BARRE — Kyle Pembroke has won bigger races, but never any that were as spectacular as his triumph at Thunder Road on Friday night.
With the win on the line in the Capitol City Buick-GMC 50, the Montpelier driver came across the finish line sideways with smoke billowing from his tires in unison with hometown runner Cody Blake, finishing about two feet ahead.
It was the sixth win of his career in the headline Late Model division and set the tone for the new summer season at the Barre track.
Pembroke started seventh and picked his way through traffic to take the lead from Tyler Cahoon at lap 23. He had a comfortable advantage but a caution period at lap 34 for Marcel Gravel, Scott Dragon, and Mason Mitchell gave Blake a shot.
Blake nosed ahead two laps after the restart and began to drive away from Pembroke, Cahoon, and a surging Jason Corliss, but contact from Corliss sent Cahoon spinning, leading to another caution with nine laps left. It was a slugfest from then on, with the trio of Blake, Pembroke, and Corliss all trading blows and even going three-wide at lap 46.
Pembroke, who was on the far outside of the fight, took the lead out of that scrum, but then was forced to battle Blake for the win in the final corner.
“I’m just catching my breath here. I was pretty puckered up the last few laps,” Pembroke said. He admitted that he thought Blake was long gone at one point, but said that the arrival of Corliss gave him the shot he needed.
“It just kind of turned into a shootout,” Pembroke said. “The new wall on the backstretch comes up at you quick. They painted it red for us where it sticks out and it definitely makes you think about going three-wide for sure.”
Corliss, who was aiming for his fifth consecutive win, settled for third place after starting 15th. Brooks Clark took fourth with Eric Chase a strong fifth. Trampas Demers finished sixth ahead of Boomer Morris, Josh Masterson, Governor Phil Scott, and Christopher Pelkey, unofficially.
The Street Stock division had a rough 25-lap outing that featured several multi-car pileups. Lyndonville’s Dean Switser Jr. led every lap but was never more than five car lengths ahead. Veteran Tommy “Thunder” Smith caught Switser and challenged him for the lead on several occasions before Jeff Martin Jr. made it a three-car fight.
A final caution period with three laps remaining gave the trio one last chance to mix it up, but Switser held strong; he also won at Speedway 51 in Groveton, New Hampshire, last Saturday. Martin finished second with Smith third, followed by Mike Gay and Kasey Collins.
The 75-lap Myers Containers Flying Tiger Triple Crown race was on the grid at post time. Tyler Austin and Eric Messier occupied the front row.
Berlin’s Eric “Pork” Chase was a popular first-time winner in the Road Warrior division. He survived several restarts and a physical challenge from Brian Putney in the final laps for the win. Chase then fulfilled a promise – sort of – that if he won a race he would dance with a hula-hoop in victory lane.
He tried, at least.
Putney was second and Sean McCarthy finished third.