Barre, VT – Barre’s Thunder Road is just days away from roaring to the grid with the the 40th VP Racing Fuels Vermont Governor’s Cup 150. The big story leading up to the Thursday, July 18 event has been the scheduled appearance of NASCAR and dirt racing standout Christopher Bell. However, the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model heroes are more than ready to give their all and keep the trophy in Vermont.
The 24-year-old Bell is one of the biggest young stars in North American motorsports. His accomplishments already include 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins, a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship, and three Chili Bowl wins, along with countless other victories in everything from the ARCA Racing Series to the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Cars. But while Thunder Road’s weekly regulars are looking forward to racing against Bell, they’re not shying away from going full-throttle in their biggest event of the year.
“I know Christopher Bell is a big name for sure,” Milton’s Scott Dragon said. ‘Over the years, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to race with different national guys at different places. There’s Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch – the list is pretty long, believe it or not. I guess in 24 years of racing, you’re going to get a chance to race against quite a few different people. But we’re just going to come in here and do what we normally do. We have some pretty hot runners that run up here every week, so we’ll see how Christopher Bell fares against the locals here!”
Bell is attempting to succeed where many others from the national auto racing scene have come up short. Drivers such as Stewart, Busch, Ken Schrader, and Clint Bower, all with numerous wins in NASCAR’s top-three series, have trekked to the top of Quarry Hill in recent years.
None managed to stand in Victory Lane at night’s end. In fact, Schrader’s sixth-place finish in the 2006 Vermont Governor’s Cup remains the high-water mark for NASCAR invaders over the past 15 years. As such, the locals know from experience that they are more than capable of holding their own against the regulars.
Dragon will undoubtedly be one of the drivers to beat. The defending “King of the Road” is also the defending Vermont Governor’s Cup winner and captured the event in 2016, too. Last Friday, Dragon earned his third Late Model win in the last five events, a streak that has him up to third in the point standings. He is brimming with confidence heading into Thursday knowing that long-distance races are usually his strength.
“I just try to set a nice, steady pace from lap one and try to maintain that pace the whole way,” Dragon said of his success in longer races. “I try not to burn it early. I used to tour, so the longer races are something I got more used to running. These 50-lap races are actually tougher for me than the longer races! But I’m definitely feeling better about the Governor’s Cup than I was last week, because the car is really good now.”
Several other names jump to the top of the list as clear threats to win on Thursday. Current point leader Trampas Demers of South Burlington won the 2017 Governor’s Cup and has been the most consistent Late Model driver at Thunder Road this season. Barre’s Jason Corliss has turned into a big-race behemoth in the last two years, with victories in the Vermont Milk Bowl, Community Bank N.A. 150, Labor Day Classic, and Memorial Day Classic. Demers, Corliss, and Dragon are separated by just eight points atop the standings, adding even more intensity and intrigue to the night’s action.
Cody Blake, another hometown racer, won the Governor’s Cup in 2014 and is trying to bounce back from a hard wreck at Friday’s event. Multi-time ACT Late Model Tour winner Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, who grew up racing at Thunder Road, will make an appearance to show off his own long-distance prowess. Vermont Governor Phil Scott has had a strong year on the track, and other locals such as Tyler Cahoon, Marcel J. Gravel, and Matt White are all legitimate threats to win.
The event also features a full card of racing for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Allen Lumber Street Stocks. Rookie Stephen Martin of Craftsbury continues to be the top cat in the Flying Tigers with a 37-point advantage over two-time champion Jason Woodard of Waterbury Center. Kelsea Woodard, Tyler Austin, and Mike MacAskill round out the top-five while Colin Cornell has bounded up to sixth overall after back-to-back wins.
Barre’s Jeffrey Martin remains the pace-setter in the Street Stocks after scoring his fourth top-two finish of the year last Friday. Like his Flying Tiger counterpart, Martin is being chased by a former division champion, with Williamstown’s Tommy “Thunder” Smith 35 points behind. Tim Hunt, Tyler Pepin, and Kasey Collins complete the top-five in the standings.
The 40th VP Fuels Vermont Governor’s Cup goes to post at 6:30pm on Thursday, July 18. NASCAR star Christopher Bell joins the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models for 150 green-flag laps of action plus the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Allen Lumber Street Stocks. Bell will also be holding an autograph session from 5:30-6:00pm. The pits open at 2:30pm and the front gates open at 3:30pm. Admission is $20 for adults and free for kids ages 12 and under.
For more information, contact the Thunder Road offices at (802) 244-6963, [email protected], or visit www.thunderroadvt.com.
-Thunder Road Press Release
-Photo credit: Alan Ward