Few touring series offer as level a playing field to weekly combatants as the American-Canadian Tour does. And nowhere is that level playing field more obvious than the high banks of its home, Thunder Road International Speedbowl.
Bobby Therrien added his own chapter to the mystique in Sunday’s Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic, the seventh race of the ACT Late Model Tour schedule.
Therrien led 77 laps en route to his fourth career ACT Tour win and his first in Tour competition since 2016. The win was also Therrien’s fourth at the legendary oval, the sole paved speedway in the Green Mountain State.
Therrien started sixth and battled for the lead early, but it was a late-race duel with Thunder Road weekly points leader Jason Corliss where the “Bad Boy” from Hinesburg, Vt. broke free. With sixty laps remaining, Therrien dispatched Corliss on a restart and went unchallenged the rest of the way.
Nick Sweet, a two-time Thunder Road “King of the Road” and the 2016 ACT Tour champion, slipped past Corliss for second in the closing laps. Sweet, a full-timer on the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model circuit with four wins this year, was looking for a rebound from a disappointing early exit in the Oxford 250 a week earlier. But as Therrien set a torrid pace at the point, Sweet could not run him down.
Defending “King of the Road” Corliss held on for third, with Scott Dragon fourth. Christopher Pelkey, a full-timer on both the ACT Tour and Thunder Road’s weekly Late Model program, was the highest-finishing Tour regular in fifth.
Managing his first conflict of a busy racing season, DJ Shaw finished best among the ACT Tour championship contenders in eighth, with Jimmy Hebert close behind in tenth.
Therrien’s win was the fifth in the last six ACT Tour events at Thunder Road to be won by a weekly regular. Corliss swept both Tour events at T-Road in 2018, a year after earning top Tour rookie honors, and is presently riding a three-race winning streak in the annual Community Bank, N.A. 150. Reigning Tour champion Rich Dubeau won last fall’s postponed Labor Day Classic, breaking a potential five-race streak for Corliss.
Not that Therrien is a stranger to ACT Tour competition. Therrien made his Tour debut in 2012, running the next two seasons for Pete Duto’s Fast One Motorsports operation. Therrien earned his first career Tour win in 2013, finishing fifth in points, and added two wins in 2016, bookending his third full season in the Tour.
Since 2016, though, Therrien and Duto have let the early-season results dictate their yearly plans, often turning their focus from touring racing to weekly competition at Thunder Road. The pairing clinched the Thunder Road Late Model championship in 2017, making Therrien the first driver in the modern era to win championships in all three of the track’s weekly classes. In 2019, Therrien ran 12 of the 17 events on the PASS North schedule.
Therrien is also the fourth driver to snipe a win from the ACT Tour regulars this year. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. earned an early-season win at Oxford Plains Speedway, and Dillon Moltz won the $10,000-to-win Midsummer 250 at White Mountain Motorsports Park.
With poor finishes for Ryan Kuhn and Bryan Kruczek, and only two points-paying events left on the schedule, the title race appears to be a two-driver race between Hebert and Shaw heading into this weekend’s penultimate event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Labor Day Classic also counts toward the Thunder Road track championship, with Therrien’s win nudging him into second place in the track standings, thirty points behind Corliss and thirteen markers ahead of Scott Dragon. Indeed, eight of the top ten finishers were regulars at Thunder Road, with six track championships between the top four alone.
One points-paying event remains on the Thunder Road weekly calendar for 2020, to be followed by early October’s 58th Vermont Milk Bowl.
The ACT Tour will race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, taking to the “Magic Mile” for the first time since 2017 and earning championship points for the second time ever.
Official Results, ACT Tour Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road International Speedbowl:
1. (5VT) Bobby Therrien
2. (40VT) Nick Sweet
3. (66VT) Jason Corliss
4. (16VT) Scott Dragon
5. (64VT) Christopher Pelkey
6. (94VT) Brendan Moodie
7. (68VT) Brooks Clark
8. (04VT) DJ Shaw
9. (42VT) Matt White
10. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
11. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
12. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
13. (85VT) Trampas Demers
14. (7NH) Dylan Payea
15. (3ME) Chris Roberts
16. (13VT) Chip Grenier
17. (2VT) Stephen Donahue
18. (49NH) Matt Anderson
19. (21VT) Reilly Lanphear
20. (69ME) David MacDonald
21. (72MA) Ryan Kuhn
22. (27VT) Kyle Pembroke
23. (19NH) Bryan Kruczek
24. (38VT) Tyler Cahoon
25. (25NH) Jesse Switser
26. (99VT) Cody Blake