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Semi-Monthly
Racing Commentary
with
LEW BOYD

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com


Downtown Barre, Vermont, on April 30. (ACT/Leif Tillotson Photo)


5/4/11

THE RUNNING OF THE RACERS

You have probably heard of the Running of the Bulls, that wild spring celebration held each year in Pamplona, Spain. At the beginning of the bullfighting season, the bulls are rounded up from distant corrals and let loose to run down cobbled streets to the arena.

People line the way for the gala festival, some carefully, while the bravest (or drunkest) actually attempt to outrun the herd of charging horns. It is a spectacular, if often bloody, scene.

You wouldn’t think there is anything remotely like it in the United States. But consider for a moment what you would have seen had you spent Saturday, April 30, a warm spring day, in the quiet town of Barre, Vermont.

That day, as in the last nine years, legendary racing journalist and owner of Thunder Road Speedway, Ken Squier and Tom Curley, commandant extraordinaire of the American Canadian Late Model Tour, pull in their combatants from far and wide. On Saturday, 102 race cars were towed into Barre, unloaded, and angle-parked right along the main street, their crews all outfitted in racing finery. Only cars with roll bars were in sight; the entire town was closed off for the event.

Thousands – literally thousands – of spectators intermingled with the cars all morning, listening to the radio-broadcasted PA, asking questions, seeking autographs, watching Brian Hoar, 2010 ACT champ, win a pit stop contest.

“It’s such an amazing thing,” emotes Cho Lee, renowned racing historian. “This has become a tradition so quickly. I think that’s because really racing is all we have here. We used to be known for the granite industry, but now, realistically, after 52 years, the track is the only constant we’ve got.”

“The whole thing may sound hokey, but it just plain works,” says Barre resident Nick Sweet, last year’s Thunder Road champion. “Somehow racing is totally integrated here. I took 500 driver cards and they were gone in a flash. I see my neighbors, people I work with, but now it’s in the context of racing.”

Towards the afternoon you can feel the enthusiasm and the symbolism of the day heat up. In a fully orchestrated manner, all the drivers climb aboard their cars, light ’em up, and chug down Route 14. With the occasional burp of the pedal (in neutral, of course) for some sweet-sounding resonance, they take a left and work their way up Quarry Hill. Another left onto Fisher Road and into the basic but groomed grounds of the arena, Thunder Road Speedway, a mile and a half above town.
-

(ACT/Leif Tillotson Photo)

“That’s the most emotional part for me,” Nick Sweet continues. “On Quarry Hill this year I saw a little kid waving frantically. It was one of those timeless moments. I swear it could have been me 20 years ago. I was such an avid fan. Just like him I would be on top of anything racing I could find. For years I’d sit in the front row of seats down by the first turn, waving flags and watching the cars my dad worked on. And you know what? That little guy on Saturday was waving a picture of me!”


(ACT/Leif Tillotson Photo)

Once up in the pits, all the drivers and crews regrouped for a last practice for the Merchants Bank 150 the next day. Forty-nine ACT Late Models, astoundingly matched by affordable rules, circled the very tricky quarter-mile banked asphalt, most all in the 13.2/13.3 bracket.

That Sunday morning, a bright spring sun seemed to bless this Green Mountain bull ring. A huge throng of spectators packed the seats and the grass on the infamous Budweiser Hill. The 150 was yet another high-speed shootout at the Road. It was over after a mere 39 minutes of side-by-side intensity. Nick Sweet won it for a second year in a row.

It was one great weekend for Barre and for Thunder Road. Deservedly so.
=


Race Day. (ACT/Alan Ward Photo)


Nick Sweet celebrates with event sponsor, Tom Leavitt of Barre’s
Merchant Bank. (Eric LaFleche Photo)

© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

4/21/11 - Pruett's Perspective

4/4/11 - Winter of Discontent

3/23/11 - Thinking of Gene Bergin

3/8/11 - Sprint Car World Record?

2/21/11 - Dinner at Daytona

2/10/11 - The Call Him 1/4ley

1/28/11 - Doc's Beard

1/15/11 - Reconsidering Generalizations

12/31/10 - Powerful Passion

12/19/10 - Tearoff at Yuletide

12/6/10 - Indy in December

11/21/10 - Mutt and the Brutal Ballet

10/29/10 - The Johnny Bensons and Their Supers

10/13/10 - Anatomy of an Accident

9/28/10 - Maybe Marty

9/14/10 - Push Refresh for Speedway Illustrated

8/23/10 - An Ode to Senior Supers

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12/09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2007-11 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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