If you were to play a game of driver and race association, a pair you would never see together is Iowa driver Mason Mitchell and the Vermont Milk Bowl, right? Wrong. At least it will be in two week’s time, as the former ARCA champion makes his debut in the “Toughest Stock Car Race in North America.”
The 56th Milk Bowl will once again bring together a plethora of great Late Model drivers from across the Northeast to Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl for this unique classic on September 29-30.
As for the story of how Mitchell came to revere this old classic, simply chalk it up to a great knowledge of short track racing history, as well as his friendship with a driver who does hail from New England, 2017 ARCA Racing Series champion Austin Theriault.
“I’ve known of the race for a long time now through the racing community and what Speed51 has done,” Mitchell explained. “I don’t know when the conversation started, May or June, we were just kicking it around one day when I was with Austin, and I just said, ‘I want to run the Milk Bowl and all kinds of stuff up there.’ So he started working to help put it together. It’s off the wall, really random, but that’s what racing is all about, going to events like this.”
We have a driver from Iowa, a fellow driver/friend from Maine, a track and race in Vermont. So where is the race car coming from? New Hampshire.
“It’s a little bit of a unique situation. The car is owned by Quinny Welch from White Mountain, but Crazy Horse Racing is doing the whole deal since it’s one of their cars,” Mitchell explained. “Austin is going to go up with me to help out as well. I was actually at the Oxford 250 with him and he knows these cars a lot more than I do. It will be a fun event. We have some friends that are coming up from North Carolina that have been with me at my team, so it’s going to be a great time.”
Mitchell will head to the Northeast not completely in the dark, knowing of the Milk Bowl’s format of three segments, the full-field invert of lead lap cars after each segment and the winner being the driver with the best average finish at day’s end. But it’s going to be whole different game adjusting to the format on track.
“It’s really unique how it’s played out with segments, the inverts, the average finish from all the segments. It’s way different than anything I’ve ever done before. But it’s going to be fun.”
Then comes the matter of his chariot, the American-Canadian Tour Late Model, a car unique to New England and Quebec. Perimeter chassis, heavy, only about 350 to 400 horsepower, and of course those eight-inch American Racer tires. While daunting to this Midwest Stock Car driver, it’s another challenge he’s keen to take on.
“When I was at Oxford they were also racing there, so I watched the ACT race,” Mitchell said. “I’m a big fan of the eight-inch tire, making the driver work with not much grip and making sure you’re mechanically tuned up. It’s about half of the power that I’m used to, but it seems like a cool way to race. It’s got great drivers like Eddie MacDonald and Scott Dragon and so many guys have that have raced that deal for a long time. It’s going to be no cakewalk.”
Plus of course, there’s the quarter-mile menace itself. Thunder Road is not known as a kind track, not even to three-decade veterans. While doing all he can to prepare, Mitchell is also taking on T-Road with a fond amount of respect.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film and studying the track with the history, like with Ken Squier and stuff like that, which is awesome to see. It looks like a cool place with how the banking is laid out and you can run multiple grooves, which is a blast for me because I like to run all over the place. It’s going to be a challenge, but we should have plenty of practice and a lot of time to get familiar with that place.”
While having fun is a major aim of the weekend, Mitchell wants to win above all else. Not just for a date with the cow in victory lane, but also to get the ball rolling on his racing career which hit a major bump in the road during the summer when he closed the door on his successful ARCA team.
“That’s really cool how you get the trophy and then you end up kissing the cow. It would be such an honor with all the prestigious names that have won up there in that race. To do it against so many good drivers would be awesome,” Mitchell stated.
“I’m there to win, but we got to take it one step at a time, make sure we are competitive and know what we have to do with the time trials, the qualifiers and the race itself. I’ve done so much research, I’m taking this thing as serious as heck. You don’t get opportunities just to have fun and race like this often. I’ve been so excited for a long time, obviously not being in the seat a lot lately, I feel like this also a big step forward for me.”
Information on tickets, scheduling and more for the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl is currently available at https://www.thunderroadvt.com/
Race fans unable to make the trek to Barre, VT can see all three days of racing live on Speed51’s Milk Bowl PPV broadcast. Click here to order
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: ARCA