PHOTO: Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., plants a kiss on Miss Milk Bowl, Dasiy Dalton, after his win at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl on Sunday. (Leif Tillotson photo)

BARRE — Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., may be young, but he understands history. After Sunday’s performance in the 48th Annual People’s United Bank Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, he gets to be part of that history.

After winning the outside pole position on Saturday, Polewarczyk, 21, of Hudson, N.H., put together an impressive string of finishes in the Milk Bowl’s three-segment format — first, seventh, and fourth — to earn low total score of 12 points and take the overall win on Sunday. Polewarczyk out-pointed Brian Hoar and John Donahue by eight points for the victory.

Polewarczyk’s victory was his second in a row and fifth on the season; he won the second annual American-Canadian Tour Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., two weeks ago. He now joins a list of past Milk Bowl winners that includes modern-day heroes Hoar and Donahue, as well as drivers like Harold Hanaford, Butch Lindley, Kevin Lepage, three members of the Dragon family, and a legend from Polewarczyk’s hometown, Dave Dion.

“It’s emotional,” Polewarczyk said. “Two weeks ago was the biggest win of my career, [but then] everyone talked about this race going into it. I told them, ‘[Loudon] was a big win, but it doesn’t have the history that the Milk Bowl has.’ It really hasn’t sunk it yet, obviously, but you look at the names on this trophy and now I get to add my name to it, it’s just an amazing feeling. I don’t know how to describe how I’m feeling.”

Polewarczyk took the lead from polesitter Hoar on lap 17 of the first 50-lap segment and cruised to an easy win. With the finish of the first segment reversed to start the middle 75-lap segment, Polewarczyk started 30th — last — and stayed out of the trouble that took segment leaders Randy Potter and Pete Fecteau out, along with overall contenders Patrick Laperle and Joey Laquerre. After a long battle for position with Eric Williams, Scott Payea, and Brent Dragon, Polewarczyk settled for seventh.

Polewarczyk entered the final 75-lap leg with a two-point lead over Dragon and Williams, with Donahue four points back and Hoar seven points behind. Hoar drew to within one point of Polewarczyk’s overall lead in the early stages of the third segment, but Polewarczyk drove through the pack — and eventually past Hoar — to finish fourth and take the overall victory.

“If you were to come and watch me six years ago, you would have never thought that that would be possible, but my crew put one hell of a car underneath me today,” said Polewarczyk, who has endured his share of crashes and misfortune at Thunder Road. “We knew from practice today that we had a good shot at it. [The car] was just so good through the corners and I could make it work anywhere, so it was just all about me being smart. There was a couple times where I stuck my nose where I shouldn’t have and I backed off, and now we’re standing right here [in victory lane]. Whether we never win again, at least I can say I’ve won the Milk Bowl.”

Polewarczyk’s four-straight front-row starts in the Milk Bowl in 2006-09 netted only one segment win and no legitimate chance for an overall victory, and he wrecked out of the Memorial Day Classic in 2009 while leading with 18 laps to go. He finally won at Thunder Road in last year’s Vermont Governor’s Cup.

“There’s definitely been some bitter memories here,” Polewarczyk said. “Looking at this wall right here, I’ve been there a couple times. Leading the [Memorial Day] race last year I just forgot where the track was. Just to be standing right here, there’s a whole different feeling when you drive into Thunder Road. This is the big one, this is the Super Bowl. I just can’t believe it, man, I can’t.

“I talked to some people this week and they asked me if Loudon was the biggest win [of my career], and it was, but the history of the Milk Bowl outweighs the ACT Invitational so much. Maybe someday the ACT Invitational will have the history, but to be on a trophy with Dave Dion and Robbie Crouch and Stub Fadden… It’s crazy to think that ten years ago or however many years ago I was sitting in the stands up here watching my dad trying to make the race and now we’re in victory lane. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Polewarczyk brought up Dion’s name again when speaking of the importance of winning the Milk Bowl. His father, Joe Sr., has known the Dion family since their days of towing a Ford-powered car out of Hudson, N.H., and winning all over the eastern seaboard — including the 1975 Milk Bowl.

“It’s ironic. Dave Dion loved this place. We’ve talked to him and he always talked about it,” said Polewarczyk, Jr. “He was the one to beat for Milk Bowls back in the day. I guess it’s ironic that we’ve got our win now, and we’re both from Hudson, and with the Ford engines… It’s pretty cool to be talked about with him.”

Two-time Milk Bowl winner Hoar, of Williston, finished second in the first segment and fifth in the final round, but struggled to a 13th-place finish in the middle leg. He and defending winner Donahue — third, ninth, and eighth in the three segments — tied at 20 points each; Hoar was awarded the runner-up position based on his better third-segment finish.

Dragon (22 points) and Laquerre (29) completed the top-five finishers overall. The unofficial top ten was completed by Laperle, Williams, Dave Pembroke, Jaime Fisher, and Ben Rowe. Pete Potvin, III, won the second segment, and Jean-Paul Cyr won the third. Polewarczyk earned $10,000 for his victory.