Barre, VT – An all-time battle to be the “King of the Road” is shaping up as Thunder Road heads into WDEV/Calkins Portable Toilets Night this Thursday, August 1. While a full card of racing is on tap for all four divisions, everyone will have at least one eye on the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models and a point chase that is currently too close to call.
There have been many thrilling bouts for the track championship throughout Thunder Road’s 60-year history. The 2018 season was certainly near the top of the list, as the top four drivers went down to the final laps of the season before Milton’s Scott Dragon emerged with his second “King of the Road” title.
However, the 2019 edition already looks like it could be one of the best title clashes ever at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement”. With five point-counting events remaining, a mere nine points separate the top five racers. All told, six drivers could end Thursday night as the point leader, meaning every move they make looms large.
Dragon finds himself in a familiar position after nine events – atop the point standings. The two-time and defending champion has the points lead for the first time all season after his runner-up finish at the Country Camper Midseason Championships. Although, “The Dragon Wagon” has had a few rough races this year, his three victories and the double-point second-place result last week have been enough to put him in the same position as he was at this time last year.
Shelburne’s Trampas Demers is also in the same spot as 2018 – with almost the exact margin. Demers is two points behind Dragon in second place compared to three points after last year’s Midseason Championships. The veteran has been the most consistent driver in the Late Model ranks this year with top-10s in every event.
“Our performance in the second half of the season has to be better than it’s been in the past,” Demers said. “We’ve gotten to this point before. This particular year, we went backwards in the Midseason Championships, whereas in past years we’ve gained in that event. We’ve just got to hang in there for the last five races and find what we had in the beginning of the season – (Thursday) was really the first race where we didn’t run well.
“You’re going to have to finish in the top-five for at least the majority of the races left to win the title against these guys,” Demers added. “There’s no way you’re not going to be able to do that…we’ve been in this position before, and we’ve learned the pressure that it can bring. At this point, timing and momentum are everything.”
Montpelier’s Kyle Pembroke and Barre’s Jason Corliss are tied for third with each just seven points out of first. Pembroke made a huge leap thanks to his double-point Midseason Championship win while Corliss has been in the overall top-three all year. Barre’s Cody Blake rounds out the top-five and trails Dragon by nine points. Just behind this quintet, Wolcott’s Marcel J. Gravel sits 31 points back of Dragon in sixth, making him very much a title contender.
The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers have a thriller of a championship chase developing as well. A major shift happened at the Midseason Championship with Waterbury Center’s Jason Woodard grabbed his second win of the season. The double-point victory, coupled with a 10th-place finish for Craftsbury’s Stephen Martin, brought Woodard all the way back from a 41-point deficit to a nine-point lead in the standings.
Martin now is second overall, which is still a fine position for the 17-year-old rookie. Third-year Tiger racer Tyler Austin of East Calais is 29 points behind Woodard in third while sophomore Kelsea Woodard of Waterbury Center runs 47 points back in fourth. Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear rounds out the top-five with Joe Steffen, Logan Powers, and Colin Cornell not far behind.
In the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, it is status quo for Barre’s Jeffrey Martin. The veteran posted his ninth straight top-10 finish on double-points night, keeping him 34 points ahead of former champion Tommy “Thunder” Smith of Williamstown. Berlin’s Kasey Collins surged to third in the standings after a career-best second-place finish last week. Dean Switser Jr., Kasey Beattie, J.T. Blanchard, and Tim Hunt are breathing down Collin’s neck, leaving much to be decided.
The Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors are on the Thunder Road card for the second straight week. Points haven’t been necessary for the Road Warriors to put on a raucous show every time out, and the division has already produced four first-time Thunder Road winners in just six events. While a fifth first-timer could certainly emerge this week, popular Warriors such as Eric Chase, Josh Vilbrin, and James Dopp will have something to say about that.
Thunder Road opens the second half of the season with WDEV/Calkins Portable Toilets Night this Thursday, August 1 at 7:00pm. All four divisions have a full card of championship action. The evening will also feature the annual “Port-a-Potty Grand Prix” to determine the fast portalet in the Northeast. The pits open at 3:30pm and the front gates 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).