BARRE -- It's as though Rich Lowrey never left.
After 2007, the Charlotte racer -- a five-time Late Model winner and championship contender -- left Thunder Road, sidelined with a back injury that required surgery and substantial rehabilitation.
Lowrey returned to the Barre track this season in his familiar number 8 car, and completed his comeback on Thursday night with his first victory since 2006. To top it off, his son Maverick was at the track celebrating his eighth birthday.
"It's great," said Lowrey. "We took a year off and wanted to come back for [Thunder Road's] 50th anniversary and try to win a race."
Lowrey said that a couple of recent on-track struggles, including a skirmish with Nick Sweet while running near the front last week, helped his team get to where it needed to be. Lowrey is likely out of the title hunt because of the down moments, but is now focused simply on winning races. So far, it's mission accomplished.
"We've wrecked the car a couple times this year and we've had to kind of piece it back together, but it kind of got us back on track and back to the basics and got us refocused on winning some races. We're kind of out of the points, so we're just racing for plastic."
Shelburne's Steve Fisher led the first lap of the NAPA 50 from the pole position, but was quickly shuffled back in the field. Eric Chase of Milton took over from that point until the first caution on lap 28. Lowrey lined up on the outside of the front row and nosed ahead of Chase for the restart.
Chase held onto second place until the second and final restart on lap 39, when Jamie Fisher -- in one move -- shot under Chase for second and drew even with Lowrey for the lead. Fisher eventually settled in behind Lowrey, then held off a charging Jean-Paul Cyr, who passed Chase on lap 42, for third place. Chase ended up a season-best fourth, with Phil Scott fifth.
Brooks Clark finished sixth over Cris Michaud, John Donahue, and Sweet. Craig Bushey recovered from an early spin to finish tenth, unofficially.
Mark Barnier of Essex Junction earned his first win in four years in the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman feature; Barnier led every lap from the pole position. Eric Badore continued his strange season with a runner-up finish; in the last five weeks, Badore has also won twice and failed to qualify twice. Joel Hodgdon finished third after a 17-lap side-by-side battle with Tommy Therrien. Ricky Roberts finished fifth behind Therrien.
Ron Gabaree of Barre took his first Street Stock win since 2005 over rookies Danny Doyle and Scott Weston. Kevin Streeter of Waitsfield won his fifth Junkyard Warrior feature of the year. Donny Yates was second over Alex Whitcomb.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- NAPA Auto Parts Night
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Pos.-Driver-Hometown (# - denotes rookie)
ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Rich Lowrey, Charlotte
2. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
3. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton
4. Eric Chase, Milton
5. Phil Scott, Montpelier
6. Brooks Clark, Fayston
7. Cris Michaud, Northfield
8. John Donahue, Graniteville
9. Nick Sweet, Barre
10. Craig Bushey, Cambridge
NAPA Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Mark Barnier, Essex Junction
2. Eric Badore, Milton
3. Joel Hodgdon, Craftsbury
4. Tommy Therrien, Hinesburg
5. Ricky Roberts, Washington
6. Tony Rossi, Barre
7. Scott Coburn, Barre
8. Jeff Bousquet, Montpelier
9. Dave Finck, Barre
10. Pete Ainsworth, Jr., Middlesex
Allen Lumber Street Stock (20 laps)
1. Ron Gabaree, Barre
2. #Danny Doyle, Hancock
3. #Scott Weston, Berlin
4. Greg Adams, Jr., Hardwick
5. Tim Campbell, West Topsham
Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior (15 laps)
1. Kevin Streeter, Waitsfield
2. Donny Yates, North Montpelier
3. Alex Whitcomb, Montpelier
4. John Prentice, Northfield
5. Ken Christman, Cabot