BARRE, Vt. – Rich Dubeau hit racing’s equivalent of a grand slam with a dominating victory in the 41st Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl on Saturday.
Dubeau got the jump on hometown racer Nick Sweet on a lap-48 restart and never gave the lead up en route to his second victory of the American-Canadian Tour season.
The win was also Dubeau’s first at Thunder Road, making him the 100th different late model winner in track history. When coupled with troubles for both Jimmy Hebert and Scott Payea, Dubeau’s closest challengers in the title chase, the result helped Dubeau put a virtual hammerlock on the ACT championship.
Dubeau started 11th on the grid and slowly picked his way through the pack as Brooks Clark set the early pace. Clark, this year’s Vermont Governor’s Cup winner, took the lead from polesitter Josh Masterson on lap seven and pulled away in the early going.
While the first caution on lap 15 was for a minor spin, the second caution on lap 29 changed everything in the ACT title picture. Payea made heavy contact with Tyler Cahoon while racing in the middle of the pack, and Jimmy Hebert had nowhere to go in the aftermath. Both contenders sustained heavy damage, and while they eventually returned to the track, they were no longer factors in the final outcome.
Following another caution six laps later, when Brendan Moodie spun and Cody Blake climbed the turn-three wall in the aftermath, Sweet and Dubeau entered the picture. Sweet got around Clark for the lead on lap 43 while Dubeau followed him two laps later on the fourth restart. When the fifth caution flew on lap 48 for debris, Dubeau lined up outside of Sweet – and to the surprise of nearly everyone, it was Dubeau getting the break over the four-time Labor Day Classic winner.
Dubeau eventually pulled away from Sweet and Clark as the next 103 laps went clean and green. The sixth and final caution flew on lap 151 when Christopher Pelkey and Reilly Lanphear crashed in front of Dubeau – who was miraculously able to avoid the carnage. Sweet and Jason Corliss gave up their top-five positions to pit for fresh right-side tires under the yellow, but Dubeau, Clark, and reigning King of the Road Scott Dragon elected to stay out.
Dragon eventually got underneath Clark for second with 36 laps remaining. But by then, Dubeau was already long gone. The fifth-year ACT competitor was the fastest car on the track down the stretch and expertly worked his way through traffic for a statement win.
Dragon finished second with Clark in third. Kyle Pembroke finished fourth while Corliss could only work his way back up to fifth. Chip Grenier, Cahoon, Matt White, Sweet, and Masterson rounded out the top-10.
Mike Martin helped salvage what had been a miserable season by taking his ninth career Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tiger victory. Martin started fifth in the 50-lap feature and came out on top of a furious multi-car battle for second on the track that spanned most of the event. Meanwhile, Joe Steffen appeared to have taken the victory by more than a quarter-track over Martin.
However, Steffen was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for a rear-end infraction. The violation handed the win to Martin with Hinesburg, VT’s Cooper Bouchard and Logan Powers inheriting the second and third spots. Jason Woodard finished fourth, putting a near-lock on a championship after the car of his closest challenger Stephen Martin shut down mid-race and would not re-fire.
Haidyn Pearce made his first Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warrior win count by taking the victory in the inaugural $500-to-win Road Warrior Challenge.
Rich Dubeau, Scott Dragon, Brooks Clark, Kyle Pembroke, Jason Corliss, Chip Grenier, Tyler Cahoon, Matt White, Nick Sweet, Josh Masterson, Marcel J. Gravel, Brendan Moodie, Ryan Kuhn, Bobby Therrien, Mathieu Kingsbury, Peyton Lanphear, Reilly Lanphear, Trent Goodrow, Scott Payea, Jimmy Hebert, Stephen Donahue, Christopher Pelkey, Joel Hodgdon, Ricky Roberts, Claude Leclerc, Dylan Payea, Darrell Morin, Cody Blake.