Labor Day Classic Resumes Saturday At Thunder Road

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The Labor Day Classic resumes this Saturday with Jimmy Hebert (58) trying to chase down Rich Dubeau for the title. (Alan Ward photo)
The Labor Day Classic resumes this Saturday with Jimmy Hebert (58) trying to chase down Rich Dubeau for the title. (Alan Ward photo)

WATERBURY, Vt. – The 41st Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic for the American-Canadian Tour resumes Saturday at Thunder Road Int’l Speedway.

Qualifying for the Labor Day Classic had been partially completed when the event was postponed on Sept. 1. While the heat races are in the books, much of the field still needs to be set. Two hundred laps of green-flag racing will follow, leaving plenty of opportunities for the frontrunners to gain ground – and plenty of potential bullets to dodge.

Rich Dubeau and Jimmy Hebert remain the two drivers duking it out for the ACT title. Dubeau unofficially gained two points on Hebert in the heat races last week. This extends his point lead to 28 markers. However, both know the feature is where the big points are on the line.

Each driver is chasing their first ACT title. Finally earning that first crown would be the culmination of their years with ACT, and both Dubeau and Hebert realize how rare chances like this are. They have two events left to try and capitalize knowing there’s no guarantee the opportunity will ever come along again.

“It’s something you dream about doing when you’re a kid,” Hebert said recently. “Growing up and watching the ACT Tour and being so close with Tom Curley, it means a lot to us. As I’m getting older and my kids are getting older, the clock is ticking down on how many more years I’m going to be able to fight for a championship. Each year it seems like it’s a little more stressful trying to get it done.”

A win for either driver in the Labor Day Classic itself would provide a huge title boost and give them a place in Vermont racing history. The Classic is Thunder Road’s oldest event, having first been held in the track’s inaugural 1960 season. It is one of three events, along with the Memorial Day Classic and Vermont Milk Bowl, where the winner’s name is inscribed on a granite monument behind Thunder Road’s main grandstands.

Over the years, legendary racers from throughout the Northeast have triumphed in the Classic, including Ronnie Marvin, Bobby Dragon, Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Dion, and Robbie Crouch. Saturday’s winner will join these names, along with recent racing heroes such as Nick Sweet, Brian Hoar, and Patrick Laperle, carved into the granite.

A stout field is ready to get back underway on Saturday. The last three winners of the Labor Day Classic – Jason Corliss, Scott Payea and Sweet – all looked strong in the first round of qualifying.  Payea is looking for a Hail Mary to get back in contention for his third straight title while Corliss leads the way in the track’s Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model standings. Sweet is making a rare Late Model appearance this season while chasing the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model title.

Two-time and defending King of the Road Scott Dragon; 2017 Thunder Road Champion Bobby Therrien; reigning Vermont Governor’s Cup winner Brooks Clark; and leading ACT rookie Ryan Kuhn are among the other big names expected to return on Saturday. Dylan Payea and Tyler Cahoon took heat wins along with Kuhn before the postponement. Tour regulars Christopher Pelkey, Claude Leclerc, Mathieu Kingsbury, Peyton Lanphear, and Reilly Lanphear will also be back in action.