PHOTO: Dave Pembroke took home the Late Model win at Thunder Road on Sunday, one week after finishing a lap down in 21st position. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

–by Justin St. Louis

BARRE — Dave Pembroke needed a win at Thunder Road, for self-redemption if nothing else.

A week ago the defending track champion played tire strategy and raced on used tires, hoping to manage a solid mid-pack finish. Instead, he found himself in 21st place, a lap behind the leaders. Sunday, back on track with the tire game, he ran to his first Late Model win of the year.

The Middlesex racer was brilliant in his qualifying heat, passing cars in both the new, grip-enhancing track treatment of the top groove, and the slick bottom lane. In the 50-lap Harvest Equipment main event, a lap 33 caution set up a showdown between Pembroke and leader Mike “Beetle” Bailey of South Barre, placing Pembroke in the outside lane.

Perennial contender Pembroke and low-buck fan favorite Bailey had the Father’s Day crowd in a bind as they traded paint over the final 17 circuits. Pembroke appeared to clear Bailey on the backstretch at lap 40, but Bailey fought back on the inside to nose ahead and lead lap 43. Pembroke pulled up by a fender on the next lap and held the lead until the checkered flag, but never by more than a half-car length.

“We were both on four [new tires] and it was good racing,” Pembroke said. “The track is competitive with two lanes, and it always kind of has been, [but] the last ten laps I was driving for all I was worth.”

Bailey – who led from lap 8 until Pembroke joined him up front – was disappointed that he didn’t win, but was proud of his team’s effort against the champion.

“We led so much of the race and we were out there so far, but it’s a win – you’ve got to fight hard for it, and that’s what we did. We didn’t roll over and we were there,” Bailey said. “It was fun. A little bit different result would have been nice, but it is what it is.”

Pembroke had to choose between running at the top of the track where his car handled better, and trying to crowd Bailey out of the lead. Bailey, meanwhile, used every inch Pembroke allowed him to take.

“Here’s my dilemma out there: Do you pinch?” Pembroke said. “I knew I had a fender up on him, so I could have tried to pinch him and get him down on the bottom, or run up where I think there’s a little more grip with the sticky stuff. I kept running a little bit higher to get up into that stuff, and he kept coming up more and more, so I think he was getting a little bit more of that, too, and I’m like, ‘Maybe I went a little too high.’ I had to decide I guess, but I kept running a little bit higher and he kept coming up with me.”

“I needed to be a little bit higher,” Bailey said. “Unfortunately with a car on the outside I couldn’t run where I needed to, where I did most of the race, so I wasn’t getting the drive off [the corner] that I had earlier. Dave’s been around enough, he knows. He knew what he was doing.”

“We touched, and I brushed the wall twice down the frontstretch, but it was good racing,” Pembroke said. “You’re going to bump and bang a little bit. We didn’t give each other an inch. We both laid it all out there. It was good, clean racing.”

John Donahue of Graniteville finished third behind Pembroke and Bailey. Nick Sweet of Barre drove from 21st at the start to finish fourth. Waterbury’s Brett Wheeler drove from 11th to finish fifth. Jerry Lesage, Jamie Aube, Scott Payea, Brooks Clark, and Jamie Fisher completed the top ten.

Danville’s Jason Corliss survived a hairy moment in the 35-lap Tiger Sportsman feature to pick up his third career win. Corliss and John Lambert were involved in a scrape with polesitter Eric Johnson at lap 16 that sent Lambert spinning, but Corliss was able to regroup. He passed Tucker Williams for the lead with less than 10 laps remaining, then held off hard-charging Bobby Therrien for the win.

Therrien, of Hinesburg, ran from 21st to the runner-up finish. Mike Ziter of Williamstown was third, followed by Joe Steffen and Josh Demers. Mike Martin, Shawn Fleury, Brendan Moodie, Mike Billado, and Kyle Pembroke were next in line.

Rookie drivers swept the podium in a wild 25-lap Street Stock feature. East Barre’s Justin Town survived to take his first career win as point leader Garry Bashaw, Ken Christman, and four others wrecked coming to the checkered flag while battling for second place.

Dean Switser, Jr., of Lyndonville crossed the finish line second with Barre’s Kevin Dodge third. Bunker Hodgdon and Cameron Ouellette rounded out the top five, followed – in a grinding, smoking heap – by Troy Kingsbury, Christman, Nick Pilotte, Bashaw, and Billy Hennequin.

Alan Maynard of Fairfax suffered a broken left arm in a multi-car accident on the race’s second lap and was transported to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. Maynard reported Monday morning that he will undergo surgery this week to repair the arm.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Harvest Equipment Twilight Event
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl – Barre, Vt.
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pos.-Driver-Hometown
(# – denotes rookie)

Late Model (50 laps)
1. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex
2. Mike Bailey, South Barre
3. John Donahue, Graniteville
4. Nick Sweet, Barre
5. Brett Wheeler, Waterbury
6. Jerry Lesage, Winooski
7. Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburgh
8. Scott Payea, Milton
9. Brooks Clark, Fayston
10. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne

Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman (35 laps)
1. Jason Corliss, Danville
2. Bobby Therrien, Hinesburg
3. Mike Ziter, Williamstown
4. Joe Steffen, Grand Isle
5. Josh Demers, Middlesex
6. Mike Martin, Craftsbury Common
7. Shawn Fleury, Middlesex
8. Brendan Moodie, North Wolcott
9. Mike Billado, Essex
10. Kyle Pembroke, Montpelier

Allen Lumber Street Stock (25 laps)
1. # Justin Town, East Barre
2. # Dean Switser, Jr., Lyndonville
3. # Kevin Dodge, Barre
4. Bunker Hodgdon, Hardwick
5. Cameron Ouellette, Barre
6. Troy Kingsbury, Waitsfield
7. Ken Christman, Cabot
8. Nick Pilotte, Jefferson, N.H.
9. Garry Bashaw, Lincoln
10. Billy Hennequin, Morrisville