PHOTO: Ricky Rolfe (#51) and Brent Dragon (#55) had impressive runs during Sunday’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

–by Ricky St. Clair

BARRE– Brent Dragon’s charge through a star-studded field of competitors was one of many headlines in Sunday’s Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road International Speedbowl.

The Milton, Vt., native started on the outside of row number eight, and made his way inside the top-five following a lap 68 caution period. Dragon eventually picked off a couple more positions in the closing stages of the event en route to a third-place run.

Dragon struggled on the American-Canadian Tour in 2011 and recorded only three top-ten finishes after having ten top-tens in 2010. With his last American-Canadian Tour victory coming over two years ago at Twin State Speedway, Dragon has finally regained self-confidence after a weekly event win at Devil’s Bowl Speedway, a fourth-place result in the fourth event on the ACT schedule at Oxford Plains Speedway, and a podium finish in Sunday’s 100-lapper.

“I know that the car has it in it,” Dragon said. “It’s been two years since I’ve won a Tour race, and you start doubting yourself. Confidence probably has a lot to do with it. I’ve spent a lot of time with Jeff Taylor and he’s worked very hard with us, and he’s made the car really good.”

Dragon wasn’t anticipating a very good day entering the event because of the uncertainty he and his team had with the car on a high-banked track.

“There was a lot of things that we didn’t get to fine-tune on like bump steer and stuff like that because we didn’t know where we were,” Dragon admitted. “Everything sort of came together, and at the end of the race, the car seemed to get stronger as we went. In 2006, we won this race and we have won the three big races (Memorial Day Classic, Labor Day Classic, Milk Bowl). Maybe we’re headed that way, and that’s what we were here for – to get prepared for the Labor Day 200 and the Milk Bowl.”

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Every competitor in the garage area made the venture to the “Nation’s Site of Excitement” Sunday with the intent to win, but Ricky Rolfe was content with a seventh-place result after passing five cars in his qualifier, starting on the pole for the 50th annual Memorial Day Classic, and leading 31-laps.

Rolfe was part of an impressive battle with Scott Payea that saw the duo race side-by-side for numerous laps, including a race for the lead.

“We’re going to run the four-race Vermont State Championship races after running so good at Devil’s Bowl,” Rolfe stated. “We just wanted to survive here and maybe get a top-15. I had no idea I was going to lead that many laps. This is a love-hate track for me right here. Ninety percent of the time, I hate it, and 10 percent of the time, I like it. After today, I kind of like it a little bit more.”

After a recent tire issue at Oxford Plains Speedway one week prior to the Memorial Day weekend event, Rolfe was a little hesitant to use up his car in the first half of the extra-distance race.

“The car began to fade when I was running on the outside of (Phil) Scott for the lead,” Rolfe said. “I was getting pretty loose, and that’s why I had to stay up there in the second groove in hopes of him burning his tires off quicker than I was. We came here with a totally different setup than we’ve ever run here before. We were just experimenting for later in the year for the 200 and the Milk Bowl.”

Rolfe’s finish proved to critics that he’s not just a one-track contender in a Late Model circuit that competes in the surrounding New England region.