GROVETON, N.H. — Tony Rossi did not look the part of a winner on lap 43 at Riverside Speedway on Saturday. The Peacham, Vt., driver had gained just three positions from his 14th-place starting position in the American-Canadian Tour’s Bond Auto/WIX Filters Tiger Tour finale, the John Clark Memorial 101, and ducked onto pit road during a caution period for adjustments to his car’s setup.

From that point on, however, Rossi was very much a man on a mission. After restarting 21st, he marched his way through traffic — and past both championship contenders — and into the top-three with seven laps remaining.

A caution for Cody Blake on lap 94 realigned the field with Rossi bunched tightly with leader Derrick O’Donnell, second-place driver Bobby Therrien, and fourth-place driver Erik Steel.

A half-lap after the green flag flew, Therrien cut across Rossi’s nose and was sent spinning off the track. Another caution — and therefore, another restart — brought Rossi to the outside of the front row next to O’Donnell.

Rossi took the lead on lap 95, but a crash one lap later — involving Therrien, Blake, and others — set up one final test for Rossi. While the balance of the field scrambled to the finish, Rossi drove his car to the win.

Championship hopeful Tom Therrien — Bobby’s brother — jumped from fourth to claim the runner-up position, while O’Donnell, who led most of the race, slid across the finish line in third place as his car’s right-rear wheel and hub assembly sheared off and bounced out of the track.

“We pitted with [58 laps] to go and drove back through the field on the outside. You can’t complain about that,” beamed Rossi, who was crowned the track champion at Barre’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl last weekend. “It’s pretty much a dream season. Dad did a lot of work to the car and changed a lot of different things, and man, she came alive at the end there. That was a lot of work in that 101 laps.”

Rossi thought that while the late cautions may have helped his chances of catching O’Donnell for the win, his car was strong enough that he would have likely caught O’Donnell under green-flag conditions anyway.

“I still think I would have won,” Rossi deadpanned. “I didn’t want [the cautions]. I looked up at the board and there was 78 laps [complete] and I thought we were rolling. The cautions did help us, but I really, truly believe we could have done it without the cautions. Either way I’ll take a win.”

Hinesburg’s Tom Therrien entered the race trailing point leader Jason Bonnett of St. Albans by nine points for the Tiger Tour championship. While he made a valiant effort that included a mid-race battle with Bonnett, Therrien fell one point short of the title, unofficially, with his runner-up finish.

For Bonnett, who finished sixth, the championship came one year after losing the title in a tie-breaker to Shawn Duquette.

Brendan Moodie finished fourth behind O’Donnell with Eric Badore fifth. Bonnett, early leader Erik Steel, Jeff Marshall, rookie Mike Martin, and Jimmy Hebert completed the unofficial top ten.


Jason Bonnett’s race to the championship was a nervous one. After being involved in a stack-up during a mid-race restart, Bonnett’s car was never truly on pace with the leaders. He salvaged a sixth-place finish — and the Tiger Tour title — only after a bobble by Erik Steel on the final lap opened a hole for Bonnett to make up two positions.

Not only did Bonnett want to win the championship, he was looking to avenge last year’s tie-breaker loss for the Tiger Tour crown.

“It was real close last year when we tied Shawn Duquette,” said Bonnett. “We worked real hard at it last year and we ended up tying, but he got it on win position, so we came back really hungry for it this year. We came in today knowing we had the lead, but it wasn’t by much so we just did what we had to do to get it done.”

Bonnett had an intense battle for the first 65 laps of the race with title rival Tom Therrien. Struggling with damage from the earlier incident, Bonnett was eventually forced to watch Therrien race his way to the front.

“When we got in that wreck after that one caution, I got it hit in the right-front avoiding it — I hit Barnier in the right-front — and it must have screwed up the toe or something in the front end,” Bonnett explained. “The car got really, really tight. That last long green flag stretch we had with probably 30 laps to go [was tough], but then we had those last couple cautions that let the tires cool down and it made it stick a little better. I was holding on for all I could, making it happen.”

Knowing he needed to finish within four positions of Therrien to clinch the championship, Bonnett admitted he was counting cars to keep track of the points in his head. As the white flag flew, he was six spots behind Therrien and out of the championship, but Steel’s mistake out of turn 2 opened the door.

“[I counted] every lap,” Bonnett said. “That last lap, I don’t know what happened, I just thought, ‘Here we go.’ I just kept my foot into it and pointed it whichever direction I could and took it. It played in our favor.”

“It was a pretty exciting race,” said Tom Therrien, who finished second to Bonnett by just a single point for the championship. “The first 50 laps we were just riding when everything was calm, and then it picked up in the second half and it was pretty fun. The late cautions helped me a lot. My car was good on the outside, so that helped me a lot. I didn’t know where Jason was, I was just driving trying to get the front.”


The incident between Tony Rossi and Bobby Therrien carried with it some controversy. The two made contact entering turn three with seven laps remaining; Therrien spun out of second place and Rossi continued on to eventually win the race.

Bobby Therrien was involved in a second crash on the next lap. While under caution, Rossi’s car circled the track and eventually met Therrien’s stalled car on the frontstretch. Therrien quickly got his car re-fired and drove next to Rossi, then darted down into Rossi’s lane and forced Rossi to drive through the infield grass to avoid contact.

Rossi was not penalized for his contact with Therrien on lap 94.

“My interpretation is that [Therrien] knew I was going to stay there,” said Rossi. “He just decided he was coming and I held it right where I was. You’ve got to do that. You can’t let people take advantage of you that way. If he’s mad I understand, I’ve been in that position before, but I was there. I have paint all the way up to almost my numbers.”

Therrien was calm in the pit area after the race.

“There wasn’t a lot of room there,” Therrien said. “I started turning before [Rossi] got to me, I was watching him in my spot mirror.”

Rossi said the proof was in race director Tom Curley’s call to not penalize him, “because I think he knew it was a full chop job,” said Rossi. “I really like Bobby. He’s a great guy and we’re friends, but it is what it is.”

Therrien said that the toughest part of the incident was not losing the race, but spinning after contact with Rossi, who he considers a friend.

“I’d be more upset if we had to race next week,” Therrien said. “It’s really frustrating because I’ve helped Tony so much this year. I’ve given him a lot of lifts on the track when he takes up a lane, and I’ve helped him a lot with setups on his car. It’s just frustrating.”

As Therrien’s car sat idle in the pit area before being loaded into its trailer, he stared at a spot where Rossi had written his email address on the radiator shroud several weeks ago.

“That’s just kind of twisting the knife,” said Therrien.


UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — John Clark Memorial 101
ACT Bond Auto/WIX Filters Tiger Tour — Riverside Speedway, Groveton, N.H.
Saturday, October 9, 2010

# – denotes rookie

1. Tony Rossi, Peacham
2. Tom Therrien, Hinesburg
3. Derrick O’Donnell, Bradford
4. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
5. Eric Badore, Milton
6. Jason Bonnett, St. Albans (2010 Champion)
7. Erik Steel, Barre
8. Jeff Marshall, Groveton, N.H.
9. # Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
10. Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
11. Jay Webb, Georgia
12. Josh Demers, Middlesex
13. # Brian Gosselin, Littleton, N.H.
14. Cody Blake, Barre
15. # Jason Corliss, Danville
16. Mark Barnier, Essex Jct.
17. Joey Roberts, Georgia
18. Michael Moore, East Haven
19. Matt Carbone, Webster, N.H.
20. Jerrad Ledger, Groveton, N.H.
21. Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg
22. Kyle Pembroke, Montpelier
23. Shannon Tomasovich, St. Albans
24. Blair Bessett, Worcester
25. Ben Bedor, Lyndonville
26. Bruce Melendy, Danville
27. Chris Pelkey, Barre

1. Tony Rossi (#90) drives past Bobby Therrien (#4) after late contact between the two at Riverside Speedway; Rossi would go on to win the race. (Alan Ward photo)