WEST HAVEN — Adam Pierson left little doubt at Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Monday, beginning the delayed 2020 stock car racing season in Vermont with a dominant, flag-to-flag run in the “COVID Crusher” event.
The East Corinth veteran highlighted a winners list that included locals Johnny Bruno, of Castleton, Andrew FitzGerald, of West Rutland, Chris Conroy, and Dakota Green at Devil’s Bowl Speedway’s 54th annual season opener.
Though spectators were not permitted for the event due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, a positive vibe was felt throughout the night and more than 600 viewers watched some of the action through Facebook Live video.
Pierson ended a Devil’s Bowl winless skid nearly two years long in the 29-lap feature race for the headline Pepsi Sportsman Modified division. After drawing the pole position, the former track champion ran away virtually uncontested for the win. The race was slowed by four caution flags including two multi-car incidents – one of which involved defending champion Kenny Tremont Jr. with just one lap complete, and another that took several of the Top 10 drivers out of contention with six laps remaining.
Brandon’s Joey Scarborough was the luckiest driver in field when he was saved by a caution flag on lap 9; the flag was put out for a spin by John St. Germain in Turn 2, just a heartbeat before Scarborough got turned around in Turn 4. He was running in third place at the time and was able to keep his position for the restart, and then advanced to the runner-up spot for the finish.
Robert Bublak Jr. made a rare Devil’s Bowl appearance pay off with a strong third-place run, and Marty Kelly III had one of the best runs of his young career in fourth. Veterans Jimmy Ryan, Frank Hoard III, and Bobby Hackel were next in line, followed by Jack Speshock, Mike Palmer, and Vince Quenneville.
Thirty cars attempted to qualify for 24 starting positions; heats were won by Hoard, Scarborough, and Kelly, and Brian Calabrese won the last-chance consolation qualifier.
Johnny Bruno started his title defense on the right foot with a win in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Limited Sportsman feature. The Castleton racer led all but the first circuit of the 19-lap race. Former Sprint Car champion Lacey Hanson of Orwell had a spectacular drive in her first Limited Sportsman start, running from eighth starting position to take the runner-up finish.
Anthony Warren took third place with Matt Bilodeau fourth, and Garrett Given came out on top of a five-way battle for fifth place. Montgomery Tremont was right behind Given in a tight pack with Gary English, Evan Roberts, Josh Bussino, who finished in that order. Kevin Groff rounded out the Top 10.
The Super Stock division had a short field but still threw off an interesting race. Andrew FitzGerald led the first half-dozen laps before two-time champion Chris Murray took over. Murray had the race well in hand when the bad luck that plagued him in 2019 returned in the form of a flat tire with just three laps remaining. Murray was given two caution laps to make the fix, then put on a show to drive back to second place.
FitzGerald held on for the second win of his Super Stock career in the 19-lapper, followed by Murray, Russ Farr, Cam Gadue, and Ronnie Alger.
The Mini Stock division had a rough go of it, and a rash of caution flags forced the race to be called after just six of 19 laps were completed; a predetermined 15-minute time limit was set and surpassed. Chris Conroy of Newport, New Hampshire, stood tall at the end after a good battle for the lead with former teammate Shawn Moquin, who finished second.
Jarrod Colburn crossed the finish line third but was disqualified when his car came up light on the scales in post-race inspection. That moved defending champion Craig Kirby up to third place, followed by T.J. Knight and Michael Daniels.
The Friend Construction 500cc Mini Sprint division had the most exciting finish of the night, as Dakota Green and Cody O’Brien battled hard in their non-stop 19-lap feature. Green, of Cambridge, New York, came out on top for his first win in two years, with O’Brien second and Samantha Mulready – Green’s teammate – third.
Kaidin White had his best showing in fourth place and Kamden Duffy finished fifth. The Mini Sprint class drew a wide variety of competitors, from 10-year-old White to 64-year-old Roger LaDuc, who will compete against each other for Rookie of the Year honors in 2020.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway will return to action on Sunday, June 21, with the annual “Topless” Fathers Day event for the Sportsman Modified and Limited Sportsman divisions in which cars race without roofs. The Super Stock, Mini Stock, and 500cc Mini Sprint classes will be in action along with the Champlain Valley Vintage Dirt Modifieds. The general admission grandstand will remain closed until pandemic restrictions are lifted.
New information will be announced as soon as it is available.