BNS: Thunder Road: Dave Dion track legend

Dave Dion faces pressure and loves it as he celebrates 30 years at Thunder Road in True Value 150 Busch North Series Classic this Saturday, August 31. BARRE, Vt. - Only a handful of drivers get to race for 30 years at one track. Fewer yet get to...

Dave Dion faces pressure and loves it as he celebrates 30 years at Thunder Road in True Value 150 Busch North Series Classic this Saturday, August 31.

BARRE, Vt. - Only a handful of drivers get to race for 30 years at one track. Fewer yet get to observe the anniversary by returning as the champion in the track's richest race of the season. None could approach that role with more desire and motivation than Dave Dion as he tackles the True Value 150 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl this Saturday night. August 31.

The Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring makes its sixth annual stop at the high-banked quarter-mile on Quarry Hill for a one-day event that starts with practice at 1 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. and True Value 150 race time is approximately 8 p.m. before another mountainside grandstand jammed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable Vermont race fans.

Dave Dion is completely candid when he talks but his 2001 victory. He was running second behind another hometown hero, Mike Olsen, when Olsen became entangled with a lapped car on the front straight and spun to the infield with 35 laps to go. By his own admission, he was lucky, but he was also prepared. "Thunder Road needs luck and for me it's a passion," he declared, adding "I pour all of myself into it and sometimes that's detrimental. Last year, my family was up from Florida and I was relaxed most of the day. I inherited the lead because I had positioned myself by keeping calm."

The 2001 Thunder Road victory also closed the books on one of the strangest episodes in Dion's three decades of racing at Thunder Road: the time he hit the pace car. "It was a couple of years ago when I was running away with it. There was a caution and I ducked through the infield and took the rear end out from under the car. Then we went on and hit the pace car and other entertaining things," he chuckled. Actually the year was 1998 and neither Dion nor Mike Stefanik, who was also involved in the melee with the pace car at the pit entrance, lost any laps. The pace car also survived.

Self-control is all-important in the tight confines of a quarter-mile track with two dozen heavy, powerful race cars locked in combat. Add the pressure of the home fans, and a driver needs more than a little help from his friends. "I rely on my spotter and crew, because I try to overdrive the track," Dion noted. "They've got to talk to me because I talk a good story, but when the green flag drops, if I lose a spot, there it goes," he continued. "I know that I'll probably be the problem if there is a problem- I'll go for a hole that isn't there or I'll bounce off the wall. I feel that I can do magic on that track because I've been there so many times. But I still rely on having the best race car."

That "best race car" is one that handles, and keeps handling for 150 laps, because pitting for tires is not a viable option. "All that's required to win that race is to buy four tires," Dave Dion said emphatically. "If a team with deep pockets wins that race, you say, there's a guy that not only has resources, but he stepped up to the plate and did a terrific job of driving."

Above all, Dave Dion knows Thunder Road can reach out and bite the unwary. His introduction, 30 years ago, is a case in point. "I won my first race here. I was so scared I ran away from the field. I got around Beaver Dragon and Jean-Paul Cabana, the stars of that era," he recalled with an important postscript. "I thought I was king of the road. I came back the next week, put it on the wall, and slid into the pits on my door handles."

When Dave Dion came to Thunder Road 30 years ago, stock cars still had door handles. Much has changed, but not the challenge of Thunder Road nor the determination of Dave Dion to meet that challenge.

-nascar-

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