BARRE -- The year 1992 was one of significance at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. It was the first year for the track's new Late Model division, fresh off an upgrade from the old Flying Tiger class. It was the year of "King" Richard Petty's retirement tour from a NASCAR career decorated by 200 wins and seven championships, a tour that brought Petty on a visit to the Barre track. It was also the last year that Northfield racer Tony Andrews, who dominated the Street Stock division and then had a brief but successful stint in the new Late Models, won a race.
But Thursday, on a night when Petty made his return to Thunder Road, so did Andrews to victory lane.
Andrews was asked after the race if he remembered the last time he won. He took a deep breath and smiled: "Nineteen ninety-two," he said. "Nineteen ninety-two."
The second-generation driver led the first 18 laps of the WDEV Radio/Calkins Portables 50 from the outside pole before losing the top spot to young Brooks Clark for seven trips around the high-banked quarter-mile. Andrews got back into the lead on lap 25 and never surrendered it again.
"It's just all my crew, they've stuck with me," said Andrews, who ranked 20th in points entering the event. "I've had a rough last couple weeks, the car hasn't been good. It's the same setup we've had, but this week we went through it with a fine-tooth comb and found two or three small things. It makes a difference here. Everybody's so equal, if you're off just a little bit it shows."
Clark was never more than an arm's length from Andrews through the race's five restarts from laps 18 through 45, despite Andrews using every restart trick in the book, and Clark only gave up the fight for the lead on lap 46 when Dave Pembroke and Cris Michaud were able to get underneath him. Pembroke held on for the runner-up finish over Michaud, while Clark beat Phil Scott for fourth place.
Andrews was very complimentary of Clark. "Brooks is a great kid," he praised. "He races me with respect, and I race him with respect. We never touched, neither one of us. He never touched me, I never touched him, and that's the way you want it. He's a good friend of mine and he's a good kid. He just came over and said, 'I overdrove.' I said, 'Yup, you did, but if you don't try it, you don't learn.'"
With the monkey off his back, Andrews realized his accomplishment, but also took a certain amount of pride in his own self-confidence.
"If you restart every time at the same time in the same place, they figure you out," Andrews said. "It's hard to [win against] these guys, they're good. I mean, they're champions. It's a real honor to beat these guys, it's hard. But it was just a matter of time. I didn't ever wonder if I was going to, it was when."
John Donahue finished sixth, followed by Mike Bailey, Jean-Paul Cyr, Doug Murphy, and Trampas Demers. Unofficially, Cyr now trails Pembroke in the point standings, 566-558; Cyr entered the night with a three-point edge over Pembroke.
Sophomore racer Josh Demers of Middlesex made the most of a lap 31 restart in the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman feature, passing rookie leader Steve "Mudflap" Quenneville on the outside and cruising to his first career victory in the division.
"That caution really helped us out big time, we needed that, I was kind of praying for that," said Demers. "The car was handling pretty decent on the outside, and [the caution] happened, and we did it, we got by him, and got our first victory of our Tiger career."
Completing a run that started deep in the pack, Tommy Therrien was able to sneak by Quenneville for the runner-up spot. Lance Allen finished fourth, with John Drinkwine a career-best fifth.
Tommy "Thunder" Smith of Williamstown won a photo finish Street Stock event over Jason Corliss, making his winning pass in the final corner of the 20-lap race. Bunker Hodgdon finished third over Markus Farnham and Bruce Melendy.
Lance Donald of Williamstown earned his first Junkyard Warrior win in a 15-lap race, beating Keith Fortier, Kevin Wheatley, Ken Christman, and Kevin Dodge, unofficially.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- WDEV Radio/Calkins Portables Night
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Pos.-Driver-Hometown (# - denotes rookie)
ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Tony Andrews, Northfield
2. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
3. Cris Michaud, Northfield
4. Brooks Clark, Fayston
5. Phil Scott, Montpelier
6. John Donahue, Graniteville
7. Mike Bailey, South Barre
8. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton
9. Doug Murphy, Tunbridge
10. Trampas Demers, South Burlington
NAPA Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Josh Demers, Middlesex
2. Tommy Therrien, Hinesburg
3. #Steve Quenneville, Barre
4. Lance Allen, Barre
5. John Drinkwine, Barre
6. Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier
7. Tony Rossi, Barre
8. Jeff French, Northfield
9. Ricky Roberts, Washington
10. Scott Coburn, Barre
Allen Lumber Street Stock (20 laps)
1. Tommy Smith, Williamstown
2. Jason Corliss, Danville
3. Bunker Hodgdon, Hardwick
4. Markus Farnham, Randolph Center
5. Bruce Melendy, Danville
Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior (15 laps)
1. Lance Donald, Williamstown
2. Keith Fortier, Hinesburg
3. Kevin Wheatley, Williamstown
4. Ken Christman, Cabot
5. Kevin Dodge, Barre
(PHOTO: Tony Andrews of Northfield snapped a 17-year winless streak Thursday night at Thunder Road. Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)