Nick Sweet made a bold move at the beginning of the 2017 racing season. One year after winning the American-Canadian Tour championship, the Barre, Vermont native decided to take on the challenge of competing in Super Late Models. On Friday night at his home track of Thunder Road (VT), Sweet’s journey came full circle when he scored his first career Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North victory.
Sweet came out on top of a thrilling battle with Canadian invader Patrick Laperle and current PASS North championship leader DJ Shaw to score the elusive victory.
“You notice I’m still holding [the trophy] here? It feels really good,” Sweet told Speed51.com. “We’ve really struggled this year and last year, really bad. I think I’ve been winless for a while so this is a big, big meaningful week for us. Hopefully it kicks the weekend off well for us.”
The thrilling three-way battle between Sweet, Laperle and Shaw had the Thunder Road faithful on the edge of theirs seats throughout the final 50 laps. Each driver took their turn at the front of the field during the 150-lap race, but ultimately it was Sweet charging back to the top spot for the final time on Lap 124.
From there, Sweet held off Laperle in a side-by-side battle that lasted over 20 laps.
“I was thinking about Plattsburgh for the big race [International 500] when we were racing for twenty-five grand,” Laperle recalled after the race. “I don’t know how much tonight paid, but I had a blast. Every time racing against him is the same. He’s a gentleman. He’s shorter than me but he’s a gentleman.”
DJ Shaw had the best seat in the house over the final 20 laps as he watched a pair of three-time Milk Bowl winners battle for the win.
“I think we had the best car if not the second best to Patrick. Nick earned that one, man,” Shaw stated. “He knows his way around this place and we just didn’t fire off the way we needed to after all the cautions. We could stay with him but just couldn’t put up a fight.
“All in all, what a rebound from last week. That’s the biggest thing for me. We had a car to contend and we seem to be on track. Hopefully last week was a fluke.”
Vermont native Bobby Therrien finished fourth after leading the field to the green flag, while Derek Griffith completed the top five after battling up front for much of the 150-lap affair.
Since putting together plans to compete in a Super Late Model, Sweet struggled mightily to find success. Prior to Friday night’s race at Thunder Road, he had only recorded one top-five finish in 14 starts.
“I think that’s putting it mildly to say that we struggled. We’ve been terrible,” Sweet admitted. “We’ve been working really hard and finally I feel like we finally hit upon something here tonight. Hopefully we can continue to carry this and continue to go forward and start finishing well with this.
“I felt bad for [car owner] Eric [Chase]. He kept saying, ‘You’re going to get it. You’re going to get it.’ Man, I was really doubting myself. I was starting to look at myself in the mirror thinking I don’t know if I can drive a race car anymore.”
With Friday’s PASS North feature in the books, Sweet and Laperle will both set their sights on Sunday’s 56th Annual Vermont Milk Bowl. Sweet now has the opportunity to sweep the Milk Bowl weekend and earn himself a record-tying fourth kiss with a Vermont dairy cow.
“I’ve kissed plenty of cows, so I might as well kiss that one too.”
Race fans can watch all of Friday night’s racing on-demand by purchasing a pay-per-view video ticket on Speed51.com.
Speed51.com’s pay-per-view coverage of the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl will continue Saturday afternoon with time trials and qualifying races. Live video tickets can be purchased today by clicking here.
-Story by Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Melissa Strahley