BARRE — Joe Steffen was the last man standing on Thursday night at Barre’s Thunder Road, and walked away with his first victory in more than four years. A total of nine cautions — including one red flag for a massive pileup that took out early leader Scott Coburn — marred the 100-lap Bond Auto/WIX ACT Tiger Tour marathon.
The race took nearly an hour and twenty minutes to complete. By comparison, the Tiger Sportsman division is known to race three weeks straight without so much as a spinout.
“It was like the seven hours of Wimbledon, I didn’t think it was ever going to be over with,” said winner Steffen.
Coburn, of Barre, led the opening 42 laps nearly in tandem with polesitter Matt Potter before contact from Mike Billado got Coburn loose in turn four. As he tried to collect his car, Shawn Fleury and no less than six others plowed into Coburn, blocking the track and bringing out the red flag.
Steffen inherited the lead on the ensuing restart and, despite three more caution periods that bunched the field, drove virtually uncontested to the win.
“It was a little frustrating when the yellows kept coming out,” Steffen said. “You get up there and you get in a rhythm and turn laps, and they break that rhythm when the yellows come out.”
The Essex Junction driver, one of the division’s most celebrated characters and the 2002 track champion, had never won a 100-lap event before, and the victory was his first since May 2006.
Steffen’s car owner, former Don MacTavish Award winner Smitty McKay, was elated with the win. “It just feels good to be able to go again,” McKay said. “It’s been a long time. Years.”
“It’s been a little while since we’ve had a good car and we’ve worked pretty hard on this one to get the setup on it and get the right springs and shocks,” Steffen said. “We’ve got it going pretty good so it feels really good. We’ve had a long career and we’re still enjoying it.”
Milton’s Eric Badore, Joey Roberts of Georgia, and point leader Tom Therrien of Hinesburg dueled for the runner-up spot for the majority of the final 40 laps. Badore shot under Roberts to take the spot at the finish.
“That was tough, I had to really keep my eyes open and look ahead the whole race,” said Badore, who started 22nd and drove through several wrecks to get to the front.
“It was tough, it was a lot of rough racing,” said Roberts.
Jason Bonnett of St. Albans finished fourth with Peacham’s Tony Rossi fifth. Therrien faded to seventh behind Chip Grenier, with Billado, rookie Tucker Williams, and David Finck completing the top ten finishers.
Matt White of Northfield claimed his third career Late Model victory after getting the jump on leader Doug Murphy on a lap-30 restart. Murphy led from the outset until White took command, then was bumped from second place by Rich Lowrey on lap 35 and slid back to a 19th-place finish. Lowrey, of Charlotte, posted his best run of the year as the runner-up, followed by John Donahue, Brooks Clark, and Joey Becker.
Rookie Jayme Lee of Barre earned his first career Street Stock victory, fending off Jean LeBlanc of Gorham, N.H., and Mike MacAskill. Ken Christman of Cabot took his fifth Junkyard Warrior win in six starts, with Kevin Dodge second and Brock Parrott third.
Thunder Road hosts its annual Pepsi holiday fireworks program on Sunday at 6:30pm.