PHOTO: Tucker Williams etched his name in the Tiger Sportsman win column at Thunder Road on Thursday night. (Alan Ward photo)

Mayor Lauzon appreciative of T-Road effort; Street Stock tempers flare

Tucker Williams wrote the first page in a new chapter of his family’s racing history book at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in Barre on Thursday evening. The Hyde Park driver, who turns 20 years old next month, earned a Tiger Sportsman victory after fending of veteran George May on Ferguson Waterworks Night. Williams’ win is his first in a division that his father Eric dominated in the early 1990s.

Eric Williams swept four Tiger championships in 1994 including track titles at Thunder Road and Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and has since gone on to Late Model victories in the Vermont Milk Bowl and Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200, along with the 2008 “King of the Road” crown.

Tucker, it seems, is a chip off the old block. He’s won more than a dozen races in four-cylinder competition at White Mountain Motorsports Park, Riverside Speedway, and Thunder Road — including his first-ever start at the Barre track — won twice in his Tiger at White Mountain last summer, and Thursday picked up his first Tiger win at Thunder Road.

Tucker Williams says he acknowledges the fact that as his father begins to race less frequently, Tucker will carry the family flag at the race track. It’s a role he’s not entirely comfortable with yet, but can accept.

“It’s weird because I’ve been [around racing] since I was little. Everyone who knows my dad knows me,” Tucker says. “I feel awkward sometimes because people say ‘Hey Tucker, how ya doing?’ and I don’t know their name. It’s pretty rude [on my part] I think, but people know him and they’ve known me from when I was [little]. I guess I’m ready. I’ve kinda got to be.”

With that comes a bit of inherited contempt from the grandstands; Eric Williams and his “Sea of Red” fan club are among the least popular people in Thunder Road history. Boos rain down on Eric after every victory, and have been for years. Tucker has received a bit of that treatment simply because of his last name, but says it doesn’t bother him.

“I’ve heard a couple [boos] here and there, but I don’t even really pay attention to it anyway. Most of that is from fan rivalry, it’s not really a driver thing anyway,” said Tucker, who received mostly cheers after Thursday night’s win. But he says even if he is the second-generation heel and inherits his father’s detractors, he’s okay with it. “If I get anything from him I’d be happy with it, because he’s had a hell of a career. Anything that I could be compared to him in is something to be proud of, I think.”

The respect Eric and Tucker Williams have for each is clear. As Tucker collected his trophy, Eric beamed his trademark grin in the background. The smile stayed on his face all the way through post-race inspection.

“I’m real proud, but not just as a racer,” Eric Williams said of his son, noting that Tucker just missed a perfect 4.0 grade point average at Clarkson University this year. “He’s a good kid, he’s been an easy kid to raise. Send him off four hours away and it’s a whole new adjustment. It’s a tough school, it’s not a place to go and goof off, you’re there to work. He’s back this summer working a couple part-time jobs, so I’m proud of him for everything.”

Thunder Road promoter Tom Curley asked Eric if watching Tucker race was more fun than being on the track himself.

“It’s a little more nerve-wracking,” Eric chuckled. “I had to go get my sweater before the race because I was cold, and halfway through it I had to roll my sleeves up. That’s pretty bad, ain’t it? You get nervous, you know? I just want him to do good.”

Doing well isn’t something Tucker did on a regular basis last year. Eric admitted that he hadn’t grasped how much the Tiger division had changed from the days when he ran more than 40 races a year.

“It probably is a lot tougher now than it was when I was there,” he said. “I way underestimated how well-built and how evolved these cars were. I felt kind of bad about it because I felt like I kind of hung Tucker out to dry, but also on the flip side, he had a pretty fast [Street Stock] car the year before. I work with [Michigan chassis builder] Chas Howe, and he told me Mike Eddy built his son a car and he built it so fast the kid never learned how to drive. So I said, ‘Well, we’ll let him hang it out there a little,’ and I just let him hang it out a little too far.”

“Street Stock wins were awesome, but this is kind of different. They’re real race cars,” Tucker said. “Not that Street Stocks aren’t, but it was a steep learning curve for me. Right off the bat we had success in the Street Stock. I appreciated it, but I appreciate this more just because we kind of sucked for a little while. We worked on the car over the winter and it paid off. It’s going to be a fun rest of the season I think.”

“The racing is just a hobby, nothing more, nothing less,” Eric said. “Obviously we work hard at it and want to do good and feel good when we do. I’m proud he didn’t choke and spin out or something. It takes a lot to be here racing at Thunder Road as a 19 year-old kid. I don’t care what you’ve got.”


Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon was in attendance at Thunder Road on Thursday in support of the free admission and fundraiser that promoters Tom Curley and Ken Squier offered to Barre residents after the recent devastating floods in the area.

“Absolutely. What a great thing for Tom and Ken to do. I’m so grateful. That’s the great thing about this — everyone does their part,” Lauzon said. “Tom and Ken are race promoters, and they had some free racing to offer, and it’s so nice that they could help the people of central Vermont. Quite frankly, we all need a break from the mud, so it’s nice to be here, high up on the hill, no mud in sight, and watching some great racing.”

While the crowd was large, it was still a bit down for a Thursday season opener at Thunder Road. Lauzon said the only reason was because of local high school graduations held the same night. Spirits of residents were raised by the offer from Thunder Road, which was originally scheduled for last Sunday but was postponed, if somewhat ironically, by rain.

Lauzon said it was worth the wait.

“Look at the weather, not a cloud in the sky — well, one small one — but it’s absolutely worth the wait,” he said. “And if it had kept flooding we would have raced canoes. One way or another, when it’s summer time in central Vermont, we’re gonna have racing.”


The Street Stock division had a wild night on Thursday with two major late-race crashes and contact that resulted in leaders Tommy “Thunder” Smith and Al Maynard being sent to the rear of the field with four laps to go.

Williamstown driver Smith, the all-time victory leader in the division with 20 wins, led from the outset of the 25-lap feature, but Fairfax driver Maynard chased him down in the late laps.

Smith’s car got out of shape coming out of Turn 4 to complete lap 21, and the two made contact as Smith came up the track, lifting Maynard’s tires off the ground as he tried to avoid the frontstretch wall. Maynard made a crossover move from the far outside lane to the inside exiting Turn 2 a half-lap later, but they made contact a second time, sending Smith into a spin and bringing out the caution flag. Both drivers were sent to the rear for the restart and reportedly had a heated discussion in the pit area following the race.

“I was cool with finishing second to Tommy Thunder. The guy has more laps around here than anyone, there’s no shame in finishing second to him,” said Maynard. “I was actually thinking about my victory lane speech and I was thinking about how much respect I had for him. That’s out the window now. Here’s a question: Why would I dump him out of the lead on purpose, knowing that I go to the rear too? He tried to put me in the wall, then he came down on me when I went under him. It was dumb.”

Smith didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t agree at all. He came down the straightaway and he was pounding on me, and he goes in the corner and just plain dumps me,” Smith said. “I think he’s a moron. I hope you put that in there. He’s just a moron. He can’t drive clean at all. Even in practice he was hitting everybody. He needs to retire and go home.”

Maynard finished 22nd, Smith pulled off the track and was scored 29th.

The Smith-Maynard incident set up a wild finish that saw two major accidents in the final four laps. Joe Fecteau of Hardwick and Riverside Speedway champion Ben Belanger of Whitefield, N.H., crashed in Turn 1, sending Fecteau’s car sailing through the air off the top of the race track before a hard landing, while Belanger hit the wall. The distance Fecteau traveled in mid-air was estimated at 35-40 feet, at about five feet off the ground. While neither driver was reported to be seriously injured, Fecteau was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin for observation.

A multi-car wreck as the checkered flag waved also left the cars of Tom Placey, Alex Whitcomb, and Kevin Dodge badly damaged. None of the drivers were injured.

Ron Gabaree of Barre beat Wolcott’s Jamie Davis in a photo finish for his first win of the season.