Friday, July 10, 2009

First-Time Winners Aplenty at Thunder Road

Folsom Takes Late Model Thriller For First Win

BARRE -- It was a night of firsts at Barre's Thunder Road on Thursday, as in first-time feature winners. Three out of four main events saw a driver take his first career victory on Charter Communications Night, and even the other winner took just the second win of his career.

Grant Folsom of Waitsfield looked like he was ready to settle for his best-ever Thunder Road finish in second place behind would-be first-time winner Brooks Clark, who led the first 38 of 50 circuits from the outside pole. Clark, of Fayston, had as much as a quarter-track lead over Folsom, polesitter Cal Poulin, and Mike Bailey before caution periods on laps 21 and 26 bunched the field for restarts.

Clark was able to fend Bailey and Folsom off after the green flag on lap 26, but once Folsom cleared Bailey he set to work on taking the lead. After a daring lane change from the outside to the inside on lap 34, Folsom was finally able to sneak under Clark and wrestle the point away five tours later. One final restart on lap 44 saw Folsom, Bailey, Phil Scott (who started 14th), Clark, Jean-Paul Cyr, and Sunday's winner, Reno Gervais, make up the first three double-file rows. Scott and Cyr used the inside line to their advantage, as Scott took second place from Bailey coming to the final lap and Cyr nipped Bailey for third at the finish line. Dave Pembroke snuck in for fifth place.

As the checkered flag waved, the fading Clark was tapped from behind, spun across the finish line in eighth place, and nailed head-on by point leader Nick Sweet. Both cars sustained heavy damage, although both drivers were uninjured.

Folsom was elated to have his first career win in hand.

"My God, I've been waiting for that," he said. "My car's always junk, you know what I mean? This thing went so good tonight. I can't thank the crew enough." Prior to his win, Folsom's best finish of the season was an eighth-place effort last month; he had only one other top-five finish at Thunder Road, which came in 2006.

Folsom knew the mid-race cautions are what made the race go his way. "[I was] hoping [Clark] made a mistake. I knew the yellows would give us a shot at him again. Just following him I knew he was pretty free in [the corners], I'd see him drift up. I was just waiting for him to drift up enough where I could get a run under him. If it got down to five or ten to go or whatever, I'd probably have tried him on the outside, but I could see how his car was and I knew I wanted to be on the bottom.

"I've been waiting for this for so long. I never dreamed of it."

Former Street Stock champion Eric Badore of Milton earned his first career Tiger Sportsman win after holding off some wild challenges by another former Street Stock champion in Jeff French. Badore led every step of the 35-lap feature, but had to hold off charges on both the inside and outside from second-place runner French, and was drilled in the rear bumper by French on lap 20. Following the hit to Badore, French then drove down the track and into the side of third-place driver Cody Blake. All three were able to continue without further incident, finishing in that order. Ray Stearns and Mark Barnier completed the unofficial top-five finishers after turning in several laps of their own close-quarters racing.

Hyde Park rookie Tucker Williams earned his second career Street Stock feature, on a night when the Street Stock and Junkyard Warrior classes ran their own seperate events for the first time this season. Williams took the lead from Jason Allen on lap 4 of the 20-lap race and was never seriously challenged for the lead, despite several caution periods. Mike MacAskill drove from the back to finish in second place over Gary Mullen, point leader Jason Corliss, and Tommy Smith, unofficially.

Ken Christman of Cabot became the first Warrior driver other than Kevin Streeter or Donny Yates to take a victory in that division in 2009, earning his first career win over first-year racers Alex Whitcomb and Troy Kingsbury. Streeter made some breathtaking moves to finish in fourth place, with Mark LaFleche fifth.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Charter Communications Night
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl -- Barre, Vt.
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pos.-Driver-Hometown (# - denotes rookie)

ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Grant Folsom, Waitsfield
2. Phil Scott, Montpelier
3. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton
4. Mike Bailey, South Barre
5. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
6. Reno Gervais, Island Pond
7. Rich Lowrey, Charlotte
8. Brooks Clark, Fayston
9. Craig Bushey, Cambridge
10. Tony Andrews, Northfield

NAPA Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Eric Badore, Milton
2. Jeff French, Northfield
3. Cody Blake, Barre
4. Ray Stearns, East Corinth
5. Mark Barnier, Essex Jct.
6. Scott Coburn, Barre
7. Joel Hodgdon, Crafstbury
8. David Finck, Barre
9. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
10. Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown

Allen Lumber Street Stock (20 laps)
1. #Tucker Williams, Hyde Park
2. Mike MacAskill, Williamstown
3. Gary Mullen, Tunbridge
4. Jason Corliss, Danville
5. Tommy Smith, Williamstown

Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior (15 laps)
1. Ken Christman, Cabot
2. Alex Whitcomb, Montpelier
3. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield
4. Kevin Streeter, Waitsfield
5. Mark LaFleche, Williamstown

(PHOTO: Still shocked by his first Thunder Road win, Late Model driver Grant Folsom prepares to sign an autograph on Thursday night. Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

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