PHOTO: John Donahue gets ready to plant one on Miss Milk Bowl last October. (Leif Tillotson photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

The Milk Bowl is the high point in every driver’s season at Thunder Road. Yeah, it may not go that well for a lot of them, but it’s a great weekend.

There’s something to be said about the way everyone looks forward to just being there, even though for 90 percent of us, it brings with it the end of the racing season.

The anticipation is killer for anyone, whether they’ve won the race a couple times or not. It’s just so completely different from every event in the country, and it’s something race fans from everywhere “have to see once.”

And that’s ‘cuz, by Godfrey, someone’s gonna kiss themself a kay-ow by th’enda the day. Yessah.

If you want to know what it’s really like, check this little nugget out right here: The Rear View Mirror: Milk Bowl Rookie Ride


So what’s the Milk Bowl all about? Glad you asked.

In 1962, Thunder Road owner and promoter Ken Squier wanted an event unique to his track, and wanted something with a Vermont flair.

The cars of the day were rudimentary at best, and feature races were only between 25 and 35 laps. So Squier decided to run the cars 50 laps. Three times.

Twenty cars qualified though time trials, and points were awarded to each driver after each 50-lap segment: 20 to the winner, 19 for second, and so on, down to 1 point for the last-place finisher. The finish of the first segment was then inverted to start the second round, and points were again doled out. Then it was all repeated again for the third segment.

“We’d never had a race I believe over 35 laps,” said Thunder Road pioneer Harold “Hard Luck” Hanaford of Bethlehem, N.H. “In my own mind I didn’t know whether a driver or a car would hold up.”

Hanaford repaired a car summarily destroyed by Denny Dearborn a few weeks earlier, then steered the machine to the win in the first segment and take 20 points. He then came from the rear to win the second segment and raise his total to 40 points. He very nearly pulled off the sweep in the third round, but finished a close second to Clint Gerard of Littleton, N.H., for a grand total of 59 points — one shy of a perfect score of 60.

As Hanaford pulled into victory lane, that’s when Squier’s Vermont flair showed up in the form of a beauty queen, a real, live dairy cow — hence the name “Milk Bowl”. And as the winner, it was Hanaford’s duty to kiss the trophy queen.

It became a tradition, one celebrated across the continent for almost 50 years. Drivers like Bill Dennis and Butch Lindley came from Virginia and South Carolina in the 1970s and won Milk Bowls. Canadians Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Whitlock, Patrick Laperle, and very nearly Langis Caron were winners. Even a few farmers have won the race including Morrisville’s Dwayne Lanphear and defending winner John Donahue of Graniteville; photos of Lanphear’s, ahem, enthusiastic kiss appeared in newspapers across North America, from Los Angeles to Toronto.

After the first few years, the point system was changed to give the winner one point, the runner-up two points, etc., down through the field, and the lowest overall score determines the winner, rather than the highest. In the event of a tie for overall score, the position is awarded to the driver with the better final-segment finish.

This year, for the first time ever, the total number of laps has been changed from 150 to 200; while the first segment remains 50 laps, the final two rounds are 75 laps each.

The first-segment starting order is determined through time trials and “Triple 50” qualifying heats on Saturday’s Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day, and a last-chance B feature on Sunday locks in the drivers for the 48th annual People’s United Bank Milk Bowl. Everything starts at 1:00pm on both days. Check out the VMM Milk Bowl Coverage Index for all the details.


Hey, don’t forget that there’s more than just the Milk Bowl on the line this weekend at Thunder Road — champions will be decided in the Tiger Sportsman and Street Stock divisions, too. (Nick Sweet was named the Late Model champion back in August, and Ken Christman clinched this year’s Junkyard Warrior championship in May 1996.)

Barre’s David Finck, who started racing at Thunder Road more than 15 years ago, is trying to seal up his first championship in the Tigers. Finck leads young gun and quasi-teammate Tony Rossi of Peacham by just seven points, 953-948. Still not totally out of it is Milton’s Eric Badore, 42 points behind Finck.

Mike MacAskill simply needs to not have anything go seriously wrong in order to wrap up his first Street Stock championship. MacAskill, of Williamstown, leads West Topsham’s Tim Campbell by 59 points, 1088-1029.

While Cabot driver Christman hasn’t officially been crowned the Warrior king, it was over long ago; he leads hometown racer Kevin Dodge by an insurmountable 120 points.


Vermont Motorsports Magazine congratulates the 2010 track champions at Bear Ridge Speedway:

Adam Pierson, Fairlee, Vt. — Bond Auto Sportsman Modified
Gene Pierson, Jr., East Corinth, Vt. — Wells River Chevrolet Sportsman Coupe
Will Hull, East Montpelier, Vt. — A Notch Above Auto Limited Late Model
Josh Sunn, White River Junction, Vt. — Journal Opinion Fast Four
Tom Placey, Bradford, Vt. — KDD NAPA of Bradford Ridge Runner Hornet
Melissa King, Corinth, Vt. — Hornet Queen

It was a great show all year at “The Home of the Coupes” — and not a single race was rained out!


Speaking of Bear Ridge, just because Chris Donnelly isn’t around as much anymore doesn’t mean he’s not one of the most quotable drivers there.

Between the Sprint Cars of New England and the Sportsman Modifieds, multi-time champion Donnelly ran ten races at The Ridge this year, winning five of them. He also won the SCoNE championship as a rookie.

This is the exchange between Donnelly and VMM after he won the Modified finale last Saturday:

VMM: “What’s been the secret for you this year? You’re winning everything.”

Donnelly: “I don’t know, I won a lot last year, too. We’re getting better with age, I guess. Eventually all this gray hair is gonna get to me and I’ll be Richard Petty.”

Outstanding stuff.


Thanks to all this rain, Canaan Dirt Speedway’s Dick Therrien has confirmed that Friday’s $1,000-to-win Sportsman Modified race and Bear Ridge Coupe event have been postponed to next Friday, October 8, at 6:30pm.

Also, Sunday’s snowmobile drags at Devil’s Bowl Speedway have been cancelled ahead of time due to wet grounds.

In other news, we cannot confirm that there will be a three-segment fishing tournament in the Thunder Road infield. Folks have already started calling this weekend the “Fish Bowl”.


You know what’s not cool? Fans literally pulling a driver out of his car in victory lane and beating the crap out of him. It happened to Jonathan Urlin in the ACT Castrol Series Edge finale at Autodrome St-Eustache last weekend after Urlin and Patrick Laperle wrecked while racing for the win.

I won’t spend any more time on this, but you can read ACT’s version of what happened here: ACT Announces Penalties Following St-Eustache 300.


In my driving days, I competed at three Milk Bowls in Street Stock division, back when the support classes ran two-segment “Mini Bowl” features. It was by far the coolest thing we did all year, and everyone looked forward to it. Thunder Road did away with the segment races after 2004 because scoring was so complicated and doing the quick math to figure out a winner took extra time.

I remember watching Bubba Hickory win in 1997 while sitting with my old man on Forsythe Hill. Mike “Beetle” Bailey needed to win the Mini Bowl in 1998 to win the championship, and he did it. Bubba scored again in 1999.

I never had great luck in the Mini Bowls, but I had fun. In 2000 as a rookie, I literally took out half the field in the first segment when I “forgot” to lift for a guy entering turn one — hey, he cut down my tire! — then I was part of someone else’s mess in the second segment and the car got torn up. I believe I finished 16th overall. David Allen got his first career win in that one.

I failed to qualify in 2001 because I was “that guy”, but my good friend Eddy Companion won the overall. Eddy had missed most of the summer due to an illness, and I won a race at Airborne in his car while he was sick, so it was a special thing to be a part of his big comeback. He won a three-way tie-breaker with Dan Nolin and Brendan Moodie for the win, which made it even better.

The 2002 race was one of my better ones. I started near the back in the first segment and finished around 12th or 14th, even after flying off the top of turn three, then drove from the back again to finish in the top ten in the second segment and take seventh overall. Ryan Nolin won that year.

I wasn’t racing in 2003, but my former teammate Aaron Maynard — you may know him as the new announcer at Thunder Road — got his first win that year and delivered a victory lane speech (or scream, whatever you want to call it) that people still talk about.

Nick Sweet won the last one in 2004, and we all know what that led to.

I’m not trying to start anything here, but now that there’s electronic scoring in place and the results are fairly instantaneous, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to do now? Just saying. It was fun while it lasted, and the guys I know that won those Mini Bowls still say that those were the highlights of their racing careers.


Before we go, it’s unfortunately time to honor another of the early Vermont stock car pioneers who has passed on.

Norm Chaloux, Barre’s famed “Flying Frenchman”, was one the men who not only raced at Thunder Road in its first years, he also helped build it. Chaloux was as popular a driver as “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” ever had, and counted the first-ever Labor Day Classic in 1960 among his five victories at the track.

Chaloux was also a decorated veteran, having served in World War II from 1943-45. He died in Barre last week at age 85.



Time to take a look at the Vermont racing scene from the past week…

Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Codey Benoit of Milton finished eighth in Saturday’s “Run What Ya Brung” open competition Modified race, with Sheldon’s Adam Bartemy tenth. Benoit also won the Renegade race with Dave Rabtoy of Swanton third.

Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Chris Donnelly of Piermont, N.H., won Saturday’s Sportsman Modified finale over track champion Adam Pierson of Fairlee and Kevin Chaffee of Orange. Sportsman Coupe champion Gene Pierson, Jr., of East Corinth won his race over Shane Race of South Strafford and Josh Harrington of Topsham. Tyler Stygles of Bradford won the Limited Late Model race over Ray Johnson of Campton, N.H., and Troy Comeau of Rumney, N.H., while East Montpelier’s Will Hull won the championship. Tim Hodge of Vershire was the Fast Four winner over St. Johnsbury’s Kevin Harran and Travis Hull of Graniteville, while Josh Sunn of White River Junction was the champion. Tom Placey of Bradford took his 13th Hornet win en route to the championship over Don Reynolds of Springfield and Jesse Smith of Topsham.

Fonda Speedway (Fonda, N.Y.): John Scarborough of Bomoseen finished 19th in the 602 Limited Sportsman feature on Saturday and ninth in the Sportsman feature on Sunday. Scarborough was the 602 Limited Sportsman champion.

Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Windsor’s Robert Hagar finished 14th in Saturday’s Sportsman Modified race and Joey Jarvis of Ascutney was 20th. Dana Shepard of Putney was 10th in the Super Stocks, and Ludlow’s Joe Rogers was sixth in the Mini Stocks.

Pro All Stars Series: St. Johnsbury’s Steven Legendre finished 17th in Saturday’s PASS South event at Hickory Motor Speedway in Hickory, N.C. Preston Peltier of Concord, N.C., was the winner.

Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): John Donahue of Graniteville won Saturday’s Late Model feature over Dilyn Switser of West Burke, with Paul Schartner, III, of Lyndonville fifth. Joanna Christman of Cabot was the Super Stock runner-up with North Troy’s David Allen fifth. Howard Switser of West Burke was the Dwarf Car winner and champion. Aaron Smith of Orleans finished fifth in the Street Stocks as St. Johnsbury’s Doug Duprey was the championship runner-up. Waterford’s Lorin Vear finished fourth in the Cyclones to earn the championship. Allison Barney of Granby was the Angel winner of Desirae Sicard of Barton, and Barney took the championship by one point over Cabot’s Lyndsay Christman. In the youth Daredevils, Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier won the Veteran race over Brandon Gray of East Thetford and Stephen Donahue of Graniteville, and Kristian Switser of St. Johnsbury won the Rookie race.

White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Stacy Cahoon of St. Johnsbury finished fifth in Saturday’s Late Model with son Tyler sixth; Stacy Cahoon was the championship runner-up behind Quinny Welch of Lancaster, N.H. Tucker Williams of Hyde Park was the Super Sportsman winner over Bradford’s Derrick O’Donnell and Michael Moore of East Haven, while Gary “Thumper” Griswold of Wells River won the championship.



Saturday, Oct. 2
Big Daddy’s Speedbowl, Rumney, N.H. — 6:00pm (Championship Finale)
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt. — 1:00pm (Booth Bros./H.P. Hood Qualifying Day)

Sun., Oct. 3
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, N.H. — 11:00am (Mud Bogs)
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt. — 1:00pm (People’s United Bank Milk Bowl, Championship Finale)


NASCAR Nationwide Series: Sat., Oct. 2 — Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan. (ESPN/3:00pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sun., Oct. 3 — Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan. (ESPN/1:00pm)