BARRE, Vt. – The sun shone on eight-time American Canadian Tour Champion Brian Hoar, as his trademark patience brought him his second victory in the American-Canadian Tour Merchants Bank 150 in as many years Sunday at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl.
Dave Pembroke came home a stout second, and seven-time ACT champion Jean-Paul Cyr brought home a third place finish.
The race began with pole sitter Jay Laquerre running to a large lead in the early going, but it wasn’t long before Pembroke and Hoar muscled their way to the front in the outside lane, with Pembroke snatching the lead on lap 36.
From there Pembroke surged, making short work of lap traffic and building his lead during a long 82-lap green flag run. ACT Rookie of the Year competitor Bobby Therrien impressed early, working his way towards the front of the pack as high as third in his third career ACT event before the caution.
When the race restarted, Pembroke was away again while young Therrien battled the veteran Hoar for second place. Meanwhile, Cyr, 2012 King of the Road Nick Sweet, and New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 Champion Jimmy Hebert were crept through the field on their way to the leaders. When lap 100 struck, the veterans knew it was time to show their hand.
With 50 laps to go, Cyr, Hoar, and ACT champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. unleashed, tearing through the field on their way towards the front. By lap 120, Hoar had eliminated the gap that Pembroke had worked so hard to build, and seven laps later was diving for his first lead of the race.
At that moment ACT veteran Glen Luce’s ride shut down in the middle of the field while cars split to avoid, and the ensuing caution saved Pembroke’s lead temporarily.
But Pembroke’s breath of fresh air was short-lived, as on the very next restart, Hoar jumped to a lead he would never relinquish. Pembroke settled into second, while Therrien battled with heart and soul against Cyr.
With 10 laps to go Cyr finally got around Therrien for third, only to suddenly see the familiar orange of Helliwell, who made his charge with 10 laps to go. Helliwell quickly disposed of Therrien on his way to Cyr, but all the tricks in the book couldn’t get him around the seven-time ACT Champion for third.
Therrien came home with his first ACT top five, and was followed by Brooks Clark and Hebert in sixth and seventh. Sweet, Grenier, and Ray Parent drove from deep in the 31 car field to round out the top ten.
The victory was Hoar’s 38th of his racing career, and his scream as he got out of the car told the thunderous crowd just how excited he was.
“My crew chief kept saying take it easy, but with 40 laps to go we just turned it on,” said Hoar in victory lane. “This is just awesome. Dave is a great competitor, and I’m just happy to be here.”
Pembroke was happy to start the year off on a good note.
“Those last few laps were hard. We led for so long, I just hated to give that up,” said Pembroke. “I guess this is payback for the Milk Bowl though. It really is a great way to start out the year.”
The race was slowed by five cautions and was completed in just 57 minutes and 44 seconds.