PHOTO: Nick Sweet and his Saint J Auto team became the first Thunder Road repeat winners of 2012 during the Fourth of July Holiday Special. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

Sweet first repeat winner of 2012; Allen wins on last lap pass; Barre trio sweep winners circle

–by T.J Ingerson

BARRE — Nick Sweet provided his own fireworks for the hometown crowd on the Fourth of July Special at Thunder Road on Tuesday night.

Sweet started the 50-lap Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Special in the 15th position and swiftly made his way into the top ten. Sweet restarted ninth on a lap 11 restart, and continued his forward progress from there.

The No. 88 Saint J Auto Buick of Sweet sat in the fourth position at the midway point and continued his rapid charge to the front, as he moved into the second position just four laps later, and began to reel in race leader Scott Payea.

Sweet continued to chase down the No. 89 of Payea, and caught him just 11 laps shy of the finish. Sweet wasted no time, as he jumped to the outside, took the lead on lap 41, and never looked back.

“That run tonight was fantastic,” Sweet said. “Everything just played perfectly. We hit the right traffic at the right time. The car was really fast and things just worked out really well for us. It was a really fun night. I’m just very blessed, very lucky to be in this situation. It was just a really good night.”

Although Sweet was a distant second with 20 laps remaining, he still felt he had a good chance at reeling in the veteran Payea.

“I was really searching to find a rhythm I could get into,” Sweet explained. “My dad is real good at telling me (lap times). 13.5’s and I never came out of them. And I just said at that the whole time and I just found a groove that worked.”

Defending Late Model champion Dave Pembroke, of Middlesex, was able to get by Payea, as well, after starting in the 11th position. Payea, of Milton, settled for third.

“(Sweet) just ran me down,” Payea said in victory lane. “My car was a little free towards the end.”

Graniteville’s Chip Grenier started in the fifth position and finished fourth after he battled for the lead early in the race. South Burlington’s Trampas Demers finished fifth. Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, Brett Wheeler, Cody Blake, Jamie Fisher, and Brent Dragon completed the top ten.

Joel Hodgdon appeared to have finally kicked the preverbal monkey-off-his-back and claimed his first Tiger Sportsman win of the year. That is, until Jason Allen made a heroic drive.

The hometown racer Allen started the 35-lap Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman feature in the 15th position and began to steadily climb to the front. Allen only benefitted from one caution flag, on lap 6, in which saw the young hotshoe restart in the 11th position.

Allen continued his steady march to the front, and sat just outside the top five at the midway point. Just eight laps shy of the checkers, Allen continued his charge toward the front as he moved to the outside of John Lambert for the third position.Allen didn’t miss a beat and continued that progress to the outside of leader Joel Hodgdon as the duo crossed under the white flag. Allen was able to nip Hodgdon, of Craftsbury, at the line to take his second career Tiger Sportsman victory.

“I think we did (have a chance to win),” Allen said about his 15th starting position. “I had a lot of confidence in the car. The last few weeks it has been fast. (My crew) has really put a good car under me. It’s a brand new car and we’re still trying to get used to it. This finally gets some confidence under my belt and now I think I know what to do.”

Allen never missed a beat after he jumped to the outside of Lambert and continued that progress to the race win.

“I knew Joel would run me clean,” Allen said. “Joel is a good friend and we ran nice and clean. I knew if I could get my bite off of turn four, we’d have a shot. I actually got free out of four, but luckily he did too. And we were able to pull it off.”

Lambert, of Northfield, took home third, while Randy Gonyaw, of South Barre, was fourth. Rookie Jason Woodard, of Waterbury Center, finished fifth.

Ron Gabaree of Barre secured a wire-to-wire Allen Lumber Street Stock win after second place finisher William Hennequin got tangled up in lap traffic. Morrisville’s Hennequin had been rapidly catching Gabaree before he fell back shortly before the checkered flag flew. Bob Eldred, of Waterbury, finished third, while former champion Gary Mullen and rookie Kevin Dodge completed the top five.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Special
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

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

ACT Late Models (50 laps)
1. Nick Sweet, Barre
2. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
3. Scott Payea, Milton
4. Chip Grenier, Graniteville
5. Trampas Demers, South Burlington
6. Phil Scott, Berlin
7. Brett Wheeler, Waterbury
8. Cody Blake, Barre
9. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
10. Brent Dragon, Milton

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsmen (35 laps)
1. Jason Allen, Barre
2. Joel Hodgdon, Craftsbury
3. John Lambert, Northfield
4. Randy Gonyaw, South Barre
5. # Jason Woodard, Waterbury Center
6. Eric Badore, Milton
7. Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
8. # Chris Roberts, Washington
9. Shawn Fleury, Middlesex
10. David Finck, Barre

Allen Lumber Street Stocks (25 laps)
1. Ron Gabaree, Barre
2. William Hennequin, Morrisville
3. Bob Eldred, Waterbury
4. Gary Mullen, Tunbridge
5. # Kevin Dodge, Barre
6. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield
7. Jamie Davis, Wolcott
8. # Justin Town, East Barre
9. # Kevin Wheatley, Brookfield
10. Nick Pilotte, Jefferson, N.H.