Barre, VT – Thunder Road International Speedbowl honored its 2014 Champions with the annual Banquet of Champions at the Barre Elks Club on Saturday, March 21. Derrick O’Donnell received the top honors for the second consecutive season in the Late Model division, while Nick Sweet also went back-to-back in claiming Vermont State Late Model Championship. Jason Woodard and Tommy Smith earned the Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen and Allen Lumber Street Stock championships, respectively.
O’Donnell, of North Haverhill, NH, became the sixth driver in Thunder Road history to repeat as “King of the Road”, doing so in his first two years in the division. O’Donnell caught fire in the second half of the season, ending the year with seven straight podium finishes, including the third Late Model victory of his young career in mid-August. O’Donnell also finished runner-up in three of the biggest races on the 2014 calendar: the Vermont Governor’s Cup, the Labor Day Classic, and the Milk Bowl.
“It’s pretty difficult to win one championship, let alone two,” O’Donnell said in his acceptance speech. “I work extremely hard to have the chance to do this. (But) like everybody else has said, it’s not possible without people behind you.”
Barre’s Nick Sweet was honored for winning the Vermont State Late Model Championship. Sweet earned his second straight Vermont state title by finishing in the top-three in each event on the 2014 schedule, highlighted by a victory in the Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road in September.
Thunder Road officials also handed out several special awards during the evening’s festivities. Jeb Wallace-Brodeur of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus was awarded the Pete Hartt Memorial Media Award. Wallace-Brodeur is a longtime photographer for the central Vermont newspaper, and his photos of the action at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement” frequently grace the front pages of the well-read newspaper.
Groundskeeper Calvin Lyford was awarded the annual Ken Squier Award for his dedication to Thunder Road. Lyford was honored for his commitment to maintaining the speedway and keeping it in prime condition for racing action throughout the summer.
Waterbury’s Jason Woodard celebrated his first Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen division championship in his third year in the division. The winless Woodard nonetheless earned the title with his remarkable record of finishing eighth or better in every event during the 2014 season. Caleb Nelson of Moretown was honored for his Tiger Sportsmen Rookie of the Year title.
Veteran Tommy “Thunder” Smith of Williamstown claimed his first career Allen Lumber Street Stock title. The division’s all-time winningest driver added two more victories during his title campaign, bringing his career total to 29. Thomas Merchant of Eden Mills received the Street Stock Rookie of the Year award. The late Marvin Johnson was posthumously awarded the annual Ed Carroll Sportsmanship Award for his positive attitude in the Street Stock pit area. The track also announced the creation of the annual Marvin Johnson Memorial Non-Winner’s Race for Street Stock drivers in 2015 in his honor.
The Banquet of Champions officially concludes the 2014 Thunder Road season. The 55th season of stock car racing at Thunder Road will commence on the weekend of Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3 with the 17th annual Merchants Bank 150. For the full 2015 schedule of events and to order your season pass visit www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.
-Thunder Road International Speedbowl. Photo credit: Alan Ward