BARRE, Vt. – The 57th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank is on deck at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl this weekend.
Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day on Saturday and the Vermont Milk Bowl on Sunday will feature some of the top Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model racers in the state, region, and country battling for victory.
Two hometown racers, Jason Corliss and Nick Sweet, will be chasing history this weekend. Corliss, the newly-crowned King of the Road, is chasing an unprecedented third-straight Milk Bowl crown. Sweet, meanwhile, is one of two drivers – along with Patrick Laperle – who could match Robbie Crouch’s all-time record of four Milk Bowl triumphs.
“I feel good,” Corliss said. “I have confidence, and the team has confidence. But the Milk Bowl is its own animal – previous results and history don’t mean a whole lot. You have experience, and you know you can get the job done, but as soon as the green flag drops in the time trials, it’s a whole new deal. There’s no resting on previous results. It’s all eyes ahead on what you have to accomplish to get in the show, hopefully get a good starting spot, and then do well in Segment 1. You just have to take it one step at a time, one practice at a time, and get the car driving the best you can – and enjoy the process as you go.
While Corliss will be focused on not getting ahead of himself when he gets to the track, he admitted the dream of three straight Milk Bowl wins has crossed his mind in the meantime. Such an accomplishment would be befitting a driver who fell in love with the Milk Bowl even before he got started in the Allen Lumber Street Stock ranks nearly 15 years ago.
“This race is huge,” Corliss stated. “It’s a big deal. It means the world to me. Just growing up at Thunder Road and being a part of this race as a fan or crew member, and now as a driver, it’s as big as it gets. (The Milk Bowl) is tough, it’s not easy, and it shows. The fans and everyone involved can see just how difficult this race is. You really have to have a perfect day to be able to win the race between car performance, driver focus, and just plain luck.”
Sweet, on the other hand, made a last-minute decision to enter this year’s event. As of Monday, Sweet was just planning to run the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model event on Saturday. However, a conversation with his Maddog Motorsports boss Eric Chase quickly changed that.
“I was talking to Eric and giving him the update on the shop status,” Sweet recounted. “And he said, ‘so what about you for the Milk Bowl?’ I replied, ‘What about me? I’m planning on working with you (as crew chief). I’ve got the PASS car.’ And he said, ‘No, no, you’re going to race, too.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything prepared.’ He was like, ‘I don’t care. Get working.’”
“So here we are,” Sweet continued. “We’re trying to manage getting people involved and get the car ready. It’s about as unprepared as I’ve ever been for the Milk Bowl – so it’ll be interesting.”
Still, fans of Northeast racing have learned to never count out Nick Sweet at Thunder Road or the Milk Bowl. He won three Vermont Milk Bowls between 2013 and 2016, a three-in-four-years feat that had previously only been accomplished by Laperle and Russ Ingerson. Add in his two track championships, four Labor Day Classic wins, three Community Bank 150 wins, and numerous other accomplishments, and it would be foolhardy to think Sweet won’t be a factor.
Despite this résumé, Sweet is keeping his expectations modest for this weekend. He’ll have a hectic schedule between preparing his Milk Bowl car and attempting to defending his PASS Super Late Model year from last year against the likes of D.J. Shaw, Derek Griffith, Bobby Therrien, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott. Nevertheless, he remains excited about the biggest Thunder Road race weekend of the year.
“It’ll be interesting, but it’ll be fun,” Sweet said. “Either way, I get to go out and race. Hopefully we can put it in the show – that’ll be the biggest thing. I’m looking forward to it. Things are just going to be a bit chaotic the next couple days. If I’m a little wall-eyed the next time you see me, it’s just because of no sleep!”