Jamie Aube (41VT) and Austin Theriault (57ME) run side-by-side during the 14th Annual Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road on Sunday, April 29, 2012. (Photo by Eric LaFleche)

Barre, VT – Victory lane at the Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road on Sunday, April 29 was all Brian Hoar, but for weekly contenders there was more to the race than just victory lane. For weekly racers at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” this was not a point-counting race, but a proving ground to set the stage for a summer-long battle to become the next “King of the Road.”

The usual suspects were in good form. John Donahue of Graniteville made a late race charge for fourth, former champs Nick Sweet of Barre and David Pembroke of Middlesex led sections of the race, multi-time Champion Phil Scott of Berlin was on his way to the front before an altercation with the front stretch wall. In 2012, however, these four names won’t be the only ones on the list of drivers to watch out for in the race for the 2012 Late Model Title.

Former Oxford 250 winner Jamie Aube of North Ferrisburg has come leaps and bounds from his return to Thunder Road in 2011. Aube posted a +6 in his qualifying heat, storming from eleventh to fifth, only one spot outside of qualifying. Had he placed fourth in his heat, he would have earned the pole for the Merchants Bank 150. In his consolation round, he finished second. Had he finished one spot better, he would have started second in the main event.

Aube showed he could compete with the top teams working the outside and making quality passes at arguably “The Toughest Short Track In America”. Aube will be at Thunder Road weekly to compete for the championship, and he has placed himself in the conversation after his strong showing in the Merchants Bank 150.

Brooks Clark of Fayston was another weekly Thunder Road contender who flexed muscle in the ACT opener. Clark started sixth in his qualifying heat, and wheeled his way to third, getting into the main event with a +3. Clark then ran with the top ACT teams all day in the top ten, finishing eighth overall. In a race where over 35% of the cars that showed up didn’t make the show, finishing inside the top ten was no small feat.

But for Clark, it is another step in a progressing career. Clark pulled off his first win at the Road in 2011, and has been steadily improving throughout his time in the Late Model division. With a win under his belt, and a message sent in the ACT opening Merchants Bank 150, he will set his sights on the title in 2012.

The chase for the next “King of the Road” begins with The Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road on Sunday May 27. It is also the first event of the newly created Vermont State Late Model Championship, a four race series with both Thunder Road and Devil’s Bowl Speedway competitors.

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