WEST HAVEN, Vt. – Tim LaDuc being in victory lane at Devil’s Bowl Speedway is usually no surprise.
The surprise came in the circumstances: Mired in the toughest season of his career, the Orwell, Vt., driver was eligible to compete in the Casella Waste Systems Ron Casey Memorial Shootout for non-winners, dominating the 20-lap race to open the Interstate All Battery Center Vermont 200 Weekend.
The race was part of a full five-division card of action on Saturday that also saw Johnny Bruno, Scott FitzGerald, Shawn Moquin and Evan Roberts earn wins.
The Ron Casey Memorial had another longtime Pepsi Sportsman Modified campaigner – Vince Quenneville – on the pole position, but a mechanical failure on the pace lap put Quenneville in the pits and moved visiting racer Jon Miller to the top spot. Miller led the first four laps, but LaDuc got by him and sailed off to the 53rd feature win of his Devil’s Bowl career. After destroying his primary car three weeks ago, LaDuc dedicated his win to a group of friends and volunteers who helped him piece together a new (used) chassis.
Marty Kelly III matched his career-best finish in second place, and rookie Joey Roberts had an impressive drive from 12th to third. Ron Proctor and Brian Whittemore rounded out the top five finishers.
Sixteen-year-old Johnny Bruno won the 25-lap “Win & You’re In!” feature for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Limited Sportsman division, fending off a committed outside-lane drive by Matt Bilodeau. Austin Chaves had his best effort of the season by leading the first 10 laps, but a restart bunched the field up and allowed Bruno to charge past into the lead.
Bilodeau chased Bruno down and the duo waged a see-saw battle in the final eight laps. Bruno beat Bilodeau by a car length to win and earn a guaranteed starting spot in Sunday’s Vermont 200, but deferred the opportunity to Bilodeau, who will race. Chaves held on for third place with Anthony Ryan fourth and Marty Hutchins fifth.
Super Stock point leader Scott FitzGerald won his fifth race of the season in a 30-lap special feature and unofficially clinched the championship with two races remaining. FitzGerald and Chris Murray battled for the lead before Murray took over with 10 laps left, but Murray had a flat tire on lap 25 and had to pit. After the restart, FitzGerald scooted away with the lead and sealed the win.
Curtis Condon had his best run of the year in the runner-up position and Murray – who was driving a car borrowed from Josh Bussino after problems with his own ride in hot laps – recovered for third place. Bill Duprey and Garrett Given completed the top five.
Shawn Moquin continued the trend of borrowed cars performing well by winning the 20-lap Mini Stock feature in a car loaned to him by Chris Conroy; Moquin’s car was badly damaged in a crash last week. Rookie David Sartwell-Cornell scored his fifth consecutive top-two finish in second place. P.J. Bleau was third ahead of Jake Barrows and Craig Kirby.
Evan Roberts continued his impressive rookie season with his eighth Friend Construction 500cc Mini Sprint victory. The Fletcher, Vt., 13-year-old won both 12-lap halves of the scored two-segment race for a perfect low total score of two points. Twin brothers Shawn McPhee and John McPhee Jr. finished second and third overall, respectively; Shawn McPhee placed third and second in the segments for five points, and John McPhee Jr. was seventh and third for 10 points. Kamden Duffy and Cody O’Brien, each with 10 points, rounded out the overall top five.