–by T.J. Ingerson (@TJIngerson)
BARRE, Vt. – Thunder Road and D.J. Shaw may not have had the best relationship prior to Sunday.
After a trip into the widowmaker in his first appearance at the track in 2006 and disappointments thereafter, Shaw turned it around and dominated the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic Super Late Model feature to post his first career win at the tough quarter-mile oval.
“The first two times I came here I put it in the wall, and the next three times, we’ve had limited success,” Shaw said. “This is unbelievable.
“This car was perfect. You don’t get them like that often. We just tried to play it safe and had no issues all weekend.”
Shaw, of Center Conway, N.H., started second in the 18-car field and took the top spot from the drop of the green over polesitter Travis Benjamin. A side-by-side battle with hometown fan favorite and multi-time track champion Nick Sweet was Shaw’s only blemish of the day as Sweet nosed ahead for the lead following a lap 12 restart. Shaw, however, fought back and reclaimed the lead on lap 16.
From there, Shaw continued to hold off the second-place challenger through multiple race restarts – first Sweet and then veteran Tracy Gordon.
For Shaw, it was the turnaround of a disappointing season thus far that has seen the defending PASS North Super Late Model champion unable to visit victory lane and score unflattering finishes.
“This is a big, big turnaround from where we have been,” Shaw said. “I’m beside myself, I’m so happy.
“This feels like the most special one ever. Not just because it’s here and seeing (new track owners Cris Michaud and Pat Malone) carry it on without Tom (Curley), but we’ve been so bad, it’s that much sweeter, too.”
Gordon, of Strong, Maine, finished second with Quebec favorite Patrick Laperle third after he made multiple charges through the field from a 16th place starting spot. Polesitter and multi-time series champion Benjamin finished fourth while fellow multi-time series champion Ben Rowe completed the top-five finishers.
Middlebury’s Todd Stone led the Vermont contingent with a sixth-place finish, a career best on the PASS North Series. Connecticut driver and reigning ACT Late Model Tour Rookie of the Year Devin O’Connell finished seventh in his first PASS North start while former series champion Johnny Clark raced home in the eighth spot. Massachusetts driver Angelo Belsito finished ninth in his first Thunder Road start while defending race winner Glen Luce completed the top-ten finishers.
Sweet, who was Shaw’s lone challenger for much of the event, saw his day when his No. 40 car spun off of turn three and made hard contact with the wall over the embankment. Sweet walked away uninjured, but his car was heavily damaged.
Bobby Therrien, who won the 100-lap Late Model event earlier in the day, appeared to be making a late race charge but was involved in a late race incident and was unable to return.
The race was cut down to 125 laps after a competition caution on lap 50 revealed minor damage to the new pavement. Officials were forced to cool the track by putting water on it, which resulted in a 30-minute delay.
The PASS North Series travels to New Brunswick for a return visit at Speedway 660.
VtMotorMag.com will have more from the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic soon.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic
PASS North Super Late Models
Thunder Road Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
1. (2) D.J. Shaw, Center Conway, N.H.
2. (3) Tracy Gordon, Strong, Maine
3. (16) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que.
4. (1) Travis Benjamin, Morrill, Maine
5. (6) Ben Rowe, Turner, Maine
6. (8) Todd Stone, Middlebury, Vt.
7. (15) Devin O’Connell, Madison, Conn.
8. (5) Johnny Clark, Farmingdale, Maine
9. (7) Angelo Belsito, Auburn, Mass.
10. (11) Glen Luce, Turner, Maine
11. (9) Dave Farrington Jr., Jay, Maine
12. (14) Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg, Vt.
13. (17) Derek Ramstrom, Worcester, Mass.
14. (10) Jeremy Davis, Tamworth, N.H.
15. (4) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
16. (12) Derek Griffith, Hudson, N.H.
17. (18) John Salemi, Nashua, N.H.
18. (13) Travis Stearns, Auburn, Maine
1 – D.J. Shaw celebrates his PASS North Super Late Model win on Sunday afternoon at Thunder Road. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)
2 – Race winner D.J. Shaw (60) battles with Nick Sweet (40) for the lead during Sunday’s PASS North Super Late Model event at Thunder Road. (Alan Ward photo)