Barre, Vt. – The 55th Memorial Day Classic presented by Mekkelsen RV Sales & Rental opens the 2017 season at Barre’s Thunder Road this Sunday, May 28. The highly anticipated event, which features the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models along with the Memorial Day Classic for the Thunder Road Late Models, will be a landmark in the speedway’s 58-year history.
For the first time since 1994, racers will be competing on a freshly paved track surface, which was recently completed by Pike Industries. Coincidentally, 1994 was also the last time Thunder Road opened the season on Memorial Day weekend. The Super Late Models were in action that day as well with the former ACT Pro Stock Tour.Sunday’s event is also the first since the track was purchased by former racer Cris Michaud and local businessman Pat Malone.
“The new pavement definitely makes a strong statement that Cris and Pat are committed to the future of Thunder Road,” 2014 Memorial Day Classic winner Jason Corliss said. “Obviously some questions were raised initially, but as racers we felt good with Cris involved, and we know Pat takes a lot of pride in any project he takes on. There’s been some beautiful upgrades so far, and I can’t wait to see what else comes along in the future.”
Sadly, the Memorial Day Classic will also be the first event at Thunder Road since the death of long-time owner Tom Curley on May 5. Curley, who had run the speedway since 1982 along with founder Ken Squier, passed away less than three weeks after completing the track’s sale.
“It’s definitely emotional,” Corliss said. “Ever since I’ve been alive, it’s always been Tom Curley running the show at Thunder Road. Over the last couple years, Tom’s health prevented him from being as close to the racing action as he wanted, so we got a taste of race days without him. But to actually be there knowing he’s not pulling the strings in any fashion – it makes it more real that Tom’s not around anymore. I just hope we can buckle up and put on a good show for the fans in his memory. That’s what he would want, and that’s we racers do.”
All of the stars of PASS and Thunder Road will be on hand, from six-time PASS North Champion Johnny Clark to defending “King of the Road” Scott Dragon. Each division features a mix of former champions, former race winners, and young standouts looking to add their name to the record books. The racing extravaganza will have more than 300 laps of feature action.
In addition to the 150-lap PASS event, the weekly Thunder Road divisions will begin their championship hunts. The Late Models open with the 100-lap Classic as former event winners Tyler Cahoon of Danville and Trampas Demers of South Burlington join Corliss in looking for another entry on the granite monument. Multi-time Thunder Road winners such as Cody Blake, Kyle Pembroke, Eric Badore, and Shawn Fleury also look to start their seasons on a strong note.
The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Allen Lumber Street Stocks are each looking to crown a new champion after seeing their defending title-holder move up in the ranks. Brendan Moodie, Jason Woodard, Mike Martin, and Joe Steffen are just some of the top Tiger runners expected to contend for the big trophy. The Street Stocks will see talented racers such as Bunker Hodgdon, Alan Maynard, Tommy Smith, and Brandon Lanphear gunning for the title.
Qualifying for the 55th Memorial Day Classic presented by Mekkelsen RV Sales & Rental goes to post at 1:00pm onSunday May 28. Class Day ceremonies for all Thunder Road divisions will be held at 12:20pm along with the announcement of the winners from the Downtown Barre Car Show held on April 29. Admission is $25 for adults and free for kids age 12 and under. An open practice session on Saturday, May 27 will give drivers the chance to get dialed in.
-Thunder Road Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com