Friday, August 21, 2009

Fisher Wins on Wild Night at Thunder Road

Six restarts, seven lead changes in Late Model 50

BARRE -- Maybe they're frustrated, or maybe they're not. Maybe it's the fact that the racing season is winding down, and they're hungry to pass that one extra car. Maybe it was the humidity. Whatever it was, something affected the drivers at Barre's Thunder Road on Thursday night, and the result was arguably the most competitive -- and roughest -- night of racing in the track's 50th season. Fans were treated to multiple lead changes, multiple crashes, a photo finish, a rollover, a payback, and championship point battle shifts. It was an event with a bit of everything in it.

Jamie Fisher of Shelburne came out on top of an exciting 50-lap Late Model feature, one day shy of a year since his most recent win. Fisher began his drive from 13th starting position and narrowly avoided disaster on lap 24 while running with John Donahue and Craig Bushey. Fisher dove low to make a three-wide pass on the backstretch, just as Donahue and Bushey began making contact. Bushey spun in Turn 3 to bring out the caution flag, leaving Fisher to restart the race in sixth place.

Fisher passed Donahue on the outside quickly, then blew by Mike Bailey and Joey Becker into third place on lap 31. He took second from Doug Murphy on the inside on lap 37, then the lead from Tony Andrews on the outside on lap 43, just as Bushey caught and dumped Donahue in retaliation for their earlier incident. Andrews bumped into Fisher on the restart, then Murphy hit Andrews before the race's sixth and final caution two laps later for, yet again, a spinning Craig Bushey.

Fisher was never challenged over the final five laps and cruised to the win, his fourth consecutive podium finish. Andrews, of Northfield, finished second, while Jeffersonville driver Becker got by Murphy late in the going for third place.

"The car was running good," Fisher said. "We were good on the outside, good on the bottom. It's really fun to race here when people actually give you some room and you can really do a nice job and advance."

Fisher, the 2003 Thunder Road champion, said that the frequent caution periods helped him in the beginning of the race, and respect from his competitors helped at the end. "At first (the cautions) played in our favor and then at the end we didn't need them, but we were still fast enough where we could keep it ahead of Tony. And Tony ran us clean, that's the biggest thing. In the first part of the year I don't think we got run clean enough (by competitors) and we kept wrecking. Now we're getting run clean and we can come home in one piece and just keep working on the car and make it go faster."

Before Fisher arrived at the front, Murphy, Andrews, and for a brief time, polesitter Steve Fisher -- the winner's brother -- had a fierce battle for the lead. Murphy led from the outside of the front row before Steve Fisher nosed ahead for three laps. Murphy was back in the lead on lap 5, but was beaten by Andrews on the race's first restart on lap 10. Murphy repaid the favor on the outside to take the lead back on lap 18, then Andrews did it again on lap 25 before Jamie Fisher took over on lap 43. Dave Pembroke finished fifth behind Murphy. Phil Scott took sixth, and point leader Jean-Paul Cyr rebounded after his car briefly shut down to finish in seventh place.

While battling Becker for fourth place on lap 39, Cyr's ignition switch turned off. He fell back to tenth place, but regained some of his lost ground. Unofficially, Cyr maintained his comfortable 52-point lead on Scott entering the final Late Model championship event next Thursday, a 100-lap race that will feature NASCAR driver David Ragan.

Craftsbury youngster Joel Hodgdon turned a frustrating season around with a photo-finish victory over Eric Badore in the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman event. Hodgdon, who entered the night 16th in points, ran from the tenth starting position to second place on lap 16, but was unable to pass Badore. The caution flag flew with two laps remaining, setting up one final sprint to the checkers. Hodgdon ran side-by-side with Badore, then, while sliding sideways in a last-ditch effort on the outside lane in the final corner, beat Badore to the finish by a bumper.

"I wanted that last yellow," said Hodgdon. "I knew the way that the restarts were going I would be able to get (past Badore) if I had one more shot." Badore, of Milton, finished second with East Corinth driver Ray Stearns third, Derick O'Donnell of Bradford fourth, and Barre's David Finck fifth.

Pete Ainsworth, Jr. entered the night with a 20-point lead over Tony Rossi, but was involved in two wrecks in the feature and retired the race in 27th place. Rossi, who finished seventh, now unofficially holds a 23-point edge over Ainsworth with three point-counting events left for the Tiger Sportsman class.

Street Stock driver Tim Campbell of West Topsham took his second win of the year in the 20-lap Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior main event. Campbell was challenged by Friday night winner M.C. Ingram with three laps remaining before Ingram spun, allowing Campbell to easily take the win. Joe Blais of East Barre finished second over Barre's Ron Gabaree. Ken Christman of Cabot was the top Warrior driver in 18th place, good enough for his second win of the season in that division. Lance Donald of Williamstown, 20th overall, was second in the Warrior division, with Kevin Streeter of Waitsfield driving a car borrowed from Cheryl Kingsbury to finish third in the Warrior class, 21st overall.

Bunker Hodgdon of Hardwick flipped his car on the frontstretch on lap 8 in a pileup that also included Michael Moore, Tommy Smith, and Kevin Wheatley; no injuries were reported. Rookie Tucker Williams, the Street Stock point leader, finished eighth, while Warrior point leader Donny Yates failed to qualify for the main event. Street Stock driver Greg Adams, Jr. of Hardwick won the 'reserve' feature but opted to transfer to the main event, where he finished ninth.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Weekly Championship Series Event
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, August 20, 2009

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

ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
2. Tony Andrews, Northfield
3. Joey Becker, Jeffersonville
4. Doug Murphy, Tunbridge
5. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
6. Phil Scott, Montpelier
7. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton
8. Cris Michaud, Northfield
9. John Donahue, Graniteville
10. Matt White, Northfield

NAPA Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Joel Hodgdon, Craftsbury
2. Eric Badore, Milton
3. Ray Stearns, East Corinth
4. Derrick O'Donnell, Bradford
5. David Finck, Barre
6. Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
7. Tony Rossi, Barre
8. #Erik Steel, Barre
9. Jeff French, Northfield
10. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott

Allen Lumber Street Stock/Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior (20 laps)
1. Tim Campbell, West Topsham (SS)
2. Joe Blais, East Barre (SS)
3. Ron Gabaree, Barre (SS)
4. #Scott Weston, Berlin (SS)
5. #Danny Doyle, Hancock (SS)

18. Ken Christman, Cabot (JW)
20. Lance Donald, Williamstown (JW)
21. Kevin Streeter, Waitsfield (JW)
22. Alex Whitcomb, Montpelier (JW)
25. Keith Fortier, Hinesburg (JW)

(PHOTO: Jamie Fisher of Shelburne pumps his fist in celebration of his Late Model victory at Thunder Road on Thursday night. Photo by Justin St. Louis/VMM)

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