Barre, VT — The 63rd season of stock car racing at Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl was one for the record books with three deserving drivers each winning their first track championship at ‘The Nation’s Site of Excitement.’
Each of these three drivers had a unique way of earning the top spot at The Road, compelling stories of perseverance worth revisiting. After diving into the careers of rk Miles Street Stock champion Dean Switser Jr. and Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tiger champion Sam Caron, the time has come to tell the tale of a King. Christopher Pelkey is not only the youngest of Thunder Road’s 2022 champions, but he also joined an elite group that have claimed both the King of the Road track title and the win in the Toughest Short Track Stock Car Race in North America in the same season.
Christopher Pelkey started out his racing career like many other Northern New England standouts have, behind the wheel of a Kid’s Truck at White Mountain Motorsports Park. After visiting victory lane several times in his rough and tough Ford Ranger, Pelkey jumped up to the Flying Tiger ranks at Thunder Road just in time for the track’s 50th anniversary when he was turning 16 back in 2009. Although right out of the gate might not have been the results he was looking for, the Pelkey team began to build on experience and grow confidence needed to chase wins at The Road.
Chris’s first win would come on June 21st, 2012, interestingly enough the same Thursday that fellow 2022 champion Dean Switser Jr. also collected his first Thunder Road gold. It would take five more wins over four more years for Pelkey to finally break into the top-10 in final Flying Tiger points, earning a strong 5th–place run in 2015 before bringing the team up the ladder to the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models in 2016.
In his first season, Pelkey was able to secure the Rookie of the Year title before taking his first Late Model win on August 3rd, 2017 atop of the newly paved highbanks. His consistency grew to a strong 6th-place point run in 2018 before coming within 15 points of Jason Corliss to take the home runner-up spot in 2021. Even without Corliss running weekly last season, Pelkey and his family team were in the hot seat week in and week out as fellow perennial title chasers Stephen Donahue, Scott Dragon, Kyle Pembroke and Marcel Gravel poured the pressure on. The stoic Pelkey never let the pressure overpower his talent on the track.
In the final event of the season, Pelkey pulled off the King of the Road battle over Pembroke by a mere 5-point margin to secure his first championship at Thunder Road. In a rare show of emotion, Pelkey was elated in victory lane surrounded by the family that had stepped up and stepped in to support his journey to the top.
As if completing a perfect group of all new champions at Thunder Road wasn’t enough for Pelkey, he stepped into the ring for the 60th Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank in October. The most prestigious event of the year for all Thunder Road divisions, the iconic Vermont Milk Bowl is yearly the final show of strength for the top dogs. Pelkey stunned the crowd by stealing away the fast lap time of 12.283-seconds on Booth Bros./Hood Milk Qualifying Day, the $1,000 prize and the pole starting position for Sunday. The 60th Vermont Milk Bowl was its usual whirlwind, but after winning the first segment and patiently making his way up through the following two segments, Pelkey was able to claim the win and kiss the cow.
The perfect end to a perfect season. In doing so, Christopher Pelkey joined an elite list that includes the likes of open-wheeled Coupe drivers Lee Ingerson and Harold ‘Hardluck’ Hanaford, Flying Tiger ace Larry Demar, 1970’s powerhouses ‘Dynamite’ Dave Dion and Stub Fadden and contemporary Late Model heroes Brian Hoar, Cris Michaud and Jason Corliss as just the ninth driver to take the King of the Road honors and the Vermont Milk Bowl in the same season.
Pelkey has stated his Hutch Brothers Concrete, Casella Waste, Memorial Sandblast Chevy SS is ready to defend his 2022 King of the Road title in 2023. While he admits that he’s hopeful for a second consecutive championship, he’s really looking to get his name etched in a couple more slabs of granite on Quarry Hill.
Thunder Road’s annual opening day is set with the 25th annual Community Bank N.A. 150 on Sunday, May 7th. The epic opening weekend will feature the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models, Modifieds and R&R Street Stocks on Saturday, May 6th after the annual Thunder Road car show. Sunday, May 7th will feature the American-Canadian Tour, Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers, rk Miles Street Stocks and Burnett Scrap Metal Road Warriors. Christopher Pelkey’s title defense will begin in earnest on Sunday, May 28 with the 60th Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic 125 for the Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models plus the return of the Granite City 100 for the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series!
For more information, contact the Thunder Road offices at (802) 244-6963, [email protected], or visit http://www.thunderroadvt.com. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @ThunderRoadVT.