PHOTO: John Donahue says ‘excuse me’ to Dave Pembroke at Sunday’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road in Barre. (Leif Tillotson photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

BARRE — It’s hard to think of the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl and not think of Dave Pembroke. Winner of three of the previous four Memorial Day Classics, the Middlesex racer appeared to be in line for three-straight victories.

After an impressive qualifying heat run, Pembroke found himself him on the outside pole for the 100-lap main event.

But John Donahue had other plans. The 2008 Memorial Day Classic winner started fourth and first challenged Pembroke after a lap 10 restart, which saw the duo fight for the lead for a handful of laps. After a short break as both drivers got settled in, Donahue made another charge, making slight contact with Pembroke’s rear bumper numerous times, before getting his rhythm back and moving to the outside for the lead on lap 33.

‘I just kept driving into the back of him, it was my own fault,’ said Donahue, of Graniteville. ‘Once I got calmed down, got my rhythm back, I was able to swing out around him. I always want to go, go, go.’

Donahue’s No. 26 National Guard Ford settled in after a lap 50 restart, and slowly started pulling away from Pembroke.

‘My spotter kept telling me, ‘You got two or three car lengths on Dave, just slow down a little bit and save your stuff.’ It seemed like the slower I went, the faster I got,’ Donahue said.

Donahue drove to a straightaway victory over Pembroke, who finished second. Pembroke, though, was disappointed with his runner up finish.

‘To lead and not win, it’s frustrating to us,’ said Pembroke. ‘We run well here. When you get opportunities to lead and be up front, you have to capitalize on them and right now we’re not.’

Vermont Lt. Governor Phil Scott, of Berlin, finished third. Defending Thunder Road champion Nick Sweet, of Barre, and Brent Dragon, of Milton, rounded out the top five, respectively.

Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., rookie Jimmy Hebert, Matt White, Reno Gervais, and Cris Michaud finished out the top ten.

Two minor cautions slowed the 100-lap main event, both for spins, which was run in just 29 minutes.

Donahue’s win continues a great start to the season for him, which has also seen three consecutive podium finishes on the American-Canadian Tour.

‘This is the best way to start for Thunder Road,’ Donahue said. ‘I keep my momentum going. I can’t complain. It’s been a really good season so far for me.’

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Sunday, May 29, 2011

(# – dentoes rookie)

1. (4) John Donahue, Graniteville — National Guard Ford
2. (2) Dave Pembroke, Middlesex — VSECU/Lamoille Valley Ford Ford
3. (3) Phil Scott, Berlin — Casella/Lamberton Electric Chevrolet
4. (10) Nick Sweet, Barre — St J Auto/Packard Fuels Pontiac
5. (9) Brent Dragon, Milton — Beverage Mart/R.R. Charlebois Freightliner/Furniture World Chevrolet
6. (19) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H. — Pole’s Automotive Ford
7. (15) # Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown — Hebert Excavation Corporation Chevrolet
8. (8) Matt White, Northfield — White’s Heating Inc./Bethel Central Toyota
9. (1) Reno Gervais, Island Pond — Kingdon Construction/System 2000 Chevrolet
10. (5) Cris Michaud, East Montpelier — Merchants Bank/Burrell Roofing/Heney Realtors Ford
11. (12) Chip Grenier, Graniteville — Caron Motorsports Chevrolet
12. (21) Cody Blake, Barre — North Country Federal Credit Union/Cody Chevrolet Chevrolet
13. (16) Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburgh – Marcotte & Sons/American Legion Post 14/Acustatherm Chevrolet
14. (23) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne — S.D. Ireland Brothers/Inerstate Batteries Chevrolet
15. (11) Mike Bruno, Rutland — Bruno’s 24hr Towing & Recovery/Crickets Rest. Chevrolet
16. (7) Grant Folsom, Waitsfield — Pyrofax Energy Chevrolet
17. (18) Brooks Clark, Fayston — Casella Waste Management/A.W. Clark Jr. & Sons Inc Chevrolet
18. (14) Joey Becker, Jeffersonville — Richard Green Trucking/Green’s ACE Hardware Chevrolet
19. (20) Eric Chase, Milton — Mansfield Heliflight/Gary Clay Builders Chevrolet
20. (22) Dave Whitcomb, Essex Jct. — Ferguson Chevrolet
21. (6) Scott Payea, Milton — Leahy Press/Quintin Bros. Auto Chevrolet
22. (24) Brett Wheeler, Waterbury — Spherion/Army ROTC/Texas Roadhouse/EA Grandfield Chevrolet
23. (17) Ricky Roberts, Washington — Shell Lube Chevrolet
24. (25) Brad Mattson, Graniteville — Newton Pellets/Jet Service Envelope Chevrolet
25. (26) #Jim Morris, Barre — Classic Auto Exchange Chevrolet
26. (13) Mike Bailey, South Barre — Union Mutual of Vermont Insurance Chevrolet
27. (27) Marcel Gravel, Wolcott — Foley Services/Cabot/Classens Crane Service Dodge