BARRE -- Seven-time American-Canadian Tour champion Jean-Paul Cyr made it known on a soggy Thursday night that he was serious. The Milton racer quit racing regularly with the tour that he dominated for so many years to focus on two goals in 2009: the first, to complete a solo motorcycle run in the Baja 500 desert race; the second, to become the "King of the Road". With the first goal completed in June, Cyr took one big step closer to that second check mark on the list Thursday, winning the double-points Times Argus Mid-Season Championship race at Barre's Thunder Road.
Cyr started 13th in the 24-car field, and by the time the first caution flag flew on lap 9, he was in eighth place. Twelve laps later, he was fourth. By lap 25, he was battling for second place, and when he finally took the lead from Doug Murphy on lap 37, he never looked back. And not only did Cyr take his first win of the season, he moved to within seven points of leader Dave Pembroke, unofficially.
"It's been an uphill battle this season," said Cyr, who is driving a newly constructed car owned by driver Joey Laquerre and tuned by Laquerre's accomplished crew chief son, Jeff. "But Jeff's timing is impeccable with this being Times Argus night with double points. We needed this win." While figuring out a new car and team combination during the season's first half, Cyr has endured some bad luck along with the growing pains: he slumped to a 27th-place finish at the CARQUEST Vermont Governor's Cup 150 last month, and had just one finish better than seventh prior to the win.
Murphy, of Tunbridge, looked like a potential spoiler for the third-straight Late Model event at Thunder Road, leading the first 36 laps from the pole position and holding his own against the likes of Cyr, Craig Bushey, and eventual runner-up Pembroke. After Cyr methodically worked his way around the outside lane and into the lead, Murphy had his hands full of competition. Pembroke was only able to get by Murphy for second place on the final circuit of the 50-lap race.
"It's been since 2006 that I've been here [in victory lane]," said Murphy, whose last podium finish was in 2006 in a Tiger Sportsman car. "To be honest, I never really thought I would get a top-three in a Late Model. We race week-to-week, just trying not to tear it up. I owe this one to the crew."
Pembroke, of Middlesex, was elated with his runner-up finish behind the driver that is now his closest rival for the championship. "This is great," he said. "We did just what we needed to do tonight."
Bushey finished fourth behind Cyr, Pembroke, and Murphy, with Phil Scott fifth. Nick Sweet finished sixth, with the balance of the unofficial top ten completed by Dave Whitcomb, Steve Fisher, Joey Becker, and Rich Lowrey.
Kris Grout of Waterbury won a crash-filled 35-lap Tiger Sportsman feature, breaking a winless drought that lasted four years to the date of his last victory, July 16, 2005. Grout took the lead from polesitter Mike Billado on lap 3 and cruised to the win. A massive pileup on lap 6 included the cars of Shawn Fleury, Josh Demers, Joey Laquerre, and no less than seven others, and was followed by a four-car wreck on lap 10 and a five-car wreck on lap 18.
A final restart was needed on lap 21, but the racing was clean and close for the remainder of the race. Behind leader Grout, drivers Joey Roberts, Matt Potter, and Pete Ainsworth, Jr. constantly swapped the second, third, and fourth positions. Potter made a final charge on the outside over the final eight laps to steal the runner-up position, and both he and Roberts finished the race sideways as they leaned on each other. Ainsworth and Brendan Moodie completed the top-five.
Gary Mullen of Tunbridge earned his first Street Stock win of the season over rookie Travis Hull and Mike Martin. Josh Erwin of Waterbury was named the Junkyard Warrior winner after apparent first-place finisher Bryan Nykiel was disqualified for illegal wheel camber. Kevin Dodge was second with Donny Yates third. The Street Stock and Warrior divisions ran seperate features for the second week in a row.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Times Argus Mid-Season Championships
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
(Pos.-Driver-Hometown; # - denotes rookie)
ACT Late Model
1. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton
2. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
3. Doug Murphy, Tunbridge
4. Craig Bushey, Cambridge
5. Phil Scott, Montpelier
6. Nick Sweet, Barre
7. Dave Whitcomb, Essex Jct.
8. Steve Fisher, Shelburne
9. Joey Becker, Jeffersonville
10. Rich Lowrey, Charlotte
NAPA Tiger Sportsman
1. Kris Grout, Waterbury
2. Matt Potter, Plainfield
3. Joey Roberts, Georgia
4. Pete Ainsworth, Jr., Middlesex
5. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
6. Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
7. Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg
8. Lance Allen, Barre
9. #Erik Steel, Barre
10. Joe Steffen, Essex Jct.
Allen Lumber Street Stock
1. Gary Mullen, Tunbridge
2. #Travis Hull, Graniteville
3. Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
4. Garry Bashaw, Lincoln
5. Michael Moore, East Haven
Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior
1. Josh Erwin, Waterbury
2. Kevin Dodge, Barre
3. Donny Yates, North Montpelier
4. Lance Donald, Williamstown
5. Keith Fortier, Hinesburg
(Cyr photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)