After a three-week wait, Barre’s Thunder Road is ready to get the 2019 racing season back in gear. The 57th Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic hits the high banks this Sunday, May 26 with some of the biggest stars the Northeast ready for a huge holiday weekend.
Local racing fans don’t have to jet to Monaco, Indianapolis, or Charlotte to enjoy a great Memorial Day Sunday of racing. Thunder Road will have five divisions in action with each bringing their own brand of excitement to the high banks. All are still early in their respective seasons, meaning optimism will be high throughout the pit area for a great day and year ahead.
“It’s always great to get back up (to Thunder Road) after Opening Day,” said Barre’s Nick Sweet, who will be racing in the Pro All Stars Series event and serving as crew chief for Eric Chase in the Memorial Day Classic. “We were fortunate we got to race Opening Day, and we’ve had a month off now from Thunder Road, so it’s time to get back up there. This is kind of the beginning to the summer at the track, and it’s time to get the summer racing season started!”
The Memorial Day Classic is one of Thunder Road’s oldest events that dates all the way back to 1961. Some of the most legendary names in Northeast racing have carried the Memorial Day checkered flag, from early greats like Russ Ingerson and Larry Demar to modern standouts such as Jason Corliss and defending winner Cody Blake.
This year, the best of the best in the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models will take their shot at the holiday weekend trophy, the early points lead, and a spot on one of Thunder Road’s granite monuments. Former Memorial Day Classic winners Trampas Demers, Tyler Cahoon, and John Donahue are expected to join Corliss and Blake in the field. Defending “King of the Road” Scott Dragon has yet to add a Memorial Day Classic win to his résumé and is itching to do so. Other top runners such as Jim “Boomer” Morris, Christopher Pelkey, Stephen Donahue, and Marcel J. Gravel have shown the speed and skill to get it done on Sunday.
They’ll be joined for the fifth straight year by the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models. The PASS Memorial Day 150 is becoming as strong a tradition as the Classic itself. The best Super Late Model racers in the region will do battle with each other and the track – with half an eye on the new wall surrounding it.
“I don’t think (the wall) will impact the racing one bit,” Sweet said. “If anything, it makes it so you know where the edge of the asphalt is. That’s a bit more comforting – especially going into turn three! I think it’ll still be a good race. You’ll just have something on the outer edge of the racetrack now.”
Fans can expect to see many faces that have become familiar. Center Conway, NH’s D.J. Shaw, the reigning PASS Champion, current point leader, and 2017 Thunder Road winner, headlines the entry list. Nine-time PASS Champion Ben Rowe and former Beech Ridge Champion Reid Lanpher lead the charge from Maine. A pair of Derek’s – Griffith and Ramstrom – will try to bring the trophy back to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, respectively.
As is often the case when PASS visits Thunder Road, multiple local runners will take on the touring regulars. Sweet, a two-time “King of the Road”, is looking for his second straight PASS victory at the track after winning a thriller last September. He has officially entered the event as has 2017 “King of the Road” Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg.
No Thunder Road event would be complete without the track’s weekly stars. Williamstown’s Micheal MacAskill got his Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers season started on the right foot with an Opening Day win and looks to ride the momentum. He’ll have to fend off a field filled with legitimate title contenders such as Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear, E. Calais’s Tyler Austin, Waterbury Ctr.’s Jason Woodard, and E. Burke’s Colin Cornell.
The Allen Lumber Street Stocks are hoping for the same thrills with less spills than in their opener. Barre’s Tyler Pepin and Graniteville’s J.T. Blanchard had career days to sit atop the early point standings. Others such as Gary Mullen, Tommy Smith, Bryan P. Wall, and Jeffrey Martin are trying to bounce back from outings that ended prematurely. The Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors put on one of the best races of the day at the Community Bank N.A. event and will surely bring the excitement once again.
Qualifying for the 57th Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic goes green at 1:30pm on Sunday, May 26. The program includes 100 laps for the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models along with the PASS Super Late Models, Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors. The pits open at 7:30am and the front gates open at 10:00am. Admission is $25 for adults and free for kids ages 12 and under.