Barre, VT – Devin O’Connell, a rookie driver in the American Canadian Tour, had a respectable 17th place finish at his first Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT, on Sunday, October 2nd. O’Connell made his presence known on Saturday at the 54th annual Milk Bowl by laying down some fast lap times in practice. His Chatham Highlander, TruEnergy Toyota was consistently in the top five on the speed charts. O’Connell was the first car to hit the track for time trials on Saturday after the drizzle stopped and the track was dry. He set a quick time of 13.283 that could only be bettered by 4 other drivers. The top two fastest times earned the front row starting positions for the race on Sunday. O’Connell concluded the time trial segment 5th of 38 cars.
Following the time trails, the drivers were separated into two heat races. The top 8 from each race would automatically transfer into the feature race on Sunday, completing the top 18 starting positions. O’Connell’s time trail earned him a 3rd place start in the first heat race where he was running 4th on lap 24 before his car has hit in the left rear causing him to spin. With no damage to the car, he rebounded with a 12th place finish. O’Connell did not earn a transfer into the feature through the heat races, but positions 19-27 were set by refering back to the time trail efforts. Since Devin had the fastest time trail, he would start 19th in Sunday’s Milk Bowl.
The feature race on Sunday is a bit unconventional to say the least. The Milk Bowl consists of three 50-lap segment races. The combined effort of all three segments determines the overall winner of the event. O’Connell started 19th of 30 for the first segment. He worked his way up to 15th on lap 39 before dropping back to 19th for the finish of the first segment.
For the second segment, the top 24 cars were inverted putting O’Connell in the 6th starting spot. Devin stated that “The car was handling great and I could put it anywhere on the track.”
This proved to be true as Devin worked his way up to 3rd. On lap 25, however, while making a pass on the outside for 2nd place, he brushed the famed “Window Maker” front stretch wall. The combination of lost momentum and getting hung up on the outside caused him to fall back and settle for a 7th place finish in segment 2.
For the final and third segment of the day, the top 24 cars where inverted once again putting O’Connell in the 18th starting position. He worked his way up to 14th, but on lap 30, while making the pass for 13th, he made contact with Joey Pole who returned the favor by hitting O’Connell in the right rear sending him for a spin on the backstretch. Starting in the rear of the 30-car field, O’Connell fought back over the last 20 laps to finish segment three in 19th place.
O’Connell’s combined efforts in all three segments, placed him in 17th overall for the 2016 Milk Bowl. O’Connell stated “ It was not the top 10 finish we were hoping for, but it was a great weekend of racing and I gained a lot more experience. Thanks to my family, The Chatham Highlander Motel, TruEnergy, Hallstrom Motorsports, and my crew.”