PHOTO: Dave Pembroke thinks maybe it’s better to be lucky than good. Fortunately for him, he’s both. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

BARRE — Dave Pembroke swears that the secret to winning the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl is luck.

He’s so convinced, he says, that when Pembroke straps into his race car on Sunday afternoon, he’ll do so wearing a t-shirt with the word “lucky” printed on it underneath his firesuit.

“It’s all about luck,” Pembroke says, almost too sure of his logic. “We were not going to win last year, and we ended up winning.”

Pembroke might have been a little lucky that leaders John Donahue and Joey Becker collided right in front him, sure, but Pembroke didn’t back into the win, either. Then again, he lucked into a Memorial Day win the year before when Joey Polewarczyk drove off the track in front of him.

Whether luck is involved or not, one thing is for sure: Pembroke has owned Memorial Day lately. Adding in his 2007 victory, the Middlesex driver has made the annual holiday special his own personal playground.

“We’ll be prepared, and if opportunities present themselves we’ll be there to capitalize,” Pembroke said. “Hopefully we can get it.”

Pembroke didn’t exactly back into his Memorial Day success. Four granite monuments stand around the Thunder Road property, each one etched with the names of drivers who have won the Memorial Day Classic, the Labor Day Classic, the Vermont Milk Bowl, and the Thunder Road track championship. Pembroke is one of just six men whose name appears on all four monoliths, joining legends Jean-Paul Cabana, Dave Dion, Robbie Crouch, and Bobby Dragon, and present-era star Jean-Paul Cyr.

“I like that stat,” Pembroke grins. “It’s pretty cool.”

Pembroke has studied the past winners of the events he has also championed. Without provocation, he cites the success of Dion at the Classic.

“It’s cool to look back at the history of it and everything, and to see the names of people who have won it multiple times,” Pembroke says. “Dion’s won nine. I look at that and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ He’s won four in a row twice. That’s impressive. I’d be old by the time that got done.”

It takes just a nudge or two to remind Pembroke that he’s already halfway through a potential four-in-a-row streak. Like Dion did for so many years, Pembroke now competes with Ford power under his hood. And like Dion, Pembroke has plenty of fan support in the grandstands.

Still, he can’t help but resign himself to whatever fate — or luck — the racing gods decide to hand him.

“Hopefully we can get it figured out,” he says. “I’ll be wearing this shirt on Sunday.”