The weekly racing season for Barre’s Thunder Road Speedbowl arrives this Friday, June 8 with Capitol City Automart Night. The special Friday night event marks the unofficial start of summer in central Vermont as racing engines roar to life under the lights.
The event will be one of the biggest of the year for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers. The famed division opens the Myers Container Service Triple Crown Series on Friday with a 75-lap main event. It is the second year for the 3-race series after a successful debut in 2017.
“I’m really excited for it,” Morrisville’s Dwayne Lanphear said. “Going 75 laps is basically like two features in one. You just have to take your time and stay out of trouble at the start, and then we’ll go race. I’ve got a very good car, and I guess I still can drive!”
Lanphear is the driver everyone will be looking to beat. The veteran has reeled off four consecutive wins dating back to the 2017 season. A victory on Friday would make him the first driver in Thunder Road’s modern era to win five straight. Even a last-lap heat race crash at the Memorial Day holiday event couldn’t derail Lanphear, as he stormed to the feature win from the 18th starting position.
But there will plenty of competition trying to end his streak. Craftsbury Common’s Joel Hodgdon sits second in the early standings with sophomore competitor Jason Pelkey of Barre rides right behind him after impressive starts. Hinesburg’s Trevor Lyman is one of the leading title contenders, while Essex’s Mike Billado works for Myers Container Services and would love nothing more than a Triple Crown win.
For several other veterans, Friday is the perfect opportunity to rebound from a rough start. Defending Triple Crown Champion Mike Martin is in need of a spark, as are former Flying Tiger Champion Joe Steffen, multi-time winner Cameron Ouellette, and former Rookie of the Year Kevin Dodge. Meanwhile, rookies such as Cooper Bouchard and Kelsea Woodard have been impressive early and could steal the spotlight.
The event will also see the return of two former on-track rivals. Jeffersonville’s Joe Becker and Graniteville’s John Donahue, who dominated the Tiger landscape in the late 1990s and early 2000s, have both filed entries for the series. Becker will pilot a car owned and prepared by Craig Bushey while Donahue will be behind the wheel of a family-owned machine.
The Triple Crown opener comes as the Flying Tigers are experiencing a resurgence. The first two Thunder Road events saw the division’s biggest car counts in years. Nearly 30 drivers have officially entered the Triple Crown Series and even more are expected on Friday.
“This is all totally how I used to race,” Lanphear said. “You had to race from the back to the front every week. It’s good that the division has grown, and the racing has been wicked. I thrive on competition. Now you’ve got a real opportunity to gain or lose points every week. As for Becker and Donahue, bring ‘em on!”
The Maplewood/Irving Late Models and Allen Lumber Street Stocks will also have a full card of racing. Barre’s Cody Blake leads the way in the Late Models after his Memorial Day Classic win, with Scott Dragon of Milton and Trampas Demers of South Burlington right on his heels. Jason Corliss and Marcel J. Gravel will look to bounce back after late incidents on Memorial Day Sunday, while first-year competitors Evan Hallstrom and Brendan Moodie are prepared to back up their top-10 efforts.
In the Street Stocks, Opening Day winner Matthew Smith of Essex Junction sits atop the standings. Barre’s Jeffrey Martin and Justin Town have returned to the Street Stocks this year and both sit in the top-5 in points. Dean Switser Jr., Stephen Martin, Gary Mullen, and Tommy Smith are among the other racers off to solid starts.
Capitol City Automart Night goes to post at 7:00pm this Friday, June 8. The pits will open at 3:30pm and the front gates will open at 5:15pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for kids ages 6-12, and $25 for a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids).