Late pass nets Dragon title by one point over Sweet
–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
BARRE – Scott Dragon entered the season on the shortlist of championship favorites at Thunder Road.
He sealed the deal on Sunday.
The Milton driver finished second to capture his first “King of the Road” crown in the Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic 200.
“It’s crazy,” Dragon said. “I’m going to remind people for the whole year (that I’m the champion). It’s really cool.
“I’m so happy. I’m happy for my crew. I’m happy for Richard Green. What a team effort. Big time.”
Dragon was forced to finish second as fellow contender Nick Sweet ran away with the race win. However, Dragon was not in that position to win the championship with just ten laps remaining, but made a late bid over Tyler Cahoon to grab the runner-up spot and the championship with just six laps remaining.
“I kept telling (car owner and spotter) Richard (Green) during the yellows the whole race that I was really trying to conserve,” Dragon said. “I kept telling him ‘don’t get nervous, yet.’ I felt like I was saving enough for the end.
“But, when it got down to about 50 (laps) to go, and I’m sitting in like fourth or fifth, and I could see how strong Tyler (Cahoon) was and I could see how strong (Kyle) Pembroke was and we all wanted that same line, I was starting to get nervous. I thought maybe I should have tried to push a little harder at the beginning to stay with Nick.
“But when I got into third behind Tyler, the only thing I could do was really start to put the pressure on him. He was starting to get loose there toward the end. I just kept putting the pressure on him.”
Once Dragon moved into the second spot, he opened up a comfortable gap.
“And then I could breathe again,” Dragon said.
For Dragon, the championship comes in this third season behind the wheel of the Richard Green Racing No. 16 car.
“Over the last couple of years we showed some strength,” Dragon said. “Maybe not the consistency that is needed to be a (Nick Sweet), but the strength. Over the winter, we made a few improvements to the car and we were so close last year.
“I really came into this season feeling that we were going to be a threat. And then right off the bat we kind of showed it.”
Despite showing strength toward the end of the 2015 season and being placed on a shortlist of Thunder Road championship contenders for 2016, Dragon felt he needed to continue to prove himself to his team.
“One thing (the championship) does do is it solidifies me with these guys,” Dragon said. “I’ve been driving other people’s stuff for about ten years. I was driving for some people out of New Hampshire in the PASS series and you’re racing to keep your ride. There’s a million other guys that would love to drive that race car.
“As long as I keep doing my job, I can stay in rides like this. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Dragon’s championship was the first for Richard Green, who has owned race cars that have competed with the American-Canadian Tour, Thunder Road, and Airborne Park Speedway.
“I got lucky getting hooked up with Rick (Green),” Dragon said. “We’ll see where this takes us.
“He’s been at it a long time.”
For Dragon, he joins his father, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Bobby Dragon, as Thunder Road track champions.
“We’re going to be able to come up here and see both of our names on that granite out front,” Dragon said. “There’s so many guys who I’ve raced with that have their name on that thing. It really means a lot.”
Beating Nick Sweet for the Thunder Road championship by just a single point, however, may be the piece that Dragon is most proud of.
“Nick’s one of the best. He’s one of the best,” Dragon said. “I respect guys with his ability. Derrick O’Donnell. Joey (Polewarczyk). Patrick Laperle. I could go on. There’s a lot of good racers out there. I’ve always tried to be one of those guys.
“But to beat Nick Sweet, that’s big time. It wouldn’t be the same if Nick wasn’t here. It wouldn’t be the same. It means a lot to me.
“We beat Nick Sweet. That’s big time.”
VMM will have more from the 38th Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic from Thunder Road soon.
1 – Scott Dragon celebrates his 2016 Thunder Road track championship on Sunday afternoon in the Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)
2 – The Richard Green Racing crew led by driver Scott Dragon (front, left) and car owner Richard Green (front, right) celebrate their 2016 Thunder Road championship. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)