BARRE — The ink may not be fully dried yet on the paperwork, but Thunder Road will open its doors this weekend with new leadership for the first time in over 35 years.

One half of the new leadership, Cris Michaud, was introduced to a gathering of media on Thursday in Barre.

“We’re very honored (former owners) Ken (Squier) and Tom (Curley) chose us,” Michaud said. “Very proud. The pride that (co-owner) Pat (Malone) and I have for this place is just immense.”

Squier gave some insight on the long process to the sale of Thunder Road.

“We knew what we wanted,” Squier detailed. “We knew we wanted something that stayed Barre. We wanted people that cared about the sport…and that’s a lot more than just selling tickets.

“What did work was someone that was here, that had grown up at Thunder Road and understood some of the parameters of this race track that others do not have.”

Michaud offered detail how he began going to Thunder Road at five years of age.

“Growing up, I used to sit on Bud Hill,” Michaud said. “I remember getting out of the car when the cars were practicing and the hair on my neck stood up.”

Michaud began racing at age 29 and moved up through the ladder system to become a Milk Bowl winner and multi-time “King of the Road”. After a work accident left him sidelined, Michaud traded his helmet for a headset and worked under the guidance of Curley in race control.

“I started working for Tom, ACT, and Ken at Thunder Road and learned how to race direct,” Michaud explained. “I got a passion for that, believe it or not because it is a thankless job sometimes.

“But at the end of the night, I had a lot of pride.”

Michaud stated that work had already begun on walkway improvements with an eye on additional minor changes to help enhance the fan and competitor experiences, but also keeping the tradition and competitiveness of Thunder Road intact.

“On the racing side, the competitors and fans, I was brought up in Tom and Ken’s system and I believe in that, totally,” Michaud explained. “People aren’t going to see rule changes like a lot of people do when they purchase a track and make all these changes.

“This has been going great for 58 years, so why change it?”

For Squier, it was the end of an era that began back in 1960 when he first opened the doors to the quarter-mile oval on Quarry Hill.

“This is a big day for us,” Squier said. “We’ve been considering and spending a lot of time speaking to folks about the continuation of Thunder Road. And I guess I never really knew how Barre felt about it.

“It is more than a race track. It is part of the community.”

Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon echoed Squier’s statements.

“If you think about what makes Barre Barre, there is such a huge sense of community,” he said. “(Thunder Road is) just a huge part of our community experience.”

Both Squier and Lauzon gave support and a vote of confidence to Michaud and Malone.

“You guys are going to be successful because you are both dedicated to Central Vermont,” Lauzon said. “You understand how much that track means to these people.”

“I think that with Cris (Michaud) and Mr. (Pat) Malone, they cut their teeth up there,” Squier said. “(And now) they’ve taken over the entire operation and I think you’re going to see it thrive.”

PHOTO: New Thunder Road co-owner Cris Michaud speaks at a press conference on Thursday in Barre. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)