Thunder Road SpeedBowl
The number of freshman racers registered for the 2007 NAPA Tiger Sportsman class at Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl has swelled to seven competitors with additional forms expected. The division, the oldest in action at the 48 year-old high-banked, quarter-mile oval, is known for its competitiveness.

The elder statesman of the rookie class is 47 year-old Bob Adams from Milton, VT. Adams comes to the division after competing in the Renegade class at Plattsburgh, New York’s Airborne Speedway for four years. “I used to race at Catamount and Thunder Road years ago in the Grand American division and finished third in the state in the early 70s,” Adam said. “I’ve been out of racing for about four years. Last winter I built Shannon Tomasovich’s car, then went to Thunder Road at the end of the season and caught the (racing) bug again,” he explained.

Unlike some of his fellow freshman competitors, Adams has not raced a Tiger Sportsman car, “Other than driving the car in and out of the garage, I’ve never been in a Tiger car before. One of the hardest things will be getting back into racing and the driver’s mind set. I want to be competitive,” he finished.

A trio of 2007 rookie candidates tested the waters last season in preparation for their assault on the Sportsman Rookie of the Year crown. Second generation racer Joel Hodgdon from Craftsbury, VT, and Eric Badore of Milton, VT as well as Lisbon, NH driver, Travis Ingerson each gained valuable seat time while attempting to qualify for a limited number of events in 2006.

Hodgdon, an 18 year-old who’s attending college in Maine, acquired the 2004 championship winning car of Bill Sawyer. In the two Sportsman races he attempted last season, the Allen Lumber Street Stock veteran qualified for both and even posted a top ten finish in the last race of the year. “I’m going to watch and pay attention to the veterans,” the second generation competitor recently commented between classes.

“Last year I had the opportunity to be on the outside of (two-time Sportsman champion) Shawn Fleury on a restart and I got schooled badly,” Hodgdon laughed. “There’s so much to learn, there’s a lot of difference between the Street Stock and the Sportsman,” he finished.

(PHOTO at right - Joel Hodgdon won the Allen Lumber Street Stock main as part of the Mekkelsen Rv Memmorial Day Classic events)

Ingerson, also an 18 year-old college freshman, echoed many of Hodgdon’s comments, “The Street Stock car has about half of the power and less tire,” he remarked. “Driving a Sportsman requires a lot of finesse. Being able to break the ice with the Sportsman car last year was an invaluable experience especially at Thunder Road which is a hard track to learn. Plus, it’s going to be tough since there’s going to be a lot of good rookie talent starting at the back,” he finished.

Badore, the 2006 Allen Lumber Street Stock champion, qualified for two races in his Sportsman car although he was not satisfied with his efforts. “While I would have liked to finish better we did learn a lot. There’s a lot more to making a Sportsman car handle than there is to a Street Stock. It’s a start that we can build on for 2007,” the 23 year-old said.

(PHOTO - above left - Travis Ingerson was victorious in the Street Stock feature as part of the Sanel/Parts Plus trophy dash. At right - Eric Badore pumps his fist following one of his three victories in 2006)

The youngest member of the freshman group is 16 year-old Derrick O’Donnell of Bradford, VT. Like several of his classmates, O’Donnell comes to the Sportsman division by way of a Street Stock, although his early seat time came at a different track than Thunder Road. “I’ve been going to the races at Thunder Road since I was little,” the Oxbow High School junior said, “It’s always been a dream to race there but I wasn’t old enough until last year.”

He continued, “Fortunately I was able to run my Street Stock in a couple of races late last year which should help me as I try to figure out the track and the car. I’ve got some people with Thunder Road experience I can rely on to help me figure out the set up. We bought Reno Gervais’ car and he’s going to help us out and Ryan Nolin, who I know pretty well, has also offered his assistance,” O’Donnell continued.

Rounding out the drivers who’ve already registered as NAPA Tiger Sportsman rookies are a pair of Vermont competitors, Shawn Sicard of Barre and Plainfield’s Tim Potter. Both are graduates of the Allen Lumber Street Stock class and top ten point finishers from 2006.

Sicard, 26, was the top freshman driver in Thunder Road’s Street Stock division last year and winner of the Ed Carroll Memorial Sportsmanship Award. As the son-in-law of Chuck Beede, the 2006 Tiger Sportsman Series Champion and a multi-time title holder at Thunder Road, Sicard will have a wealth of knowledge from which to draw.

Potter, 20, started racing go-karts at Thunder Road 10 years ago and for the past five years has been competing in the Allen Lumber Street Stocks. “I bought the car Matt White drove in his rookie season,” young Potter stated. “My brother Matt (the 2006 Sportsman Rookie of the Year), should be helpful as I make the transition from the Street Stock to the Sportsman, plus I helped work on his car a bit last year so I’ve started to learn about them,” he explained.

(PHOTO - At left - Shawn Sicard accepts the Ed Carroll Memorial Award for Street Stock sportsmanship from ACT vice president Darla Hartt at the 2006 Banquet of Champions. The award is voted on by ACT licensed Allen Lumber Street Stock drivers and track officials. At right - Tim Potter)

These seven new Tiger Sportsmen drivers as well as the veterans start their 2007 Thunder Road race season on Sunday, May 6 in the Merchants Bank main event. Post time is 1:30.