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THE JUICE: It's Pembroke's To Lose

Posted By Justin St. Louis On August 26, 2011

Categories: The Juice

Dave Pembroke said back in May that racing at Thunder Road is PHOTO: Dave Pembroke said back in May that racing at Thunder Road is 'all about luck'. How true that will ring if he comes home the champion tonight. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

Thunder Road’s 20th modern-era Late Model championship is decided tonight, albeit a day later than planned. Dave Pembroke has a 38-point lead, which means it’s his title to lose. That said, of course, anything is possible.

Since tonight’s Aubuchon Hardware event is a 100-lap tilt, it gives racers double the chance to screw up. If Pembroke crashes or has a mechanical failure, he’s out of the race and loses the title. That would leave John Donahue, Nick Sweet, and Phil Scott -- who are all just seven points apart in Pembroke’s wake -- to grind it out among themselves for the title.

Pembroke told us back in May that the Memorial Day Classic was more than just skill.

“It’s all about luck,” Pembroke said. “We were not going to win last year, and we ended up winning.”

Pembroke really has had an awful year, but fortunately for him, so has everyone else. There was a four-race stretch this year, remember, in which Pembroke’s best finish was 12th place. Then came the wins, the point lead, and bad luck for the other three title contenders.

It’s all about luck. The same will likely be said tonight when Pembroke -- barring any major catastrophes -- hoists the “King of the Road” trophy for the second time.

Here’s the prediction I made on the “Corm, Coach, and Lana” show on on Thursday morning: The heat races will change the margins by a few points. Donahue wins the 100-lap feature race, but Pembroke hangs onto the title by 22 to 25 points with a sixth-place finish. Sweet finishes inside the top-five, and Scott either challenges for the victory or wrecks.

The points, I think, will probably look something like this when it’s done:
Pembroke -- 893
Donahue -- 870
Sweet -- 862
Scott -- 860 (or 820-something if he crashes out)

How’s that for hypothetical analysis?


I haven’t got much else to say about Devil’s Bowl Speedway being for sale aside from what I haven’t already said in Times Argus and Rutland Herald. But in case you haven’t read the “Rear View Mirror” column this week, he’s a re-print:

There’s no reason that Devil’s Bowl can’t work as the beautiful asphalt facility that it is. The surface has great two-groove, side-by-side capability, and every division that races there has proven that over the last two years. The physical plant is in excellent shape with relatively nice restrooms, ample concessions, a clean midway, souvenir booths, and new grandstands.

I have tremendous respect for the Richards family who has built and forged Devil’s Bowl for 45 years, and I believe their intentions have been good, but the next step is getting someone in there who’s willing to go beyond the extra mile.

Here’s my suggestion for the next owner/promoter: Cancel the regular weekly season.

Schedule six Sunday events. Bring back the 358-Modified division for three big-money races, bring in and American-Canadian Tour-legal Late Model division for three 100- or 150-lap races, and keep the current crate-engine Modified, Renegade, and Bomber classes that currently compete and run them at every event for a point fund.

Promote locally, and promote hard. Hype local drivers and attract local businesses to underwrite sponsorships. At the same time, generate outside interest from northern Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, and Quebec.

Do something special. Bring in monster trucks, concerts, fireworks, or a “junk” show with school bus races and rollover contests and crazy stuff. Think about hosting an asphalt-type Modified event or another “outside” series.

Above all, care about it and treat people with respect. Make plans and follow up on them. Earn people’s trust, and keep it.

There will never be another new race track built in Vermont, given our land laws and politics. If we want to keep the racing alive in our state, someone has to step up and do it right.

And do it now.


Hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the Late Model class was born at Thunder Road.

Some of my favorite moments:
--Upset victories from drivers like Danny Bridges, Ron Weston, Dave Gibbs, Mike Knapp, Clem Despault, Jeff Spooner, Mike Perdue, Jerry Lesage, Marc Curtis, Cal Poulin, and last week, Brooks Clark.
--Chuck Beede beating Jim Cilley on the outside to win a 100-lap feature in 1994. Beede led only the final 50 yards.
--Brian Hoar vs. Mike Bruno.
--Brian Hoar vs. Phil Scott.
--Eric Williams vs. John Donahue.
--Dwayne Lanphear vs. Tom Curley.
--Dave Dion’s return in 1997.
--Tracie Bellerose driving up and over Pat Corbett’s car, stripping the entire body off Corbett’s machine. Both kept going.
--Billy Marsha almost beating Brian Hoar and Chris Fisher to win an American-Canadian Tour race in 1999.
--Bellerose’s magical championship year in 2000.
--Kenny Dufour’s Merchants Bank 150 win.
--Wild wrecks by Steve Craddock, Lanphear, Corey Pittsley, and, of course, Bellerose.
--Jamie Fisher’s “Hurricane” performance to win the 2003 title in a tie-breaker.
--Jean-Paul Cyr winning the 2009 championship in a one-off ride with Joey and Jeff Laquerre.
--The first time the drivers came down through the grandstands at the start of the Milk Bowl.


Bennington is a fun town. Try the “Sucker Pond Blonde” at Madison’s.


Speaking of fun, I’ve made up my mind that the next race car I buy will be a Quad-4 Midget like what races in the USA Dirt Midget Association.

Skip Matczak let me take one of his cars for a spin around the dirt at Bear Ridge Speedway last week, and I had the time of my freakin’ life. If I’d stayed in the car after practice (Kevin Chaffee got in it for the heat, semi, and feature), I certainly wouldn’t have won anything, but I feel like I probably wouldn’t have finished last, either.

I learned some things:

1. Those cars are a tight squeeze, and I could probably stand to lose a few pounds in the butt region.
2. Physics and common sense being what they are, it might make sense to take your foot off the throttle in the corners. Trust me, doing that only makes the car handle worse. Hammer down.
3. I can keep pace with Joe Krawiec. For half a straightaway, anyway.
4. All Chaffee needs in order to win is a warm-up driver. This guy. You’re welcome.



ACT Late Model Tour: Brian Hoar of Williston was third in Saturday’s race at Oxford Plains (Me.) Speedway. Jeff Taylor of Farmington, Me., was the winner.

ACT Tiger Tour: Joey Roberts of Georgia, Vt., won Saturday’s event at Canaan Fair (N.H.) Speedway over Bradford’s Derrick O’Donnell, Jason Bonnett of St. Albans, Troy Gray of Fairlee, and Milton’s Eric Badore.

Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Sheldon’s Aaron Bartemy finished eighth in Saturday’s DIRTcar Modified feature with Brandon’s Vince Quenneville, Jr., ninth, and rookie Dave Rabtoy of Swanton was tenth in the Sportsman race. Kevin Boutin of Swanton was third in the Renegade feature with Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax fourth. Speedy Bressette of Castleton was won the Mini-Modified race, and Ray Germain of Bristol was fourth in the Bombers.

Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Hunter Bates of Pittsford was seventh in Friday’s NASCAR Modified feature, and Jeremy Jones of Leicester was third in the Renegades.

Allison Legacy Racing Series North: Emily Packard of East Montpelier won her first race at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., on Friday.

Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford, Vt.): Bryan King of Corinth posted his second DIRTcar Sportsman Modified win on Saturday over Fairlee’s Kevin Chaffee and Gary Siemons of Orford, N.H. West Topsham’s Bobb Shepard won the Sportsman Coupe race over Jeremy Beckley of Woodsville, N.H., and Terry Williams of Wells River. Fourteen year-old rookie Jordan Fornwalt of Bradford won the Limited Late Model feature over Troy Comeau of Rumney, N.H., and East Corinth’s Robert Tucker, and St. Johnsbury’s Steve Bell won the Fast Four race over Danny Doyle of Barre and Graniteville’s Travis Hull . Eric Lang of Groton won his seventh Hornet feature over Bradford’s Tom Placey and Don Reynolds of Springfield. Julie Stender of South Strafford won the Hornet Queen race over Donna Racine of St. Johnsbury and Melissa King of Corinth. Rich Crooker of Nashua, N.H., won the Northeast Mini Sprint race over rookie Spencer Allen of Plainfield, N.H., and David “Lowbed” Johnson of Arlington, Massachusetts.

Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Will Hull of East Montpelier was third in Friday’s Modified feature, with Jake Scarborough of Brandon seventh and Rob Gioia of White River Junction ninth. Robert Tucker of East Corinth was seventh in the Super Street race.

Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Dilyn Switser of West Burke finished seventh in Saturday’s Late Model race with Bruce Jaycox of Ascutney tenth. Chris McKinstry of Thetford was third in the Super Street feature, Hunter Garduno of West Fairlee was fifth in the Bandits, and Allison Menard of Sharon was fourth in the Daredevil youth race.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway (West Haven, Vt.): Sunday’s races were rained out.

Fonda Speedway (Fonda, N.Y.): Street Stock champion Cassidy Wilson capped his season with a victory on Saturday night, and Londonderry’s Rob Langevin was 27th in the Modified feature.

Granite State Pro Stock Series: Chris Wilk of Mendon won the series’ first-ever race at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., on Friday.

Lebanon Valley Speedway (Lebanon, N.Y.): Bennington’s Neil Stratton was seventh in Saturday’s Modified feature, and Cullen Howe of South Londonderry was 12th in the Sportsman race. Manchester’s Frank Hoard, III, was eighth in the Budget Sportsman feature, and Chuck Towslee of Manchester was ninth in the Pro Stocks.

Mohawk Int’l Raceway (Akwesasne, N.Y.): Todd Stone of Middlebury earned his first DIRTcar Modified win of the year on Friday with father Gardner Stone of Middlebury tenth.

Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Josh King of Vernon was sixth in Saturday’s Super Stock feature with Dana Shepard of Putney ninth. Ludlow’s Joe Rogers was the Mini Stock runner-up.

Pro All Stars Series: Steven Legendre of St. Johnsbury finished 12th in Saturday’s event at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. Clay Rogers of Mooresville, N.C., was the winner.

Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Eric Williams of Hyde Park finished fourth in Sunday’s “Clash of the Titans 150” Late Model race, followed by Craig Bushey of Cambridge, Chip Grenier of Graniteville, Rick Thompson, Jr., of Derby, and Jesse Switser of Lyndonville. Randy Potter of Groveton, N.H., was the winner. On Saturday, Dan Sidney of St. Johnsbury won the Outlaw Sportsman race with Milton’s Codey Benoit fourth and Aaron Smith of Irasburg fifth. Rod Knudson of Lunenburg won the Dwarf Car feature, David Allen of North Troy was third in the Super Stock feature, and Dean Switser of St. Johnsbury was the Street Stock runner-up. Lyndsay Christman of Cabot was the Angel runner-up, and Tyler Austin of East Calais won the Daredevil youth race over Kristian Switser of St. Johnsbury.

Sprint Cars of New England: Kevin Chaffee of Fairlee was seventh in Friday’s race at Canaan Dirt (N.H.) Speedway. Dan Douville of Bridgewater, N.H., was the winner.

Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl (Barre, Vt.): Last Thursday, Brooks Clark of Fayston won his first Late Model feature over Brett Wheeler of Waterbury Center and Phil Scott of Berlin, while Jason Allen of Barre won his first Tiger Sportsman race over Josh Demers of Middlesex and Mike Ziter of Williamstown. Paul Giacherio, Jr., of Washington was the Street Stock winner over M.C. Ingram of Essex Junction and Al Maynard of Fairfax, and Jason Woodard of Waterbury beat Williamstown drivers Kevin Wheatley and Brock Parrott in the Junkyard Warriors.

Twin State Speedway: On Friday, David Greenslit of Waitsfield won the Strictly Stock race over Brian Tarbell of Springfield and Michael Burke of Bellows Falls, and Jeremiah Losee of North Springfield won the Wildcat feature with Rob Leitch of Cavendish third. On Saturday, Don Miller of Wells got his first Modified win with Andy Cook of Wilmington sixth, and Ascutney drivers Colby Hodgdon and Tyler Lescord finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Super Street feature. Tarbell won the Strictly Stock race over Jacksonville’s Kaitlin Stone and Greenslit, and Losee finished second in the Wildcat race with Nelson Rickert of Cavendish third.

USAC Dirt Midget Association: Kevin Chaffee of Fairlee won Saturday’s race at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford over Joe Krawiec of Bristol, Conn., and Ray Miller of East Granby, Connecticut.

Valenti Modified Racing Series: Ascutney drivers Dwight Jarvis and Joey Jarvis finished second and fourth, respectively, in Saturday’s event at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. Les Hinckley, III, of Windsor Locks, Conn., was the winner.

White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): In Saturday’s Late Model feature, St. Johnsbury’s Stacy Cahoon and Tyler Cahoon finished fourth and sixth, respectively, with Bernie Lantagne of McIndoe Falls tenth. Lucas Wheeler of Bradford was third in the Strictly Stocks with Barton’s Jody Sicard fourth and Stevie Parker of Lyndonville fifth. Desirae Sicard of Barton was fifth in the Strictly Stock Minis, and Chandler Potter of Plainfield was third in the Kids Trucks.



Friday, August 26
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.) -- USG Sheetrock “Pack The Track” Night -- 7:00pm
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.) -- Papa Z’s Night -- 7:00pm
Lee USA Speedway (Lee, N.H.) -- Pro Stock “Six Pack” Series -- 7:00pm
Mohawk Int’l Raceway (Akwesasne, N.Y.) -- Burke’s Excavation/Snap-On Tools Night -- 7:45pm
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl (Barre, Vt.) -- Aubuchon Hardware/Benjamin Moore 100 (Late Model championship finale) -- 6:30pm

Saturday, August 27
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) -- Liquor & Wine Warehouse/Casella Waste Management/Plattsburgh Distributing Night (Dick Nephew Memorial/Modified Topless 50) -- 6:00pm
American-Canadian Tour -- Circuit Riverside Speedway (Ste-Croix, Que.) -- 6:00pm
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford, Vt.) -- Sabil & Sons Towing Night (Granite State Mini Sprints/NEAR Antiques) -- 6:00pm
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.) -- Papa Z’s Night -- 6:00pm
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.) -- Regular Event -- 6:00pm
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.) -- EVENT CANCELLED
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.) -- Cricket’s Paint & Auto Parts Night -- 6:00pm
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.) -- Regular Event -- 6:00pm

Sunday, August 28
Devil’s Bowl Speedway (West Haven, Vt.) -- Regular Event (Pro Late Model championship finale) -- 6:00pm
Pro All Stars Series -- White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.) -- POSTPONED TO SEPT. 11