Thunder Road SpeedBowl
THREE OF FOUR ARE FIRST TIME WINNERS ON THUNDER ROAD'S FINAL THURSDAY
Three of the four feature winners Thursday night at Barre's Thunder Road claimed first time career checkers at the track's final Thursday night race of the season. Additionally, Cris Michaud from Williamstown was crowned as the 2005 "King of the Road" for his third Late Model Championship. He previously won the title in 2004 and 2001 and is the first to successfully defend the honor since Chuck Beede in 1993-94.


Graniteville's John Donahue started on the pole of the Late Model division's 50-lap feature en route to his first career victory but his road to the checkers wasn't an easy one. He battled at length with Waterbury Center's Chad Wheeler as neither was able to gain a clear advantage for some 30 laps. The pair ran swapped the lead back and forth several times. Donahue finally put his Dodge out front as Dave Whitcomb moved in to challenge Wheeler for the runner-up spot. Whitcomb, from Essex Jct, moved into second with 10 laps remaining and set sail after Donahue, only to run out of laps.
Finishing behind Donahue, Whitcomb and Wheeler was Rich Lowrey of Charlotte and Montpelier's Phil Scott. Thirty-three Late Models attempted to qualify for the 26-car starting field including racers from Maine, New York and New Hampshire. The visiting competitors were all at the high-banked quarter mile oval in preparation for the upcoming $10,000 to win Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 on Sunday, September 4.
Roger Brown from Lancaster, NH finished sixth, Jeffersonville's Joe Becker, Dave Pembroke from Montpelier, Michaud and Shelburne's Dennis Demers completed the top ten. Even though Wheeler finished ahead of Michaud in the feature race, he was not able to overcome the point deficit. Unofficially, Michaud won the championship by 32 points (1073-1041).
The NAPA Sportsmen division also had a break though winner in Barre's Scott Coburn. Coburn took the lead from freshman racer Jeff Bousquet following a restart on the 22nd lap of the 35 lap event. The caution, the first and only one in the race, came out for a five car pile up on the front stretch. No one was injured in the incident.
Once out front, Coburn put as much distance between himself and Montpelier's Bousquet as he could. Finishing third was Ray Stearns from E Corinth, VT. Rounding out the top five was Mike Bailey from Barre and Waterbury's Brian Boudreau.
Marshfield high school student, Josh Carter posted his first checkers in the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, leading all but the first three laps of the 25-lap feature. He survived a pair of restarts and a late race challenge from eventual runner-up Williams Hennequin from Morrisville. Georgia's Eric Badore was third. Geoff Forsey from Westford and Tunbridge's Gary Mullen completed the top five.
Power Shift Warrior point leader, Mike Martin of Craftsbury Common, VT was the only winning driver who had previously visited Victory Lane. Maynard Bartlett Sr was second and Jayme Lee was third.
Thursday night's race, the final "regular" event of the season was also the annual Sweepstakes race. Twenty teams, each with a representative from each division were determined by blind draw several weeks ago. Each driver's feature finish posiiton was added together to determined the overall Sweepstakes winning team. When the math was calculated, the team of Dennis Demers (Late Model), Kris Grout (Sportsman), Gary Mullen (Street Stock) and Chris Hodgdon (Warrior) posted the a total score of 26, the lowest, for the win. All participants will receive performance bonuses based on their efforts. Ironically, Grout was on the winning team last year as well.
The fans were able to participate in the Sweepstakes by selecting, before racing started, which team they though would have the lowest total. The fans who chose correctly were put in a bucket and several names were drawn for prizes which included tickets to upcoming ACTion Super Series races and the September Nextel Cup race.
Thunder Road's next-to-last race of the season is the ACT Tour's Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 on Sunday, Sept 4. Discount advance sale tickets are available through all 32 Bond Auto locations as well as the Thunder Road office in Waterbury.