Dad’s 4 By Tool & Supply Kids Division Mini Milk Bowl Victory Lane at Booth Bros./Hood Milk Bowl Qualification Day (LR) Carson Thetaux (3rd), McKenna Merchant winner, Brandon Sheldon (2nd). (Photo: Alan Ward)
Barre, VT – Day two of the 60th Vermont Milk Bowl weekend showcased the best and brightest Late Model stars in the American-Canadian Tour ranks, along with some of the most competitive support divisions in the two states of Vermont and New Hampshire. Teams and drivers flooded the pits on Saturday morning for the all-important Booth Bros./Hood Milk Bowl Qualifying Day. There was a lot at stake and the hard racing in all divisions showed it’s all hanging out heading into Sunday’s Vermont Milk Bowl.
Between Friday and Saturday, 43 American-Canadian Tour teams entered the Thunder Road gates with 40 cars competing in time trials for the iconic Booth Bros./Hood Milk Bowl Pole Award. While young Kaiden Fisher shocked the public early on and tied multiple Milk Bowl champion Patrick Laperle, it was 2022 King of the Road Christopher Pelkey who led the way. Pelkey set a blistering 12.283-second lap halfway through the time-trial round to earn the $1,000 Booth Bros./Hood Pole Award, while Wolcott’s Marcel Gravel claimed the outside pole and the $500 bonus on a 12.343-second circuit.
With the new heat race payouts to the top 1 and with only five places up for grabs in each of the Triple-50 round heat races, it was all or nothing. Christopher Pelkey dominated the first heat taking the share of the $1,000 winners, while Cody Blake, Brendan Moodie, Scott Dragon, Kasey Beattie and Nick Sweet qualified. Tragedy Would Stark, Jamie Swallow Jr. from New Hampshire after an overheated engine began to push the water heavily, ending a strong top-10 qualifying run.
Although Marcel Gravel took heat two to green, he chose to save his tires for Sunday’s bigger battle and took his option to bend halfway through. After running precariously side by side halfway through the event, Matt Smith and Cooper Bouchard got tangled up in turn one, pushing Stephen Martin into the wall of turn two and ending his day. On the restart, Flying Tiger Rookie of the Year Kaiden Fisher handily pulled away from the pack to take his first Late Model win. Shawn Swallow, Stephen Donahue, Brandon Lanphear and Jesse Switser would also qualify behind Fisher for tomorrow’s Milk Bowl.
The final lap of the heat race to qualify for the Late Models was a bull’s eye as the Black Night of the White Mountains, Derrick O’Donnell, bravely fought to snatch the win, but Jimmy Hebert had other plans. Both O’Donnell and Hebert fought hard at the front before Hebert pulled away with the lead as the battle for the final transfer spot flared up between Kyle Pembroke and Joey Pole. The second-place points fighter went head-to-head with the former Milk Bowl champion, but eventually the 97NH sneaked past to take the spot. Hebert would claim victory to qualify for tomorrow’s event along with DJ Shaw, O’Donnell, Pole and Brooks Clark.
After the heats, Patrick Laperle, Kyle Pembroke, Erick Sands, Jimmy Renfrew Jr. and Alex Labbe transferred to the 60th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank as the five fastest time trial cars yet to qualify. Tomorrow’s Last Chance B-Feature will feature some heavy hitters including Thunder Road top rookies Keegan Lamson and Stephen Martin and former Kings of the Road Bobby Therrien and Jason Corliss under the 18-car field. The laps are determined in the morning.
After Tanner Woodard, White Mountain Motorsports Park’s Flying Tiger champion, set the quick 13.818 seconds on the 27-car Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel field, things went downhill fast. Their first segment got off to a rocky start as a huge roundup from lap one gathered three of the best runners in turn and the day ended for Colin Cornell. At the restart, Logan Powers quickly took the lead in his Ralph Baldwin throwback #11NC. All over Powers’ tail was the 1999 Brian Hoar throwback-scheduled Justin Prescott machine, both of which set the fast pace up front.
The second and final warning was to fly on lap 29, when rookie Cam Gadue’s right rear wheel broke, causing his Hoosier Race Tire to come down only in turns three and four. At the restart, Logan Powers was again driven by Prescott and stole the Segment One win over Booth Bros./Hood Milk Bowl Qualifying Day. Justin Prescott would finish second to start tomorrow with two points and 2022 Thunder Road Flying Tiger champion Sam Caron would finish third with three points to start tomorrow.
The rk Miles Street Stocks were not so friendly after former track champion Jeffrey Martin claimed the 14.379 second fast lap in the car normally driven by Kasey Collins. Unfortunately for Martin, the speed did not hold up with mechanical issues forcing the #98 pitside on lap 8. . Caution would fly again at the restart as Bert Duffy and Haidyn Pearce went for a ride together in the first corner.
Finally able to restart cleanly, the field took off ferociously under the green flag. Luke Peters, Taylor Hoar, 2022 Champion Dean Switser Jr. and a host of others competed up front before spinning Jesse Laquerre and Eric MacLaughlin spinning in turn two. The final warning came just as the white flag was raised when Christopher Davis and Bert Duffy came to a dangerous stop at Turn Three, blocking the corner completely. Race Control went into a green and white checkered restart which Luke Peters handily won as Hoar and Switser battled for second place. Dean Swisser Jr. would finish second, just 0.058 seconds off Taylor Hoar.
For the second consecutive season, White Mountain Motorsports Park has not disappointed the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank Strictly Stock Minis and the Dad’s 4 By Tool & Supply Kids Division and 2022. The Strictly Minis included several White Mountain track champions in addition to a few Thunder Road Warrior teams jumping into the action. 2022 Road Warrior winner Taylor Sayers quickly took over Segment One for the win, followed by strong Gavin McGinnis after a grueling season in New Hampshire.
Segment two in the Strictly Stock’s Mini Milk Bowl saw things heat up a bit with the inverted field forcing the early leaders to drive back through the field. In the second of two events with no caution for the Strictly Stock Minis, Nick Pilotte took control of the field with ease, while Sayer and McGinnis rode hard to break through the middle of the pack. For the second consecutive year, Nick Pilotte won the Strictly Stock Mini’s Mini Milk Bowl at Booth Bros./Hood Qualifying Day, followed this year by Ryan Sayers and Adam Sicard on the podium.
The Dad’s 4 By Tool & Supply Kids Division proved to be a highlight of the day’s action. Invaders from Riverside Speedway’s DareDevil division showed the way in Segment One as young Brandon Sheldon rode away with the win, followed by Karson Murphy and Connor Charbonneau. When Kyle Goodbout and McKenna Merchant took the field under the green flag, it seemed like it was all over. The blazing fast 15-lap segment proved to play in Merchant’s favor as the youngster took her second straight win in the Mini Milk Bowl, followed by Brandon Sheldon and Carson Theraux to round out the podium.