Champions Flocking To 38th Milk Bowl

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus

The Granddaddy of them all is less than a week away.

Officials of the American Canadian Tour (ACT) have announced the posting of a $46,000 purse for the New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl, to be held this weekend at Barre’s Thunder Road. Originally scheduled as the ACT Dodge Tour finale, the 38th Milk Bowl is nowthe 14th of 15 events in the Series, following the postponement of Airborne Raceway's Fall Foliage 200 until October 6 and 7.

This weekend’s Milk Bowl champion will earn a minimum of $3,000 - in addition to the customary “bovine bussing” in Victory Lane -- but that total can double, or even triple, based on lap-leader bonuses, lap sponsorship monies, sponsor contingency awards and the Twin 50 qualifying events thatl follow time trails on the Saturday portion of the card. Phil Scott, last year’s Milk Bowl champion, earned over $8500 with his second career Milk Bowl victory.

This year’s qualifying procedure should add even more spice to an already tasty Milk Bowl stew. After Sunday’s the front row is determined through the traditional time trails, starting positions 3-18 on the 24 car grid will be determined a pair of 50-lap qualifying features. Four additional starting slots will be awarded to the four fastest time-trial cars not already qualified, with the final two positions determined in Sunday's "Last Chance" qualifier. Jamie Fisher of Shelburne, VT enters the Milk Bowl with a 42-point advantage over newly-crowned Thunder Road Late Model Champion Cris Michaud (1122-1080). Former track champion Pete Fecteau trails Michaud by seven points, and leads fourth place Dwayne Lanphear by 14.

More than 50 Late Model Milk Bowl entries are expected to compete for a spot in the 38th annual Milk Bowl field, including defending Milk Bowl king Phil Scott, 2000 Track Champion Tracie Bellerose, former Airborne Raceway champion Mike Bruno, and Canadian star Karl Allard.

You can also add Bobby Dragon's name to the list of Milk Bowl hopefuls. The former Thunder Road Champion and 1972 Milk Bowl winner will pilot Lee Delphia’s Aubuchon Hardware/Delphia Construction Chevrolet Monte Carlo in this weekend’s race.

"This is nice, to have a chance to compete in the Milk Bowl, it's a special race," said Dragon. "I'm told the car has performed well at Thunder Road. The qualifying should be interesting with both time trials and twin 50's. I'm just going to do the best I can and have some fun with it. It's a tough race to win. More than once I thought, this is our day, and then ended up in trouble. That's how it goes on short tracks."

Dragon is one of at least 12 current or former Thunder Road, Airborne, or ACT champions planning a Milk Bowl run this weekend. That list includes Michaud, Bellerose, Fecteau, Scott, Bruno, Lanphear, Brent Dragon, Dave Whitcomb, Jean-Paul Cyr, Chuck Beede, and Steve Miller.

Advance sale two-day tickets $20/adult, $5/kids (6-12) are available at Al's French Frys, Williston Road, South Burlington, M&M Beverage South Barre and the Thunder Road office, 7 Stowe St. Waterbury.

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Pack up your earmuffs, the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season will now conclude in New Hampshire. In November! Last weekend’s “New Hampshire 300” at New Hampshire International Speedway was postponed last Thursday, as a result of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

"It was NASCAR's decision, but we agreed with them 100 percent," said Bahre, adding that the race has been rescheduled for Friday, November 23, the day after Thanksgiving. NASCAR also announced the cancellation of the “New Hampshire 125” for Busch North Series cars and the “New Hampshire 100” for the Featherlite Modified Series cars.

Speedway spokesman Ron Meade said that tickets for Sunday's New Hampshire 300 will be honored for the rescheduled event on November 23. He added that tickets for Saturday's cancelled Busch North and Featherlite Modified Series races may be refunded by mail. The Speedway's mailing address for Saturday is: New Hampshire International Speedway, P.O. Box 7888, Loudon, NH, 03307.

By the way, last year’s temperature in Loudon, NH, the day after Thanksgiving was a balmy 17 degrees - yes, that’s Fahrenheit - with an average wind speed of 11 mph. Pray for better this time around.

Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh postponed the ACT Dodge Tour “Dodge Dealers Foliage 200” as a result of the terrorist attacks, postponing the race until October 6 and 7.

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Two members of Joey McCarthy’s NASCAR Busch North Series team are in New York City, aiding in the rescue and recovery effort at the World Trade Center.

Scott Warner, a part-time member of McCarthy/Pritchard Motorsports and a Fire Captain for the Dover (NJ) Fire Department, went to New York the day of the attacks, as a member of an elite task force trained for building collapse rescue. Warner has been working 12-hour shifts, searching for survivors. Team co-owner Jim Pritchard spoke to Scott's wife on Sunday, and she said he is okay. Two days after the attacks, Pritchard, a police officer for the town of Dover, N.J., went to the city himself to help with the rescue and clean-up.

"I cannot put into words what I saw. It's just devastating," Pritchard said. "The television pictures do nothing, (to tell the story). Working on the site is very dangerous, with steel beams over your head. They could collapse at anytime. I can only imagine what my friend Scott is going through inside the collapse."

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Jeremy Mayfield's left lap belt was “partially torn” in last weekend’s accident at Dover. NASCAR officials discovered the damaged left lap belt - manufactured by Simpson Performance Products -- following a crash Sunday that left him with a chipped tooth and numerous bruises.

Bill Simpson, who resigned as President of Simpson Performance Products in the aftermath of Dale Earnhardt’s death, claimed that Mayfield’s belt had only a quarter-inch tear following the crash, and repeated his assertion that his belts do not break when properly installed. He called NASCAR’s allegations "character assassination," saying it provided “more ammunition for the lawsuit” he plans to file against NASCAR.

Chip Williams, spokesman for the Mayfield team, said the belts were properly installed. In his words, "(The crew) said everything was in right."

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Silly Season Update…

… Robby Gordon will drive the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, while Mike Skinner recuperates from upcoming reconstructive knee surgery.
That decision brings down the curtain on Skinner’s frustrating, seven-season run with Richard Childress Racing. Skinner was injured in a September 8 crash at Richmond, and will undergo surgery October 2 in an effort to speed his recovery for next season.

…After a rollercoaster 2001 campaign, Tim Fedewa could wind up right back where he started next season. Fedewa, who was release by Cicci-Welliver Racing in June, is negotiating with team-owner Scott Welliver and new partner Wayne Jesel about returning to the team next year.

…Andy Houston will also return to his roots next season, after fizzling in his rookie season on the Winston Cup Tour. Houston will return to the Herzog Motorsports team - for whom he drove a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry two years ago - to compete on the NASCAR Busch Series in 2002.

…Rich Bickle has been given an ultimatum by ST Motorsports owner Tad Geschickter's. Either turn things around dramatically before the end of the season, or start looking for a new ride.

…Busch North Series driver Martin Truex, Jr., will audition for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Team ASE Dodge ride in the near future. Truex is currently sixth in BNS points, and hopes to replace Scott Riggs, who is moving to the Busch Series next season.

…Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse will sponsor rookie Jimmie Johnson in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Winston Cup Chevrolet in 2002. Johnson will attempt to qualify for three races this year - at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami, and Atlanta -- before competing full-time in Winston Cup next year in cars co-owned by Gordon and Rick Hendrick. The Gordon and Johnson teams will be housed in a new shop being built at the Hendrick compound in Harrisburg, NC.

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Short (Track) Subjects…

…Bruton Smith put himself in contention for “Humanitarian of the Year” honors last week, contacting NHIS owner Bob Bahre and offering to hold the season's final race at his Texas Motor Speedway, rather than New Hampshire. Smith said he would share the revenue from the race with Bahre, compensating Bahre for the loss of the date. Smith, meanwhile, would receive a second 2001 Cup race at Texas to reward his largesse.

While confirming that he had received at least two offers from Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc., to move the race, Bahre said he has declined. That’s hardly surprising, since the two men have barely spoken since each attempted to “back door” the other out of a deal to purchase the North Wilkesboro Speedway a few years ago. Each wanted to buy the aging track and move it’s two Winston Cup races to their new venues. Instead, each man ended up with half a racetrack, and one Cup date. North Wilkesboro has not hosted a race since, and is unlikely to do so.

…Just when you thought you’d heard it all, Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway issued a unique post-race penalty recently, after championship contenders Jeff Taylor and Gary Drew tangled in the final point-counting race of the season. The two tangled on the racetrack, with the crash effectively eliminating Drew from the title hunt. Taylor was black-flagged to the rear of the field for the resulting restart, but fought his way through the pack sufficiently to claim his seventh OPS Pro Stock crown, tying Mike Rowe’s all-time record.

Days later, Taylor received a letter from OPS management informing him that, as a result of dangerous driving on the race track, he was being banned from the track’s annual awards banquet.

…It’s a full final weekend of action at Thunder Road, with qualifying for the 38th annual New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl Saturday, and main event action for all three Thunder Road divisions Saturday. Saturday's card includes Late Model time trials and twin 50-lap qualifiers. The last chance feature for Late Models opens Sunday's schedule, followed by the Flying Tiger and Street Stock Mini-Bowls and the 38th Milk Bowl. Post time each day is 1:30 pm.

The Canaan USA asphalt track will host the 350 Supermodifieds and NEDA Late Models Saturday. The race marks the first appearance by the Supers on the Canaan oval, and the third of the year for the NEDA troops. Promoter C.V. Elms, III, will also run a Street Stock event, and a four-cylinder Open Competition event, along with a show-closing Enduro. Post time is 4 p.m.

The Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring point race could end this Sunday, with Mike Olsen hoping to wrap up the series championship in the Carquest Fall Final at Stafford (CT) Motor Speedway. Olsen currently leads Kelly Moore by 194 points, and third-place man Dale Shaw - winner last weekend at Dover -- by 239. The Carquest Fall Final features a 150-lap event for the Busch North Series, plus an identical 150-lapper for the Featherlite Modified Series. The first green flag is set for 1 p.m., with the Busch North feature expected to start around 2:30.