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Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl News

Battle Royal: “King Of The Road” Crowned This Week

- Justin St. Louis on 24 Aug 2010

Dave Pembroke (left), Phil Scott (center), and Nick Sweet will face off on Thursday for the 2010 Thunder Road track championship. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)PHOTO: Dave Pembroke (left), Phil Scott (center), and Nick Sweet will face off on Thursday for the 2010 Thunder Road track championship. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

The race for the championship at Barre’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl is scheduled to come to a close on Thursday. For the first time in recent memory, three drivers will vie for the coveted “King of the Road” title, as only eight points separate Dave Pembroke, Nick Sweet, and Phil Scott.

Let’s set the stage for the finale.


Thunder Road’s feature event point distribution is a long-standing, tried-and-true format. The field is awarded points based a two-point declination, with a five-point bonus given to the winner.

The heat races are where the differences are made. With a lot of points on the line and a very short time to race to the front and grab them, qualifying could be where the championship is won or lost on Thursday.

Feature Points Distribution:
1st - 75 ----- 9th - 54 ----- 17th - 38
2nd - 68 ----- 10th - 52 ----- 18th - 36
3rd - 66 ----- 11th - 50 ----- 19th - 34
4th - 64 ----- 12th - 48 ----- 20th - 32
5th - 62 ----- 13th - 46 ----- 21st - 30
6th - 60 ----- 14th - 44 ----- 22nd - 28
7th - 58 ----- 15th - 42 ----- 23rd - 26
8th - 56 ----- 16th - 40 ----- 24th - 24

All other finishers receive 24 points.

Heat Points Distribution:
1st - 14
2nd - 12
3rd - 10
4th - 6
5th - 4
6th - 2

All other finishers receive 2 points.

Consolation races do not award points. All drivers that do not start the feature receive a minimum of 12 points. (Note that this structure applies only to Late Model division at Thunder Road.)


Dave Pembroke (Leif Tillotson photo)Dave Pembroke

Position: 1st (971 points)
Hometown: Middlesex
Age: 39
Car: No. 44 Vt. State Employees Credit Union/Cabot Chevrolet
Thunder Road Late Model Championships: 1 (2007)

2010 Record
Starts: 14
Wins: 2
Top 5s: 7
Top 10s: 14
Average Finish: 5.073

Dave Pembroke is no stranger to success at Thunder Road. As a former Late Model and Tiger Sportsman “King of the Road” and past winner of the Merchants Bank 150, Memorial Day Classic, and Milk Bowl events, he certainly knows his way around the highbanks.

Dave Pembroke (Leif Tillotson photo)Pembroke opened the year with back-to-back 100-lap victories in the special season opener at Devil’s Bowl in West Haven on May 23, and the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road on May 30. He has yet to finish worse than eighth in a feature event, but has just one top-five finish since July 15 and has been off the podium since June 25.

Why he’s the man to beat: Pembroke is a snake in the grass. He typically waits to make his moves until the time is right and very rarely misses an opportunity to pass. He’s as smooth and calculated as they come, but has proven over the years that he can be just as aggressive as the next guy. He’s led the standings after all but one event and is not likely to lie down and let anyone pass him. On July 29, he crashed after the halfway point, then drove from 19th to finish seventh with a damaged race car.

How he’ll lose it: When Pembroke won his 2007 title, he struggled in both qualifying and the feature on the final night, losing 20 points to draw runner-up Cris Michaud to within 14 markers of the championship. A night like that this week would likely leave Pembroke in third place for the season. Pembroke has been getting killed in qualifying heats this season, too, and can’t afford to give up any more ground than he has. Most of Sweet and Scott’s gains over the past month have been during qualifying, and Pembroke will have to get to the front any way he can during his heat race.

Nick Sweet (Alan Ward photo)Nick Sweet
Position: 2nd (969 points)
Hometown: Barre
Age: 25
Car: No. 88 Saint J Auto/Fortier’s Community Care Home Pontiac
Thunder Road Late Model Championships: None

2010 Record
Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top 5s: 6
Top 10s: 14
Average Finish: 5.643

Nick Sweet is the leader of Thunder Road’s next generation of racers, just as Dave Pembroke assumed that role a decade ago. Sweet is a quick study, running just his third season in the Late Model class with only seven full years of total racing experience behind him.

Nick Sweet (Alan Ward photo)All told, Sweet has five podium finishes this year -- two more than Pembroke and one more than Scott -- and won two of the three biggest races of the year at the ACT Late Model Tour’s Merchants Bank 150 and the CARQUEST Governor’s Cup 100. Since his season-low 10th-place finish on July 8, Sweet has finished in the top five four times in six starts and third or better in three of the last five.

How he’ll win the title: Pembroke won a title in 2007. Scott has three. Sweet has none. Quite simply, no one wants it more than Sweet. In terms of consistency and poise, Sweet is almost a carbon copy of Pembroke, and they’ve finished within two positions of each other nine times this season. Sweet needs a huge heat race in order to gain ground, and then needs to back it up in the feature.

Why he won’t: Sweet is in the precarious position of chasing one guy down (Pembroke) and holding another one off (Scott). Sweet is also arguably the most popular driver at Thunder Road these days, and has a lot of pressure riding on him from a few thousand folks on the hill. That’s a lot to juggle, and Sweet -- although a Tiger champion three years ago -- hasn’t got the 15 or 20 years of experience that his rivals do.

Phil Scott (Leif Tillotson photo)Phil Scott
Position: 3rd (963 points)
Hometown: Montpelier
Age: 52
Car: No. 14 Casella Waste Management/Lamberton Electric Ford
Thunder Road Late Model Championships: 3 (1996, 1998, 2002)

2010 Record
Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top 5s: 10
Top 10s: 12
Average Finish: 6.429

There are precious few drivers in Thunder Road history better than Senator Phil Scott. A three-time “King of the Road,” a past ACT champion, two-time Milk Bowl winner, and the all-time Late Model wins leader, Scott has nothing left to prove. Scott is in the middle of the biggest week of his life as he not only tries to win a record-setting fourth Late Model track championship, but on Tuesday he finds out whether or not he’ll be on the ballot for the seat of Vermont Lieutenant Governor in November.

Phil Scott (Leif Tillotson photo)There’s a very real possibility that Scott will win both races. While gathering steam across the state in the polls, Scott has been steamrolling to the front in the championship race. Only eight points out of the lead, he’s cut 32 points off his deficit in the last five races -- including 14 last week -- and has beaten both Pembroke and Sweet in each of the last four features. If not for a 29th-place finish in the Memorial Day Classic in May, Scott would likely be way out in front.

How he’ll steal the championship: Phil Scott has more momentum on his side than Pembroke and Sweet combined. With four straight top-five finishes and a season-high ten overall, Scott is just riding the wave. A victory in the main event would automatically give Scott seven points to the good (the winner gets 75 points, the runner-up gets 68), and if he can repeat his 12-point heat race performance of last week, we’ll see the first four-time Late Model champion. And clutch? Scott’s only hope of winning last year’s championship was to win the final event of the year. Jean-Paul Cyr had a good run and negated Scott’s charge for the title, but Scott did his part and won the race.

Why he’ll finish third: Phil Scott will either win the championship, or he’ll have an “off” night and finish third overall. There’s no middle ground for Scott and there never has been. He leads all drivers with ten top-fives this year, but he also has finishes of 13th and 29th to his credit. Pembroke and Sweet are hard to beat, and Scott’s high handicap will force him to dig deep one more time to get it done from the back of the pack.

Photos by Leif Tillotson, Alan Ward, Justin St. Louis/VMM

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