BARRE, Vt. – Christopher Pelkey had the car, the skill, and the luck to earn victory in the Times Argus Midseason Championships at Barre’s Thunder Road on Thursday.
Pelkey took the lead from Wolcott’s Marcel J. Gravel just before halfway in the wild 75-lap main event to pick up his second Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Model win of the season.
The first-place trophy was worth double points and double prize money. It also came on a night where championship leaders Jason Corliss and Trampas Demers were felled by on-track carnage, allowing Pelkey to unofficially grab the point lead under a full moon.
Front row starters Phil Scott and Gravel went back and forth in the early laps before Gravel finally cleared him with seven complete. The pot that was simmering boiled over six laps later when Grenier looked inside Scott for second on the backstretch. Grenier had to check up entering turn three, and with the field inches apart, things stacked up quickly. Stephen Donahue eventually went around entering turn four, and with nowhere to go, Corliss, Demers, and Kyle Pembroke all piled in.
All three were eventually able to make it back for the restart following a long caution period for water clean-up. But the craziness was far from over. First, Scott had trouble on the restart and went backwards through the field. Then one lap after going green, Chris Roberts lost a right-front tire entering turn one and pounded the barriers. At that point, Corliss was forced to drop out of the event due to ongoing complications from the previous crash, while Demers made multiple pit road trips to try and repair his machine.
When the green flag waved again, Chip Grenier put his bumper out front to lead lap 15 before Gravel took the top spot back one lap later. Tyler Cahoon then went below Grenier for second only for Grenier to lose control entering turn three. Eric Chase ended up climbing the driver’s door on Grenier’s car while Darrell Morin caught a late piece, forcing all three out of the event and completing the trilogy of carnage.
Cahoon was able to lead one lap following the restart before Gravel swiped it back. Pelkey then slid under Cahoon for second and spent the next 15 laps hounding Gravel. He finally made his move on the outside, snatching the lead with 36 laps complete. Gravel hung to Pelkey’s bumper for a while, but with the race going green the final 59 laps, Pelkey’s long-run power paid off for his second victory in three weeks.
Gravel’s second-place finish was still impressive given the circumstances. The youngster had hit the wall during practice after a right front failure. With his car unfixable at the track, Gravel borrowed a ride from Scott Coburn to earn his third podium finish of the year.
Professional RallyCross racer Connor Martell got the upper hand in a paint-swapping battle with Bobby Therrien for the third spot, which was his best at Thunder Road. Therrien, Cahoon, Brendan Moodie, Brandon Lanphear, Scott Dragon, Demers, and Matthew Smith were fourth through 10th.
Hometown racer Cameron Ouellette scored a popular victory in the 50-lap feature for the Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers. Ouellette spent the first 30 laps stalking polesitter Keegan Lamson with Mike Billado and Kelsea Woodard in tow. As they plotted moves, son-father duo Stephen and Michael Martin of Craftsbury Common picked their way through the pack.
Ouellette put the nose under Lamson with 30 complete just as Colin Cornell spun in turn two to bring out the caution flag. The yellow negated the pass and put the field double-wide for a restart. Then Ouellette got the jump only for a car to dump fluid entering turn one, drawing another caution and again frustrating Ouellette’s bid.
The third time was the charm, though, as Ouellette got the break on the second restart attempt. The field then jumbled up as Lamson slowed with a flat right rear tire, allowing the Martins to jump to second and third. Stephen kept the pressure on Ouellette for the rest of the event but could not get around him. It was Ouellette’s first victory since returning to Thunder Road racing in 2020 following a kidney transplant.
Stephen Martin finished second with Mike Martin, who entered the night as the point leader, holding off Milton’s Sam Caron for third. Billado, Woodard, Derrick Calkins, Jaden Perry, Bryan Wall Jr., and Jason Pelkey rounded out the top-10.
Dean Switser Jr. picked a great time for his first win of the year by capturing the 35-lap RK Miles Street Stock feature. Switser slashed his way from ninth on the grid to move into second following a lap-18 caution for a Jamie Davis spin. He then set his sights on leader Derek Farnham, who was trying to turn around a dismal season to date.
Switser worked the outside line multiple to times to no avail. But with nine laps to go, he switched things up and was able to get inside Farnham to grab the lead. No one could catch Switser from there as he rolled to the double-point win.
Farnham tied his career best with a second-place finish. Berlin’s Kyler Davis inherited the third spot after Trevor Jaques was disqualified for too much left side weight. Point leader Tommy Smith, Todd Raymo, Jeffrey Martin, Justin Blakely, Kaiden Fisher, Josh Lovely, and Kasey Collins completed the top-10.
Bert Duffy had just enough to grab his first career Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warrior victory. Duffy started on the pole for the 25-lap feature and ran away early. After a trio of mid-race crashes, he again put the pedal down and took off.
However, Duffy’s car began showing smoke in the closing laps. At the same time, Graniteville’s Frank Putney — who had been last on the track after an opening-lap scuffle — and Williamstown’s Nate Brien were chasing him down. Putney caught Duffy first and got alongside his passenger door on the final circuit. Despite his car coughing and wheezing, Duffy was able to hold on by half a car length and get the win.
Brien completed the podium in third. Matt Ballard, Fred Fleury, Josh Vilbrin, Jason Kirby, Jamie York, and Paige Whittemore also earned top-10 finishes.