BARRE, VT – The 2007-08 off-season has seen an exciting number of talented stock car racers make a move to the next level of competition at Barre’s Thunder Road. After spending time in a developmental division, no less than ten drivers will continue upward in their careers at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” and beyond. But in a change from recent years, all four divisions of Thunder Road – and its regional cousin, the American-Canadian Tour – will reap the benefits.
“Drivers change divisions every year,” said Thunder Road promoter and ACT President Tom Curley, “but I can’t remember an off-season that has seen this many solid, talented racers move from one division to the next and have the transition be so evenly distributed among the four groups.”
It appears that groups of three and four drivers are making a move from one division to the next tier of competition for 2008, with each departing class creating room for a set of talented incoming freshmen. The intermediate NAPA Tiger Sportsman class will welcome four new young lions to the fold, including twenty year-olds Bobby Therrien of Hinesburg and Josh Demers of Middlesex, Williamstown’s Mike Ziter, 23, and East Barre’s Cody Blake, who turned 16 last month.
Therrien drew headlines in 2007 by winning a record six feature races and becoming the first driver to take the Allen Lumber Street Stock Championship and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Ziter was also a rookie Street Stock winner a year ago, and was in the thick of the championship battle the entire year. Demers earned a Street Stock victory in 2006, while Blake was a three-time winner at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park in the Strictly Stock division last season. Blake and Therrien previously competed at Thunder Road with the Northeastern Kart Club.
Therrien joins his older brother, multi-time winner Tom, in the Sportsman division. Ziter’s father-in-
law, Dan Beede, won the prestigious Chittenden Milk Bowl in 1991, as well as the 1987 Thunder Road Flying Tiger title. Blake’s father, Greg, was also the 1989 Flying Tiger “King of the Road.” The equipment the young drivers will compete with is impressive: Therrien has purchased the 2007 championship car of Nick Sweet, while Demers will pilot the car Shawn Fleury drove to two Thunder Road titles. Ziter purchased a car that was driven to the 2006 Tiger Sportsman Series championship from Chuck Beede.
“I can’t wait for the first race,” said Therrien. “I get along really well with Mike, Josh, and Cody, and
we all have good cars and good people behind us. They’re all great drivers, and it’s going to be a lot of fun racing against them again. I’m glad we’re all making the jump at the same time.”
As Therrien, Ziter, and Demers leave the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, they will be replaced by a strong group of former Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior competitors, including 2007 Champion Bunker Hodgdon of Hardwick. Hodgdon will be joined in the Street Stocks by David Whitcomb of Elmore and Leonard Sanborn of Graniteville, each a feature winner last season. Last season, the trio produced an impressive four victories and nearly 40 top-ten finishes, all while routinely starting near the back of 25-car fields. Hodgdon and Whitcomb competed in a handful of Street Stock races in 2007 with promising results. Like its counterparts, the Warrior division will see a handful of new entry-level racers enter the fold, with drivers Justin Hathaway, Lance Donald, and Merrill Bashaw, Jr. signing on for 2008.
Both divisions will be well-represented in the top-tier Late Model ranks. Barre’s Nick Sweet, 23,
Northfield’s Matt White, 34, and Tyler Cahoon of Danville, 27, plan to compete on a full-time basis in either Thunder Road’s weekly series or on the traveling ACT Late Model Tour in the northeastern United States and Canada. Sweet and White have been in the NAPA Tiger Sportsman spotlight for three seasons; Sweet was the division’s 2007 Champion, while White was the runner-up in 2006 and the fifth-place finisher last year. Cahoon, who has been honing his skills at White Mountain Motorsports Park, was the 2000 Thunder Road Street Stock Champion. Sweet got his start in the Street Stocks in 2003, while White, after winning the M&M Beverage Enduro 200, raced in the Warrior class in 2004. Cahoon has made select ACT and Thunder Road appearances in his Late Model during recent seasons, while White made a spectacular debut last September, qualifying for the 44th Annual Chittenden Milk Bowl.
“It’s a very positive and encouraging thing that our weekly racers across the board are getting the
experience and confidence they feel they need to be competitive at a higher level,” said Curley. “I don’t know of any other track or series that is enjoying the growth we’re seeing this year, especially with the quality of the drivers and equipment that will be making the ‘big jump.’ It’s a very exciting time for us.”
Thunder Road’s 49th season opens with the Merchants Bank 150 for the ACT Late Model Tour on Sunday, May 4. For more information, call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.”