they brought to the track all season.
The Thunder Road Banquet of Champions officially concludes the 2018 season. The 2019 season schedule is expected to be released by the end of November. Division rules, license application forms, and season pass forms and other information will follow shortly thereafter.