–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
VMM Editor

BARRE — Richard Green has dedicated nearly a third of his life to owning race cars at Thunder Road. After Sunday, he can finally call himself a champion.

The 61-year-old from Enosburg Falls watched his driver, Scott Dragon, capture the 2016 Thunder Road track championship on Sunday afternoon by one point over Nick Sweet.

“I’m pretty speechless right now” Green said after Sunday’s Labor Day Classic 200. “It’s been a lot of work and a lot of hard night. A lot of 18th place finishes. A lot of almost theres.

“And finally we put it all together.”

Green’s history has been well documented, beginning in the Tiger Sportsman with Dave Wilcox before moving up to the Late Model ranks. After a few seasons, Joey Becker stepped behind the wheel of Green’s ride and had been the pilot until the beginning of the 2014 season, when he stepped out in favor of Dragon.

“We got a crew for the ages with Joe Becker, Brendan Pease, all the guys,” Green said. “Scotty, you can see what kind of wheelman he is. He didn’t have the greatest car (on Sunday) and didn’t have a car for Nick, but we had enough to get into second and that’s all we needed to do.”

Sweet grabbed the lead early in the 200-lap season finale, which placed Dragon in a spot to be forced to finish in the second spot to claim the championship. Inside ten laps remaining, Dragon sat one spot out behind Tyler Cahoon.

Richard Green (right) celebrates the team's Thunder Road Late Model "King of the Road" championship with driver Scott Dragon (left) on Sunday afternoon. (Alan Ward photo)“To say I was calm would be an understatement. I was nervous as a cat,” Green said, who also serves as the team’s spotter. “When he got to Tyler (Cahoon), I said ‘Tyler’s slowing down, you’ve got to find a way to get around him’. Then with 10 (laps) to go, I said ‘okay, now you’ve got to do it. Do whatever you have to do. Get under him, get outside of him, do whatever you got to do. You’re better than he is.’

“Eight to go, (Dragon) got underneath him and stuck it. When I cleared him with five (laps) to go, I knew it was pretty much in the bag when we drove away from Tyler as long as lapped car didn’t mess us up.”

For Green, putting Becker in his Late Model in 2003 began something more that has lasted for over a decade.

“Most of these guys have been with me 13 years,” Green said. “They’ve been with me through thick and thin. When Joey (Becker) decided to get out of the car and we put Scott (Dragon) in, we knew we had something then and we just had to show it. We gelled together.

“I just thank them from the bottom of my heart. They spend a lot of late nights up in that shop in Enosburg putting this (car) together after good nights and bad nights. They just work their tail off for nothing and it all came together.

“We haven’t said a cross word in three, four years. Scotty is as good of a driver for just getting out of the car and saying ‘this what is what you got guys’ and we fix it and move on. We are best of friends off the track, best of friends on the track. We do everything together. It just works well. The whole team is a bunch of great guys.”

Green has experienced his fair share of ups and downs in racing at Thunder Road. On Sunday, he experienced his greatest up.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know if I’ll come down for a few days,” Green said. It’s just one of those feelings that you can’t recreate unless you do it.”

1 – Richard Green (right) and Scott Dragon (left) share an embrace following their championship winning race on Sunday afternoon at Thunder Road. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)
2 – Richard Green (right) celebrates the team’s Thunder Road Late Model “King of the Road” championship with driver Scott Dragon (left) on Sunday afternoon. (Alan Ward photo)