PHOTO: Jason Corliss earned his first Thunder Road win of the season in a hard-fought Tiger Sportsman feature on Thursday. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

Michaud returns to Late Model winner’s circle

BARRE — Thunder Road’s youth movement took another step forward on Thursday night as 23 year-old Jason Corliss of Danville and Hyde Park’s Tucker Williams, 19 years old for another week, split victories in a Tiger Sportsman doubleheader on FairPoint Communications Night.

Williams opened the event with a victory in the rescheduled CARQUEST feature rained out last Sunday. Williams’ No. 17 Riverview Garage/Clarkson University Chevrolet rode in third place behind front-row starters Corliss and Mike Billado in the early stages of the 35-lap feature before rocketing into the lead on lap 17. Williams stretched out to a healthy lead before Joe Steffen reeled him in in the final circuits, but held on for his second win in three starts.

Grand Isle veteran Steffen, the 2002 Sportsman champion, finished second. Hinesburg’s Bobby Therrien drove a car borrowed from brother Tom from 11th at the start to take third place, with Pete Ainsworth and Jason Allen in tow. Corliss, who started second, faded to sixth, followed by Billado, Eric Badore, Chris Pelkey, and Mike Ziter.

The second feature was a hard-fought affair, paced in the first half by rookie Mike MacAskill of Williamstown and Burlington’s Shannon Tomasovich. The pair ran door-to-door for the first 16 laps before Tomasovich took the lead at lap 17. Corliss waited for Tomasovich — whose car drifted in and out of lanes throughout the race — to make a mistake, while fending off a closing Matt Potter.

Tomasovich opened the inside lane on lap 23 and Corliss filled the gap. The two made contact that sent Tomasovich into a slide, and Corliss was forced to muscle his No. 61 Hutchins Roofing/Lucky Day Ice Chevrolet into Tomasovich’s car to keep both machines straight and on the race track. Potter drove around the outside of the fracas to lead laps 24 and 25, but Corliss came back to take the lead on lap 26 and drive to the win.

“[Tomasovich] is a very aggressive driver,” Corliss said. “He was pretty tight and he would push up in the corners so I was just kind of laying back and letting a couple laps tick down, hoping his car would fade away. Sure enough, he gave me a big opening and I timed it just right. I got underneath him and he kept coming down. I lifted enough for him to keep him straight, but I figured I was up to his door so I had the spot.”

For Corliss, who was the 2008 Street Stock champion and the 2010 Tiger Sportsman Rookie of the Year at Thunder Road, the victory was his first of the season and second of his career in the division. Potter finished second with Middlesex driver Ainsworth third. Derrick O’Donnell and Brendan Moodie were fourth and fifth, respectively. Badore, Therrien, Tony Rossi, Shawn Fleury, and MacAskill completed the unofficial top ten.

Tomasovich faded to finish 13th. Williams was never a factor and finished 23rd.

Cris Michaud of East Montpelier scored the 17th Late Model win of his career in convincing fashion, leading all but two circuits of the 50-lap FairPoint feature. Michaud’s No. 6 Merchants Bank/Burrell Roofing Ford started on the pole position of the 26-car feature and moved into the lead after outside polesitter Cody Blake nosed ahead for the first lap. The race’s fourth and final restart allowed Jamie Fisher to lead lap 34 by inches on the outside, but Michaud took the lead for good one lap later.

Sophomore Barre driver Blake and former champion Fisher, of Shelburne, battled hard for the runner-up position for the next ten laps; Fisher took the spot on lap 45 and held it for his best finish of the season. Blake, 19, took third for his best career finish. Northfield’s Matt White won a tight battle for fourth place over Jamie Aube and Nick Sweet. John Donahue, Mike Bailey, Eric Chase, and rookie Jimmy Hebert completed the top ten.

“The way our year has been going, I really didn’t [think this would happen],” Michaud said. Michaud’s victory snapped a season-long stretch of misfortune in which the three-time champion had just one other finish inside the top 20. American-Canadian Tour driver Brian Hoar drove Michaud’s car to a sixth-place finish in last Sunday’s 100-lap Governor’s Cup event; Michaud said Hoar’s help — and a crash on June 19 — made the difference.

“That crash we had a couple weeks ago was actually a blessing. Somebody worked on the car for us at the beginning of the year, and we went back to our notes and there were some things backwards and something wasn’t where it was supposed to be. We fixed it, and then Brian, the good friend that he is, stepped in for us which really helped us.”

Michaud said drawing from Hoar’s experience as a seven-time ACT champion set his team on the right course.

“Brian doesn’t hide anything. He told the guys what the car was doing, he was very honest with us and I just appreciate him stepping in so much,” Michaud said. “He helped the guys, he helped us with a few things that he would do, and we did them and it continued over to this week. We went a little bit more on some stuff, a little bit less on some stuff for my driving style and it worked out.”

Dan Lathrop of Hyde Park earned his first career victory in the 25-lap Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior feature. Lathrop, an airline pilot, survived a late restart after a red flag for a hard crash on the frontstretch involving Tim Campbell, Joe Blais, and Keith Lord. No drivers were seriously injured; Campbell was transported to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin for observation but later released.

Rookie Ken Christman of Cabot finished second with Hardwick’s Greg Adams, Jr., third. Ron Gabaree and Nick Pilotte rounded out the unofficial top five.

Jason Woodard of Waterbury took his second-straight win as the highest Warrior driver in the field; Woodard crossed the finish line in 13th place. Williamstown racers Kevin Wheatley and Brock Parrott were next in line.

Thunder Road’s next event is Monday, July 4 as Pepsi presents a full card of racing and the track’s annual Independence Day fireworks celebration. Racing begins at 6:30pm.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — FairPoint Communications Night
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, June 30, 2011

(# – denotes rookie)

ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Cris Michaud, East Montpelier
2. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
3. Cody Blake, Barre
4. Matt White, Northfield
5. Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburg
6. Nick Sweet, Barre
7. John Donahue, Graniteville
8. Mike Bailey, South Barre
9. Eric Chase, Milton
10. # Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman (35 laps — CARQUEST feature)
1. Tucker Williams, Hyde Park
2. Joe Steffen, Grand Isle
3. Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg
4. Pete Ainsworth, Jr., Middlesex
5. Jason Allen, Barre
6. Jason Corliss, Danville
7. Mike Billado, Essex
8. Eric Badore, Milton
9. Chris Pelkey, South Barre
10. Mike Ziter, Williamstown

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman (35 laps — FairPoint feature)
1. Jason Corliss, Danville
2. Matt Potter, Marshfield
3. Pete Ainsworth, Jr., Middlesex
4. Derrick O’Donnell, Bradford
5. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
6. Eric Badore, Milton
7. Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg
8. Tony Rossi, Peacham
9. Shawn Fleury, Middlesex
10. # Mike MacAskill, Williamstown

Allen Lumber Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior (25 laps)
1. Dan Lathrop, Hyde Park (SS)
2. # Ken Christman, Cabot (SS)
3. Greg Adams, Jr., Hardwick (SS)
4. Ron Gabaee, Barre (SS)
5. Nick Pilotte, Jefferson, N.H. (SS)
6. Jamie Davis, Wolcott (SS)
7. Sid Sweet, Jr., Williamstown (SS)
8. Alex Whitcomb, Montpelier (SS)
9. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield (SS)
10. Dave Whitcomb, Elmore (SS)

13. Jason Woodard, Waterbury (JW)
14. Kevin Wheatley, Williamstown (JW)
15. Brock Parrott, Williamstown (JW)