Dragon leads Sweet by just eight points entering 200-lap finale

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

BARRE – Thunder Road’s season long Late Model championship battle is down to a one race showdown.

Longtime driver Scott Dragon and two-time King of the Road Nick Sweet are separated by just eight points entering the 200-lap Labor Day Classic championship finale on Sunday at Thunder Road, an event both drivers feel they can win.

“I’ve been really excited about the 200 coming,” Dragon said. “I’ve been looking forward to that race. I was kind of hoping we’d be going into that race with a little bit more of a buffer on Nick, but it’s going to be fun.

“It’s going to be a showdown.”

“I believe Scott and myself are equally very good at 200s,” Sweet said. “He’s a very good long distance race car driver, as we usually are, too. I just have to find that little bit extra to have a good piece at the end of the race and capitalize on that win.

“If we win the race, everything else will fall where it has to fall.”

Dragon, of Milton, sits ahead of Sweet, but has seen his championship lead be cut by 27 points in the past two weeks.

“It always gets emphasized right at the end,” Sweet said. “We put ourselves in this situation in the middle of the season to be behind. But Scott’s team has done a very good job all year.

“They’ve finished well all year long and Scott is one heck of a race car driver. That team deserves to be in that position. On my race team, we’ve been off a little bit in the middle (of the season). But we’re coming on strong here at the end. We’ve got fast race cars and they’re at least watching us.”

“After (two weeks ago), it kind of woke me up a little bit,” Dragon said. “I realized that 35 points wasn’t really that much.

“I’m looking forward to the 200. I think we can beat him.”

The two drivers went head-to-head earlier this season in the Vermont Governor’s Cup 150 when Dragon made a last lap, last turn pass on Sweet to claim the win that saw the two drivers bang doors coming to the checkered flag. Both drivers are predicting that the Labor Day Classic 200 will come down between the two.

“That’s my kind of race,” Dragon said. “These 50 (lap races) are tough. I’ve always been able to, somehow, be around at the end of the long ones. That’s what we’ll do at Labor Day.

“And I’m sure Nick will be there, too. It’ll come down between the two of us.”

“I think it’s going to sell some tickets,” Sweet said. “I know if I was a race fan, I think the eyes will be on Scott and I for most of the race.

“I hope it’s up front and we’re duking it out making it a real short track race.”

Sunday’s 200-lap event will be run under Thunder Road handicapping rules. Down eight points, Sweet will need to gain two points on Dragon (Dragon holds the tiebreaking scenarios) in the heat races to make it a winner-takes-all should the two be racing for the win.

The race will not allow tire changes as each team will start the 200-lap event on four, new tires. The only tire strategy allowed would be if teams want to swap front and rear tires.

For Sweet, the three-time and defending Labor Day Classic race winner, it would be his third championship and make him the fifth driver to achieve three track championships, joining current ACT official Chuck Beede, Vermont Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, Cris Michaud, and reigning three-time champion Derrick O’Donnell.

For Dragon, he would join his father, Bobby Dragon, as a “King of the Road” and become the track’s 36th champion. Also for Dragon, the battle for the championship comes at the conclusion of his third season behind the wheel of the Richard Green Racing car and gives car owner Richard Green his first chance at a championship.

“For myself and for them, for Rick, the whole group. It’s been a lot of fun,” Dragon said. “These guys are awesome to work with. It would be super, wicked cool to win this.

“We’re going to win this thing.”

PHOTO: Scott Dragon (16) leads Nick Sweet (88) by just eight points entering the championship finale on Sunday in Thunder Road’s Labor Day Classic 200. (Alan Ward photo)