PHOTO: Derrick O’Donnell salutes his fans after winning the Tiger Sportsman feature at Thunder Road on Sunday. (Alan Ward photo)

Giacherio, Wheatley take opening day wins

BARRE — A lot of athletes talk a big game, but few are able to back it up with results.

At Thunder Road, Derrick O’Donnell walked every bit of his talk.

The Bradford driver predicted on Sunday morning that he would win the 35-lap feature event for the Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman division during the Merchants Bank 150 opening day program. By the end of the afternoon, he’d proven himself right.

In fact, O’Donnell was perfect on the day, taking first-place honors in the annual car show before sweeping his qualifying heat and the main event. From 17th starting position, he took the lead late in the race and cruised to the win.

“The car had been pretty good all weekend,” O’Donnell said. “We changed a bunch of stuff [Sunday] morning and we were good enough to work our way up through. There were a couple little mishaps out there that helped us get up through quicker than normal, and in the end it paid off.”

Now in his fifth season racing Tiger Sportsman cars, O’Donnell’s win was the fifth of his career and his fourth at Thunder Road; all of his checkered flags have come since June 2010. He says studying his competitors has helped him become a better racer.

“I’ve just got enough experience now coming up through traffic and watching some of the veterans do it,” O’Donnell said. “When I was a rookie, I remember watching some of the veterans like Matt White weave [their] way up through. I thought it was crazy, but I’m just learning it all from them, I guess.”

Sophomore driver Jason Allen of Barre finished a career-best second to O’Donnell, with Pete Ainsworth, Jr., of Middlesex in third. Mike Martin of Craftsbury Common was fourth and Joey Roberts of Georgia was fifth. The top ten was completed by Shawn Fleury, Jason Corliss, Scott Coburn, Bobby Therrien, and George May.

Paul Giacherio, Jr., of Washington earned a popular first career win in the 25-lap Allen Lumber Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior feature. Giacherio became a Thunder Road cult hero for driving his bread delivery truck in spectator races several years ago. Former Street Stock champion Gary Mullen of Tunbridge was the runner-up, with Afghanistan war veteran M.C. Ingram of Essex Junction third. Joe Fecteau and Tom Placey rounded out the top five.

Kevin Wheatley of Williamstown crossed the finish line in 17th place as the top Warrior driver, followed by Brock Parrott, Jason Woodard, Fred Schroeder, and Paul Grant.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Merchants Bank 150
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl — Barre, Vt.
Sunday, May 1, 2011

(# – denotes rookie)

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Derrick O’Donnell, Bradford
2. Jason Allen, Barre
3. Pete Ainsworth, Jr., Middlesex
4. Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
5. Joey Roberts, Georgia
6. Shawn Fleury, Middlesex
7. Jason Corliss, Danville
8. Scott Coburn, South Barre
9. Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg
10. George May, Barre

Allen Lumber Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior (25 laps)
1. Paul Giacherio, Jr., Washington (SS)
2. Gary Mullen, Tunbridge (SS)
3. M.C. Ingram, Essex Junction (SS)
4. Joe Fecteau, Hardwick (SS)
5. Tom Placey, Bradford (SS)
6. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield (SS)
7. Nick Pilotte, Jefferson, N.H. (SS)
8. Garry Bashaw, Lincoln (SS)
9. Greg Adams, Jr., Hardwick (SS)
10. Jen Getty, Cambridge (SS)

17. Kevin Wheatley, Williamstown (JW)
18. Brock Parrott, Williamstown (JW)
20. Jason Woodard, Waterbury (JW)
21. Fred Schroeder, Bristol (JW)
23. Paul Grant, East Calais (JW)