ACT Stars Aim to Outmuscle Thunder Road Locals at Labor Day Classic
Waterbury, VT — The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) continues its torrid late-summer stretch this Sunday, September 6 at Barre, VT’s Thunder Road. The 42nd Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic begins the final stretch of the quest to crown the 29th ACT Late Model Tour Champion.
Sunday’s event is the 75th time the ACT Tour will hold a point-counting event at Thunder Road. This makes it the most frequently-visited track for the series by far. As such, it always plays a pivotal role in deciding the championship. The Labor Day Classic is part of the schedule for the 14th time and presents a unique challenge for top runners such as Jimmy Hebert, D.J. Shaw, Ryan Kuhn, Bryan Kruczek, and Dylan Payea.
At 200 laps, the Labor Day Classic is one of the longest races on the schedule, meaning a driver needs both speed and stamina. Furthermore, teams have the option to change two tires at any point during the event, bringing pit strategy into play. While some drivers do take on fresh rubber, the last two winners went the full distance on a single set of tires.
The presence of the local warriors also will be a factor. Sunday’s event counts for points towards both the ACT and Thunder Road championships, meaning all the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model standouts will be in the house.
Weekly racers are always ones to watch at Thunder Road ACT events. At the Community Bank N.A. 150 in July, the top-six finishers were current or former track regulars. The larger field size also means bigger swings can happen in the ACT championship chase.
As such, ACT point leader Jimmy Hebert can’t relax. The Williamstown, VT native calls Thunder Road his home track, having won the 2009 Flying Tiger championship and 2011 Late Model Rookie of the Year award. Hebert has a 39-point lead in the standings with three races to go over Center Conway, NH’s D.J. Shaw. However, a driver can earn up to 125 points at an event, meaning Hebert’s margin is anything but safe.
“We’re in a good spot, but we definitely can’t afford to get comfortable,” Hebert recently told The Inside Groove. “On the Tour, you have bonus points for leading a lap, leading the most laps, and 30 cars almost every week. That point lead can get erased pretty quickly. If D.J. (Shaw) goes out and wins, and I finish 15th, we’re basically tied.”
Shaw has less experience at Thunder Road than some of his ACT brethren. However, he owns a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model win at the track and placed seventh in the first Tour visit this year. Shaw was the best of the non-local ACT pack at that event, and if he can do that three more times, he may become the first driver with both a PASS and ACT championship.
On the other hand, E. Bridgewater, MA’s Ryan Kuhn and Newmarket, NH’s Bryan Kruczek are trying to find the magic combination at Thunder Road. Both are accomplished racers at tracks throughout the region but have yet to put it all together on the high banks. Doing so now would continue their recent hot streaks and keep the pressure on the top duo.
Then there is the story of Milton, VT’s Dylan Payea. The former Thunder Road Flying Tiger winner is in his third year of ACT Late Model Tour racing on the smallest of budgets. He put together a Cinderella story at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway this past Sunday with a career-best fourth-place effort and is ready for an encore.
These drivers and many others will take on the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model stars for points, trophies, money, and bragging rights. Former Labor Day Classic winner Jason Corliss, current championship runner-up Trampas Demers, two-time “King of the Road” Scott Dragon, and 2017 track champion Bobby Therrien lead the local charge. Christopher Pelkey, Marcel J. Gravel, and Stephen Donahue have been running the weekly and touring schedules, making Sunday’s race doubly important for each.
Former Vermont Governor’s Cup winner Brooks Clark is now a serious player in big Thunder Road events while Kyle Pembroke, Brendan Moodie, Boomer Morris, and Matt White are among those who could pull an upset. Whomever wins on Sunday will have their name inscribed on a granite monument, joining the likes of Ronnie Marvin, Russ Ingerson, Bobby Dragon, Dave Dion, and Patrick Laperle.
Qualifying for the 42nd Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic at Barre’s Thunder Road begins at 1:00pm on Sunday, September 6. The best of the traveling ACT Late Model Tour and local Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models will be on hand for 200 green-flag laps. The afternoon also includes a full card for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors.
Admission is $25 for adults and $5 for kids ages 12 and under with limited fan attendance. Advance tickets are on sale now at https://happsnow.com/event/Thunder-Road-Speedbowl. Camping is available for self-contained units. Please visit www.thunderroadvt.com for the track’s face mask policies plus other health and safety guidelines. You can also watch from home for $25 on the Northeast Sports Network at www.NSNsports.net/sponsors/racing.
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