BARRE, VT – A change has begun at Barre, VT’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl. Stock car racing is a 49 year-old tradition at the Quarry Hill oval, and one of its benchmarks has been the NAPA Tiger Sportsman division – an intermediate, budget-minded class utilizing stock chassis and V8 power. Over 35 Sportsman cars are expected on Ferguson Waterworks Night, Thursday, June 12 at 6:30pm at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement,” to continue producing some of the closest racing of the season.
But in that, there’s a problem: Everyone is good.
Gone are the days of the dominant seasons where a driver could win four, five, or six races on his way to the championship. In fact, no driver has been able to win more than three times a season in the last seven years. The racing is razor-close, taking for example the finish between veteran Rick Garand and teenager James Hebert at the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, where the pair raced side-by-side inches apart for the win. But now more than ever, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the title.
“It’s a nice problem to have when you have more than 30 cars that are all good and equal,” said Thunder Road Promoter Tom Curley. “But at the same time, who do we promote? There are so many good drivers in that Tiger Sportsman division that you want to use in advertisements and stories that you have no choice but to pass over a few.”
Curley points to a pair of former champions, Joey Laquerre and Joe Steffen, who still compete in the NAPA Tiger Sportsman class each week, but also to a huge new batch of local heroes that has emerged, led by veterans Garand, Mark “The Hammer” Barnier, and Pete Ainsworth, 20-somethings Craig Bushey, Shawn Sicard, Joel Hodgdon, and point leader Tom Therrien, teenagers Hebert and Derrick O’Donnell, and Cody Blake, Bobby Therrien, Mike Ziter, and nearly a half-dozen more talented rookies campaigning this year.
“There’s no question that the best racing in New England is in Thunder Road’s Tiger class,” said Curley. “I’m excited to see who will take over the reigns of the division in the next two or three years. As close and competitive as those teams all are, it’ll be a treat to watch the next big star break through.”
Thunder Road’s NAPA Tiger Sportsman division is back in action, along with the ACT Late Models, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Power Shift Online Junkyard Warriors, as the summer Thursday night season opens on Ferguson Waterworks Night, June 12 at 6:30pm. General admission is $9.50 for adults, $3 for children (6-12), and just $20 for a “Family” ticket for any two adults and two kids. For more information, call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.