–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
BARRE – Nick Sweet made it look easy at times during Sunday’s Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, but when it counted at the very end, he had to work for it.
The Barre driver dominated the event, but was forced to hold off Jimmy Hebert for two final restarts that came inside the final ten laps of the race to grab his fifth career ACT Late Model Tour victory. his fourth at Thunder Road.
“(The car) was really, really good,” Sweet said. “We finally hit something and I think we’ve got a pretty good handling race car.
“We were lucky. We had track position early on and I knew I had to save the tires. By the end of it, I felt like we had more tire than most guys. We just tried to keep some underneath us for the end.”
Sweet started the event in the fourth spot and by lap eight had taken the top spot and held the lead mostly uncontested until a lap 133 restart. From there, Sweet would be forced to battle with Hebert for the top spot as Sweet nosed ahead for the lead on lap 134. Sweet would fight back and reclaim the lead one lap later.
Another caution flag on lap 143 put Hebert back to Sweet’s outside and after a waved off restart, Hebert got the advantage and took the lead on lap 145. Sweet would fight back and reclaim the lead one lap later again before the caution flag flew once again on lap 147.
But on the final restart, Sweet learned from the two previous restarts and zoomed out in front and to the checkered flag.
“The second-to-last restart, I didn’t get a great one,” Sweet said. “I took off a little earlier and they threw the yellow, and I was like ‘alright, we need to make it more even.’ The next restart allowed Jimmy to get wheel-to-wheel with me. I was like ‘uh-oh, we’re going to have to race this one.’ It made it exciting, though.
“That last one, I just knew I had to hit my mark better. It was really go time. I could not let him get ahead of me and be door-to-door. I just motored ahead a little bit more and got to the bottom. It was the checkered flag after that.”
For Sweet, the win was his third in the Thunder Road opening day race and his first since 2011.
“It’s a good sign right here,” Sweet said of his win. “It’s a good sign for the rest of the year to come. I’m looking forward to getting back into Saint J Auto Buick for the next race.
“We had a pretty good piece today with (car owner) Eric’s (Chase) car. I can report back to the boss today that we won today. It’s a little better than saying we finished 11th.”
Hebert, of Williamstown, finished second after he started in the third spot.
Scott Payea edged Phil Scott at the checkered flag to claim the final spot on the podium. The Milton, Vt. driver moved his way from a 15th place starting spot during the race’s distance. Scott, of Middlesex, challenged Sweet for the lead midway through the event but faded. He made a charge on the final restart before he was beat out by Payea for third. Cody Blake of Barre completed the top-five finishers.
Bobby Therrien finished sixth and will, unofficially, retain the point lead. Dillon Moltz moved from a 20th place starting spot to finish seventh while Eddie MacDonald battled back from midrace contact with the wall and multiple pit stops to finish eighth. Jason Corliss finished ninth while Brad Babb completed the top-ten finishers from the 24th starting spot.
The ACT Late Model Tour will complete its fourth race of the season on Saturday, May 14 at Airborne Park Speedway for the traditional Spring Green.
VMM will have more from the Merchants Bank 150 from Thunder Road soon.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Merchants Bank 150
ACT Late Model Tour – Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
(# — denotes rookie)
1. (4) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
2. (3) Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown, Vt.
3. (15) Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.
4. (13) Phil Scott, Middlesex, Vt.
5. (11) Cody Blake, Barre, Vt.
6. (8) Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg, Vt.
7. (20) Dillon Moltz, Waterford, Conn.
8. (12) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.
9. (5) Jason Corliss, Barre, Vt.
10. (24) Brad Babb, Windham, Maine
11. (27) Scott Dragon, Milton, Vt.
12. (17) Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
13. (6) Kyle Welch, Newport, N.H.
14. (18) Brandon Atkins, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
15. (23) Trampas Demers, South Burlington, Vt.
16. (28) Rowland Robinson Jr., Steuben, Maine
17. (1) Boomer Morris, Barre, Vt.
18. (19) Shawn Fleury, Middlesex, Vt.
19. (14) Mike Ziter, Williamstown, Vt.
20. (9) Wayne Helliwell Jr., Dover, N.H.
21. (10) Tyler Cahoon, St. Johnsbury, Vt.
22. (25) Emily Packard, East Montpelier, Vt.
23. (2) Brooks Clark, Fayston, Vt.
24. (30) Mark Hudson, Norton, Mass.
25. (21) # Devin O’Connell, Madison, Conn.
26. (26) Jason Allen, Barre, Vt.
27. (16) Darrell Morin, Westford, Vt.
28. (22) Rich Dubeau, Lebanon, N.H.
29. (29) Todd Davis, Claremont, N.H.
30. (29) Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
PHOTOS: Nick Sweet (#40) battles Jimmy Hebert (#58) during Sunday’s Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road. Sweet would hold off Hebert during the race’s final two restarts to claim his sixth career ACT Late Model Tour win. (Alan Ward photo)