BARRE — The late Tom Curley once dubbed Nick Sweet the “King of Barre” after his reign atop the Late Model stock car division at Thunder Road. It appears, though, that there has been a change at the throne.
All hail, King Jason The First.
Jason Corliss brought the “King of the Road” championship crown back to Barre for the first time in six years on Sunday, clinching his initial title after an intense drive from the back of the field and a too-close-for-comfort final margin of four points.
The hometown driver ran last on the 18-car field for the first 10 circuits of the 60-lap finale on Sunday, causing him to get admittedly “a little nervous.”
A shuffle in traffic at the start of the race put Corliss and fellow title contender Trampas Demers at the back of the pack, while defending champion — and third-place point man — Scott Dragon made big gains and moved forward into the lead. But Corliss quickly regrouped.
“I was still focused,” Corliss said. “I had a job to do. One goal was [accomplished] shortly after that when I got by [Demers], so I knew I was good there. But I kept looking ahead and I saw that blue 16 car [of Dragon] keep making up ground and finally getting up to first, so I knew what that meant — I had to get on my bike and pedal, and we were pedaling as hard as we could.”
Dragon got the top spot from Kyle Pembroke at lap 33, at that point entering into a mathematical tie with Corliss, who was in eighth place on the track; had the pair finished that way, Dragon would have won the title on a tiebreaker with four season victories to just two for Corliss.
Seven long laps later, though, Corliss made the championship-winning pass on Matthew Smith. Another seven laps went by and he took an insurance spot away from Marcel Gravel. Thirteen laps more in the caution-free race and Corliss was the champion.
Dragon entered the event 17 points out of the lead and, in fact, lost ground in the qualifying heats, so he was satisfied with winning the race and taking the runner-up spot in the standings. Pembroke finished second in the race and unofficially grabbed the third slot in the point tally. Demers was 12th across the finish line, dropping to fourth in the standings.
Gov. Phil Scott led laps early in the event and ultimately finished third in the race. Brendan Moodie salvaged a tough season with a fourth-place showing for his first top-five run of the summer, and Matt White finished fifth.
Corliss was sixth, followed by Gravel, Smith, Joel Hodgdon and Sweet.
Corliss, who began racing as a teenager in 2006, is the seventh Late Model champion to get his start in the four-cylinder Street Stock division in the Thunder Road ladder system, joining Sweet, Dragon, Jamie Fisher, Cris Michaud, Derrick O’Donnell and Bobby Therrien. Since those humble days, he has become one of the biggest winners in the top class, and next week will chase a record third consecutive win in the famed Vermont Milk Bowl.
Corliss pointed to car owners Chris and Lindsey Burnett, crew chief Andrew Hill and his team for his success.
“I’m just so proud of this race team and so proud of the accomplishments — not just today, but in the last three years these guys have really turned it on,” Corliss said. “I grew up at this track. This place is holy ground to me. I can’t put into words how proud I am to represent this track as a track champion. It’s not a task I’ll take lightly. It’s a pretty special moment.”
The Flying Tiger championship went to Waterbury Center’s Jason Woodard for the third time in six years, and while the point battle was almost a foregone conclusion, the fact that Woodard drove from 19th on the field to win the 60-lap race was a surprise.
East Burke’s Colin Cornell and Williamstown’s Sid Sweet ran away and hid from the field in a 56-lap green-flag run before the race’s lone caution period. Sweet could not hang with Cornell at the restart, and Woodard, who restarted third but was a long distance behind the top two before the yellow flag, was able to get to the outside lane and scoot past Cornell on the final lap.
Cornell settled for the runner-up spot, but it was chaos behind him; rookie Logan Powers ended up finishing third ahead of Danny Doyle and Brett Wood; Sweet finished eighth — the best result of his career.
Barre drivers Tyler Pepin and Jeff Martin Jr. celebrated in Street Stock victory lane after a good 30-lap feature. Pepin won the race, his fourth of the year, while Martin squeaked out his first championship with an 11th-place finish. In August, Martin’s car had a mechanical failure that forced him to the sidelines, and it was Pepin who volunteered to earn points in Martin’s place, keeping him in the title picture.
Rookie Kyle MacAskill finished second in Sunday’s race to Pepin, followed by Dean Switser Jr., Gary Mullen and Paco Marshall.
Berlin’s Chris Davis was a first-time winner in the Road Warrior division, holding off James Dopp in heavy lapped traffic in the final corner of a 30-lap race. Dan Garrett Jr. was third, with Eric Chase and Kyler Davis rounding out the top five.