While it is early yet, it safe to say that the track championship at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) already seems to be reaching out toward the fingertips of two particular competitors. One of these has kissed the cow at the crown-jewel Chittenden Bank Milkbowl, and drowned in the cheers of being hailed King of the Road at Thunder Road in the 2007 season. The other, through an Tiger Sportsman championship and a wildly impressive showing in the ACT Tour, Thunder Road, and ACT Invitational last year, has come into full form through the famous “ladder-system.”
The two contenders are:
Dave Pembroke - 2007 “King of the Road”, three-time Memorial Day Classic winner, Labor Day Classic Winner, Merchants Bank 150 Winner, and 2002 Milkbowl Champion.
Nick Sweet - 2008 ACT Tour Rookie of the Year, Merchants Bank 150 Winner, Carquest Governor’s Cup Winner, and 2007 Flying Tiger Champion
Judging by recent performances, these two could be the next Phil Scott, Cris Michaud, possibly even Brian Hoar or Jean Paul Cyr with some luck. Outrageous talent, charisma, great backing, and a smart, classy style, that has propelled these two fierce competitors to being the ones to beat. Just look at how the 2010 season has gone so far.
The year started out with Sweet winning the Merchants Bank 150, the season opener for the ACT Tour. His first ACT win, but unsurprising considering his thrilling second place finish last year to Eddie MacDonald at Loudon, NH. Sweet then posted another top-ten finish at the newly paved Devil’s Bowl Speedway. At the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic he was the fastest car on the track. While passing for the lead, however, he misjudged the position of the second place car, sending him spinning into the infield. One of the only mistakes the guy has ever made. The most amazing part? He rallied to a ninth place finish from the back.
If that isn’t championship grit, what is?
After that performance, he came from mid pack to post a fifth place in the Ferguson Waterworks night. At Harvest Equipment night, he continued to come out of the back and post consistent finishes, placing ninth - His worst finish of the year so far.
Of course, that was nothing in comparison to what he did at the CarQuest Governor’s Cup this past weekend.
After qualifying on the pole of the event through his heat, with Pembroke not far behind, it was time to show the critics that he was the real deal. He needed this - to show that he could handle the pressure, that he was championship material.
As usual, Sweet delivered.
In an all out slugfest with Pembroke, side by side for more than half the laps of the race, Sweet passed Pembroke for the lead and never relinquished it. When the last restart came, with a fresher Jamie Fisher on the outside, and Sweet pinned to the inside when he had favored the outside the whole race, everyone held their breath. Exhales of relief came when Sweet blew Fisher, and the Thunder Road crowd, away and took home the Governor’s Cup.
Sweet is outrageously talented, and all the locals knew watching this kid grow up at Thunder Road that his day would come. After coming into his own at the end of last year, he seemed poised to strike.
Well, consider the Thunder Road late models struck. Sweet is here to stay, and the history books will be re-written if he has anything to say about it.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where your loyalty lies, someone stands in Sweet’s way: David Pembroke.
Pembroke has been a household name in this region for years now, and forever locked his place in history with key wins in the Milkbowl, multiple wins in the Memorial Day Classic, not to mention the 2007 Thunder Road championship crown.
2010 has been no different, and if it has been, it’s been better. With a fourth-place finish to start the year in the ACT opener, Pembroke moved quickly to the newly-paved Devil’s Bowl Speedway. No Thunder Road late model had run there, as it had just been paved this year. Of course, after a great battle with local driver Mike Bruno, Pembroke brought his checkered past to another venue and was victorious in the first ever race there. When its time for history to be written, Pembroke always wants to be first in line.
That wasn’t enough for Pembroke, though. He marched right back to Thunder Road later that month in the next race and won again in the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. He followed that win with a fourth-place finish, and then his worst finish of the season thus far (gasp), seventh.
Then came the Governor’s Cup. Pembroke’s third place finish in this race was hardly the mark of the battle he had with eventual victor Sweet. At the top of the points standings, it is Pembroke with 305, Sweet with 289.
The Late Model division could become the Sweet VS Pembroke show, but how bad would that really be? Place your bets while the season is still young, but it looks as though it could be the year of the palindromes. 44, and 88. Will Pembroke conquer the road twice in 3 years? Or can Sweet pull off the unthinkable and claim his first King Of The Road title? When the dust settles in August, only one can be the winner.
Alex Whitcomb knows a thing or two about getting around Thunder Road. He drives the #78 Whitcomb Motorsports Street Stock at the track and is currently fourth in the rookie points of the crowded division.