The cry of ‘start your engines’ is familiar at racetracks worldwide. ‘Start your vaccinations’ definitely isn’t, but racing fans could both start and finish their effort to get inoculated at Thunder Road in Barre before Friday evening’s schedule of stock car races began.
The walk-in vaccination clinic also wasn’t the only noteworthy event at the track with a coronavirus connection. NASCAR Hall of Fame member and Vermont broadcasting icon Ken Squier returned to Thunder Road after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last November.
“Yeah, I had fun with it; that’s for sure,” he said. “Not much fun! But the point is — the opportunity for Thunder Road to rise and shine for this occasion. It’s pretty special, and they’ve had a wonderful congregation out in front.”
Over the course of the 1970s, Squier essentially wrote the book on how to present stock car racing to a national audience on both radio and television. Before that, though, he founded Thunder Road in 1960 — and still owned it as recently as 2017.
“These guys are doing such a great job with this track,” Squier said. “It’s never looked better. They keep spending their money on things that a lot of people can’t see, but the experts — the regular fans — they know the difference.”
He also had kind words for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. The former Thunder Road end-of-season track champion caught up with Squier while visiting and encouraging the emergency medical services crews conducting the vaccination clinic at the track.
“It’s wonderful to think that Thunder Road can play a small part, perhaps,” Squier said. “It was his idea to have Thunder Road have a night to fight this pandemic.”
Brattleboro-based Rescue, Inc. inoculated 31 people against the virus outside Thunder Road’s main entrance. The crews had 100 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hand.
“We’ve been doing clinics all over the state of Vermont, and sometimes we find we get two or three people at a location and sometimes we feel a little disheartened,” Kris Johnston said. “But hey, it’s still two or three people that weren’t vaccinated this morning.”
The people who were getting vaccinated were a bit bashful. No one wished to speak with us on camera.