BARRE — As the summer draws closer, excitement continues to build for the 61st season of racing at Barre’s Thunder Road. A huge schedule is planned for 2020, and with growing fields of drivers expected for the weekly wars, the action is expected to be hotter than ever.
The 2020 campaign has been anticipated since before the final checkered flag even dropped on the 2019 season. With five full months of racing planned – which includes the track’s 1,000th event in early July – Quarry Hill will be the place to find the best racing in the Northeast.
Near the top of the storylines for 2020 is what the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models can come up with next. For two straight years, the “King of the Road” fight has come down to the final laps of the season between multiple drivers. With all the major players expected to return to battle it out again, their 14 point-counting events could well form a trilogy of battles.
Hometown racer Jason Corliss enters the year as the reigning champion. The 31-year-old has won just about everything there is to win over the last three seasons, establishing himself as one of the drivers of the 2010s. He shares a spot on the list with Milton’s Scott Dragon, who ended up four points short of winning a third title in four seasons.
The remainder of the top five in last year’s season-long thriller — Montpelier’s Kyle Pembroke, Shelburne’s Trampas Demers, and Barre’s Cody Blake — have also purchased licenses for 2020. Each is seeking their first track championship. Blake will also be debuting a new car at the season opener.
Nearly all of last year’s Late Model full-timers have either already registered or are expected to return, including Marcel J. Gravel, Matt White, Tyler Cahoon, Phil Scott, and Darrell Morin. Several drivers have also registered for the New England Late Model Challenge Cup presented by American Racer, giving weekly events even more important.
The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers are looking like they’ll grow even more in 2020. This comes off a season where they were already the largest division at the track and put on some of the best side-by-side action, affirming their place as the country’s premier support division.
The entire top 10 in points is expected to return, and most have already registered, meaning the talent level will remain high. Defending and three-time Tiger champion Jason Woodard, Rookie of the Year Stephen Martin, number-three point man Tyler Austin, and two-time 2019 winner Micheal MacAskill are just some of the division’s elite expected to do battle again.
They’ll be joined by several new names — some of which are already familiar to Thunder Road fans. Williamstown’s Tommy “Thunder” Smith, the winningest driver in Street Stock history, is gearing up for his second Flying Tiger stint in a car owned by Dave Simpson. Meanwhile, Barre’s Cameron Ouellette is returning to weekly racing after being sidelined for most of 2019 following a kidney transplant.
Another Barre driver, former Street Stock Rookie of the Year Chris LaForest, has purchased a Flying Tiger license after spending winning several events in the Sportsman Coupes at Bear Ridge Speedway. Teenager Bryan P. Will is moving up after two strong years in the Street Stocks. Former Tiger Rookie of the Year Jaden Perry is eyeing a potential weekly return, while Rich Lowery, a longtime Late Model racer, is on the 2020 Flying Tiger roster.
The Allen Lumber Street Stocks are looking strong again. Defending champion Jeffrey Martin of Barre is returning behind the wheel of a new car. His title-winning mount will be piloted by Berlin’s Kylar Davis, who is moving up from the Road Warriors.
Respected veteran Jamie Davis of Wolcott will again try to chase a third division title. Fellow top-10 point finishers J.T. Blanchard and Juan “Paco” Marshall have registered, while the top three in last season’s Rookie of the Year standings — Keegan Lamson, Tanner Woodard, and Kyle MacAskill — are returning. Brodie Frazier and Brad Kelley join Kylar Davis as former Warrior drivers planning to move up.
Despite these racers climbing the ladder, the Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors are looking to be as healthy as always. A strong veteran presence remains, with drivers such as Sean McCarthy, Chris Davis, Fred Fleury, and Todd Raymo ready to return. Several new or returning names are already on the roster, too, including Kendal Zeno, Jamie York, and Robert Catchapaw.
Thunder Road is scheduled to open its 2020 racing season with the 22nd Community Bank N.A. 150 on Sunday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. The event includes 150 green-flag laps for the American-Canadian Tour along with the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors. Admission is $25 for adults and free for kids ages 12 and under.