Waterbury, VT – Every hometown needs sports heroes. Barre, VT is a sports town. The “Granite Capital of the World” is a blue collar town with master craftsmen making a living working with huge slabs of granite, which their neighbors have hauled deep from inside Quarry Hill that looks over the city below.
For over fifty years, racing at Thunder Road International Speedbowl has been part of the fabric of this town and region. The latest local hero to follow in the tradition of local and regional heroes like Stub Fadden, Ronnie Marvin, Roy ‘Pappy’ Forsythe, Harold ‘Hardluck’ Hanaford, the Dion Brothers, Joey Laquerre and dozens more is another local kid, Nick Sweet, from Barre.
Sweet came through the Thunder Road system with remarkable success. He was awarded the Rookie of the Year honors in all levels he competed in, including the 2003 Allen Lumber Street Stock division, and the 2005 Tiger-Sportsman division, considered by many to be the most competitive division in weekly short track racing, where he also earned the Thunder Road track title in 2007. In 2008 he moved to the region’s most successful touring series, the American Canadian Tour (ACT), and won the Rookie of the Year.
His Saint J Auto team followed what seems to be a three-year success pattern by winning the Thunder Road “King of the Road” title in 2010. It was one of the most hotly contested battles for a title in the 51-year history of the track. Entering the final event of the 2010 season, Sweet held off two former Thunder Road Champions, Phil Scott (1996, 1998, and 2002) and David Pembroke (2007) to win the title by just 6 points.
“I think Nick (Sweet) has a very good chance to repeat in 2011,” said seven-time ACT Champion and 2009 Thunder Road Champion, Jean Paul Cyr from Milton, VT. “At Thunder Road you have to have a lot of trust and respect, Nick has earned and given both. That is a big key to winning at that track. Getting around people on the outside is critical, and he does that as well as anyone. I would race him anywhere, anytime. He does not get rattled, he takes what the track and race gives him, and I think he is one of the most well-rounded racers in short track racing today”, Cyr said.
Sweet scored his first-ever ACT Late Model win in the traditional Merchants Bank 150 opening event at Thunder Road in 2010. It was an ACT point event and not a point-counting Thunder Road race. “It was great to win the opener at the ‘Road last year and gave us some great momentum going into the season. We really wanted to give our sponsor, Saint J Auto maximum exposure last season, and that was a good way to start. I guess winning the title at Thunder Road was also a pretty good way to finish,” said the always humble Nick Sweet.
The thirteenth (13th) annual Merchants Bank 150 will have a huge field of past champions. The driver of the Merchants Bank Ford entry is three-time Thunder Road Champion, Cris Michaud from Northfield, VT.
“First, I would really like to win my sponsor’s race. Next, I would really like to beat Nick Sweet for the 2011 Thunder Road title, but his team is just plain old school and hard working. They are tough. His dad Shayne is meticulous in preparation. Nick has become one of the best drivers to race against at Thunder Road. We struggled with our new Ford program last year, and I really had a tough season not being in contention for the title. We think we have solved our problems during the off-season and I am excited to get started again,” said Michaud.
“I think there will be as many as five serious contenders for the Thunder Road title this year and there are also going to be some interesting additional teams coming back to Thunder Road this summer. It should be fun and sure looks like it is going to be different than the last couple years. I can’t wait,” concluded Michaud.
Thunder Road opens for the 52nd season with the downtown Barre car show and unique race car parade up Quarry Hill to officially open the 2011 race season on Saturday, April 30 from 9am to noon. Fans are invited to watch that afternoon’s practice at no charge, and then return Sunday, May 1st for the 13th annual Merchants Bank 150. Gates will open at 10am, Class Day will be presented at 1:00, and post time for the second event of the 2011 ACT US Tour season is 1:30. Admission is just $18 for Adults and kids 6-12 just $5. A family pass for $36 for four people will be available.
For additional information contact the ACT office at 802.244.6963, www.acttour.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.