PHOTO: Nick Sweet celebrates his Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic win, becoming the first winner in the Vermont State Late Model Championship and the last name to be etched on the Memorial Day Classic monument. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

BARRE — There are three granite monuments that sit at the top of the grandstands at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl that memorialize the past winners of the three biggest races: the Memorial Day Classic, the Labor Day Classic, and the Milk Bowl. Fifty names are to be inscribed on each monument. And there was one spot left on the Memorial Day Classic monument.

Nick Sweet entered the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic to take that last spot. And it will be Sweet’s name that will occupy that final spot.

“This is a perfect day. It’s a dream come true,” Sweet said. “There are so many great names on [the monument]. I told people, before I started racing, that I had no glimpse of ever racing [a Late Model]. Just to do this, it’s bonus. Yes, you go and strive to be competitive, but to go out and win, amongst some of the greats, it’s just a dream come true.”

Sweet, after starting from the eighth position, was able to take the lead convincingly on a lap 68 restart from then leader Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. A lap 71 caution put Scott back on Sweet’s outside, but Sweet held on and was able to pull away from Scott.

“I knew we had a really good car at that point,” Sweet said. “The car had so much grip, it was almost easy to drive. When you look stellar is when they’re easy to drive; when you don’t have to think and it just comes natural. I actually made some good choices, and to be on top, it’s great.”

Scott, of Berlin, ran from his 12th starting position to take the lead on lap 56, and settled for second after consecutive restarts with Sweet. Brent Dragon, a former Memorial Day Classic winner, drove from a 16th place starting position to take the third position. Dragon, of Milton, ran to the inside of Scott as the two crossed the start finish line and finished just shy of the runner-up spot. Brooks Clark, of Fayston, also came from a mid-pack starting spot, 14th, to finish fourth.

Fifth place finisher Scott Payea started second and had a back-and-forth battle with polesitter Ricky Rolfe over the first half of the race. Payea, of Milton, led of three separate occasions over the first 50 laps.

Jimmy Hebert brought home a sixth place finish. Rolfe, after his near half race battle with Payea, finished in the seventh position. Chip Grenier, three-time Memorial Day Classic winner Dave Pembroke, and Cris Michaud completed the unofficial top ten finishers.

Through the midpoint of the race, a four car battle for the lead appeared between Rolfe, Payea, Sweet, and Scott. The quartet battled side-by-side, two-by-two, for numerous laps before Rolfe, then Scott, pulled ahead with the lead. What was Sweet, who was in the midst of it, thinking?

“I was thinking it doesn’t get much more action packed than that,” Sweet joked. “With four cars under a blanket and it’s only lap 50, it just goes to show what kind of series this is and how many good drivers there are out here. There aren’t many series that can do that. Yes, you rub a little bit, but that’s what makes good racing. And that’s what we have here. It’s just so much fun to be a part of.”

Sweet became the first winner in the four-race Vermont State Late Model Championship with his Memorial Day Classic win. The next event in the special series will be at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven on Friday, June 8. Thunder Road returns on Sunday, June 10, for a special twilight event.

Sweet now has one monument left for his name to be carved into — the Milk Bowl monument.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic
Vermont State Late Model Championship — Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl, Barre
Sunday, May 27, 2012


1. (8) Nick Sweet, Barre
2. (12) Phil Scott, Berlin
3. (16) Brent Dragon, Milton
4. (14) Brooks Clark, Fayston
5. (3) Scott Payea, Milton
6. (4) Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown
7. (1) Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Maine
8. (17) Chip Grenier, Graniteville
9. (23) Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
10. (5) Cris Michuad, East Montpelier
11. (24) Trampas Demers, South Burlington
12. (6) Mike Bailey, South Barre
13. (22) John Donahue, Graniteville
14. (26) Jim Morris, Barre
15. (19) Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburg
16. (11) Brett Wheeler, Waterbury
17. (28) Grant Folsom, Waitsfield
18. (25) Cody Blake, Bare
19. (18) Joey Becker, Jeffersonville
20. (15) Matt White, Northfield
21. (13) Spencer MacPherson, Carleton Place, Ont.
22. (20) Eric Chase, Milton
23. (2) Jerry Lesage, Winooski
24. (27) Ricky Roberts, Washington
25. (21) Dave Whitcomb, Essex Junction
26. (9) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne
27. (7) Jay Laquerre, Barre
28. (10) Lance Allen, Barre