The 56thedition of the Vermont Milk Bowl has an added dimension for this season with the first ever “Night Before the Milk Bowl” to lead off the weekend at Thunder Road on Friday night with the Super Late Models of the Pro All Stars Series returning to Barre, VT for the second time in 2018.
Of course, race fans can expect all the great action that comes with “The Toughest Stock Car Race in North America” with Milk Bowl Qualifying Day on Saturday, and then the big day on Sunday.
As usual, the local stars of the Green Mountain State are expected to be top contenders, but not just on Saturday and Sunday, but Friday too. Defending Milk Bowl winner Jason Corliss is on the PASS entry list along with the likes of 2017 ACT champion Scott Payea, former “King of the Road” Bobby Therrien, PASS new comer Matt White, and three-time Milk Bowl winner Nick Sweet.
Sweet will be running his personal No. 88 Late Model Saturday and Sunday, while taking up the reigns of Eric Chase’s SLM No. 40 Friday. While he has not had a chance to race the Late Model at Thunder Road since the Milk Bowl last year, he is as confident as ever. As for the SLM, that is another story.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in my Late Model. I haven’t taken it out since Oxford back in May. It will be fun to do double duty. Hopefully it’s fun anyways,” Sweet told Speed51.com.
“On the PASS car we’re still trying to figure that one out. We’re struggling hard with that car right now actually. But we’ve just got to keep fighting with it. The window on it for the setup is so small. We’ve just got to stay on it and eventually we’ll hit that spot where the balance is ideal.”
Dialing in the PASS car on Friday is just one of the many tasks that Sweet faces over the three-day weekend, but knows he can pull it all off if he can manage his time well.
“It all boils down to time management and everything you take away from track time. But you end up spreading yourself thinner and thinner doing more stuff, so it’s definitely difficult. Saturday after qualifying my son has got go-karts, so we’re spread thin between the parts trailer, go-karts, Late Model, PASS car, and Eric’s Late Model, so it’s going to be a lot to juggle around.”
On the Late Model side, Sweet’s confidence is tempered by a list of unknowns that he and his crew will have to tackle starting with the very first practice session of the weekend.
“I’ll let you know more on Friday,” Sweet said when asked how confident he’s feeling. “We haven’t been out there since last year. It’s a different right-side tire this year, so we’ve got to try and pick up on that as quick as we can. There’s a lot of unknowns, but at the same time we’ll have a lot of options too. It’s nice to be home. Travelling doesn’t get old, but when you can go two minutes up the road rather than three or four hours, it’s really nice.”
In addition to the home state double duty drivers, New Hampshire’s Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. is also throwing his name into the fray over the three days. But while he is a proud citizen of the Granite State, Thunder Road is a track he very much considers a home away from home, winning ACT races there, plus the 2010 Milk Bowl.
Over the past two seasons, his time in an ACT Late Model has been very limited, but he got quite the refresher just two weeks ago at another fast quarter-mile at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH), in the NAPA Blue & Gold 250.
“It went well. It’s been a while since I’ve been in an ACT Late Model. I was wondering how it was going to go. That was my first time racing that car in an ACT race. I’ve always had the same ACT car since 2007, we just updated it along the way, but it’s still been the same car. It was weird to be in a Late Model race in a different car, but it felt good to be in the running to win against Eddie MacDonald, Scott Payea, and Jimmy Hebert. Those guys have been running those cars all year, but we’ve been at the races with Ziter, and those guys run hard. So hopefully we can make it better and go for the win,” said Polewarczyk.
This past May, Polewarczyk added to his list of accomplishments at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement,” winning the PASS portion of the Memorial Day Classic. Now he looks to make it a clean sweep with his SLM at Thunder Road on Friday, but he knows that the competition has had plenty of time to do some homework.
“We’re going to give it our best shot. I think we’ve got a good car. It handled really well at Thunder Road last time, we even had some problems with getting a flat tire early, and things fell our way as the race went on. We want to be better because everyone else is going to be better, and it’d be great to contend for both wins this weekend.”
Overall, “Joey Pole” has established himself as a favorite to sweep the Milk Bowl weekend itself, and should he pull it off, it would be an accomplishment he would not take lightly.
“That would go right to the top of the list. To me, Thunder Road is the toughest track around even with new pavement. It’s still the same old Thunder Road. You need to find some grip for a good drive off. We’ve been able to do some special things in big races over my career, but if we can pull off both those races, it would be right there towards the top. It’s a special place.”
Fans unable to make it to Barre, VT can watch all three days of the 56thVermont Milk Bowl live on Speed51’s PPV broadcast. Fans can get their online video tickets by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com