–by Ricky St. Clair

BARRE — For almost three decades, stock car racing fans at Thunder Road and across Northern New England pulled for a guy simply known as “Dynamite”.

“Dynamite” Dave Dion, of Hudson N.H., first arrived at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in 1972 with a rag-tag orange Ford. The car featured a white 27 on both sides, and the paint scheme soon became synonymous with fans after only one night high atop Quarry Hill.

In his first-ever appearance at Thunder Road, Dion picked up his first career victory at the quarter-mile by showcasing his talent on the outside groove. In the track’s 52-year history, he remains the only driver ever to win his first feature in his first-ever start.

The name Dion became forever a mainstay in the local racing community.

Wayne Helliwell, Jr., also a native son of New Hampshire, residing from Dover, will ride in those familiar colors throughout his 2011 racing campaign. Helliwell is excited to be back to the ‘Nations Site of Excitement’ after only making a few appearances at the track in recent years, most notably earning a Milk Bowl segment win in 2009.

“I’m looking forward to being back this time around. I definitely like racing here,” he said. “Once we get a feel for the car, we’re going to like it a lot more. The big concern is to just get in [to the 150] and ride.”

The reasoning and similarity between Helliwell and Dion’s colors is due to the fact that multiple crew members for Helliwell were apart of Dion’s team for many years including car owner Bruce Bernhardt.

“You know, it’s cool. A lot of guys on the crew used to help Dave,” Helliwell remarked.

Helliwell also appreciates the tips and support Dion has given him when he makes his rare appearances at Thunder Road. “It’s definitely nice to have someone that you can talk to that gives a lot of good pointers on how to get around here,” he noted.

The Dover native also understands the familiarity that fans have with the famous Dion name. “Dave was a pretty big name up here for a long time,” Helliwell said. “Downtown yesterday [at the Barre car show], everybody was like ‘yeah we remember Dave!’.

While kicking off the 2011 season with a fourth place finish at his home track at Lee USA Speedway, Helliwell will to build off that success with a solid finish at Thunder Road this afternoon.

The 13th annual Merchants Bank 150 gets underway with a 1:30 post time. Class day and opening ceremonies begin at 1:00p.m. Over 40 stars and cars of the American-Canadian Tour will attempt to qualify for the 30-car field.