Story By: AMERICAN-CANADIAN TOUR – BARRE, VT – The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) heads to Barre, VT’s Thunder Road this Sunday, September 5 for the 43rd Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic.
The $5,000-to-win showdown, which can be seen at the track or live on FloRacing, kicks off a “Show Me the Money” stretch for ACT with a quartet of high-paying competitions around the region.
Each of the next two point-counting events on the ACT schedule — Sunday’s Labor Day Classic 200 and the Fall Foliage 200 at White Mountain Motorsports Park on September 26 —are paying $5,000 to win and $500 to take the green flag. ACT stars D.J. Shaw, Ben Rowe, Tom Carey III, Derek Gluchacki, Jimmy Hebert, and others will go toe-to-toe against the best weekly racers from both tracks for more than $30,000 in posted awards per event.
Sandwiched between those events is a $10,000 to win shootout for ACT’s Canadian friends. The non-point Bacon Bowl 200 is slated for Saturday, September 11 at Vallée-Jct., QC’s Autodrome Chaudiere. It’s a fantastic stage for former event winners Patrick Laperle and Jonathan Bouvrette plus Canadian étoiles like Dany Trepanier, Alexandre Tardif, Raphael Lessard, and Alex Guenette.
This “Big Four” concludes with the non-point Northfield Savings Bank Vermont Milk Bowl at Thunder Road on Saturday, October 2 and Sunday, October 3. Officials have posted $62,000 in awards for the 59th Milk Bowl, which includes $10,000 to win, $1,100 to start, $7,500 in lap money, and $1,000 for the polesitter.
It all begins with the Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic. The event is the only one of Thunder Road’s crown jewels that dates to the inaugural 1960 season. After a hiatus from 1978 to 1996, the event returned in 1997 and is now a staple of the ACT schedule. Some of the legends on the list of previous winners include Dave Dion, Larry Demar, Jean-Paul Cabana, the Dragon brothers, Dale Shaw, Robbie Crouch, and Brian Hoar. Nick Sweet leads the way with four Labor Day Classic wins; no one else has triumphed more than twice.
There is plenty of intrigue to the event beyond the large purse and historical significance. For starters, the ACT championship battle remains tight. Center Conway, NH’s D.J. Shaw is still the leader, but Turner, ME’s Rowe is the new number-two man. Although Rowe finished third to Shaw’s second at last Saturday’s Oxford Plains 125, Rowe’s bonus points for leading the most laps closed the gap between them to six points.
New Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III is now 19 points behind Shaw after salvaging a ninth-place finish at Oxford despite handling issues. They are now the three front-runners for the nearly $12,000 in cash and contingency awards guaranteed to the champion. Derek Gluchacki, Stephen Donahue, rookie Shawn Swallow, and Oxford winner Jimmy Hebert will need to go on a rampage over the final four events to have a shot at the title.
Donahue and Hebert have a great chance to gain some ground at their home track of Thunder Road. To do so, though, they’ll have to beat out the track’s top weekly racers. Most of the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model regulars have already filed their Labor Day Classic entries. This includes top-10 point racers Christopher Pelkey, Tyler Cahoon, Kyle Pembroke, Brendan Moodie, and Marcel J. Gravel. Donahue also races weekly at the track and has a feature victory this year.
The leading rookie, Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear, is in for the 200-lap duel as is Orange’s Chip Grenier. Although point leader Jason Corliss and multi-time champion Scott Dragon have not yet sent in entries, they are widely expected to compete, as are recent first-time winners Darrell Morin and Cooper Bouchard.
Several part-timers with great success at Thunder Road are also officially committed to the event. Defending Labor Day Classic champion Bobby Therrien, reigning Community Bank N.A. 150 winner Brooks Clark, and former Memorial Day Classic champion Cody Blake are gunning for the $5,000 top prize. Suffice to say the Tour invaders have their work cut out for them if they want to tame the Barre high banks.
The Labor Day Classic also has a strategy element in the winning equation. Teams have the option to put on two fresh tires at any point during the feature. A racer with a good-but-not-great car could potentially steal the win thanks to a well-timed stop. Conversely, a driver who’s dominated the event may be hung out to dry by pitting too soon or too late. Even if a team has what they think is the perfect plan, the cautions need to fall the right way so they can put that plan into action.
The last few years, the top finishers in the Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic went the whole 200 laps without pitting. This year, however, is the first Classic with the new ACT Hoosier racing tire. At White Mountain Motorsports Park, new tires provided a noticeable advantage on long runs in the Midsummer Classic 250. It remains to be seen if fresh rubber will have the same effect at Thunder Road.
Fans have plenty to cheer for on the Labor Day Classic undercard, too. Due to recent postponements, the RK Miles Street Stocks are running two features. The first feature has double the prize money courtesy of live streaming partner FloRacing, meaning a lot of points and cash are on the line for the four-cylinder class.
A full card is also scheduled for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors. Including the qualifying rounds, nearly 500 laps of racing are planned for Sunday afternoon. Add in holiday camping and a charity cornhole tournament on Saturday by 802 Cornhole, and it will be a great weekend at Thunder Road. People can even make their motorsports weekend a doubleheader with the Leaf Peepers 100 at Thunder Road’s sister track White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday night.
Barre, VT’s Thunder Road welcomes the ACT Late Model Tour this Sunday, September 5 at 1:00pm for the 43rd Optical Expressions Berlin Labor Day Classic 200. ACT’s touring stars take on the top weekly Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model racers for $5,000 to win. The card includes double features for the RK Miles Street Stocks plus action for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers and Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors.
Admission to the Labor Day Classic is $25 for adults, $10 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids ages 5 and under. Advance tickets are available at www.happsnow.com/event/thunder-road-speedbowl.