PHOTO: Chip Grenier picked up his first Thunder Road victory of the year on Thursday. (Leif Tillotson photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

BARRE — Chip Grenier has lost his fair share of races in 2011 at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl. The Graniteville racer’s biggest heartbreaker came during the Mid-Season Championship event, when he crashed out of the lead with eight laps remaining. It had been an up-and-down season, but Grenier was able to have the ultimate ‘up’ after taking the checkers for the first time in 2011 on Safelite Auto Glass Night Thursday.

Grenier started on the outside pole, taking the lead on lap 1 and never relinquishing it. However, Grenier faced multiple challenges on the race’s four restarts, first from Jeffersonville’s Joey Becker, and then from eventual runner-up Grant Folsom. Folsom, of Waitsfield, presented the largest challenge, battling side-by-side with Grenier for a few laps before Grenier retook control.

‘Joey and Grant both ran me clean,’ said Grenier. ‘[Folsom] could of [held me down], but I was actually turning really good off of turn 4. I was about as low as you would want to be without hitting the speed bumps. He could have tried to have held me down, but I would have fought back.’

The last few weeks have been tough for Grenier, who felt his car, owned by Gary and Kyle Caron, has been unable to get finishes that represent how well it has been running.

“It feels nice just to finish a race,” Grenier said. “It’s good to get Kyle and Gary a win. For me, it’s nice. I started to doubt myself. When we went tour racing three years ago, we were a top-ten driver when we left Thunder Road, [but] then we didn’t have much success on the tour. After we finished second a few weeks ago [at Thunder Road], we divebombed from there.”

Nick Sweet, of Barre, made a late charge to take third behind Folsom. Trampas Demers, of South Burlington, finished fourth after starting in the 16th, while Becker settled for fifth.

Cris Michaud was sixth. Dave Pembroke, who was tied for the points lead entering the night, finished seventh, handing him sole possession of the lead. Rookie Jimmy Hebert, last week’s winner Matt White, and Derek Ming completed the unofficial top ten.

John Donahue, who was tied for the points lead with Pembroke, broke a heim joint in the right-front suspension on a lap 30 restart, making contact with Mike Bailey and coming to a stop in turn 2. Donahue, unofficially, finished 24th.

In Tiger Sportsman action, Henniker N.H.’s Dylan Payea, a rookie, took the lead on a lap 20 restart from Blair Bessett, then held on for two ensuing restarts to claim his first career Thunder Road victory in the 35-lap feature.

Last week’s feature winner Shawn Fleury, of Middlesex, made a late race charge to finish second. Point leader Derrick O’Donnell, of Bradford, followed Fleury and made a charge of his own to nip Craftsbury Common’s Mike Martin for third. Bessett, of Worcester, held on for fifth.

Tommy ‘Thunder’ Smith of Williamstown led wire-to-wire to take his 22nd career Street Stock victory in a 25-lap feature. Jeff Martin, Jr., of Northfield finished second, while Tim Campbell of West Topsha finished third. Waitsfield’s Troy Kingsbury and point leader Nick Pilotte of Jefferson, N.H., completed the unofficial top five.

Paul Giacherio, Jr., was involved in a wreck while challenging Smith for the victory. Giacherio, of Washington, was working the outside of Smith on lap 20 as the two had to avoid the spun car of Brock Parrott. Giacherio’s car went off of turn 2 in mid-air, causing the car to flip. Giacherio was able to get out of the car on his, but was transported to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin for observation.

Waterbury’s Jason Woodard took home his fifth Junkyard Warrior victory of the season. Parrott, of Williamstown, rebounded from his spin to finish second. Morrisville’s Tommy Elwood was third.

Thunder Road is back in action on Sunday with the annual M&M Beverage Enduro 200 amateur race, plus a special event for Street Stocks and Warriors. Post time is 6:00pm.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Safelite Auto Glass Night
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Thursday, August 4, 2011

(# – denotes Rookie)

ACT Late Model (50 laps)
1. Chip Grenier, Graniteville
2. Grant Folsom, Waitsfield
3. Nick Sweet, Barre
4. Trampas Demers, South Burlington
5. Joey Becker, Jeffersonville
6. Cris Michaud, East Montpelier
7. Dave Pembroke, Montpelier
8. # Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
9. Matt White, Northfield
10. Derek Ming, Island Pond

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. # Dylan Payea, Henniker, N.H.
2. Shawn Fleury, Middlesex
3. Derrick O’Donnell, Bradford
4. Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
5. Blair Bessett, Worchester
6. Eric Badore, Milton
7. Matt Potter, Marshfield
8. Josh Demers, Middlesex
9. Mike Ziter, Williamstown
10. # Mike MacAskill, Williamstown

Allen Lumber Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior (25 laps)
1. Tommy Smith, Williamstown (SS)
2. Jeff Martin, Jr., Northfield (SS)
3. Tim Campbell, West Topsham (SS)
4. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield (SS)
5. Nick Pilotte, Jefferson, N.H. (SS)
6. Garry Bashaw, Lincoln (SS)
7. Jamie Davis, Wolcott (SS)
8. Greg Adams, Hardwick (SS)
9. Joe Fecteau, Hardwick (SS)
10. Dave Whitcomb, Elmore (SS)

23. Jason Woodard, Waterbury (JW)
24. Brock Parrott, Williamstown (JW)
25. Tommy Elwood, Morrisville (JW)