BARRE, Vt. – The biggest late model event of the year in the Northeast has added another big name to the entry list.
Rich Dubeau, the current American-Canadian Tour point leader and winner of the Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic, has officially committed to the 57th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank on Sept. 28-29.
Dubeau had not originally planned to enter the Milk Bowl, in part due to work commitments on Saturday’s Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day.
However, his recent Thunder Road win and a now-comfortable lead in the ACT Late Model Tour point standings helped persuade him to take on the challenge of “The Toughest Short Track Stock Car Race in North America.”
“We’re going to find a way to make it work,” Dubeau said. “We’ve found ourselves in a position we didn’t think we’d be in – leading the points by a big margin. Having one car, we were a little bit nervous to go to a non-point race and wreck the car and not have it right for the last race of the year. But based on the way things went at Thunder Road last time out, which we didn’t expect at all, the points are looking really good for us. So even if something were to happen, then it probably wouldn’t change anything on the ACT side.
“The Milk Bowl has always been a race I’ve wanted to run – it just kind of comes at a difficult time of the year for me,” Dubeau added with a laugh. “But we decided that, because we had some much success at Thunder Road last time out, we’d go have some fun.”
Dubeau is actually making his second trip to the Vermont Milk Bowl. He attempted to qualify for the 2015 edition during his first year racing with ACT in a separate car from his normal Tour effort. Dubeau failed to make the show that year, but the situation entering this year’s event is leaps and bounds away from what it was four years ago.
Now, he has finished no worse than seventh in his nine ACT-sanctioned starts in 2019, with two wins and five podium finishes.
“This year has just been a whole new thing,” Dubeau said. “I didn’t expect to run this well, to be perfectly honest. To some degree, all our finishes this year have been a little bit of a surprise. We thought it’d be cool to run in the top-five here and there, but if you had told me at the beginning of the season we were only going to finish outside the top-five once to this point and have two wins, I’d have said you were crazy.”
The former ACT Rookie of the Year now has “Thunder Road winner” on his résumé to boot. He led 148 of the 200 laps at the Labor Day Classic on his way to becoming the 100th different late model winner in Thunder Road history.
Furthermore, his closest challengers in the ACT point standings, Jimmy Hebert and Scott Payea, were caught up in an early wreck. As a result, Dubeau only needs to start the ACT season finale at Thompson to be crowned the 2019 champion.
However, Dubeau will start Milk Bowl Weekend behind the 8-ball. He expects to arrive late on Saturday due to his work commitments and will have little-to-no practice before time trials. As such, he is counting on his team to help his No. 30NH Toyota Camry hit the ground running.
Despite this, Dubeau is optimistic heading into the event thanks to his Labor Day victory.
“I’m feeling way more confident now than I was even two weeks ago,” Dubeau remarked. “We didn’t expect to have the speed we did (at Labor Day). The competition is going to be great. I’m trying to go in with the mentality of hopefully just having some fun. Points racing can be a little stressful at times, and without having to worry about points, I’m hoping to keep it fun.
“I am an extremely competitive guy though, and so is the rest of the team, so we’ll be giving it our best shot.”
Dubeau joins a stacked Milk Bowl field that includes some of the most accomplished racers in the country. Former Milk Bowl winners Jason Corliss, Joey Polewarczyk, Patrick Laperle, John Donahue, and Brent Dragon have all entered.
Several ACT stars are joining Dubeau at Thunder Road, including two-time defending champion Scott Payea, Jimmy Hebert, and Christopher Pelkey.
In addition, super late model legend Bubba Pollard of Senoia, Ga., is coming to take on local standouts such as Scott Dragon, Trampas Demers, Kyle Pembroke, and Brooks Clark.