ACT
A LOOK BACK AT THUNDER ROAD’S LABOR DAY CLASSIC
Stock car racing and Labor Day weekend have gone hand in hand at Thunder Road International Speedbowl for nearly half a century. From “the Flying Frenchman” Norm Chaloux’s win in the very first Labor Day Classic in 1960, to Jean-Paul Cyr’s victory in 2005’s $10,000 to win Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200, the first weekend in September on the Barre, VT high banks has never been short on excitement.

A race with a storied history, the winners include famous Thunder Road names like Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Dion, Bobby and Beaver Dragon. The race has undergone several incarnations over its lifetime, including several seasons as a Busch North and ACT event in the late 90s and early 21st century. Yet no matter its nature, the event has always held special meaning for those involved. Among the memories of past Labor Day Classic champions…

1974 Late Model Sportsman and 2001 Busch North race winner Dave Dion recalled, “1974 was the worst year of my 42 year career, we blew 15 engines, bankrupted all our sponsors. Just coming off a horrible year to have some success…throughout my whole career Thunder Road has always picked me up, there’s something magical about that place.” The veteran racer continued his reminiscing, “Back then, we were running 50 or 60 races a year, and to win at what I consider my home track, Thunder Road saved my hide once again. That led me into 1975, which was the best year of our career. (In 2001) the most important thing was that my grandson got to go to his first race and all the pictures were of him in my arms. Being there in victory lane at the place I love the most with my daughter and my grandson was pretty special,” “Dynamite” Dave finished.

ACT announcer Troy Germain added his two cents, “In 2000, the local cable station was doing a broadcast for the race and I was the pit reporter. I remember interviewing (Busch North driver) Tracy Gordon and other key drivers from that race. That was probably my fondest memory.”

ACT president Tom Curley, who has seen almost every Labor Day race at the high-banked, quarter-mile offered these thoughts on his favorite Labor Day races: “I like the old ones with the flatheads, back in the 60s. They had crowds like we have, I mean huge, huge crowds. There were only like 18 of the flatheads, but they would race those things in the Labor Day Classic with the Ingersons, and Ronnie Marvin and all those guys. When they rolled in it was their big show. It was before the Milk Bowl was created and it was their big show back in the early 60s. It was a lot of fun to watch. The flatheads ran a lot like (the current crop of ACT and Thunder Road drivers), there’s a lot of volatility, a lot of hard-nosed racing. Not dirty, but hands on the wheel and a lot like we do on Thursday nights.”

Brent Dragon was the 2004 winner, the third in his family to carry the checkers in the event. His father Harmon “Beaver” Dragon was victorious in 1975 while his Uncle Bobby won the next year. “It wasn’t an (ACT) Tour race; it was a 100 lapper for Thunder Road points. We went down there to test just to get ready for the Milk Bowl,” he explained, “And we hit it right on the nose - the car went awesome. We started like 14th and ended up getting the lead with 20 to go and just drove away. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Lloyd Hutchins - car owner for 1963 winner Henry “the Frozen Logger” Montandon revisited his driver’s momentous day, “It (the Labor Day Classic) was the first major event that we won at Thunder Road. We used to win a lot at Northeastern Speedway. I think Freddie Mills finished somewhere in the top 5, we ran into him a few times to get him out of the way. That was a big joke after the race when we partied. We partied back then; I’m assuming they still do…”

The 28th annual Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 is slated for Sunday, September 3. As it was last year, the race is part of the three-race ACTion Super Series and will pay $10,000 to the winner. To date, over 50 Late Model drivers from across the Northeast, representing all six New England states and New York have filed entries.

The ACTion Super Series opened on July 9 at Quebec’s 7/8ths mile Sanair Super Speedway tri-oval. The Mega Classique, a three segment event, was won by Maine’s Ben Rowe. In addition to the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200, Thunder Road’s New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl (Sept 30/Oct 1) will conclude the ACTion Super Series, as well as the 2006 ACT Tour’s season. The Milk Bowl, which will celebrate its 43rd edition this year, is the original three-segment, Monza style race. It also will award $10,000 to its winner.

Discount advance sale tickets for the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 are available at all 35 Bond Auto stores in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts as well at the ACT/Thunder Road office in Waterbury, VT. For more information call (802) 244-6963.