–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
BARRE — Qualifying for the Milk Bowl is unlike any other Late Model race on the calendar.
The special three-round qualifying format ensures the driver who wins the 55th Annual Northfield Savings Bank Milk Bowl is truly the best of the best during the weekend.
Two rounds of qualifying will take place on Saturday with the final round and last chance will come just before opening ceremonies on Sunday.
“You’ve really got to put a lot into Saturday as a team,” Tyler Cahoon said in a press release. “If you only focus on Sunday and you don’t focus on Saturday, you may not make the show, and you’ve got to get in before you can race the race.”
First, each driver will take part in twice-around-the-track time trial qualifying where a driver’s fastest lap is their lap of record. Ties are determined by the driver’s second lap.
The three quickest cars in time trials are locked into the first, second, and third positions respectively. The driver who sets the fastest lap will earn themselves the pole position for the 55th Milk Bowl, plus $1,000 from Booth Bros./H.P. Hood. The driver who sets the second quickest time will earn a $500 bonus.
Next, the field will be split into three separate groups that will each take part in a 50-lap qualifying race based on their time trial result. The first, fourth, seventh, and so on will take part in the first 50-lap qualifier, with the second, fifth, eighth, and so on will take part in the second qualifier. The third 50-lap will be made up of the third, sixth, ninth, and so on.
The qualifying races will transfer the top-five cars that are not presently locked into the field. The three drivers who had qualified through time trials have to run at least half of the 50-lap race distance.
Eighteen (18) cars will be locked in after time trials and the three 50-lap qualifying races. The next four positions will go to the quickest time trial cars not qualified.
Drivers who are not qualified will have to wait about 18 hours before they receive their next opportunity. At 12:15pm on Sunday, the field of cars not yet qualified will compete for two positions in the last chance qualifier.
Two provisionals are up for grabs, one for a Thunder Road competitor who ran 80% of the season and one for a ACT Late Model Tour or Serie ACT Quebec competitor who ran 100% of the season.
“That’s part of what can make the Milk Bowl such a high-stress environment,” Cahoon said. “There are so many good teams that show up and can perform well at any moment on Saturday to get qualified.
If you don’t perform well or something happens, you may have jeopardized your chance to get in the Milk Bowl.”
Drivers’ who have not qualified in recent years contain a who’s who of Late Model racing in the northeast.
Serie ACT champion Jean-Francois Dery and Devil’s Bowl Speedway Late Model champion Josh Masterson both failed to qualify for last year’s event while seven-time ACT Late Model Tour champion, 2009 Thunder Road champion, and 1996 Milk Bowl champion Jean-Paul Cyr failed to qualify in 2015.
Three-time Milk Bowl champion Patrick Laperle failed to qualify for the event in 2014 while recently crowned Serie ACT champion Jonathan Bouvrette failed to qualify for five straight Milk Bowls from 2011 to 2015.
For drivers, the stress begins at 1:00pm on Saturday with the start of single car time trials.
(Alan Ward photo)
MILK BOWL STARTING LINEUP FORMAT
1 – Time Trials (1st)
2 – Time Trials (2nd)
3 – Time Trials (3rd)
4 – 50-lap Qualifier 1 (1st)
5 – 50-lap Qualifier 2 (1st)
6 – 50-lap Qualifier 3 (1st)
7 – 50-lap Qualifier 1 (2nd)
8 – 50-lap Qualifier 2 (2nd)
9 – 50-lap Qualifier 3 (2nd)
10 – 50-lap Qualifier 1 (3rd)
11 – 50-lap Qualifier 2 (3rd)
12 – 50-lap Qualifier 3 (3rd)
13 – 50-lap Qualifier 1 (4th)
14 – 50-lap Qualifier 2 (4th)
15 – 50-lap Qualifier 3 (4th)
16 – 50-lap Qualifier 1 (5th)
17 – 50-lap Qualifier 2 (5th)
18 – 50-lap Qualifier 3 (5th)
19 – Time Trial (1st quickest nonqualified)
20 – Time Trial (2nd quickest nonqualified)
21 – Time Trial (3rd quickest nonqualified)
22 – Time Trial (4th quickest nonqualified)
23 – Last Chance Qualifier (1st)
24 – Last Chance Qualifier (2nd)
25 – Thunder Road 80% Provisional
26 – ACT/Serie ACT 100% Provisional