BARRE-Two veteran Thunder Road racers have returned home, so to speak.
Jamie Aube from Bow, N.H., and Mike Bruno from Rutland, Vt., will both be returning to their racing roots, Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre for the 2011 season.
"This is great news for Thunder Road fans and competitors," said Tom Curley, a Thunder Road spokesman for the past 32 seasons. "This is like having part of the family returning home. Jamie started his career at Catamount Stadium in Milton and at Thunder Road. He was a mainstay on the old NASCAR North Tour we started back in 1979. Mike left his many years of racing with his dad on dirt tracks, and began his first ever asphalt race at Thunder Road in 1995."
Aube was seventh all-time with 237 starts on the former American Canadian Tour (ACT) Pro Stock Tour, where he finished second in point standings in 1987. He also won seven major events on the former ACT series. Aube went on to become a 3-time NASCAR Busch North (now K&N Pro Series East) Champion, compiling nine Busch North wins along the way. He has won the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway two times, in 1987 and 1989.
"I really want to have some fun as I wind down my actual driving career, and my several experiences with the ACT program have been just that. I decided that if I want to get serious about things, I needed to figure out how these ACT Late Models really work. That is the plan for 2011 when we run the weekly and tour shows at Thunder Road," said Aube.
"I love the place, even though it can be frustrating, but the atmosphere is the best in the business. I worked on the car all day at my New Hampshire shop last weekend, and it was killing me not to be at Lee for the ACT opener, but I am going to stick with my game plan. If things go well by mid-season, I may try Oxford Plains for the 250 and would love to get back to a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway," concluded Aube.
Mike Bruno is old school: strap in, hang on, and get to the front. His first-ever asphalt race was at Thunder Road the first year of the current ACT in 1995. He did not qualify. However, he went on to become ACT Rookie of the Year that season. He was the 1997 Airborne ACT Late Model Track Champion, and later became the NASCAR Busch North Rookie of the Year in 1999. The multi-talented Bruno also won the dirt modified championship at Airborne Speedway in 2006.
"I guess I caught the fever at Devil's Bowl last spring in a one-time rental car deal (Bruno ran 100 laps trading the lead with Thunder Road regular David Pembroke throughout the race before losing the win by less than a car length when ACT opened the newly paved Devil's Bowl Speedway, in West Haven, Vt., last May).
"We also had a blast at the New Smyrna race in Florida this past February, so I am excited to be racing the ACT Late Models again. Thunder Road is so tough and I guess that is why I like it so much. I had some podium finishes there when I first started, but the one race I will always remember is winning a feature on Father's Day in 1996. My dad was there, as he always was when I went racing, and since I lost him a couple years later, that day and that place will always be special to me. He loved racing and loved Thunder Road. I am really looking forward to the weekly battles, but with some of the success we had at Devil's Bowl and New Smyrna, we want to make a few of the ACT races as well," said Bruno.
The 13th annual Merchants Bank 150 will take place Sunday, May 1, at Thunder Road in Barre. The annual downtown Barre car show will take place on Saturday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to noon with over 100 race cars expected to show their handicraft from months of preparation for the 2011 race season. After the parade of race cars from downtown Barre, up Quarry Hill to the race track, teams will have opening weekend practice which is free to fans.
Gates open at 10 a.m. May 1 for the Merchants Bank 150 with class day ceremonies scheduled for 1 p.m. Post time is at 1:30 p.m.