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Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl News

Pembroke Picks Up Sponsors, Moves To Ford For 2011

- Justin St. Louis on 12 Dec 2010

Dave Pembroke ran the 2010 season with blank quarterpanels. With a switch to Ford for 2011, that will change. (Leif Tillotson photo)PHOTO: Dave Pembroke ran the 2010 season with blank quarterpanels. With a switch to Ford for 2011, that will change. (Leif Tillotson photo)

You’ll recognize Dave Pembroke’s name and number in 2011, but that’s about all.

The former Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl champion from Montpelier has revamped his entire operation for the 2011 season, signing new sponsorship and, as a result, changing over to the new Ford S347JR power plant.

After nearly winning the Thunder Road Late Model championship in 2010 without the benefit of a primary sponsor, Pembroke has signed the Lamoille Valley Ford and Twin State Ford dealerships in Hardwick and St. Johnsbury, and Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center in St. Johnsbury to underwrite his 2011 campaign.

“I’m so excited for next year,” Pembroke said. “We had a tough year without a big sponsor, but Dan Keene really stepped up and is enthusiastic about helping us try to win a Thunder Road championship.”

Pembroke said that longtime associate sponsors Vermont State Employees Credit Union, Cabot, and Tech Group will also return.

Lamoille Valley Ford has a bit of history at Thunder Road, winning a Late Model championship with Pete Fecteau in 1997, but has been absent as a sponsor since its days with Fecteau. Pembroke said the relationship between Keene, who owns the three businesses, was forged from a friendship between their wives.

“My wife and Dan’s wife are friends, and eventually Dan and I met and began talking about racing,” said Pembroke. “We had the family over and showed Dan’s sons, Peyton and Ryan, the race shop, and we all became good friends.”

Keene, a familiar voice on radio commercials advertising his dealerships, began hinting that he might like to advertise on a race car at Thunder Road, but, says Pembroke, “our car (a Chevrolet) wasn’t the right brand. So one night a little while ago, he and my cousin Eric and I sat and had dinner together and we told Dan how much it would take to get his name on the car and make the conversion to the Ford power, and we left with new addition to the race team. It’s really cool how it all worked out.”

Pembroke has become one of Thunder Road’s most celebrated drivers; he is a former winner of the Milk Bowl, Memorial Day Classic, Merchants Bank 150, and Labor Day Classic, and holds championships in both the Late Model and Tiger Sportsman divisions. He came within six points of winning his second Late Model title in 2010.

He’ll become the latest big-name driver to join the Ford Blue Oval Challenge Cup program instituted by the American-Canadian Tour, which includes events at Thunder Road and several other tracks and series in the region. After a rocky start, the program made big strides in its first year in 2010 as lead drivers Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., won five events, and Wayne Helliwell, Jr., won nine times en route to the Lee USA (N.H.) Speedway championship and the Blue Oval title. Polewarczyk and Helliwell also finished 1-2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September, and Cris Michaud and Jeff Taylor were feature winners with the engine at Thunder Road and Oxford Plains (Me.) Speedway, respectively.

“I’ve never really considered myself a Ford man, but I’ve looked at the engine online and read up on it, and it looks like a great package,” said Pembroke. “If you had asked me about it a year ago I would have been skeptical, but I got beat by it a few times at the end of the year so I know it’s a good motor. Cris Michaud did a great job developing the motor in 2009 and guys like Joey Laquerre and Joey Polewarczyk and John Donahue have done well working the bugs out, so I’m confident in the Ford.”

While Pembroke was appreciative of the research and development work of his fellow Ford competitors, he says he’s looking forward to beating them and ending a Thunder Road championship losing streak over a decade long for Ford.

“It’s been a long time since a Ford won a championship at Thunder Road, back when Phil Scott won in 1998 before the Chevy spec motors came in,” Pembroke said. “I sure don’t mean to take anything from the guys that have already worked with the motor, but I would love to be the next Ford driver to win a championship.”

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