Intensity of 53rd Milk Bowl Begins with Qualifying Day
The 53rd Annual Northfield Savings Bank Milk Bowl at Barre’s Thunder Road on Sunday, October 11 is expected to be as challenging as any in the history of the event. The two-day event kicks off with Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day on Saturday, October 10, and simply qualifying for the 30-car starting field in the race dubbed “the toughest short-track stock car race in North America” could prove as difficult as winning the Milk Bowl itself.
“Qualifying is big as far as I’m concerned,” 2009 Milk Bowl winner John Donahue of Graniteville, VT said. “The faster you go in the time trials, the farther you can start up front. That’s the trick of the thing. If I can start close to the front in the first segment, that changes my strategy for the race.”
The Milk Bowl is the only American-Canadian Tour (ACT)-sanctioned event that runs time trials. The Saturday action at Thunder Road begins with each ACT Late Model driver running two laps around the high-banked oval with the faster lap accepted as their official time. A $1,000 Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Pole Award goes to the driver with the fastest time, which was won in recent years by ACT Champions Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Alex Labbé, and Brian Hoar.
But only the top three from time trials are locked into the Milk Bowl, making the subsequent “Triple 50” qualifiers a desperation race for many in attendance. The top 40 cars in time trials are regularly separated by a half-second or less, meaning one bobble can be the difference between starting on the front row and scrambling to make the field.
The top five finishers from each of the three 50-lap qualifying races transfer into the Milk Bowl and start in positions 4-18. The top three from time trials must complete at last half their Triple 50 race to retain their Milk Bowl starting spot.
“If you can get in on the time trials, you can basically use the Triple 50s as a practice session,” Donahue said. “Running 50 laps tells you what your car is going to do on a longer run and you can adjust it from there. But if you don’t have a good time, it changes your whole strategy on what to do in the 50s. It becomes desperate – you’ve got to try to get in.”
Officials will then revert back to time trial speeds and fill positions 19-26 in the Milk Bowl with the fastest eight remaining cars. The last chance “B-Feature” rolls off at 1:00pm on Sunday, October 11 and sets the balance of the 30-car starting field for the three 50-lap segments that make up the 53rd Milk Bowl.
The Saturday program will also have time trials and the first segment of Mini Milk Bowls for the Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen and Allen Lumber Street Stocks. Each division will run their second and final segments on Sunday in between segments of the Milk Bowl.
Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day goes to post at 1:30pm on Saturday, October 10, with the 53rd Northfield Savings Bank Milk Bowl Sunday, October 11 at 1:00pm. Adult admission is just $30 for a two-day ticket, $10 for Saturday-only, or $25 for Sunday-only. Kids age 12 and under are admitted free both days.