One year ago, Trevor Sanborn faced a health hurdle that threatened to derail his racing career.
Friday night in Vermont, in the Pro All Stars Series preamble to the Vermont Milk Bowl, his recovery came full circle.
Sanborn won the PASS Super Late Model portion of Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Night at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, earning his first series victory in a decade.
Friday’s win not only ended a long dry spell for the PASS veteran, but also closed out two winning streaks that, before the evening’s action, seemed equally likely to be fulfilled.
Instead, it was Sanborn celebrating a win in his first touring trip to the high-banked quarter-mile.
Sanborn started sixth in the feature, but wasted no time getting to the front. When the yellow was thrown for a fire on JR Robinson’s car, Sanborn had already climbed to second. Polesitter Jeremy Davis broke away from Sanborn on the restart, later using lapped cars to keep his challengers at bay.
But approaching halfway, Sanborn closed the distance on Davis, testing the outside line as the two leaders worked through traffic. Davis held his ground, looking for his first PASS win since 2015. But on lap 79, Sanborn pulled ahead of Davis in the outside line, taking the lead for the first time.
Sanborn drove away from Davis, leaving the chassis builder to battle rookie Jake Matheson and reigning PASS North champion DJ Shaw. Shaw nudged Matheson out of the way to take third, then got past Davis on lap 96. But with the field spread out and plenty of lapped cars to sift through, Shaw had a tall order ahead to outrace Sanborn.
Shaw chipped away at Sanborn’s lead, closing within a few car lengths with 30 laps remaining. Cooperative lapped traffic, though, kept the 2017 Thunder Road winner from finding an opening to take the lead.
And that was all Sanborn needed to hang on for his first PASS North victory since 2010.
Shaw, who was gunning for his third straight PASS win, settled for second after starting 13th. Shaw was the only driver who could keep pace with Sanborn in the closing laps.
Matheson, the New Hampshire rookie, finished a career-best third at one of the region’s toughest tracks. The young racer was in the hunt all night, starting out front and withstanding challenges from PASS’ veteran racers to score his first podium.
Derek Griffith, who won at Thunder Road in 2019, struggled with traffic all night but persevered to finish a distant fourth. Griffith was the final car on the lead lap. Early leader Davis fell off the lead lap late but finished fifth, his best of the year.
Scott McDaniel matched his best result of 2021 with a sixth-place finish. Full-time competitors Kate Re and Dan Winter were seventh and eighth, two laps back. Granite State Pro Stock Series veteran Josh King carried the torch for Vermont, finishing ninth in his first PASS start. PASS North points leader Johnny Clark struggled in the second half of the race, limping home tenth.
American-Canadian Tour and Thunder Road Late Model racer Stephen Donahue made his PASS debut Friday as well, finishing eleventh. Former track champion Bobby Therrien led laps in his first PASS race since last year’s Thunder Road event, but dropped off the pace midway through the race.
Sanborn’s win makes him only the second driver ever to win the PASS-sanctioned Super Late Model preamble to the Vermont Milk Bowl. Nick Sweet, who won the previous three fall outings at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement,” was not entered in Friday’s race. The Thunder Road veteran and last year’s winningest PASS regular has cut back his racing schedule significantly this year.
PASS’ history at Vermont’s last paved bullring, though, is a short story. The fast Super Late Models made their debut at Thunder Road in 2015, a sign of soothed hostilities between PASS and Thunder Road’s resident American-Canadian Tour. Joey Doiron won the first PASS showdown at Thunder Road, part of the track’s Memorial Day festivities. A second annual race was added in 2018 in conjunction with the Milk Bowl. But after short fields in both 2019 appearances, only the Milk Bowl support event remained.
Thunder Road was far from a consideration, then, when Sanborn was in his PASS heyday. The East Parsonsfield, Me. racer had a consistent presence with the series in the late 2000s, winning two PASS South races in 2008 and scoring his first career PASS North win in 2010. The win came at Riverside Speedway, a New Hampshire quarter-mile. Only three drivers in the field that evening were in Friday’s starting lineup; two more were not at Thunder Road, but have won PASS features this year. Sanborn finished fourth in points for car owner Richard Moody.
But that was the last time Sanborn ran for points in PASS. For the next decade, he made spot starts in PASS and in weekly competition at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway while pursuing opportunities working for teams in North Carolina. And while he picked up eight top fives in his limited schedule, he never found his way back to the winner’s circle.
Armed with a car purchased from retiring racer Reid Lanpher, Sanborn ran seven PASS events in 2020, his most in a single year since 2010. An eighth-place finish in the Oxford 250 was one of three top-ten finishes, including September’s bout at White Mountain Motorsports Park. But the season grew dark after that.
Shortly after the race at WMMP, Sanborn fell ill and was ultimately hospitalized with double pneumonia and sepsis. After two weeks in the hospital and a stint in the intensive care unit, Sanborn was discharged to recover. Whether Sanborn would be able to race competitively remained to be seen.
Given an off-season to rehabilitate and recover, Sanborn bounced back this spring. After finishing third in a PASS race at Oxford in April, Sanborn won a weekly feature at Beech Ridge in May. At the Oxford 250, Sanborn won the last-chance qualifier and drove from 42nd to an eighth-place finish.
With his first touring win in years under his belt, and a couple short track battles still ahead on PASS’ season-closing grind, Sanborn could add to his win total before the year’s end.
Unofficial Results, PASS Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel 150 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl:
1. (29) Trevor Sanborn
2. (60) DJ Shaw
3. (52NH) Jake Matheson
4. (12G) Derek Griffith
5. (09) Jeremy Davis
6. (14) Scott McDaniel
7. (10) Kate Re
8. (81) Dan Winter
9. (21) Josh King
10. (54) Johnny Clark
11. (26VT) Stephen Donahue
12. (14ME) Anthony Constantino
13. (4) Ben Rowe
14. (5X) Bobby Therrien
15. (66) David Getchell
16. (60B) Tim Brackett
17. (20) JR Robinson
DNS (35) Derek Ramstrom