Sunday, May 30, 2010

Masse, Pembroke Repeat Thunder Road Memorial Day Wins

Modified Racing Series coverage presented by

BARRE-- It was nearly as simple as copying and pasting last year’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic results at Barre’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl on Sunday: Steve Masse dominated the Modified Racing Series event, and Dave Pembroke dominated the Late Model race.

But it wasn’t that simple.

While he stole the headlines with his career-first MRS win last year, Masse was nearly an afterthought to the MRS portion of the event in 2010, after a controversial finish involving Les Hinckley and Rowan Pennink at Airborne Speedway on Saturday night centered the focus on those two drivers.

Hinckley would prove to be a non-factor at Thunder Road, but Pennink kept everyone’s attention with two frightful trips over the top of the first turn, one of which sent his car into a barrel roll.

But once Pennink’s dust settled and he eventually retired from the event, Masse assumed the lead role. Masse was unchallenged virtually the entire 100-lap distance, leading by as much as a half-lap.

“I like this track,” said the 20 year-old Bellingham, Mass., driver, whose two career Modified Racing Series victories have both come at the track known to chew up and spit out veterans three times his age. “For some reason I know how to drive it. I feel like I’ve got a good grip on it. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Masse wrecked his primary car at Airborne on Saturday night and rolled out his back-up car to win at Thunder Road.

“The car was awesome, that’s it,” said Masse, who started fifth on the 24-car field. “[The win] is a tremendous thing. We found something [wrong with the car] over the long break we just had, and I think we’re going to be a contender all year long from now on. We should be fast at every track.”

Rob Goodenough of Swanzey, N.H., drove from seventh at the start to finish as the runner-up, and Ken Barry of Preston, Conn., came from 12th to finish a season-best third. Three-time MRS champion Kirk Alexander of West Swanzey, N.H., was fourth and rookie Max Zachem of Preston, Conn., was fifth. Hinckley finished sixth with Ascutney rookie Joey Jarvis seventh. Charlie Pasteryak, Dwight Jarvis, and Eddy Spiers completed the unofficial top ten.

Pembroke’s drive wasn’t quite as easy initially during the 100-lap Late Model feature, coming from 14th at the start.

As Pembroke drove through the field, Graniteville’s John Donahue battled Jeffersonville driver Joe Becker at the front, banging doors and fenders several times. Nick Sweet, who had arguably the fastest car on the track, made his way by Becker on lap 37 and raced outside Donahue for the lead until they came together on lap 46.

Sweet spun to bring out the yellow flag, leaving Pembroke in fourth place for the restart. Donahue and Becker resumed their previous fight up front, with the final blow coming on lap 68. As Becker slid up the track, Pembroke dived under both drivers to take the lead, then cruised to a large lead. He withstood a lap-96 restart and beat Donahue by two car-lengths to the finish. Donahue nipped Hyde Park’s Eric Williams by a foot for second place; Becker faded to sixth.

“I don’t want to say that luck was why I won, but it helped that I didn’t have to pass Nick to win the race. He had the fastest car, I think,” Pembroke said. “When [Donahue] and Joe Becker kind of touched a little bit getting into [Turn 1], Becker had to chase his car up the track and I just was able to turn under him.”

Pembroke’s Memorial Day Classic victory was his third in four years in the event. His name now ranks among some of the all-time Thunder Road elite winners and champions, including multi-time Memorial Day winners Dave Dion, Jean-Paul Cabana, and Robbie Crouch.

“I used to come here as a kid [to watch them race], and now… I don’t even know,” Pembroke said of his accomplishment. “It’s crazy. Crazy.”

Joey Laquerre of East Montpelier was fourth behind Williams, with Charlotte’s Rich Lowrey fifth. Tracie Bellerose, Jamie Fisher, Sweet, and Brent Dragon followed Becker across the line to complete the top ten.

Brendan Moodie of North Wolcott held off a race-long challenge from Hinesburg’s Tom Therrien to win the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman feature. Ricky Roberts was third, with Lance Allen and David Finck rounding out the top five.

Travis Hull of Graniteville earned his first career Street Stock victory over Mike MacAskill, Dan Lathrop, Jamie Davis, and Dave LaFleche. Ken Christman of Cabot earned his second Junkyard Warrior win in as many starts, beating Josh Erwin and Brock Parrott. Amanda Habel of Roxbury earned her first win the Street Stock/Warrior reserve feature.

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