PHOTO: Blair Bessett celebrates his first career victory in his 34-year career after winning the Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen feature at Thunder Road. (Alan Ward photo)

Smith Extends Win Record

–by T.J. Ingerson

BARRE — Most drivers in racing that have a thirty-four career have many accolades. They have visited victory lane many times, trophies are usually packed away in every corner of the house. Most drivers who don’t visit victory lane often give up before they do.

But not Blair Bessett. In his 34 year career, the Worcester racer had yet to visit victory lane. But he never gave up. And on Sunday at Thunder Road, he was finally rewarded with his first career victory.

“[My first race] was in 1978 in the six-cylinder Grand American division. I actually had a four-cylinder Pontiac engine,” said Bessett. “In 1981, I bought a car from Bobby Dragon and went to NASCAR North. Though I was kickin’ butt; that’s where I wanted to go. When I was 21-years-old, I had a seventh place finish in the CRC 300 at Catamount [Speedway]. It was like a taste of what could happen.”

Before his victory on Sunday, Bessett’s best finish was a third place finish in Late Model competition at Thunder Road. And despite being winless, his desire never wavered.

“It still bothers me to watch races on tv because I want to be out there,” Bessett said. “I’m just hungry. I was hungry for this. We have a good car, we have a good team. And that’s really the factor. It’s not the car, it’s everybody around it. You have to have all those pieces. If you don’t, you can’t do it.”

Bessett had the near perfect race in Sunday’s 35-lap Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman feature. He was hardly challenged, and easily pulled away from the second place finisher after the races final restart. The gentleman Bessett was greeted by many fellow drivers as his car went through tech.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Bessett said. “It seems surreal, like it hasn’t really happened. It’s just one 35-lap race, but I remember when I qualified fourth fastest in the ’92 Milk Bowl, in front of Junior Hanley and Robbie Crouch, I said the same thing, ‘it was just two laps.’ You have to appreciate it when it happens. I’m happy.”

Scott Coburn of Barre finished second and Chris Pelkey of South Barre finished third. Second year racer Kyle Pembroke, of Montpelier, and the veteran Joe Steffen, of Grand Isle, completed the top five.

Mike Martin, Dylan Payea, George May, Josh Demers, and Matt Potter finished sixth through tenth.

Tommy Smith of Williamstown put another win in between himself and David Allen in the all-time Allen Lumber Street Stock career wins by winning the 25-lap feature event. Smith, better known as Tommy “Thunder”, started fourth in the 30-car field and quickly worked his way to the lead, never surrendering it. Garry Bashaw, of Lincoln, took advantage of a late race restart to finish second, as did Hardwick’s Bunker Hodgdon, who finished third. Groveton, N.H.’s Jason Kennison and Morrisville’s Dan Lathrop completed the top five.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Merchants Bank Day
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pos.-Driver-Hometown
(# – denotes rookie)

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen (35-laps)
1. Blair Bessett, Worchester
2. Scott Coburn, Barre
3. Chris Pelkey, South Barre
4. Kyle Pembroke, Montpelier
5. Joe Steffen, Grand Isle
6. Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
7. Dylan Payea, Henniker, N.H.
8. George May, Barre
9. Josh Demers, Middlesex
10. Matt Potter, Marshfield

Allen Lumber Street Stocks (25-laps)
1. Tommy Smith, Williamstown
2. Garry Bashaw, Lincoln
3. Bunker Hodgdon, Hardwick
4. Jason Kenison, Groveton, N.H.
5. Dan Lathrop, Morrisville
6. # Dean Switser, Jr., Lyndonville
7. Ben Belanger, Whitefield, N.H.
8. Nick Pilotte, Jefferson, N.H.
9. Dave Whitcomb, Elmore
10. Danny Doyle, Hancock