Barre, VT—The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) will help Barre, VT’s Thunder Road open its 56th season of competition on Sunday, May 3 with the 17th Annual Merchants Bank 150. Wayne Helliwell Jr. will be going for his second straight win in the event, but a host of ACT Tour and local Thunder Road Late Model drivers are looking to take the trophy home.
Dover, NH’s Helliwell picked up his first Thunder Road win in last year’s Merchants Bank 150, taking the lead using a crossover move on Jimmy Hebert with 16 laps remaining. The two-time ACT Tour Champion became the 11th different winner in 16 editions of the event. Helliwell and his Bruce Bernhardt–owned team come into this year’s event with the ACT Tour point lead after their victory in last Sunday’s New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH.
“I think it was more luck than anything last year, but we’re definitely proud of that win,” Helliwell said. “That race is always tough…restarts are really critical. If we can get the car working on the bottom like it was last time, I think we’ll have something.”
Helliwell will have to contend with New Hamphire rival and defending ACT Tour Champion Joey Polewarczyk Jr. “Joey Pole” sits second in the standings, nine points behind Helliwell, after rallying from a late-race spin at Lee USA. Top Tour runners Jimmy Hebert, Jeff White, Emily Packard, and Brad Babb will also be on hand. Nick Sweet, who ran the first two Tour events for Eric Chase’s #40VT team, will be back behind the wheel of his weekly #88VT mount.
Many of the weekly Thunder Road Late Model competitors will be racing as well. Multi-time Champions Derrick O’Donnell, David Pembroke, and Phil Scott all attended an open practice session on Tuesday, April 28 to get their cars dialed in. Local Barre driver Jason Corliss was the first Thunder Road competitor to enter the event, while Brooks Clark, Josh Demers, and Chip Grenier have also filed entries.
The Merchants Bank 150 offers a chance for local racers to take on the stars of the ACT Tour while getting an early start to their season. 2014 Rookie of the Year Eric Badore hopes to use the event as a springboard for a top-five finish in the 2015 point standings.
“I think it’s pretty cool to run against Joey Pole, Wayne Helliwell, and all those top runners that are winning on a weekly basis,” Badore said. “It’s fun to race against them. You can learn a little something different from those guys, because we don’t run 150 laps every week.”
“It just makes it that much tougher, because the locals run there weekly or have run there for years,” Helliwell added. “We come in maybe once or twice a year, so it’s definitely tough.”
Thunder Road’s 56th season-opening weekend begins on Saturday, May 2 with the annual Thunder Road Car Show on Main Street in Barre from 9:00am to 12:00pm, followed by the race car parade up Quarry Hill to the track featuring the Catamount Pipe Band, the “Warpipes of Thunder Road.” An open practice session for all divisions will follow and is open to the public. Post time for the Merchants Bank 150 on Sunday, May 3 is 1:00pm. Admission is $25 for adults with kids 12 and under admitted free.
For more information contact the ACT and Thunder Road offices at 802.244.6963, [email protected], or visit www.acttour.com or www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.