BARRE — New asphalt and an outside retaining wall are just a few of the recent upgrades at Thunder Road.
For all of the track's changes, its Late Model points leaders remain the same.
Thunder Road officials postponed Thursday's race to Friday due to weather. The race will take place at 7 p.m.
Entering the seventh event of the season Friday, the standings bear a striking resemblance to last year's — especially at the top. Reigning King of the Road Scott Dragon is fourth with 376 points, trailing Cody Blake (387), Jason Corliss (394) and Trampas Demers (397).
Last year, the four were tightly bunched from start to finish, with Dragon edging Corliss by 11 points. Demers wound up 23 points off the winning pace and Blake was 40 points back.
"It's funny how it works like that sometimes with the title race," Blake said. "But the whole field is more even this year. And if you restart on the outside lane at Thunder Road, most likely you're going backwards. So some of it's luck as far as where you start and restart."
Ranking fifth in points with 362 is Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, who won track championships in 1996, 1998 and 2002. Two weeks ago, he claimed his 31st career Thunder Road victory, and he's raced to five top-10 finishes this season.
"(Scott) runs a good race every week," Blake said. "I don't know what his schedule is, but if he commits to run weekly he could be in contention."
Rounding out the points leaders are Marcel J. Gravel (sixth, 358), Kyle Pembroke (seventh, 355), Matt White (eighth, 347), Christopher Pelkey (ninth, 334) and Eric Chase (10th, 332). During the next two weeks, each of those drivers can make up ground on the front pack, and possibly grab the lead himself. The Vermont Governor's Cup 150 is slated for Thursday, and points will be doubled during Mid-Season Championships on July 25
"It's crazy that we've already had six points races and Mid-Season Championships is two weeks away," Blake said. "If you stay out of trouble at that race, I guarantee you'll have a top-10 (finish). And if you have a good car, you'll have a top-5."
Demers and Corliss both own one victory and four top-5 finishes in 2019. Demers has been the picture of consistency, cracking the top 10 every race. Corliss won the Memorial Day Classic on May 26 and missed the top 10 just once. Dragon prevailed three weeks ago and triumphed again the following week, establishing crucial momentum after he finished 20th in early June. Blake hasn't won this season but he boasts four top-five results.
"We all have our days," Blake said. "I can be crazy fast one week, and then go back the next week and be way off the pace. We all go through our little stages. And besides us four, there are eight or 10 other drivers where their season could turn around and they could compete for the championship. It's fun because you never know."
When Derrick O'Donnell won three straight track championships from 2013-2015, there were times when he was untouchable in the standings. Nick Sweet, the 2010 and 2012 champ, was another star consistently regarded as the driver to beat at every event. But this year there's no obvious front-runner with 21 points separating the top four racers. And it's auto racing, so anything can happen.
"The past couple weeks there's been a few wrecks," Blake said. "No one is doing it on purpose, but with the new wall you have to stop and rely on other people to stop. In years past, if someone wrecks on the backstretch, you could go into the dirt and avoid the crash. Now there is no out really. The wall is not a bad thing — it's creating good races. It's just less room for us to avoid accidents. We have to be on our toes a little bit more than we're used to."