Connect with us

American Canadian Tour

Christopher Pelkey Caps Off Dream Season With Vermont Milk Bowl Victory

The recently-crowned “King of the Road” closed out an incredible season with a win in Vermont’s biggest stock car race.

Christopher Pelkey brought home a big payday after Sunday's Vermont Milk Bowl, but a kiss with a Vermont dairy cow is also among the winner's spoils. (Photo courtesy Thunder Road/Alan Ward)

A couple weeks after earning a crown at his home track, Christopher Pelkey found room to add a crown jewel, too.

The 2022 Thunder Road International Speedbowl “King of the Road” capped off a dream season with his win in Sunday’s 60th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank.

The signature event at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement” eschews the long-distance angle of most marquee events with a unique three-segment format. Each fifty-lap segment awards a point per finishing position, with a full-field invert after the first two segments. The driver who earns the fewest total points is the champion, earning $10,000 in prize money and a kiss from a Vermont dairy cow.

Pelkey, from Graniteville, Vt., carried the momentum of a track championship into this year’s Milk Bowl. But in a field loaded with past winners from Jason Corliss to Nick Sweet, Pelkey was far from a pre-race favorite. And while the Milk Bowl is not part of the American-Canadian Tour Late Model touring championship, a handful of Tour regulars took advantage of the off-week to throw their hats into the ring.

Nevertheless, Pelkey blistered the track in Saturday’s time trials, earning the pole over Marcel Gravel and backing up his speed with a heat-race victory. In Sunday’s first segment, Pelkey played it cool in the opening laps, letting Jimmy Hebert battle Gravel for the top spot while he rode in third. As the laps wound down, Pelkey turned up the heat, working the outside line to scoot past Hebert and Gravel for the lead. Pelkey led the last eight laps of the segment to take the win.

Jesse Switser and rookie Keegan Lamson brought the inverted field to the green for the second segment, but three-time Milk Bowl winner Patrick Laperle went to the front after a few laps. The most recent winner on the ACT Late Model Tour, “Le Grand Laperle” dominated the second segment until a flat tire on lap 43 stalled his run. Thunder Road regular Darrell Morin inherited the lead under the yellow flag, but Corliss, who won the afternoon’s B-feature to earn a spot in the field, made quick work of Morin to take command. Corliss captured the second segment over Scott Dragon and Morin, while Hebert and Pelkey finished deeper in the field.

Dragon’s runner-up finish made him the provisional leader entering the third stage, with Matthew Smith and Joey Polewarczyk bringing the field to green for the final fifty-lap sprint. Polewarczyk, the 2010 winner, slid back on the restart while Cody Blake put pressure on Smith for the top spot.

A spin for Stephen Donahue, followed by a retaliatory outburst under caution, slowed the segment at lap 22, bringing Derrick O’Donnell into the picture. The “Black Knight of the White Mountains” outdueled Blake on a lap-31 restart to take command of the final stage, driving off from the pack in search of his first Milk Bowl win.

Pelkey and Hebert, meanwhile, ran solidly in the top ten, with every pass meaning one fewer point toward the overall win. With Smith and fourth-place Laperle sliding back, Pelkey made a bold pass to clear the two challengers, vaulting him into third on the track with ten laps to go.

Hebert clawed his way to fifth at the segment’s end. But Pelkey’s third-place charge gave him an overall score of 21 points to Hebert’s 22, making Pelkey the overall winner of the 60th Vermont Milk Bowl in his sixth start.

On the back of a first-segment win and a third-place finish in the final segment, Christopher Pelkey captured his first win in Thunder Road International Speedbowl’s legendary Vermont Milk Bowl. (Photo courtesy Thunder Road/Alan Ward)

For Hebert, second place was his best run in eight starts, eclipsing a fifth-place run in 2017. An ACT Tour regular for most of his Late Model career, Hebert had not raced in the Milk Bowl since 2019.

O’Donnell’s third-segment win gave him a total score of 23, good enough for third overall. ACT Tour points leader DJ Shaw, in his first Milk Bowl attempt since 2006 and his second ever, was fourth overall, with two-time Thunder Road champion Scott Dragon rounding out the top five.

Four-time and defending Milk Bowl champion Nick Sweet was eighth in the final rundown. Joey Polewarczyk finished 11th after ending the third segment in sixth. Second-segment winner Corliss wound up 13th. ACT Tour regular Alexendre Tardif was the best finishing Canadian in 19th, ahead of second-segment contender Laperle and NASCAR racer Alex Labbe. Tour sophomore Erick Sands finished 24th, while rookie Cody LeBlanc ended the day in 27th.

Sunday’s victory capped off an incredible rise to relevance for Pelkey, a local whose family owns the company that engraves Thunder Road’s own granite monuments. Pelkey’s ascent through the weekly ranks at Thunder Road took a detour in 2018, when he ran the full ACT Tour schedule for the first time. In a three-year stint on the Tour, Pelkey finished in the top ten in points all three years, with his best finishes coming in both 2020 features at Thunder Road.

After the 2020 season, Pelkey and his team returned to weekly competition full-time, finishing second to Corliss in the track championship with a big win in the season finale. This year, Pelkey locked down two feature wins and edged out Kyle Pembroke by five points for his first Thunder Road track title. And while Pelkey’s touring presence was minimal this year, he made an impact in his first ACT Tour start of the year, finishing third to Sweet and O’Donnell in May’s Community Bank, N.A. 150.

The Milk Bowl win was worth over $15,000 to Pelkey. But the pride of a victory in Thunder Road’s signature race is priceless. Even if it comes with a kiss from a cow.

Unofficial Results, 60th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank, Thunder Road International Speedbowl:
1. (64VT) Christopher Pelkey
2. (58VT) Jimmy Hebert
3. (7K) Derrick O’Donnell
4. (04VT) DJ Shaw
5. (0VT) Scott Dragon
6. (18VT) Kaiden Fisher
7. (99VT) Cody Blake
8. (88VT) Nick Sweet
9. (86VT) Marcel J. Gravel
10. (94VT) Brendan Moodie
11. (97NH) Joey Polewarczyk
12. (00NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
13. (51VT) Jason Corliss
14. (27VT) Kyle Pembroke
15. (17VT) Darrell Morin
16. (16VT) Brandon Lanphear
17. (9ME) Shawn Swallow
18. (68VT) Brooks Clark
19. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
20. (91QC) Patrick Laperle
21. (36QC) Alex Labbé
22. (45NH) Kasey Beattie
23. (25NH) Jesse Switser
24. (36NH) Erick Sands
25. (04ME) Matthew Smith
26. (55VT) Keegan Lamson
27. (7NH) Cody LeBlanc
28. (48QC) Raphael Lessard
DQ (2VT) Stephen Donahue

If you like what you read here, become a Short Track Scene Patreon and support short track journalism!

Read more Short Track Scene:

Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




More in American Canadian Tour