WEST HAVEN, Vt. – Vince Quenneville Jr. etched his name into Vermont stock car racing record books on Saturday, September 3, as he became the final champion in the eight-year history of the half-mile Asphalt Track at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. Joining him as track champions in the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions were Dylan Rabtoy, rookie Shawn Moquin, and Seth Bridge, while 12 different drivers visited the winner’s circle during the busy finale presented by Carrara Masonry & Concrete.
Quenneville won the war in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Sportsman Modifieds, but hometown favorite Billy Lussier – running a tired, eight-year-old engine – won the final battle. Despite a small car count, Lussier capped the year by winning what might have been the most exciting five-car race ever run, taking down the “Leon Gonyo Memorial” 40-lap finale.
Right from the beginning, the race was full of passing, contact, and drama. After inching ahead of Lussier on the outside lane, Joey Roberts led 29 laps but was forced to deal with a slowly deflating tire and the advances of both Lussier and Ron Proctor. Two separate spins by Mike Wells brought caution flags out, and Quenneville – who had his own handling troubles – pitted twice for adjustments and a new right-rear tire.
Each restart saw its share of bent nerf bars and ruffled feathers, and Lussier finally pulled the trigger on a breathtaking three-wide move to blow past Roberts and Proctor into the lead at lap 30 as the grandstand crowd went wild. Lussier pulled away with authority in the final 10 circuits for his third win of the year. Brandon, Vt., veteran Quenneville filtered through the excitement to finish second while Wells somehow rebounded for third ahead of Proctor and Roberts. Quenneville’s championship margin over Proctor was 14 points, 689-675.
“That race was the most fun I’ve had all year,” Quenneville said in victory lane. “We’re all sad to the asphalt go away because it’s a great race track, but that was an exciting way to finish it. We’re looking forward to the dirt to come back, but we’ll definitely miss the racing on this track. I’m proud to be the last champion.”
Devil’s Bowl veteran Robert Bryant Jr. of Brooklyn, Conn., finished out the Driven Transport Late Model division in style, winning the special 67-lap closer to back up a double-feature score the previous week. Mendon, Vt.’s Seth Bridge – who clinched the championship on August 26 – led the first 13 laps before Bryant got out front. Bryant built a big lead, but his tires wore out late in the race and Rookie of the Year Evan Hallstrom reeled him in.
Hallstrom, 15, reached Bryant’s rear bumper but ran out of time to make a move and settled for second place. Veteran Jamie Aube, 64, finished a strong third after battling with Hallstrom and Bridge for a significant portion of the race. Bridge took fourth with Guy Caron fifth in his first Devil’s Bowl start in five years.
Eighteen-year-old Dylan Rabtoy of Swanton, Vt., and defending champion Jim McKiernan kept things close in the Rosen & Berger Auto Recyclers Super Stock division, just as they had all summer. The pair entered the final race locked in a tie for the point lead, but Rabtoy gained three points in qualifying when McKiernan – who was going after the win in his heat race – spun off the backstretch.
McKiernan didn’t let the earlier spin deter him in the 40-lap feature, and he came from eighth in the starting order to sail into the lead at lap 13 and never look back. As McKiernan went on to the win, Rabtoy made his way to second place but began to fade in the final laps with brake problems and a leaking transmission line.
Rabtoy had to hold off R.J. Germain in the last three circuits, but took the runner-up position and squeaked out the first championship of his young career over McKiernan by a single point, 700-699. Rookie of the Year Brett Wood and Jared Blake completed the top five in the race.
The Portland Glass Mini Stocks gutted out an excellent 30-lap race that featured five official lead changes and a great duel between teenagers Cam Gadue and Roo Forrest. The pair fought side-by-side up front for the majority of the race but were joined near the halfway point by Forrest’s older brother, Andrew FitzGerald, who poked his nose ahead to lead lap 16. Gadue and Forrest eventually settled the battle themselves, and Gadue got the finish line first for the second win of his rookie season.
Forrest and FitzGerald finished 2-3, followed by Shawn Moquin and early race leader Mike Preston. Moquin’s ultra-consistent freshman season helped him capture both the championship and Rookie of the Year titles by a spread of 30 points over Gadue; incredibly, Saturday’s fourth-place finish tied the worst result of the season for Moquin.
Stephanie Roberts of Fletcher, Vt., won the 12-lap season finale for the Ladies Mini Stock division, for her third win of the year. Maddy Rabtoy led the first nine laps, but Roberts stormed to the front with three to go to steal the win. Rabtoy finished a close second with Sami Sargent third. Lynn Denton and Alayne Bruno were both knocked out of the race after a crash on the first lap.
Connor Watrous of Bomoseen, Vt., took his third win of the year in the Bandit Youth Mini Stock division’s 12-lap run. Watrous was a clear winner, leading every lap. Evan Roberts finished second ahead of Tanner Lunt and Harley Rogers.
The annual Non-Winner Shootouts and Mechanic Races added some fun to the finale. Tony Salerno of Mineville, N.Y., won the Shootout for the Super Stock division and John McCarron of Rensselaer, N.Y., took the Mini Stock Shootout. Mechanic Races were won by Kevin Ellis, aboard Billy Lussier’s No. 25 Modified, Scott Rochefort in Jared Blake’s No. 9 Super Stock, and Tyler Whittemore driving the No. 18 Mini Stock of Jeff Martin Jr.
The final race was a 75-lap Enduro, and veteran driver “Wild Bill” Fountain of Altona, N.Y., will go down in history as the last winner on the Asphalt Track at Devil’s Bowl. The win was Fountain’s third Enduro score since 2012 but his sixth overall victory at Devil’s Bowl; he first won in dirt Pro Stock competition in 1985. Cory Gray finished second as the only other driver on the lead lap. Johnny Bruno, Kyle Botala, and Albert Rogers completed the top five.
Fans took advantage of an opportunity at intermission to drive their personal vehicles on the speedway, and about 50 cars, trucks, mini-vans, SUVs, and motorcycles made laps. As the drive wrapped up, Tom Duncan made a successful marriage proposal to Kristin Lussier, which was met with approval by the fans. The event was closed out with a free bonfire party, pig roast, music, and fireworks, which was well-attended by racers, fans, and officials.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway’s 3/10-mile Dirt Track is in action on Monday, September 4, as The Stove Depot presents the championship finale. On the card are a 100-lap Sportsman Modified race, the Sprint Cars of New England, Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, and the Catamount Mini Sprints. General admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors (age 62+), $5 for teenagers (age 13-17), and free for kids age 12 and under. Gates will open at 4:00 p.m. and racing will begin at 5:00 p.m.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, Vt., four miles north of U.S. Route 4, Exit 2. For more information, visit www.DevilsBowlSpeedwayVT.com or call (802) 265-3112. Devil’s Bowl Speedway is on Facebook at @DevilsBowlSpeedway and on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @DevilsBowlSpeed; follow the action using the hashtag #DevilsBowl.
-Devil's Bowl Speedway Press Release. Photo credit: Barry Snelling