New season looms at Thunder Road
Michaud breaks down what fans can look forward to
BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - The weather has warmed up a bit, the snow has mostly melted in the valleys, and if you listen carefully enough, you can almost hear the engines revving up on Quarry Hill in Barre. We are still about a month away from the start of the season at Thunder Road, but on Tuesday we checked in with one of the track’s co-owners, Cris Michaud, to get a read on what fans can expect this year at the nation’s site of excitement.
“Looking forward to it, we’re really excited,” Michaud said. “We have rested so to speak throughout the Winter and we’re ready to go.”
I is a busy time of year for Michaud and company, as the ACT season gets going in two weeks with Thunder Road opening two weeks later at the Community Bank 150. Michaud and co-owner Pat Malone have made a point of capital improvements in the five years since they bought the track, and they’re working on another one in the lead up to this season.
“This year, we’re looking to add some fencing on the back stretch,” Michaud said. “Some tire fencing, some safety fencing and also some spectator fencing. We’re hoping to have it so vehicles can park back there. Some of our guests are older and you know some of them can’t or don’t want to get out of their vehicle. So it’s something where hopefully they’ll be able to watch the race from their vehicle. And then on the other point, other guests can tailgate back there and you know, do a bbq, drink a few beers, and watch the race.”
Thunder Road was one of many area sports venues that had to adjust to the realities of a pandemic over the past two seasons, but though everything is pretty much back to normal now, there was one key change that has made the track more visible to racing fans than ever.
“When we first started being able to race, you know, we had limited people,” Michaud said. “Flo (Racing) picked us up on the streaming network, and what it’s done, it’s allowed us to be all over the country now. We get emails and comments from California, Texas, Florida.”
Thunder Road has made a point in recent years to bring in big name drivers from NASCAR for the Governor’s Cup in July, as it falls on the same weekend as the Cup Series Race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This year, they reeled in another big fish with the help of a native Vermonter.
“Verne Sherril works for Brad (Keselowski), and he’s from Vermont,” Michaud said. “Brad is excited to come, we’re excited to have him. He’s a blue collar racer, works hard, does his own stuff. Now he owns, part owner of his own team. He’s gone up the ladder so we’re really excited. I think he’ll be welcomed.”
Probably to the relief of many of their competitors, one team you won’t see circling the High Banks as much this Summer is Jason Corliss and the 66 car.
“I know where he’s coming from,” Michaud said of Corliss’ decision to not race a weekly schedule this year. “Sometimes, the weekly grind gets to you. Now they’ve accomplished I think what they wanted to at Thunder Road and now I think they’re going to go and have some fun with no points on the line. What Jason and that team did, they raised the bar quite a bit. And I think a lot of our teams had to raise their bar so I think the competition is great. And Jason will be back for the big races and some other stuff and we look forward to seeing them when they come.”
But Michaud is confident there is good pack of drivers ready to challenge for the now vacant throne.
“Chris Pelkey was on top of it last year,” Michaud said. “He’s one to continue if not pick it up a bit. The Richard Greene team with Brendan (Moodie), they won a race last year. I think they’re gonna step up. Marcel Gravel seems to be coming in to his own. Cooper Bouchard, he won a race as a rookie. Not too many people do that. So I mean the talent that we have in the late models is huge.”
In any event, Michaud and his team are excited for the season that lies ahead. Opening Day is May 1st for the running of the Community Bank 150.
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