Donahue Makes Winning Look Easy at Thunder Road by Mike Twist
ACT Memorial Day Classic Goes to a Local Favorite
The fans were out for the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
“That helped, but just handled better up there.  It was loose and down low it just didn't have any bite.  Up high, there was more bite so I could pull away from those guys.”

The race out front might have been pretty mundane, but the battle for second between Williams and Scott Payea was a very good one, with Payea eventually getting the position at the finish.

“We did [have a great race],” said Payea..  “My car really wasn't that good on the
bottom, so even when I cleared him, I just couldn't turn down.  So I hung out there
and he was right there.  Eric raced me clean and we never even touched that whole
30 laps.  It was a lot of work, but it was fun  We started seventh and had that long
green run where I could pick off cars one at a time and get into the position that I
needed to get in.

“We could see Donahue, but we just couldn't get to him.” 

Donahue could see his competition too, but found it better to not pay them any attention.

“I'd peek up every now and then in my mirror, but I'd start missing my marks, so I
stopped doing that.  Especially when I was in lapped traffic, you can't start worrying
about what is behind you.”

Having just one caution period made the pace of the race very frantic, but Donahue claimed that is was a controlled chaos.

“It was actually easier with just that one caution, with all of those green laps it was easier to stay in a rhythm.  I don't really care for yellows, especially when I'm leading.”

It took John Donahue just 28 minutes and 16 seconds to win the 100-lap ACT late Model race to be run as part of the Mekkleson RV Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road Speedbowl.  Donahue started on the second row of the grid, passed Eric Williams for the lead just before the halfway point and pulled away from the rest of the field.  Even a single caution period for a Brent Dragon spin with 30 laps to go couldn't cut into Donahue's lead.
It almost looked easy for Donahue and he won't argue otherwise.

“It was [easy] once I got to the front,” said Donahue.  “Getting there was the hard part.”
Donahue's key to success was the ability to make his #26 Late Model work well on the tricky outside groove of Thunder Road's quarter mile oval.  Riding the high line got him into the lead and worked so well, so that stayed out there even when he was out front for good.

“They kept telling me to follow those guys, but I decided to try the high side and I kept gaining and gaining on them, and finally I passed them,” said Donahue of the early laps.  “After that, I stayed out there because it worked for me.”

Most observers would credit Donahue's knowledge of his hometrack for making the high line work, but Donahue credits his car's handling.
Donahue stays ahead of the #89 of Scott Payea.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)
The victory was Donahue's second career ACT race.  He also emerged as the victor in last season's Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road.

“This means a lot,” said Donahue of his Memorial Day Classic victory.  “It means that we are in the record books.  It's a big race and it's great to win these big races.  I'm glad that I did because they are hard to come by.”

The ACT Late Models return to action on June 7th at Waterford Speedbowl (CT).

46th Annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic
ACT Late Model Tour – Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl – Barre, VT
Sunday, May 25, 2008

(# - denotes rookie)

1. John Donahue, Graniteville, VT
2. Scott Payea, Milton, VT
3. Eric Williams, Hyde Park, VT
4. Patrick Laperle, St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, QC
5. Phil Scott, Montpelier, VT
Donahue in victory lane at Thunder Road.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
6. # Nick Sweet, Barre, VT
7. Cris Michaud, Northfield, VT
8. Pete Potvin, III, Graniteville, VT
9. # Matt White, Northfield, VT
10. # Ricky Wolf, Jr., Northwood, NH
11. Donald Theetge, Boischatel, QC
12. Shawn Fleury, Middlesex, VT
13. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, VT
14. Joe Becker, Jeffersonville, VT
15. Robbie Crouch, Tampa, FL
16. Chip Grenier, Graniteville, VT
17. Glen Luce, Turner, ME
18. Brent Dragon, Milton, VT
19. Dave Pembroke, Middlesex, VT
20. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, NH
21. Randy Potter, Groveton, NH
22. # Jonathan Urlin, London, ON
23. Trampas Demers, South Burlington, VT
24. Scott Dragon, Milton, VT
25. Eric Chase, Milton, VT
26. Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier, VT
27. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, VT
28. Ryan Nolin, Georgia, VT
29. Roger Brown, II, Lancaster, NH
30. Bobby Dragon, Milton, VT