BARRE, Vt. – The 57th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank is rapidly drawing closer on the racing calendar.
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl’s season finale on Sept. 28-29 will be the biggest stock car racing weekend of the year in Vermont, with drivers coming from far and wide to try and land the guaranteed $10,000 top prize and a date with the famed Milk Bowl beauty queen.
This year’s entry list already spans from Quebec to Iowa with even more names expected to be added by race day. However, a large local contingent will also be on hand, and the Thunder Road regulars are feeling optimistic about their chances against both the American-Canadian Tour and national invaders.
“The Milk Bowl is certainly one of the toughest challenges we get to face,” said competitor Kyle Pembroke. “Luckily, we’ve had a lot of chances to work on the car and get it ready here at Thunder Road – more so than some of the guests. I definitely feel that being a local is a pretty strong advantage for this race. We’ve done our fair share of 50-lappers, so it’s just about turning a fast lap (in time trials) and then seeing where the cards fall.”
In recent years, the Vermont Milk Bowl has definitively favored the locals. Seven of the last eight overall winners hail from the state of Vermont. Six of those drivers raced weekly at Thunder Road in the season they won the Milk Bowl. The combination of more laps on the track and more time with short-distance racing has clearly given them the edge for the event’s inventive format of three 50-lap segments.
“Just having the experience of racing (at Thunder Road) all year long is a big deal,” said Vermont native Tyler Cahoon. “Anybody that can put a lot of laps in at one track is bound to be good at that particular track when the outsiders come in. That being said, there are a lot of good outsiders, too, and they can figure out what their car needs on any given day and any type of track conditions. But I think experience plays the upper hand when it comes to Thunder Road…the 50-lap sprints definitely make for some tough, hard racing, but that’s what the Milk Bowl is all about.”
The top Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model racers who made Thunder Road their home this past summer have already entered the 57th Vermont Milk Bowl. This includes the top four in the track point standings heading into this Sunday’s Barre Granite Ass’n Championship Day: two-time defending Milk Bowl winner Jason Corliss, former Vermont Governor’s Cup winner Trampas Demers, reigning King of the Road Scott Dragon and Midseason Championship winner Pembroke.
Other locals who will roll into the pits next Saturday include former Memorial Day Classic winner Cahoon, Thunder Road track record holder Marcel J. Gravel, multi-time winner Jim Morris, and ACT Late Model Tour regular Christopher Pelkey. All of them are aiming to add their name to a winner’s roll that includes Robbie Crouch, Harold Hanaford, Butch Lindley, Jean-Paul Cabana, Randy LaJoie, and other legends of Northeast and national stock car racing.
“This event is definitely number one on my list,” Pembroke said. “I’ve been watching it since I can remember – my cousin (Dave Pembroke), Phil Scott, Patrick Laperle, and some of these big names that have been going after it for years. Just to be even interviewed for this race is special. This is something I’ve thought a lot about and have really been pulling for ever since I got into this sport.”
“To win the Milk Bowl and have my name up amongst the greats would be awesome,” Cahoon added. “But I think you never truly know what it means until you actually win one – especially your first one, for those who have been successful enough to win multiple Milk Bowls. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure I’ll be able to explain it great if I win.”
The locals will have to contend with a who’s-who of late model racing. Former Milk Bowl winners Patrick Laperle, Joey Polewarczyk Jr., John Donahue, and Brent Dragon have entered the field, as have ACT Late Model Tour stars Scott Payea, Jimmy Hebert, and Stephen Donahue. Super Late Model star Bubba Pollard is making his first trip to Thunder Road from Senoia, Ga., while former ARCA Racing Series Champion Mason Mitchell of West Des Moines, Iowa, will make his second Milk Bowl attempt. Brooks Clark, Alexendre Tardif, Joel Hodgdon, and many others from around the region have also submitted their entries.
Vermont Milk Bowl Weekend begins on Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. with Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day. The afternoon features time trials and 50-lap qualifying races for the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models to help set the Milk Bowl starting field along with the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models. The 57th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank is set for Sunday, September 29 with the Last Chance B Feature at 12:15 p.m. and opening ceremonies at 1 p.m.
The weekend also includes Mini Milk Bowls for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warriors, and 7-Eleven Dwarf Cars.