BARRE — Thunder Road takes its second crack at the 59th Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl this Saturday and Sunday. Despite a two-week delay due to Mother Nature, drivers are still excited about tackling “The Toughest Short Track Race in North America.”
The 59th edition of the Milk Bowl adds another chapter to one of the country’s most recognized stock car races. The unique format of three 50-lap segments, with full-field inversions between segments and the best combined finish winning, makes it a race unlike any other.
That has drivers like Jason Corliss, Bobby Therrien, Joey Polewarczyk, Tyler Cahoon, Christopher Pelkey, and Brooks Clark ready to battle for a spot on the granite monument.
“The Milk Bowl, to me, is a very prestigious race,” Danville’s Cahoon said, in a track press release.
“It’s something that’s stood the test of time for what Thunder Road is. Since the Milk Bowl began (in 1962), there’s only one time the Milk Bowl hasn’t been run. The Milk Bowl been one of the biggest, most steadfast races for as long as Thunder Road has been Thunder Road. So it’s a huge race to be a part of.”
A big reason the Northfield Savings Bank Milk Bowl is looked upon so fondly by drivers is just how hard the event is to win. Only 37 drivers can call themselves Milk Bowl champions versus the 39 drivers who have held the mantle of “King/Queen of the Road”.
The list of Milk Bowl winners includes names that hold a hallowed place in the racing community. Legends like Robbie Crouch, Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Dion, Russ Ingerson, Randy LaJoie, and Butch Lindley are joined by modern heroes Jason Corliss, Nick Sweet, Patrick Laperle, and Brian Hoar.
At the same time, underdog stories can and have reigned at the Milk Bowl. Kevin Lepage scored his first ACT victory in the 1985 edition while Dan Beede and Danny Bridges showed the little guy can win on the right day.
For some drivers, simply qualifying for a race like the Milk Bowl is the highlight of their season. Everyone will enter the race with their own goals, while also knowing one break can mean the world for a team’s chances at immortality.
“It really shows what type of team, what type of driver, and what type of racing you’re capable of,” Cahoon said. “A three-segment, lowest-score-wins type of race is something that no one else around really has. You have to be on your A-game and you have to have a lot of luck to get through it.
“It’s not just you having a fast car and being able to drive up through every segment and win — it’s missing the crashes, it’s not running over something and puncturing a tire, it’s not spinning out while trying to avoid a wreck. You need to have a lot of luck with that, which is part of what makes it such a hard race to win.”
The challenge begins with Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day on Saturday. Since 2001, the Northfield Savings Bank Milk Bowl has used the combination of time trials followed by 50-lap qualifying races to set the bulk of the starting field. The top two drivers from the time trials are locked into the front row of Segment 1. That means two fast laps to start the weekend can set a driver up for success.
Time trial speeds then set the line-ups for the qualifying races with the top eight finishers in each starting in positions 3-18. In some ways, the qualifying races act as a “fourth segment”, giving drivers who missed the mark during the time trial sprint a second chance in race trim.
Four more Milk Bowl starting spots are then awarded based on time trial speeds with the final four spots coming from the Last Chance B-Feature. All of that is just the preamble to the three 50-lap segments which reward getting up on the wheel every single lap.
In addition to the Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl, six other divisions are running two-segment “Mini Milk Bowls” throughout the weekend. The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and RK Miles Street Stocks are running group time trials and Segment 1 on Saturday with Segment 2 on Sunday. They are two of the highest-paying events for the classes with $1,000 to win for the Flying Tigers and $500 to win for the Street Stocks.
Saturday’s card includes two-segment Mini Milk Bowls for the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank Strictly Stock Mini’s and Dads 4 By Tool & Supply Kids Trucks of White Mountain Motorsports Park. The Junior Champ Kart youth class runs their Saturday Mini Milk Bowls on the go-kart track following Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model final practice.
Sunday brings the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors to town for a Mini Milk Bowl. Weekend camping for fans and teams makes it a true festival experience to cap Thunder Road’s 62nd season.
Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl Weekend gets back underway Saturday at 1 p.m. with Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Milk Bowl Qualifying Day. The Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models will run time trials and 50-lap qualifying races to help set the Milk Bowl starting field.
The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and RK Miles Street Stocks are running group time trials and the first segment of their Mini Milk Bowls. Saturday’s card also includes Mini Milk Bowls for the Strictly Stock Mini’s and Dads 4 By Tool & Supply Kids Trucks of White Mountain Motorsports Park plus the Junior Champ Karts.
Sunday is the 59th Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl. Action begins at 12:15 p.m. with the Last Chance B-Feature. The first 50-lap segment goes green at 1:30 p.m. Sunday’s program also features the conclusion of the Flying Tiger and Street Stock Mini Milk Bowls plus a Mini Milk Bowl for the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors.
Sunday-only admission is $30 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-12,and free for children 5-and-under. Saturday-only admission is $15 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids ages 5 and under.
Two-day adult Milk Bowl tickets are $30 with a ticket wristband from Milk Bowl Friday and $40 without a wristband. All three-day tickets and pit passes already purchased will be honored this weekend. Fans can also watch the Vermont Milk Bowl live on FloRacing with a paid subscription.