BARRE, VT – Late Model stock car drivers at Barre’s Thunder Road may be in for a surprise on Sunday. Based on a trend of stellar performances by Thunder Road’s “new breed” young guns, a total changing of the guard may be next on the horizon.

Sophomore hometown racer Mike “Beetle” Bailey turned heads with a back-to-front run against an all-star American-Canadian Tour (ACT) field at the Merchants Bank 150 season opener earlier this month. He backed it up by flirting with a “Triple Crown” sweep of the Casella Waste Management Mother’s Day event, winning his qualifying heat and the bonus-points semi-feature before finishing sixth in the 50-lap main event.

Rookie Chip Grenier of Northfield has produced solid results as well, winning his Merchants Bank 150 qualifier and finishing eighth in the Casella 50. Defending Rookie of the Year Marcel Gravel of Wolcott ran in
the lead pack for a majority of the Merchants Bank 150 before finishing a strong 11th, and former NAPA Tiger Sportsman Champion Shawn Fleury of Middlesex has shown signs of promise in the Late Model division this year.

“We’re concentrating on the little things more this year than we were able to last year,” said Bailey. “I think with a year of experience now, our team can finish in the top ten in points. My biggest goal is to stay out
of trouble. If I can do that, we’ll be in good shape.”

“I think we’ve got as good a shot as anyone else to win on Memorial Day,” said Grenier, who is driving the car that Chad Wheeler raced to the “King of the Road” crown last season. “I’m still learning behind the wheel, but I have a lot of great help in the pits and in the shop.”

Grenier has received input and advice from champion crew chiefs Troy Wheeler and Pete Duto, and says that some veteran drivers have been helpful as well.

“Cris Michaud and Eric Williams have talked with me at the track some, and they’ve been good to me,” he said. “It’s nice to go into the top division as a rookie and be accepted by champions like them.”

Don’t count the “old guard” out just because the young guns are cranking it up, though. Long-time ampaigners Michaud, Williams, Dave Whitcomb, and Phil Scott are ready to teach the kids a thing or two.

“It’s no different than any other year,” said Whitcomb, the 1995 Thunder Road Track Champion. “A few new guys will come in and do well, and it’s nice to see them have good runs and be as respectful as they have been, but you still want to beat them on the track. I’ve spoken with guys like Beetle and Chip and Shawn, and I think they’ll all be good racers.”

The Essex Junction driver turned the race for third place into an outstanding 30-lap duel with Williams in the Casella 50. Williams stole the position by about two feet at the finish.

“I would love to have another race this weekend like I did last weekend, but I want to come out on top this time,” Whitcomb said. “I’m pretty confident. We have a brand new car this year, and it’s going well. I
still want to win races, even after all these years.”

Thunder Road’s “new breed” driver will see how they measure up to the veterans at Sunday’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. Qualifying action for the traditional 100-lap holiday event is scheduled to begin at
1:30pm. General admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children, and only $25 for a family of four. NAPA Sportsmen, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Power Shift Junkyard Warriors will also be on tap. For more information, call (802) 244-6963 or visit