Nick Sweet entered Thursday night’s 36th Vermont Governor’s Cup at Thunder Road International Speedbowl with the goal of securing his first win of the season at the historic Vermont racing facility. He accomplished that goal in a big way by working his way around his championship rival Derrick O’Donnell on lap 125 and pulling away for his fourth career Vermont Governor’s Cup 150 win.
“I knew that was the only last chance I was going to have to win this thing,” Sweet said of the move to get by O’Donnell. “I pulled the belts tighter and I was like, ‘You know what, we’re going to launch it off the corner if we’ve got to in order to pass him.’ That’s the way to get it done right there.”
Sweet dogged O’Donnell through lapped traffic for a number of laps during the middle portion of the race as they pulled away from the rest of the field. The two made contact and swapped paint on occasion before Sweet got the chance he was looking for on the race’s final restart on lap 122. He worked the outside with success, diamonding the corners with O’Donnell’s No. 60 to his inside before crossing in front of O’Donnell’s nose entering turn one on lap 126.
Although the restart gave him the opportunity to make the pass, Sweet believed that his strategy during the extended green flag run was what helped him secure the victory.
“This racing game is a big mental game and when you see people in your mirror all night you get tired and start wearing your race car out,” Sweet explained. “I know that’s the way I was going to beat him because he’s a good racer. A very, very good racer and it feels good to beat that team.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best here. I can’t say enough about the guy. It was a good race and we were bouncing off of each other. I hope the fans got their monies worth there.”
O’Donnell, already a two-time winner in 2015, admitted after the race that he started losing the handling on his No. 60 early on in the race. Having lapped traffic to work through early and often actually helped him to keep Sweet behind him during the middle stages of the 150-lap feature.
“Being able to kind of run my own pace up on the high side was nice,” O’Donnell said. “I did all I could there and probably should have settled in behind Nick there after he got by. I tried to get him on the high side and ended up losing another spot out of it, but oh well. We just have to take it home and make it faster.”
Although the result was not what O’Donnell had hoped for, he could leave Barre, Vermont on Thursday night knowing he put on a show for the fans on Quarry Hill. Despite swapping paint and engaging in a fierce battle with his championship rival, O’Donnell chalked it up to good, hard racing.
“When he was dogging me I was busy,” said O’Donnell. “He had a good car. The track is so slippery out here that it’s like racing on ice. It’s almost impossible not to run into each other.”
Polesitter Cody Blake would squeeze by O’Donnell in the closing laps to claim runner-up honors, while O’Donnell settled for third. Scott Dragon charged from the 12th starting spot to finish fourth and Brett Gervais rounded out the top-five.
Sweet’s fourth Vermont Governor’s Cup victory puts him in a tie with legendary Northeast driver Robbie Crouch for most career wins in the event. After securing the win, the hometown kid from Barre stated that it’s an honor to have his name next to Crouch on anything.
“It feels great. I may be tied with him, but I’ll never be the driver that he was. To be on the same plateau as him, that’s damn good.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
36th Vermont Governor’s Cup Unofficial Results
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl (VT) – July 9, 2015