BARRE — Thunder Road and the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) are ready to get back to racing this Saturday with the 41st Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic. After a two-week interruption, racers will return to the high banks to battle it out while also celebrating the 60th season of competition at Thunder Road.
The Labor Day Classic was postponed partway through qualifying on Sept. 1 after an accident involving two race officials. With both officials making excellent progress in the week that has followed, drivers, teams and fans are all ready to resume the racing action.
The ACT Late Model Tour, Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors are on the card. Following the Labor Day Classic, there will be a post-race pit party featuring live music from the 40th Army Band “Iron Sights.” Attendees are invited to meet their favorite drivers, swap stories and reminisce about the past 60 years of Thunder Road racing while looking towards the next 60.
The stakes will be high for every competitor this weekend. The ACT Tour was partway through qualifying at the time of the postponement. After they finish setting the field, Late Model racers from around the region will go 200 laps in Thunder Road’s oldest event.
Point leader Rich Dubeau, of Plainfield, New Hampshire, is off to a strong start. Dubeau unofficially gained two points on challenger Jimmy Hebert, of Williamstown, in the heat races to get a little padding on his lead. Defending Labor Day Classic winner and current Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model point leader Jason Corliss, of Barre, charged from ninth to fifth in his qualifying heat while reigning “King of the Road” Scott Dragon, of Milton, did the same. In doing so, both served notice they will again be ones to watch come feature time.
Several other big names are geared up to try and put their name on a granite monument. Former Thunder Road and ACT Late Model champion Nick Sweet, of Barre, two-time ACT champion Scott Payea, of Colchester, 2017 “King of the Road” Bobby Therrien, of Hinesburg, and 2019 Vermont Governor’s Cup winner Brooks Clark, of Fayston, all looked strong before the postponement. Danville’s Tyler Cahoon, Milton’s Dylan Payea, and East Bridgewater, Massachusetts’ Ryan Kuhn won the heat races to set themselves up for solid starting spots in the feature.
The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers will go 50 laps in the penultimate event of their 2019 championship chase. Waterbury Center’s Jason Woodard comes into the event with a 29-point lead over rookie Stephen Martin, of Craftsbury. Woodard already has captured two titles this year by taking the Myers Container Service Triple Crown Series at Thunder Road and the Flying Tiger Triple Crown Series at North Woodstock, New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park. He is now in prime position to go for the trifecta.
He’ll have plenty of challengers on his potential path to victory. Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear and Waterbury Center’s Kelsea Woodard have both defied the idea of the sophomore slump. Meanwhile, juniors Tyler Austin, of East Calais, and Jason Pelkey, of Barre, have blossomed into two of the top racers in the division. Veterans Joe Steffen and Mike Billado, of Grand Isle, have helped the elder Woodard represent the old guard.
The Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors have had two extra weeks to prepare for their biggest race ever. The inaugural Road Warrior Challenge will be 50 laps of non-stop thrills and excitement for Thunder Road’s entry-level division. Mike Mitchell, Eric Chase, Fred Fleury, Dan Garrett and Kylar Davis are just some of the drivers already slated to start Saturday’s event.
The 41st Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic gets back underway at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The pits open at 12 p.m. and the front gates open at 2:15 p.m. Admission is $25 for adults and free for children ages 12 and under. All ticket stubs and pit bracelets from the original Sept. 1 event will be honored on Saturday.