Thunder Road Memorial Day Classic Leftovers
ACT-Spec Late Models & the Modified Racing Series Hit the Track
By Mike Twist
Thunder Road and Stephen Masse Agree Again

Last year, Stephen Masse scores his first Modified Racing Series victory in the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT).  This year, in the same race, he scored career victory number two.

It appears that the young Massachusetts driver and the historic Vermont track agree well with each other.

“This track has been awesome to me,” said Masse.  “I've had two Modified wins and they've both come here.  It just looks like we have the car to beat here.  My set-up is awesome and my crew is awesome.  They know exactly what to do.  I tell them what the car is doing and they make it fast.  I can't thank them enough.  Josh Steeves, my crew chief, has been giving me great set-ups all year and the cars have been awesome so far.”

It almost sounds like Masse is selling himself short as a driver, since Thunder Road is a tough place to get around without wrecking.  Winning there can't be easy, but even when he was asked directly, Masse deflected the credit for the victory away from himself.

“No, not really,” said Masse when asked if he wasn't giving himself enough credit.  “It was just a Sunday drive for me.  It was pretty easy.  I don't mean to sound cocky, but I had such a great racecar that all that I had to do was drive it around the track.  It couldn't have been easier.

“I'm really starting to like these small momentum tracks and this is one of them.  I've getting the hang of it and as long as I've got a car like this underneath me, I think that I can win with it.”

Masse enjoyed up to a half lap lead at various points in the race.  Despite a large number of caution periods, he had no trouble pulling away from the field after each and every restart.

“They would tell me when I had a half-straightaway or a straightaway and then I would tone it down a little.  I was pacing myself the whole time because my car was just so good at the beginning of the race that I wanted it to be there at the end.  I took it as easy as possible for most of the race and it paid off at the track.”

The timing of Masse's victory was good too.  His team had just signed a new sponsor in FK Rods Ends and going to victory lane was a good welcoming present for the new backer.

Pembroke's Memorial Day Legend Continues

The winners of the Late Model portion of the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road get their names etched in a granite monument that is located behind the grandstands of the track.  Whoever gets to etch those names is getting plenty of practice with one in particular - Dave Pembroke.

For the third time in the past three seasons, Pembroke won the Memorial Day Classic.  The victory comes on the heels of a Late Model victory against some stuff competition the weekend before at the newly-paved Devil's Bowl Speedway (VT).

Hinckley's Somehow Salvages Sixth With a Bent Racecar

In Sunday's Modified race at Thunder Road, Les Hinckley seemed to be more of a miracle worker than a racecar driver.  He drove a car that suffered a bent clip in an finish line wreck the night before at Airborne, a race he actually won, to a sixth-place finish at Thunder Road.

The most amazing thing was that Hinckley told Speed51.com that the car might have been capable of doing even better.

“You know, it's crazy to say but the car was even a little better than what I drove it,” said Hinckley.  “There was a lot of give and take out there.  There needed to be and there had to be.  The position that we were in with a bent clip and a lot of torn up stuff, sitting in the top 10, it really wasn't prudent to push issues that didn't need to be pushed today.

“We came home sixth and got a couple of spots there at the end when a couple of guys got together.  All in all, it was a good day.”

That good day came as a the result of much work after the Airborne wreck.

“We put a rear end in the car at the racetrack last night and basically rebuilt the whole right front suspension, the radiator and everything forward of the radiator there.  The clip was all twisted around, so we kind of left that and just got the wheels pointed straight.  We did the best that we could with it.  We stayed at the track until 12:30 and did all the set-up stuff and squared it up here at the track today.  It will be cut up tomorrow.”

Sweet's Anniversary Turns Slightly Sour

Nick Sweet had great incentive to win the Memorial Day Classic, as it was being held exactly one year after he married his wife Kristin.

“It's my anniversary today.  I had to bring my wife to dinner last night and have an early anniversary dinner,” said Sweet.

Sweet was plenty capable of winning too.  He visited victory lane in the ACT Late Model race at the track earlier this season and a rival crew chief of another top car in the race told Speed51.com before the event that Sweet's #88 car was the one that they were most concerned about.

“I knew going into the race we had a great car because all day long in practice we were quick,” said Sweet.

But things didn't work out quite how Sweet wanted.  He led laps early, but spun while battling for the lead with John Donahue on lap 47 and finished ninth.

“We didn't have the great finish that we wanted today, but you'll have those days,” said Sweet.  “We had a great car.  It was fast even after we spun it out.  We just didn't capitalize on things today.

“I just couldn't keep the car straight there when we got touched.  The thing that I was baffled by is that usually when you take out the leader, the guy who takes out the leader goes to the back as well.  I didn't understand that today and it was the only thing that I was baffled by.  They were claiming that I chopped him, but I don't know how you can chop somebody when you are up on the white line. “

Sweet did a fine job of working back towards the front, but in a race that was only 100 laps long, getting back into the top 10 was the best that he could do.

“I just ran out of time.  We had a car good enough to get up there,” said Sweet.  “Once you come up once, it's hard to do it again.  The problem is that when people start racing side-by-side in front of you, you can only do so much.  You just need to be patient because if you mess somebody up, you are usually going to go back.”

Zachem Takes Instant Liking to Thunder Road

Max Zachem made his first trip to Thunder Road Speedbowl this weekend and was rewarded with a fifth-place finish in the Modified Racing Series feature.  He was very pleased with the result.

“The goal was to have fun and complete all of the laps being a rookie here at Thunder Road,” said Zachem.  “It was my first time here, so to get a top five out of it was great.  Kevin Crowley, George Bierce and the whole crew…we had an absolute blast.”

Zachem actually ran as high as second in the race, but ended up fifth at the conclusion of 100 laps.

“All of those restarts are what strung me up,” said Zachem.  “Then it was a little tight towards the end because we screwed up on the stagger a little bit, but hey, that's the least of our worries.”

Zachem is a Legends graduate who has now moved up into Modifieds.  A fine result at Thunder Road, in a race where many much more experienced drivers did more than their share of wrecking, helped build up his confidence.

“It built it up big time,” said Zachem.  “I want to run the Whelen Tour and I need to get approved for it, so now I'm concentrating on this and I love it.”

Donahue Takes Runner-Up Spot

John Donahue knows how to win at Thunder Road, but he was happy to take down a second-place finish this time around in the Late Model portion of the Memorial Day Classic.

“A top three is fine.  I'm pretty happy with it and the car wasn't too bad either,” said Donahue.  “It started out a little loose, but that's the way it was.  It stayed consistent.”

The Late Model race featured a fair share of beating and banging among the leaders, but after it was over Donahue went right to victory lane to shake the hand of winner Dave Pembroke.

“It's always fun when you finish good,” said Donahue.  “When you race, you're going to hit people.  You can't really get mad because nobody is perfect.  You try to keep things good and everybody happy, but sometimes it gets a little out of control when everyone is trying to get everything they can.  But today was a good day for us.”


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Stephen Masse takes the checkered flag at Thunder Road.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Stephen Masse in victory lane at Thunder Road.  (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Dave Pembroke (#44) leads the pack at Thunder Road.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Les Hinckley (#06) deamged his car while winning at Airborne.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Nick Sweet (#88) spun after contact with John Donahue (#26).  (Top and Middle - Leif Tillotson Photos, Bottom - Jim Dupont Photo)
Max Zachem's #79 Modified.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
John Donahue (Left - #26) comes up just short at the finish line.  (Eric LeFleche Photo)