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Racing at Thunder Road

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

This year, Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road Speedbowl— better known to its fans as “The Nation’s Site of Excitement”—is celebrating its 60th season of racing. For three generations now, it has been where people throughout New England, northern New York, and even Quebec spend their Thursday nights atop Quarry Hill either racing or watching their heroes do battle.

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Thunder Road first opened its gates on June 30, 1960. The track was the brainchild of WDEV Radio owner Ken Squier and local paving contractor Reginald “Spade” Cooley. Ken had the racing ideas, while Spade had the technical know-how. Ken has since become a national motorsports legend. In addition to running the Radio Vermont Group, he was the founder of MRN Radio and spent nearly 20 years as the lead NASCAR announcer for CBS television. He’s now in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and can still be found at most Thunder Road events. Thunder Road is one of the few local tracks that races on Thursday nights. Ken first picked this night as it seemed a great way to get a head start on the weekend. The tradition of the Thursday night racing is still continued today, from early June until late August. Many major events highlight the racing calendar. The biggest one, the Vermont Milk Bowl, wraps up the season in late September. The event is known as “The Toughest Short Track Race in North America” for its unique three-segment format that requires racers to go all-out every lap. (The winner also gets to kiss a genuine Vermont dairy cow.) The Milk Bowl and the Memorial Day Classic are the two longest-running events at Thunder Road, with both holding their 57th editions in 2019.

Essay by Michael Stridsberg

Photo by Nathanael Asaro

Listen to Phil Scott's interview on VPR about his return to racing at Thunder Road!

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