Area drivers return for season opener

BARRE Thunder Road International Speedbowl will open its 2008 stock car racing season with the Tenth Annual Merchants Bank 150 on the weekend of May 3-4. The Merchants Bank 150 is the third round of the American-Canadian Tour Late Model Championship schedule, and is the lid-lifter for Thunder Roads regular NAPA Tiger Sportsman, Allen Lumber Street Stock, and Power Shift Online Junkyard Warrior divisions. This season marks the Barre ovals 49th year as the Nations Site of Excitement. Festivities kick off with the annual Merchants Bank Car Show on Main Street in downtown Barre City at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 3. The show features racing machines from all four divisions, a Pit Stop Contest, and a two-mile parade to the race track beginning at noon. Practice sessions start at 1 p.m. The Sunday, May 4 schedule begins with practice at 11 a.m., followed by the popular Class Day ceremony at 1 p.m. More than 100 race cars will file into the Thunder Road infield for presentation, and Thunder Roads 2007 champions, Dave Pembroke (Late Model), Nick Sweet (Sportsman), Bobby Therrien (Street Stock), and Bunker Hodgdon (Warrior), will be honored as their battle flags are raised in the Forsythe Hill seating area in Turn 3. Scott Payea of Milton wrestled his first career ACT Late Model Tour victory away from cross-town rival Jean-Paul Cyr at last years Merchants Bank 150. Payea passed Cyr with 58 laps remaining to score the win. Cyr, the seven-time and defending ACT Champion, has won the Merchants Bank 150 three times in 2002, 2004, and 2006. Maines Ron Henry scored a career-best runner-up finish behind Payea last year, ahead of Cyr, Thunder Road standout Trampas Demers of South Burlington, and five-time ACT Champion Brian Hoar of Williston. Hometown driver Sweet began his Sportsman championship season with a victory in his divisions feature race, while Danvilles Bruce Melendy and Dale Bickford of Lyndonville scored career-first wins in the Street Stock and Warrior divisions, respectively.

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