Thunder Road SpeedBowl
Williamstown's Cooper MacRitchie claimed the 19th New England Dodge Dealers VT Governor's Cup Thursday night at Barre's Thunder Road, his first Late Model victory of the season and eighth of his career and accepted the event's rotating trophy from the state's chief executive, Jim Douglas. For most of the event's 100 laps, the veteran racer was locked in a battle with Shelburne's Dennis Demers who eventually finished second. The pair officially traded the lead back and forth 12 times in a 62 lap period before MacRitchie, running the high-banked quarter-mile oval's tough outside groove, sealed the advantage on the 78th circuit.

With MacRitchie's Dodge out front and pulling away, Demers was forced to contend with hard charging Chad Wheeler. Try as he could, the Waterbury Center competitor was not able to gain the advantage. He settled for third. Montpelier's Dave Pembroke, a winner earlier in the season in both a weekly and an ACT Tour event, was fourth. Pete Fecteau from Morrisville, the victor on July 16, completed the top five.
"The 86 (Demers) ran me clean, I just had to be patient," MacRitchie recalled as Governor Douglas and several Barre City and Town politicians looked on. "My car ran good, especially up high and the longer we ran under green, the better it seemed to get."
Runner-up Demers, who still looks for his first win of the season commented, "I had two problems tonight - the first, Cooper ran too good on the outside, the second - it should've been a 50 lap race," he finished with a grin. Thunder Road's Late Model division normally has 50 lap feature races and had the VT Governor's Cup been that long, he would have claimed the trophy.
MacRitchie's name will be inscribed along side those of the region's racing icons including the inaugural winner of the VT Governor's Cup, the "Yankee Flyer" Mike Osborne (1961). Other past champions of the VT Governor's Cup include Canadian great Jean-Paul Cabana, New Hampshire drivers Dave Dion (twice), and Stub Fadden as well as Robbie Crouch, formerly from Tampa, Florida, the only driver to win back-to-back events, among others.
Defending Late Model Champion and current point leader, Cris Michaud from Williamstown was sixth, Jamie Fisher of Shelburne, last week's winner, Joey Laquerre from E Montpelier, Trampas Demers of South Burlington and Jeffersonville's Joe Becker completed the top ten.
The NAPA Sportsman winner was Jason Bonnett of St Albans. Bonnett, a former Sportsman Champion at New York's Airborne Raceway, has been struggling with getting the right set-up for Thunder Road's high banks. Thursday night the veteran racer took advantage of a multi-car yellow flag with six laps remaining in the 25-lap race to position himself for the victory. He passed leader Jeff French, a sophomore competitor, on the restart and then held off the late race charge of two-time defending Sportsman Champion, Reno Gervais from Island Pond. Gervais settled for the runner-up spot, his best outing of the season. Point leader Shawn Fleury of Montpelier was third after starting 17th in the 26-car field.
For his outstanding performance, Fleury will receive the Booth Brothers "Cream of the Crop" Award, which is given weekly by the track's officials to the one competitor from across all divisions to has a particularly distinguishing night of competition. He will receive his cash award during pre-race ceremonies at the next event.
Marcel Gravel of Wolcott crossed the line in fourth and early race leader; French of Northfield rounded out the top five.
The Allen Lumber Street Stock winner was Williamstown's Tom Smith. Smith, a winner several weeks earlier, started 10th on the grid and powered his way to the front before the halfway mark. Barre's Lloyd Blakely was second and Garry Bashaw from Lincoln was third in his best race of the year. Completing the top five were rookie Steve Tracy from Williamstown and Fairfax's Kevin Campbell.
The Power Shift Warrior checkers went to first time winner David Lafleche of Graniteville. The victory had special significance to Lafleche and his brother Eric, who finished 12th, as the pair had attended their mother's funeral earlier in the day. Point leader, Mike Martin from Craftsbury Common was second in the 15-lap race. Kevin Keene from E Hardwick crossed the line in third but lost his standing in the post-race technical inspection. Hardwick's Chris Hodgdon inherited the position.
Thunder Road is back in action on Sunday with the 21st annual M&M Beverage Enduro 200, a long distance race for virtually street legal cars. Also on the card will be the second round in the Sunoco Ethanol Street Stock Triple Crown Series. Post time is 6:00 pm.