The sun shined on eight-time American Canadian Tour Champion Brian Hoar, as his trademark patience brought him his second Merchants Bank 150 in as many years on a beautiful afternoon at Barre, VT's Thunder Road on Sunday, April 28. Middlesex, VT's Dave Pembroke came home a stout second, and 7-time ACT Champion Jean-Paul Cyr brought home a third place finish.
The race began with pole sitter Jay Laquerre running to a large lead in the early going, but it wasn't long before Pembroke and Hoar muscled their way to the front in the outside lane, with Pembroke snatching the lead on lap 36. From there Pembroke surged, making short work of lap traffic and building his lead during a long 82-lap green flag run. ACT Rookie of the Year competitor Bobby Therrien impressed early, working his way towards the front of the pack as high as third in his third career ACT event before the caution.
When the race restarted, Pembroke was away again while young Therrien battled the veteran Hoar for second place. Meanwhile, Cyr, 2012 King of the Road Nick Sweet, and New Hampshire Governor's Cup 150 Champion Jimmy Hebert crept through the field on their way to the leaders. When lap 100 struck, the veterans knew it was time to show their hand.
With 50 laps to go, Cyr, Hoar, and ACT Champion Wayne Helliwell, Jr unleashed, tearing through the field on their way towards the front. By lap 120, Hoar had eliminated the gap that Pembroke had worked so hard to build, and seven laps later was diving for his first lead of the race. At that moment ACT Veteran Glen Luce's ride shut down in the middle of the field while cars split to avoid, and the ensuing caution saved Pembroke's lead temporarily.
But Pembroke's breath of fresh air was short-lived, as on the very next restart, Hoar jumped to a lead he would never relinquish. Pembroke settled into second, while Therrien battled with heart and soul against Cyr. With 10 laps to go Cyr finally got around Therrien for third, only to suddenly see the familiar orange of Helliwell, who made his charge with 10 laps to go. Helliwell quickly disposed of Therrien on his way to Cyr, but all the tricks in the book couldn't get him around the seven-time ACT Champion for third. Therrien came home with his first ACT top five, and was followed by Brooks Clark and Hebert in sixth and seventh. Sweet, Grenier, and Ray Parent drove from deep in the 31 car field to round out the top ten.
The victory was Hoar's 38th of his racing career, and his scream as he got out of the car told the thunderous crowd just how excited he was.
"My Crew Chief kept saying take it easy, but with 40 laps to go we just turned it on," said Hoar in victory lane. "This is just awesome. Dave is a great competitor, and I'm just happy to be here," he finished.
Pembroke was happy to start the year off on a good note.
"Those last few laps were hard. We led for so long, I just hated to give that up," said Pembroke. "I guess this is payback for the Milk Bowl though! It really is a great way to start out the year," he finished.
The race was slowed by 5 cautions, and was completed in just 57 minutes and 44 seconds.
Hoar becomes the second qualifier for the Bond Auto ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 21.
The Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen started the season with the claws out in the first race of their Championship chase, but it was South Barre, VT's Chris Pelkey who fought off the veterans David Finck and "Double O" Joe Steffen to pick up his first win of the 2013 season.
The 35-lap feature began with a two-wide struggle that broke open when a spin from Barre's Jason Allen caused a multi-car fray in the middle of the field. Pelkey snagged the lead early and refused to let go as the veterans worked their way through the field of nearly 30 cars. Pelkey looked like a lock for the win until a lap 31 caution brought the field back together, closing Finck and Steffen in on their prey. Pelkey stood strong and faced them toe-to-toe, fending them a swarm of top contenders to collect the third victory of his young career.
"The car was awesome, but I have to admit, it was pretty scary at the end," said Pelkey. "This car is a whole community ordeal, so I'm happy for everyone that is involved with it. This means a lot," he finished.
The trio was followed by Scott Coburn, and Chris Roberts to complete the top five. Mike Martin, Jason Woodard, Mike Ziter, Josh Demers, and Shawn Fleury rounded out the top ten.
The Allen Lumber Street Stocks saw a wild feature claimed by Barre's own Kevin Dodge, who outlasted Lyndonville's Dean Switser and Hardwick's Bunker Hodgdon to pick up the season opening victory in the 25-lap event.
The early going was dominated by Cambridge, VT's Jennifer Getty, who lead from the pole for all but the last handful of laps. A lap 14 caution - that saw "Super" Joe Fecteau flipping down the turn one bank - brought the field back together for a battle to the checkers. Getty continued to lead in front of the fray, but with 5-laps to go was caught by Dodge, Switser, and Will Hennequin. Hodgdon made his move around the outside for the race win, but Getty took a heartbreaking spin into the infield after the white flag, causing a chaotic finish to the first event for the Street Stocks. Dodge, Switser, and Hodgdon made it through the chaos to claim the top three positions, followed by Hennequin and Wolcott's Jamie Davis.
The Annual Downtown Car Show Winners were announced after the traditional season-opening Class Day activities, which honored 2012 Allen Lumber Street Stock Champion Nick Pilotte, Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen Champion Bobby Therrien, and Defending King of the Road Nick Sweet. The Allen Lumber Street Stocks saw Tommy "Thunder" take third-place, Donny Yates in second, and former Champion Greg Adams win the "Best in Show." In the Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen third place went to Shawn Fleury, second went to Jason Woodard, and first-place was awarded to Jason Allen. In the Late Model Sportsmen class, Jimmy Hebert earned third-place, Brooks Clark was second, and Dave Whitcomb won the top prize.
The American Canadian Tour will turn towards the third event of the season this coming Sunday, May 5 at the fast half-mile Devil's Bowl Speedway for the Spring Green 113. Thunder Road will continue its 54th racing season at the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic with a special visit from the Devil's Bowl Modifieds on Sunday, May 26. It will also be the first event of the Vermont State Late Model Championship Series.
Courtesy: Thunder Road Racing
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