Thunder Road SpeedBowl
ACTion News 4/25/05
Apparently, the Seacoast Late Model Challenge 100 has so huge even Mother Nature couldn’t handle it. As you probably know by now, the opening event of the ACT Late Model Tour was rained out last weekend, but Lee USA Speedway officials have rescheduled the race to Friday, May 6. Gates will open at 1:00pm, practice starts at 3:00pm, and the qualifying action gets under way at 6:00pm. We expected as many as 65 cars, so it's a show you won't want to miss! With the rain, that means the 2005 season opener will now take place at Barre, VT’s Thunder Road this weekend, with the Merchants Bank 150.

The Merchants Bank Car Show returns to Main Street in Barre City on Saturday, April 30, where cars from the Tour and each of Thunder Road’s four racing divisions will line the streets of the Granite Capital. Show hours are 9:00am to Noon, with an all-divisions – and likely all-methods necessary for some teams – Pit Stop Contest at 10:30am. The show will close with a full parade of race cars up Quarry Hill to the speedway, with practice sessions beginning at 1:30pm. Thunder Road’s famous “Class Day” ceremonies will kick the season off in style on Sunday, May 1 at 1:00pm, with the first green flag waving at 1:30pm.

As that green flag waves, you may notice the buttons on your stopwatch clicking a bit faster than normal. Last Thursday, around 20 ACT Late Model teams came to Thunder Road to learn the setups on the new Goodyear tires and triple-disc Quarter Master clutches. They got an education, alright. Nearly a dozen drivers flirted with Pete Fecteau’s Late Model track record lap of 13.217 seconds, set in 2001. In fact, several drivers were well under the mark, leaving us to wonder just how many will break – no, smash! – the record in qualifying at the New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl in October.

Unofficially, Chad Wheeler and Rich Lowrey (right) each turned over a half-dozen laps in the sub-13 second range, with Lowrey’s best a reported 12.82. “I thought the stopwatch was broken or that I’d screwed up or something,” said Tony Andrews, Lowrey’s crew chief. “Rich and couple other guys were just flying, it was cool.” Among the flying was Andrews’ multi-time champion father, Norm, in his first stint behind the wheel since 1996. “Stormin’ Norman” was consistently in the 13.2-13.3 second range, along with fellow veterans Pete Fecteau, Joey Laquerre, and Dave Whitcomb. Also quite impressive were Trampas Demers (13.1), Eric Williams (13.2), rookie Ryan Nolin (13.2), and defending “King of the Road” Cris Michaud, who ran a few 13-flats.

NAPA Tiger Sportsman drivers that were hot to trot included Doug Murphy, Jason Bonnett, Chuck Beede, rookie Nick Sweet, and Chris Curtis. Allen Lumber Street Stock top dogs included Eric Johnson, David Allen, and Alex Perkins.

Did you know…?

• The first official Thunder Road track record lap was set by Jerry Bigelow of St. Johnsbury, VT during a time trial and practice session on June 28, 1960. Driving a GMC-powered Chevrolet Coupe, Bigelow ran a fast time of 17.5 seconds, which is just a hair slower than the “lead group” of today’s PowerShift Junkyard Warriors.

• By September 1960, lap times were a full second faster. Driving the famous #1240, Barre’s Mike “The Yankee Flyer” Osborne set the mark at 16.5 on September 15, which is a decent Street Stock lap by today’s standards.

• When Thunder Road was freshly paved in May 1994, lap times for the cars of the former ACT Pro Stock Tour dropped by nearly a full second as well… to 12.2s! Quebec’s Sylvain Metivier holds the all-time Thunder Road track record at 12.245 seconds, set at the Milk Bowl in September 1995.


Kids, bring your autograph pens, your favorite pictures, t-shirts, little brother or sister, and anything else you can think of to the Merchants Bank Car Show on Saturday! Come and meet the stars of the ACT Late Model Tour, the promising youngsters of the Sportsman and Street Stock divisions, and wacky characters of the Warriors! The show starts at 9:00am, rain or shine! Questions, comments, et cetera… e-mail justin@acttour.com!