PHOTO: Brian Hoar drove Cris Michaud’s No. 6 Merchants Bank Ford to a top-ten finish at Thunder Road Sunday. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

–by Ricky St. Clair

BARRE — Brian Hoar was in the race on Sunday afternoon at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, but he wasn’t in the drivers seat of his Rick Paya-owned No. 37 Goss Dodge-Chrysler/RPM Racing Engines Dodge. Instead, the seven-time American-Canadian Tour champion played the role of relief driver and was inside the cockpit of Cris Michaud’s No. 6 Merchants Bank/Burrell Roofing Ford for the CARQUEST Vermont Governor’s Cup 100.

‘Cris had some commitments this weekend after the rainout from Thursday night,’ Hoar said before the race. ‘He just called me Thursday and said ‘Hey, there is a good chance I’m not going to be able to make it’. I guess his daughter [was] in a hockey tournament. I just want to keep the car in one piece and see if we can go have a good run for them.’

As Thunder Road’s relief driver rules dictate, Hoar started last in the 30-car field. However, Hoar charged his way to the twelfth position on the racetrack after a lap 79 yellow and after all was said and done collected a sixth-place finish.

“That was an awesome run,” an elated Hoar said in the garage area at the conclusion of the 100-lap event. “To come out of here with a sixth-place finish, oh my goodness that was phenomenal.”

Hoar noted that he and the Michaud team were uncertain of what the car was capable of doing before feature time.

“It was just a simple matter of let’s see what we’ve got,” Hoar said. “We’re starting dead last and if we have to pit to make an adjustment we can go from there. The car came to us throughout the event. It was really good. A lot of cars were getting real free out there, but this Merchants Bank car was going.”

Hoar had a lucky break on lap 84 when half of the field slowed down in anticipation for a yellow flag for a three-car spin in turn three.

“I saw the car that spun,” Hoar stated. “I’m coming off turn two and I could see him get going. My spotter said, ‘It’s still green, it’s still green’. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was able to gain three or four spots right there. So, that was a big deal.”

Interestingly enough, Michaud did eventually make it to the race track to watch his car and relief driver earn a hard-fought top ten finish.

“I guess he’s here. He doesn’t have a pit pass, but I guess he watched most of it,” Hoar chuckled before leaving the racetrack on Sunday.

Hoar’s next stop will be on Saturday, July 9 at Twin State Speedway in Paya’s car for the sixth event on the American-Canadian Tour schedule. The 30-time ACT feature winner currently holds a 49-point lead over Granetville’s John Donahue in the overall standings.