BARRE, Vt. – Eight-time American-Canadian Tour late-model champion Brian Hoar made it clear his championship defense was far from over on Sunday afternoon at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, claiming the clutch victory in the 34th Annual Bond Auto Labor Day Classic.
Current point leader Wayne Helliwell, Jr. made him earn it, finishing a close second, and three-time Thunder Road track champion Cris Michaud rounded out the podium finishers.
Rookie Jimmy Hebert led the way early until a lap 33 caution when Helliwell spun in turn three. Hebert retained the lead following the restart, but was overpowered by Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. on lap 54 of the event. His lead, however, was short-lived when a hard charging Brent Dragon charged from the tenth starting position to take the lead on lap 68.
The strategy chess match began on lap 71, when struggling point leader Helliwell, who was on the verge of going a lap down, ducked down pit road along with Hoar, Michaud, multi-time champion Phil Scott, seven-time ACT Champion Jean Paul Cyr, and others.
As the green flag laps continued, the strategies began to play out as Hoar and Helliwell sliced through the field on their way to the front. By lap 113, the pair was at the head of the pack: Hoar riding the very rim of the track and Helliwell planted firmly on the bottom.
The duo had the crowd on their feet until lap 164 when a caution brought hometown favorites Scott Payea and Michaud to the mix. Payea and Michaud took turns at the eight-time Champion, but both came away empty handed while Hoar refused to give up the top lane. With 20-laps to go the gloves came off as Helliwell jumped back into the fight. Payea faded, and a desperate Helliwell muscled by Michaud for second with just four laps remaining and escaped with a slim eight-point lead over Hoar unofficially.
Polewarczyk took home fourth with Fort Kent, ME’s Austin Theriault finishing fifth. Brooks Clark, Dragon, Rookie Ben Lynch, Payea, and 2012 King of the Road Nick Sweet rounded out the top ten.
“We got really lucky with pit strategy, and I have to thank my car owner Rick for that,” said Hoar. “That was a ton of fun, I love the new outside lane here at Thunder Road. Racing with Wayne is just great, what a class act.”