When the American-Canadian Tour returns home to the high banks of Thunder Road International Speedbowl, the Tour’s traveling stars often take a back seat to the local experts.
On Sunday afternoon, Brooks Clark was the latest local expert to shine on the big stage.
Clark won Sunday’s Community Bank N.A. 150, the second event of the ACT Late Model Tour schedule, taking his first career Tour victory and keeping the traditional Tour event in the Thunder Road family for a fourth straight season.
Clark, from Fayston, Vt., prevailed in a battle with Trampas Demers to lock down one of the biggest victories of his career after starting deep in the field.
“We had a fast car, just didn’t have the luck,” Clark said in victory lane. “To come here and pull this off is huge.”
Clark started 21st in the thirty-car field, a turn of fate that likely kept him out of the race’s early incidents. Kyle Pembroke led the first 54 circuits from the pole, with two-time Thunder Road “King of the Road” Scott Dragon battling past Pembroke for the lead on lap 55. The two racers made contact a lap later, with Dragon riding the frontstretch wall to a stop in turn one. Dragon was uninjured, and Pembroke was penalized for the contact, moving Demers to the head of the pack.
On the ensuing restart, Christopher Pelkey turned into rookie Erick Sands, collecting Cody Blake, Matt Anderson and Jason Corliss. Corliss, the winner of four of the last six ACT Tour events at Thunder Road including the last three Community Bank 150s, was done for the afternoon.
Clark ascended through the attrition, restarting behind Demers after the two incidents. As DJ Shaw faltered on the outside, Clark and Brendan Moodie moved to second and third, with Clark stalking Demers until halfway. Clark worked the outside line on Demers to take the lead on lap 90.
Demers, the son of NASCAR Busch North Series winner Dennis Demers and a 13-time Thunder Road feature winner himself, parried back after a lap-96 restart. Demers took the lead on lap 102 and put some distance on Clark, but Clark reeled the veteran back in, taking the lead back on lap 129. Lapped cars allowed Clark to keep Demers at bay as the race ran green to the finish.
Marcel J. Gravel nabbed third from Moodie in the closing laps, with Moodie completing a top-four sweep for Thunder Road regulars. Multi-time Pro All Stars Series champion and 2020 Oxford winner Ben Rowe was fifth, best in class among the Tour specialists.
DJ Shaw, following a frustrating disqualification at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, rebounded from contact with the wall to finish sixth, ahead of Stephen Donahue and Dylan Payea. Blake, collected in the second lap-55 incident, finished ninth, with former Thunder Road champion Bobby Therrien tenth.
The challenging quarter-mile was unkind to Tour competitors, starting with defending champion and NHMS winner Jimmy Hebert’s early exit with overheating issues on lap 22. Derek Gluchacki was thirteenth, the last car on the lead lap. Tom Carey III limped home in 17th, while Jesse Switser joined rookie Erick Sands and Hebert in the pit area before the day was through.
Sunday’s race was the first race of ACT’s new partnership with Hoosier Racing Tire. The opening events of the season at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and NHMS were run under the expiring deal with American Racer, ACT’s tire supplier since 2014. Thunder Road’s weekly divisions as well as the Tour cars were run on new Hoosier rubber.
While Sunday marked Clark’s first ACT Tour win, it was hardly his first trip to Thunder Road’s victory circle. Clark has five weekly feature wins at the track, including the 2019 Vermont Governor’s Cup. But Clark went winless in only three 2020 starts at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement,” plus two Tour appearances. A return to victory lane in Tour competition, with the regular season still a few weeks away, can only build momentum for the veteran racer.
Clark’s win also speaks to the supremacy of Thunder Road drivers at their home track. Thunder Road racers and graduates have won nine of the last ten ACT Tour starts at Thunder Road. Rich Dubeau, the lone exception with his 2019 win in the Labor Day Classic, is also the only Tour full-timer to win at the track since Scott Payea swept the 2017 events.
A solid day for Thunder Road regulars was tempered by a challenging afternoon for the Tour faithful. Hebert’s early exit counteracts Shaw’s NHMS foibles, and through it all, Ben Rowe may be the biggest beneficiary of the two title contenders’ early troubles.
The complexion of the Tour will return to normal in two weeks at Lee USA Speedway, as most of the Thunder Road contingent will be unlikely to make the long road trip to New Hampshire. But when the Tour returns home in September for the fall 200-lapper, Clark’s name will be atop the list of local threats for the Labor Day Classic crown.
Official Results, ACT Tour Community Bank N.A. 150 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl:
1. (68VT) Brooks Clark
2. (85VT) Trampas Demers
3. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
4. (94VT) Brendan Moodie
5. (4ME) Ben Rowe
6. (04VT) DJ Shaw
7. (2VT) Stephen Donahue
8. (7NH) Dylan Payea
9. (99VT) Cody Blake
10. (5VT) Bobby Therrien
11. (27VT) Kyle Pembroke
12. (38VT) Tyler Cahoon
13. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
14. (04NH) Shawn Swallow
15. (40VT) Nick Sweet
16. (9VT) Chip Grenier
17. (5MA) Tom Carey III
18. (7VT) Boomer Morris
19. (25NH) Jesse Switser
20. (7MA) Cooper Bouchard
21. (0VT) Scott Dragon
22. (64VT) Christopher Pelkey
23. (36NH) Erick Sands
24. (66VT) Jason Corliss
25. (49NH) Matt Anderson
26. (42VT) Matt White
27. (39VT) Mike Foster
28. (16VT) Brandon Lanphear
29. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
30. (8VT) Anthony Hill