Big Names Lining Up For Chance At Milk Bowl Immortality

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ACT-type Late Model racers from throughout the United States and Canada will try to win the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl and add their name to one of Thunder Road's granite monuments. (Alan Ward Photo)

BARRE, Vt. – The biggest stars of local, regional and national late model racing will be in Vermont this Saturday and Sunday for the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank.

A growing list of racers are ready to join the exclusive list of those who have triumphed in Vermont’s most prestigious racing event.

With more than $60,000 in posted awards and the chance to add their name to a granite monument at Thunder Road, the top names in American-Canadian Tour-type late model racing will take their shot at glory. Each of them knows the significance of the unique three-segment event and how hard it is to win.

“I would call it the toughest race in New England – it’s got to be,” Memorial Day Classic winner Cody Blake said. “We’ve had five straight top-seven’s, so we’ve done well in it, but we’ve just never really gotten close to winning. It would be awesome to win it, that’s for sure. But it’s always the second segment that’s the hardest for us. You have to miss the wrecks, and it seems like every year, we do miss the wrecks, but then we either have bad luck or we get caught in one right at the end. I think the Milk Bowl is a good 60 percent luck.”

Five former Milk Bowl winners are expected to tackle the high banks this weekend. Hometown racers Jason Corliss and Nick Sweet are two clear favorites. Corliss is the defending Milk Bowl Champion and could become only the sixth racer to go back-to-back. Sweet is a three-time winner, and a fourth victory would put him alongside Robbie Crouch for most Milk Bowl wins.

Joey Polewarczyk Jr., the 2010 winner, has also entered the Milk Bowl. Polewarczyk recently stepped into an ACT late model for the first time in more than a year at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park and quickly got back up to speed. The former late model track record holder recently stated he is eager to try and reclaim his record.

Patrick Laperle, who joins Sweet as a three-time winner, has confirmed to Thunder Road officials he will enter the Milk Bowl. 2009 winner John Donahue has also filed an entry. Corliss, Sweet, Polewarczyk and Laperle will all do double-duty, running the Pro All Star Series event on Friday night before attempting to qualify for the Milk Bowl.

Plenty of racers who have long been seen as capable of winning the Milk Bowl are ready to finally do so. Milton, VT’s Scott Dragon was recently crowned King of the Road for the second time and is trying to become the fourth member of his family to triumph in the Milk Bowl. ACT point leader Scott Payea has five victories at Thunder Road to his name, but a Milk Bowl win would clearly be the biggest.

Trampas Demers lost the Milk Bowl to Corliss on a tiebreaker last year and is eager to come out on the winning end this time. Tour standout Jimmy Hebert is almost always a threat at his home track. Blake copped three victories in weekly Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model competition this year and will go for the grand slam.

“The biggest challenge will be fixing and adjusting the car between segments,” Blake said. “We don’t have a ton of time to do stuff. And if we have a fender beat in here or there, we have to fix that before we can adjust the car for the next segment. In a perfect world, we’d like to adjust the car and make it faster for each segment. But we don’t always have that luxury.”

The Milk Bowl also brings out big names from around the region and even the country. Bobby Therrien, the 2017 Thunder Road track champion, is in search of his first date with the Victory Lane cow. Jonathan Bouvrette, the 2017 Série ACT champion, is one of several racers making the trip from la belle province.  Former ARCA Racing Series champion Mason Mitchell will make his Thunder Road debut, while Ryan Kuhn has impressed in a limited ACT schedule.