The beginning of the 59th season of racing at Barre’s Thunder Road will also mark the return of a kid favorite: the Race to Read program. Now entering its ninth year, the nonprofit educational program uses race cars and drivers to encourage children to read. With thousands of books read during that time, it has become a centerpiece for both the track and the region.
The program will see a number of changes entering the 2018 season to help bring its mission to children throughout Vermont. The program hasn’t just been developing partnerships with schools and organizations around the state, they’ve added some new Thunder Road star power, too.
In 2018, Race to Read will add Wolcott’s Marcel J. Gravel and Waterbury Center’s Kelsea Woodard as program representatives. Both will be showing up at schools across the region with their race cars to talk about the importance of reading.
Gravel, a Maplewood/Irving Late Model standout, knows a thing or two about getting things done. The 22-year-old is entering his third year in Thunder Road’s top division and holds the official track record set at the 2017 Vermont Milk Bowl. Race to Read has been supported by fellow Late Model driver Brooks Clark and 2-time Champion Nick Sweet, but Gravel will be the first driver to carry the Race to Read emblem on a top level car.
“It was really cool that they asked me to be a part of Race to Read,” Gravel said. “If you can keep the younger generation involved in racing, it’s a good thing for racing. And encouraging them to read is good for their future. Reading is a great thing. I didn’t do it enough as a kid, but if I had a program like this, I know I would have read a lot more. I think it’s great for everyone on the short track racing side and for kids on the educational side. There’s no flaws in the program. Everything about it can only benefit people.”
Woodard will be Race to Read’s Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tiger representative. The 17-year-old is joining the division and the program for the first time after her breakout year in the Allen Lumber Street Stocks that saw her win the Thunder Road Most Improved Driver Award.
“I’m looking forward to getting involved,” Woodard said. “To me, Race to Read means showing kids that hard work does pay off and that your education is very important. It also gets people who wouldn’t normally be involved in racing more involved, because it gives them an incentive to come to the track. It’s fun for everyone, and the main goal is to have fun.”
In the Street Stocks, fans and children will see a familiar face. Race to Read founder Troy Kingsbury of Waitsfield has announced that he will be returning to the division in 2018 for a limited schedule. “The Green Lantern” plans to run at least six events while also helping with the program on a day-to-day basis.
Another veteran, Fairfax’s Alan Maynard, will return to Race to Read for his third season. Maynard’s racing schedule is uncertain at this time, but the crowd favorite remains on the Race to Read board of directors and will take a more active role in off-track activities.
Race to Read will also welcome some new staff members this season. The most recent addition is East Montpelier’s Jordyn Michaud as a race day assistant. Michaud, the daughter of Thunder Road co-owner Cris Michaud, will run the Race to Read booth at the track and help with other track functions.
Race to Read will be at Thunder Road’s season-opening Community Bank N.A. 150 on Sunday, April 29 at 1:30pm as well as the Downtown Barre Car Show on Saturday, April 28 at 9:00am. Fans can meet drivers from Race to Read and all of the track’s weekly racing divisions on Saturday and then see them in action on Sunday.