–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
BARRE — The story of Scott Payea’s ACT Late Model Tour starts this season at Thunder Road Speedbowl has been about turning a bad into a good.
A real, real good.
The Milton, Vt. driver bounced back from an early race incident that left all four corners of his No. 37 Harrison Redi-Mix Dodge Charger damaged to score the win in the 39th Annual Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road.
It was Payea’s fifth ACT Late Model Tour win of the season and his second at Thunder Road.
“They don’t need (look pretty),” Payea said. “They say the fastest car doesn’t always win the race, but I think the fastest car did today. But it’s not the prettiest. We used it pretty good.
“We started off the day (not good). The lift gate on the hauler got stuck. We had to battle to get the car out of the trailer. We got wrecked in the heat race. We got wrecked early in the feature.
“But to come back to win is a testament to this team. They don’t give up. They don’t give up on me and I don’t give up on them.”
Payea started in the 12th position and fell back to 16th before a lap 48 caution flag saw Payea head down pit road for the first time. He would restart in the 20th position.
However, just 12 laps later, Payea would be involved in a multi-car incident in turn four that left his car damaged. He would head down pit road again and return near the rear of the field.
While Payea was marred back in traffic with a damaged car, his championship counterpart Dillon Moltz would take the lead from Bobby Therrien on lap 54 and began to lead laps.
As Moltz led, Payea used a lap 82 caution flag to jump from 14th to seventh after many of the front running cars headed down pit road. Moltz would hold the top spot until lap 125, when Nick Sweet get to the outside of Moltz and claim the lead.
A lap 145 caution flag would put Payea of Moltz as Moltz headed down pit road to the attention of his crew for tires. That would put Payea in fourth and within striking distance of race leader Nick Sweet.
Payea would move into third past Phil Scott on the restart and into second past Scott Dragon on lap 158. From there, Payea would begin to reel in race leader Nick Sweet.
A restart on lap 186 would put Payea and Sweet on the front row together. The duo would bang doors before Payea came out on top to lead lap 187. From there Payea would pull away to claim the win.
For Payea, the win is the second time this season he has had to overcome adversity to win at Thunder Road.
“Rick (Paya) is just a phenomenal crew chief,” Payea said. “He’s my spotter and he’s on the radio and he keeps me calm. We strategize together. We let the race unfold.
“We have a strategy going in, but we take what we can get. You wreck and you have to figure out what you have to do next. We just stayed after it all day.”
Defending Thunder Road Late Model champion Dragon got past Sweet late to claim the second spot while Sweet held on for third. Jason Corliss used an early race pit stop to gain track position like Payea and finished fourth. Tyler Cahoon fought from a 22nd place starting spot, held off race leader Therrien to stay on the lead lap, and managed through an early race incident to finish fifth.
Marcel J. Gravel finished sixth while Moltz led the most laps and fought back to finish seventh after his pit stop. Thunder Road regulars Christopher Pelkey and Darrell Morin finished eighth and ninth, respectively, while Josh Masterson completed the top-ten finishers.
Unofficially, with his win, Payea stretched is point lead to 37 points over Moltz with one event remaining.
“It’s not enough,” Payea said of his point lead. “It’s great to have the lead and a cushion. But we have to go out there and race hard and I know Dillon (Moltz) is going to go do the same.
“He ran up front today. He will give it his all. He’s always good at Thompson.”
For Payea, a finish of ninth or better at Thompson, no matter what Moltz does, will earn him his first ACT Late Model Tour championship.
VtMotorMag.com will have more from the Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic 200 soon.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic 200
ACT Late Model Tour
Thunder Road Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Monday, September 4, 2017
1. (12) Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.
2. (11) Scott Dragon, Milton, Vt.
3. (5) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
4. (7) Jason Corliss, Barre, Vt.
5. (22) Tyler Cahoon, St. Johnsbury, Vt.
6. (3) Marcel J. Gravel, Wolcott, Vt.
7. (1) Dillon Moltz, Waterford, Conn.
8. (15) Christopher Pelkey, Barre, Vt.
9. (23) Darrell Morin, Westford, Vt.
10. (18) Josh Masterson, Bristol, Vt.
11. (4) Phil Scott, Berlin, Vt.
12. (8) Brook Clark, Fayston, Vt.
13. (16) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que.
14. (26) Rowland Robinson Jr., Steuben, Maine
15. (20) Rich Dubeau, Lebanon, N.H.
16. (19) Oren Remick, Warner, N.H.
17. (14) Matthew Smith, Essex Junction, Vt.
18. (25) Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown, Vt.
19. (24) Mark Hudson, Norton, Mass.
20. (6) Cody Blake, Barre, Vt.
21. (10) Jonathan Bouvrette, Blainville, Que.
22. (21) Jimmy Linardy, Somerville, Mass.
23. (2) Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg, Vt.
24. (9) Chip Grenier, Graniteville, Vt.
25. (17) Matt White, Northfield, Vt.
26. (13) Kyle Pembroke, Montpelier, Vt.
PHOTO: Scott Payea celebrates his fifth ACT Late Model Tour win of the season on Monday afternoon at Thunder Road. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)