One year after scoring the biggest win of his Late Model career, Jason Corliss is ready to do it all again. With just days remaining before the 56th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank, the hometown racer and his Burnett Motorsports team are hard at work preparing for this year’s edition of the “Toughest Short Track Race in North America”.
Many of the top American-Canadian Tour (ACT)-type Late Model racers will be in Barre on Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30. But perhaps none has accomplished more than Corliss over the last two seasons, with his victory in the $10,000+-to-win Milk Bowl last October the crown jewel.
“For the team, it’s something for them to always cherish and always be proud of,” Corliss said. “It’s one of those races where you can look back on it days, weeks, months, even years afterwards and reminisce about that day. It’s not like a weekly win that kind of gets lost in the shuffle – it’s the Milk Bowl. It’s our Daytona, our big race. To be able to win it was awesome for all the guys. We still talk about it often. But winning it is also a dangerous thing, because it makes you hungrier than ever to go do it again. And that’s what we’re aiming to do this year.”
“There’s so much prestige for this race,” he added. “There always has been and always will be. And it seems like everybody brings their ‘A’ game. It’s the end of the year, and everybody comes in and throws everything they’ve got at this race. To be able to be the guy that’s standing on top at the end is truly an honor.”
Since scoring that Milk Bowl win, Corliss went on to sweep the 2018 ACT Late Model Tour events at Thunder Road, including the $5,000-to-win Labor Day Classic earlier this month. In weekly Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model competition, he finished a close second in the battle for “King of the Road”. Those achievements came off a 2017 season where he won four races, earned the ACT Rookie of the Year award, and finished third in both weekly and Tour points.
“All the ingredients were there,” Corliss said of his recent success. “The year prior to us actually winning the Milk Bowl, we were in a position late to win that Milk Bowl. Traffic didn’t work out the way we needed it to, and we finished second. So we knew even then that we were a top-notch team capable of winning big races. Even if we hadn’t won the Milk Bowl last year, I don’t think this year would have gone any differently. But it certainly helps as far as keeping people energized, rejuvenated, and excited going into the next pre-season, or going into the next Milk Bowl, where you have a big win that really showcases all their hard work and effort.”
A win in this year’s Milk Bowl would be one more entry on Corliss’s rapidly expanding list of achievements. The Labor Day Classic victory made him one of only 11 drivers to win all of Thunder Road’s “Big 3” events, which includes the Milk Bowl and the Memorial Day Classic. He now looks join an even more exclusive club, as only five drivers have ever gone back-to-back in the Milk Bowl.
In order to repeat, Corliss knows he and his team will need to stay focused. They are facing off against not only the top racers in the region, but the unique Milk Bowl format itself. Time Trials and 50-lap qualifying races on Saturday are part of a day-long battle to set the starting field. Those who make it through Qualifying Day intact have three 50-lap segments in store on Sunday with a full-field invert between each segment. The overall win goes to the driver with the best combined finish in all three segments.
“You can’t think too far ahead,” Corliss noted. “You’re not going to win the Milk Bowl on Friday at noon during practice. You’ve got to go through the process, and part of that process is that you have to enjoy the whole weekend. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of stress. But at the same time, you have to enjoy what you’re doing and enjoy that whole process, or else the whole thing’s not going to come to fruition at the end of the weekend. We’re really excited and pumped up, and we can’t wait for the weekend to arrive.”
Before getting to work in earnest on their Milk Bowl bid, the Burnett Motorsports team will start their racing weekend early. They are finishing up work on a new Super Late Model to debut in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) event on Friday, September 28 as part of “Milk Bowl Friday”. Corliss is one of several Thunder Road and ACT competitors who hope to compete on all three days of Vermont Milk Bowl Weekend.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Corliss said. “The best part about Friday night for us is that it’s going to be more of a relaxing situation. It sounds kind of foolish, possibly, to say it’s going to be relaxing racing cars in a tough division with a stacked field, and making our guys work an extra night. But for our guys, it’s fun. We enjoy the challenge of trying to race with a different group of cars on our home track. Hopefully a little home field advantage will come into play and help us out, but Friday, we’re going with no expectations. We have not raced this car yet – I haven’t even driven this car yet. So I think it’s a little unrealistic right now to say we’re going to go out and try to win both events. But we definitely hope to go out there Friday, and the goals are to have fun, complete all the laps, and be competitive.”
Corliss will have fierce competition on his busy weekend. Reigning “King of the Road” Scott Dragon, 3-time 2018 winner Cody Blake, former Vermont Governor’s Cup winner Trampas Demers, and track record holder Marcel J. Gravel are some of the local stars who will be on hand for the Milk Bowl. Meanwhile, invaders such as ACT point leader Scott Payea, former Milk Bowl winners Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. and Nick Sweet, 2017 “King of the Road” Bobby Therrien, and former ARCA Champion Mason Mitchell have their eyes on the crown. Friday night, PASS superstars D.J. Shaw, Travis Benjamin, and Derek Griffith will take on the locals.
Vermont Milk Bowl Weekend kicks off Friday, September 28 at 6:00pm with Northfield Savings Bank “Milk Bowl Friday”. Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day goes to post at 1:00pm on Saturday, September 29 with Vermont Milk Bowl opening ceremonies at 1:00pm on Sunday, September 30. Adult admission is $30 for a Saturday/Sunday ticket and $20 for Friday-only. Kids ages 12 and under will be admitted free on all three days.