Thunder Road Heads Down the Stretch

The Nation’s Site of Excitement approaches end of season with no COVID issues
Published: Sep. 6, 2020 at 9:55 AM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - They were about a month and a half late getting started, and things still aren’t back to nornal by any means, but it has turned out to be a fairly successful Summer at Thunder Road.

“Things went well,” said track co-owner Cris Michaud. “The way we had to do it, per the guidance, the fans understood. The drivers themselves and the teams really want to be there and they know that Thunder Road was there to set an example.”

The nation’s site of excitement initially kept attendance at an absolute minimum, but was one of the first sporting venues in the state to bring fans back into the stands. And because track officials, teams, and fans all bought in with the new rules, they’ve been able to run eleven events with no issues.

“I’ve been really proud of the teams, the track, everybody,” said defending King of the Road and 2020 points leader Jason Corliss. “Everybody involved has been able to adapt during this whole pandemic and make it successful.”

“We’re less than ten percent of the full capacity, just because with the guidance and the sections, you know, each section has to have its own restroom, has to have its own gate for entrance, has to have its own parking lot,” Michaud added.

Because capacity has been limited to a handful of 150 people sections, a number of people who’d like to be there can’t or don’t feel safe attending, so Track officials found another way to bring them the action: a pay-per-view stream on the Northeast Sports Network.

“You want to keep the fans coming back, you gotta keep them interested,” Michaud said. “And the ones that have been your loyal fans for, some of them 50, 60 years, you know might not feel safe coming out coming to the races. But I know they appreciate what we’re doing.”

That could prove to be critical as the track enters the final stretch of the season, with just three events left: Sunday’s Labor Day Classic, Championship Night, and the Milk Bowl. Those are typically three of the best attended races of the year, so the atmosphere will be different, but it’s the best option they have.

“When you get out of the car and hopefully are the one celebrating in Victory Lane, man you wish there was, you know, 10,000 people celebrating and cheering and having a good time,” Corliss said. “And so to potentially do it with a very limited amount of fans, it’s unfortunate but again to be able to have a Milk Bowl, that’ll be good enough for this year. It’s not gonna lose any of its passion, the drivers are still gonna want to win it just as bad.”

Now high school sports will be ramping up over the next few weeks and local colleges aren’t sure when they’ll be able to begin play again. But given Thunder Road’s ability to run somewhat of a normal schedule with no major issues this Summer, perhaps other sports can learn from them.

“You know, it just shows that if people work together, we can accomplish good things,” Corliss said. “We gotta all be pulling in the same direction. And especially if you want to go out in public and to large sporting events so yeah, I’ve been really proud of the way Thunder Road and Thunder Road’s staff has handled following the guidelines put in place by the state.”

“I think if they can see what everybody’s done in this industry, maybe they can take some parts of it and some advice from it,” Michaud said.

Thunder Road’s next race is the Labor Day Classic on Sunday, and the season wraps up with the Milk Bowl on October 4th

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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