John Donahue (#26) and Nick Sweet (#88) battle for the victory in the final laps of the CARQUEST Vermont Governor’s Cup 100 on Sunday at Thunder Road. (Leif Tillotson photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

BARRE — Sunday’s race may be one of the most controversial moments in the history of the Thunder Road International Speedbowl, and it certainly will be one of the most talked about in the coming weeks. But at the end, the record books will read John Donahue as the winner of the 32nd CARQUEST Vermont Governor’s Cup 100.

As leader Nick Sweet was working lap 84, the cars of Glen Luce, Brooks Clark, and Jim Morris came together in turn three, spinning down into the infield and coming to rest off the track. Sweet, who had a sizeable half-straightaway lead on second-place Donahue, lifted out of the throttle and slowed dramatically down the backstretch, hearing from his spotter that the caution flag was out.

However, no caution flag was officially displayed by Thunder Road Chief Starter Mike Renaud, and Donahue’s No. 26 National Guard Ford sped by Sweet’s slowing car to take the lead. Donahue then held on during a charge by Sweet with only a handful of laps to go to seal the victory for his second Thunder Road win of the season.

“I didn’t think a caution came out,” said Donahue, of Graniteville. “My spotter said, ‘Spin in three, no yellow, no yellow yet’, I just kept my foot in it. There is a light right there coming down the backstretch and it was still green, I kept my foot in it.”

“I didn’t have the car to win today,” Donahue said. “I had a top-five car, maybe. It was really loose. It was decent, it just didn’t have enough forward bite. I figured if I get a top-five, I’d be happy today. But you take a win when you can get it. I got to second and I told myself, ‘I could live with this.’ It’s not my fault his spotter said yellow when the yellow wasn’t out.”

“Last week two cars spun into the infield right there and we went by there before the caution came out,” Donahue explained. “I don’t lift until my spotter tells me the yellow’s out. His spotter told him the yellow was out, my spotter never told me. Nobody’s perfect. If my spotter told me the yellow was out, I would have lifted. Simple as that.”

“It was my fault for not looking at the lights and I’ll take blame for it,” said a dejected Nick Sweet, of Barre. “I messed up as a driver. I listened to my spotter, which he thought there was a yellow, and that’s just the interpretation I got. My fault. I messed up. Next time I will learn to look at the lights a little bit more. It was nobody’s fault besides my own.”

Chief Starter Mike Renaud explained what happened on the flagstand, which possibly led to the interpretation of a caution.

“When I saw the mayhem taking place, I grabbed the yellow flag,” said Renaud. “As I grabbed it, I didn’t get the whole flag. I used the bar in front of me to clench the whole flag. I never switched the light, and never flew the flag. Tom Curley never told me to yellow. He always tells me to throw the yellow and I don’t throw it until he tells me. I clenched the flag and they [the spotters] may have thought we were going yellow.”

“I saw green,” Donahue told the crowd in victory lane, “and last time I checked, green means go.”

The racing was competitive throughout the field during the 100-lap event. Rookie Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown started in the 11th position and finished third.

“I never dreamed of doing half this good this early in the season,” said Hebert. “We had a great car. The team put a wicked good car underneath me. Everybody that has helped me get here has made this jump [from Tiger Sportsman] easier.”

Polesitter Scott Payea of Milton led the first half of the race and finished fourth. Brent Dragon, also of Milton, completed the top five.

American-Canadian Tour point leader Brian Hoar, subbing for Cris Michaud who attended his daughter’s hockey tournament, started 30th and finished sixth. Phil Scott, Jamie Fisher, Matt White, and Dave Whitcomb completed the unofficial top ten.

Tommy Smith, of Williamstown, inherited the Allen Lumber Street Stock victory after apparent winner Marvin Johnson of Essex Junction was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for illegal springs. Orange’s Joe Blais was awarded second and Lincoln’s Gary Bashaw was awarded third. Waitsfield’s Kyle Streeter and Williamstown’s Sid Sweet, Jr., completed the top five.

Waterbury Center’s Jason Woodard picked up his first career Junkyard Warrior victory over Brookfield’s Kevin Wheatley. Brock Parrott, of Williamstown, was third.

The Tiger Sportsman feature was postponed after persistent rain moved its way onto the speedway grounds. It will be made up this Thursday, June 30th, on Fairpoint Communications Night.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — CARQUEST Vermont Governor’s Cup 100
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre, Vt.
Sunday, June 26, 2011

(# – denotes rookie)

ACT Late Models (100 laps)
1. John Donahue, Graniteville
2. Nick Sweet, Barre
3. # Jimmy Hebert, Williamsdown
4. Scott Payea, Milton
5. Brent Dragon, Milton
6. Brian Hoar, Williston
7. Phil Scott, Berlin
8. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
9. Matt White, Northfield
10. Dave Whitcomb, Essex Junction
11. Reno Gervais, Island Pond
12. Brett Wheeler, Waterbury Center
13. Dave Pembroke, Montpelier
14. Craig Bushey, Fairfax
15. Mike Bailey, South Barre
16. Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Me.
17. Cody Blake, Barre
18. Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburg
19. Chip Grenier, Graniteville
20. Grant Folsom, Waitsfield
21. Ricky Roberts, Washington
22. Joey Becker, Jeffersonville
23. Brooks Clark, Fayston
24. Mike Bruno, Rutland
25. # Jim Morris, Barre
26. Glen Luce, Turner, Me.
27. Brad Mattson, Graniteville
28. Dave Wilcox, Fairfield
29. Trampas Demers, South Burlington
30. Marcel Gravel, Wolcott

Allen Lumber Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior (25 laps)
1. Tommy Smith, Williamstown (SS)
2. Joe Blais, Orange (SS)
3. Gary Bashaw, Lincoln (SS)
4. Kyle Streeter, Waitsfield (SS)
5. Sid Sweet, Jr., Williamstown (SS)
6. # Ken Christman, Cabot (SS)
7. Dave Whitcomb, Elmore (SS)
8. M.C. Ingram, Essex Junction (SS)
9. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield (SS)
10. Ron Gabaree, Barre (SS)

17. Jason Woodard, Waterbury Center (JW)
19. Kevin Wheatley, Williamstown (JW)
25. Brock Parrott, Williamstown (JW)

DQ — Marvin Johnson, Essex Junction (SS)