Thunder Road SpeedBowl
Legendary Canadian stock car driver, Claude Leclerc from Montreal, Qc has filed an entry to compete in the American-Canadian Tour’s (ACT) season opening Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road, Barre, VT, Sat, April 29 and Sun, April 30. Leclerc, who cut his racing teeth with Tom Curley’s original NASCAR North Tour in the late 1970s, has most recently been competing in Quebec with the série Castrol.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Barre and Thunder Road,” the multi-time STP Canadian Challenge Champion and 1990 winner of the Don MacTavish Award stated. “I haven’t been there to race since 1995 and that was in an old ACT Pro Stock car,” the veteran racer explained continuing, “These Late Model cars are a lot different than what I last brought to the track, but they are perfect for Thunder Road’s size and high banks. I can’t wait to get back there; the fans at that track are some of the best.”

At 65, Leclerc will likely be the most senior driver attempting to qualify for the 26 car starting field. During his previous ACT participation, Leclerc posted six victories, although none were at Thunder Road. In his younger days, Leclerc was considered a long-track specialist and his victories at the 7/8 mile Sanair Super Speedway, Airborne Speedway’s half-mile and the 5/8th mile at the former Bryar Motorsports Park, to name a few, are a testament to that fact, although he did have wins at Catamount Stadium, a 1/3 mile oval.

Joey Laquerre from East Montpelier, VT, is the reigning ACT Tour elder statesman at 62. In his lengthy career, Laquerre has posted four ACT Late Model Tour feature wins. Perhaps Laquerre’s most interesting statistic is the fact that he’s won a race in each of five decades. In spite of his age, Laquerre is known as a tenacious competitor and is always at threat at Thunder Road.

At the opposite end of the age scale are the young guns – the teens, twenty and 30-something year-old competitors. In the dawn of their ACT Late Model careers are a pair of high schoolers – 16 year-old Joey Polewarczyk from Hudson, NH and Mark Anzalone Jr, 17, of Malden, MA. With the Merchants Bank 150 as their exam, the duo looks to learn their lessons well during the Saturday, April 29 practice sessions. Polewarczyk, a second generation competitor, will enter his sophomore season as an ACT competitor. Anzalone, who will run for the 2006 ACT Rookie of the Year title, has limited experience in a Late Model although he did qualify for and finished tenth in the Tour’s 2005 opener at Lee USA Speedway.

A plethora of drivers in their twenties have registered their cars for opening day. Led by New Hampshire’s “Rocket” Roger Brown, 26, the 2003 ACT Tour Rookie of the Year, and reigning freshman title holder, Scott Payea, 24, from Milton, VT, the 20-somethings come to the “Nation’s Site of Excitement” with a broad level of experience. Second year ACT racers, Ryan Vanasse, 23, from Warwick, RI and 22 year-old Marc Curtis, Jr of Leicester, MA hope to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx. Both believe their previous Thunder Road track time will be invaluable. Mike Collins from Strafford, NH, 27, has registered to run the full 2006 ACT Tour schedule for the first time. Even though he didn’t qualify for either of the two $10,000 to win ACTion Super Series races at Thunder Road last year, the former Lee USA Late Model competitor feels confident going into the Merchants Bank 150. Weekly Thunder Road competitor, Grant Folsom, 25, from Waitsfield, VT hopes his knowledge of the ¼ mile oval will aid in his quest for a starting spot in the Merchants Bank 150. Dan Colby, 29 and Bobby Baillargeon, 23, both from the Granite State will also attempt to make the starting field on Sunday, April 30.

No less than eight 30-something year-old drivers have filed entries for the ACT lid-lifter. Defending Merchants Bank 150 winner, Dave Pembroke of Middlesex, VT has to be considered among the favorites to carry the first checkers of 2006. Other drivers of interest include Maine’s Ben Rowe, Quebec’s Patrick Laperle and first year driver, Marcel Gravel from Morrisville, VT, all 30. Making his first visit to Thunder Road will be Walter Sutcliffe, 31, from East Haven, CT. Although he admits to knowing nothing about the track, Sutcliffe hopes his years of experience at the wheel of a stock car at tracks all over the eastern seaboard will prove helpful. Former Thunder Road Late Model track champion, Jamie Fisher, 32 from Shelburne, VT is always a threat to win, especially at Thunder Road, and Jeffersonville, Vermont’s, Joey Becker, 33, also has wins in long distance races at the high banked speedplant.

Some 40-plus Late Model drivers from all six New England states as well as New York, are expected to attempt to Thunder Road’s 47th season opener, ACT’s eighth annual Merchants Bank 150, slated for Sat/Sun, April 29-30. Post time on Sunday is 1:30 pm. Joining the Touring Late Models will be Thunder Road’s own NAPA Tiger Sportsmen, Allen Lumber Street Stocks and PowerShift Warriors. The weekly divisions will begin their chase for the 2006 “King of the Road” honors.