The American-Canadian Tour’s (ACT) Merchants Bank 150 Late Model season opening event will feature a star studded cast of past and present champions from across the Northeast and Canada when the green flag flies on Sunday, April 30. Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl 47th lid lifter will host the event.

Leading the way into the high banked, quarter-mile oval is Jean-Paul Cyr from Milton, VT, a five-time and defending ACT Late Model Tour title holder. Cyr is also the lone two-time winner of the Merchants Bank race in the event’s previous seven years and a past winner of the prestigious Milk Bowl. Patrick Laperle, a 30 year-old hotshoe from St Denis, Quebec captured the 2005 Milk Bowl title in the event’s 43rd edition. Laperle, who will compete in a Pro Stock race at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway the night before the ACT Tour opener, is also a former Late Model Rookie of the Year at Airborne Raceway, Plattsburgh, NY.

Two other notable racers from the Empire State speedplant will attempt to qualify for the Merchants Bank 150 – Brent Dragon from Milton, VT and Mooers Forks, NY driver, Mark Lamberton. Dragon, a second generation competitor is a three-time Late Model champion at the D-shaped half-mile oval while Lamberton collected the crown once. Veteran campaigner, Dave Whitcomb from Essex Jct, VT also has an Airborne title to his credit as well. The former Sportsmanship Award winner has also won Thunder Road Late Model “King of the Road” and ACT Tour championships.

Phil Scott, from Montpelier, VT also has multiple titles to his credit including a pair of Thunder Road Late Model “King of the Road” honors and an ACT Tour championship. Scott is also one of just nine to win more than one Milk Bowl championship. Brett Wheeler from Waterbury Center, VT has opted not to defend his 2005 Riverside Speedway title and instead plans to run a full season with the ACT Tour.

Maine’s Ben Rowe, a multi-time Oxford Plains Speedway and PASS title holder looks to make just his second career start at Thunder Road. The second generation racer was last at the challenging Vermont oval in 1998. Several past and present ACT Tour Rookies of the Year look to make their marks on opening day including 2005’s Scott Payea from Milton, VT, New Hampshire’s Roger Brown (2003), Dave Wilcox of Swanton, VT (2001) and Shelburne, Vermont’s Jamie Fisher (1999). Fisher later went on to claim the 2003 Thunder Road Late Model crown.

No less than three other Milk Bowl Champions will also look to qualify for the 26-car Merchants Bank 150 starting field including Eric Williams (2003), Dave Pembroke (2002) and Cris Michaud (2004). Michaud also has the distinction of being the 2004-2005 Thunder Road Late Model “King of the Road”. Pembroke is the defending Merchants Bank 150 race winner.

Thunder Road’s ACTion packed opening weekend begins on Saturday at 9:00 am when the annual stock car show beings in Barre City. [Last year over 100 race cars, including Thunder Road’s weekly divisions, lined Main Street allowing fans of all ages a close-up view of the cars. At high noon the motors sprung to life for the annual race car parade from downtown to the track, a 2.5 mile route on city and town streets. Practice will start at 1:00 pm.

On Sunday, April 30, following practice at 11:00 am, the festivities begin with Thunder Road’s annual Class Day ceremonies which will be followed by qualifying for the Merchants Bank 150. Spectator gates will open Sunday at 10:00 am