BARRE, Vt. – Late model racers from throughout the United States and Canada are gearing up for the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank on Sept. 30.
Many of the top names in American-Canadian Tour late model racing will be on hand at Thunder Road on Sunday, but they will have to beat a slew of local standouts if they want to lay claim to the “Toughest Short Track Race in North America”.
For racers of all stripes, the Milk Bowl is the biggest date on their calendar every year. Competitors speak with reverence of the event’s unique three-segment format, storied history, and victory lane celebration that includes kissing a genuine Vermont dairy cow.
“The Milk Bowl is it,” Christopher Pelkey said. “It’s the pride and joy. My birthday is actually on Thursday, and when I was a kid, I had a lot of birthdays where my Mom would let me have friends up to come up and watch the Milk Bowl. My birthday party would be at the track. So it’s always meant something to me.
“As a kid growing up in Barre, it’s the big race. When you’re a kid racing bikes, you do the Mini Milk Bowl style and you invert the field. It’s the real deal.”
Racers from Quebec to Florida have triumphed in the historic event that dates back to 1962, but in recent years, a local hero has usually been standing atop the mountain following the final segment.
Five of the last six Milk Bowls have been won by a driver who competed weekly at Thunder Road that season. All of Thunder Road’s Maplewood/Irving Late Model regulars from this past summer, from defending Milk Bowl champion Jason Corliss to track-record holder Marcel J. Gravel, are expected to try and continue that trend.
“I ran the ACT Tour this year, and I got to race against guys all across New England,” Pelkey said. “And you take a lot of pride in the fact that, when you come back to Thunder Road, your top guys really can compete with anybody at just about any track. When you go to Thunder Road, you’re racing against some of the best competition out there. It’s not that the other guys don’t have it – I just think what we have at Thunder Road is special.”
A massive pool of local talent will be on hand this weekend. Reigning “King of the Road” Scott Dragon is eager to join his father, uncle, and cousin on the list of winners. Trampas Demers is trying to go one spot better after losing the Milk Bowl to Corliss last year on a tiebreaker.
Hometown racers Jim “Boomer” Morris and Pelkey both had career years this season and will try to cap them off with a strong Milk Bowl performance. Youngsters Stephen Donahue, Kyle Pembroke, and Evan Hallstrom are preparing to beat out the veterans as well.
They will have to fend off a host of challengers who are no slouches on the Barre high banks, however. Former Milk Bowl winners Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Nick Sweet and John Donahue return in search of another date with the cow.
ACT point leader Scott Payea of Colchester has five ACT victories on the track. Last year’s “King of the Road” Bobby Therrien will get back in the saddle after a skeletal schedule too.
Several racers will make the long haul to compete for glory. 2017 Série ACT Champion Jonathan Bouvrette, along with Mathieu Kingsbury, are expected to drive down from Quebec.
Ryan Kuhn will take the trip up I-89 from East Bridgewater, Mass., while former ARCA Racing Series champion Mason Mitchell is making the trek all the way from West Des Moines, Iowa.
The battle for the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl begins with Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. Time trials and 50-lap qualifying races will help set the starting field for the three-segment Milk Bowl.
Sunday, Sept. 30 has the Last Chance “B” Feature at 12:15 p.m., followed by opening ceremonies at 1 p.m.
The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and New England Dwarf Cars have Mini Milk Bowls on the card. The top racers in all three divisions will run time trials and segment one on Saturday, with segment two scheduled for Sunday.