–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
BARRE — Scott Dragon was in a familiar place on Monday afternoon at Thunder Road.
The Milton, Vt. driver and reigning Thunder Road Late Model champion finished second to Scott Payea at the close of 39th Annual Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic 200.
It was a turnaround of a season of struggle that left the team with back-to-back championship aspirations outside of the Thunder Road title fight with just one race remaining.
“I needed that,” Dragon said. “We all needed that.”
Dragon returned behind the wheel of the car that took him to a championship one year ago, a car that was badly damaged during a wreck in early July.
“We brought that blue car back today that we’ve had two sitting in the shop for two months and trying to make the other car go,” Dragon said. “Just bringing this (car) back (out) and it hooked up like it always did. It feels good. I almost wish we would have brought it out a little sooner now.”
Dragon started from the 11th position and cracked the top-ten early. From there, the Richard Green Racing driver rode until teams began to head down pit road for two new tires on lap 60 and lap 83.
The lap 83 restart saw Dragon in the fourth position and into third by lap 90. Dragon would move into the second position for a lap 145 restart that saw Brooks Clark cut a right-front tire and Dillon Moltz head down pit road. After multiple challenges for the lead on then leader Nick Sweet, Dragon would be passed by eventual race winner Scott Payea on lap 158.
Dragon would ride in third after Payea took the lead on a lap 186 restart, and get past Sweet with just six laps remaining for second.
“When I saw Nick (Sweet) slipping and sliding, the cars were pretty much out of grip,” Dragon said. “I could Nick (Sweet) was sliding around and I could see Scott (Payea) was sliding around. I can slide around with the best of them.
“It was just really fun. I didn’t know how it was going to shake out.”
For Dragon, he and Sweet were the only two drivers not to pit for tires during the event.
“That was a really fun race,” Dragon said. “It was good racing.
“We’ll take second.”
PHOTO: Scott Dragon (16) returned to his championship winning Late Model from one year ago and drove it to a runner-up finish in the Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road on Monday. (Alan Ward photo)