Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic History
The 49TH annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic will have a new look for 2011. The Thunder Road American Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models will begin their title chase with a 100-lap event, and the popular Bond Auto Tiger Sportsman division will open the five race BOND/WIX Tiger Tour as part of the traditional holiday event.
There are 30 Late Model teams expected to qualify for one of the region’s oldest events, Thunder Road’s Memorial Day Classic. The original winner, and the 1961 King of the Road, Roy “Pappy” Forsythe from Keene, NH, brought his flathead coupe to the winner’s circle in 1961. The 2007 King of the Road, David Pembroke from Montpelier, VT has won three of the last four events in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
The history of the Memorial Day Classic is deep and varied. The coupes ran the race from 1961-1964 with four different winners. Jean Paul Cabana won in a Modified during Thunder Road’s controversial switch-over from the coupes in 1965. With the controversy also came a change from1966-1969 when the famous Flying Tiger Limited Late Model division was created and took over the race, again four different winners, including familiar names who all became champions during their careers: Larry Demars, Russell Ingerson, Ronnie ‘Red Dog’ Barcomb and Bobby Dragon all won the Memorial Day Classic. In 1970, Jimmy Gates from Hardwick won in the only year the Ltd. Sportsman division existed.

The Ltd. Sportsman division began the revolution to ‘southern style’ Late Model Sportsmen. A long run of 8 Memorial Day Classics was run with that division. During that time, Dave Dion from Hudson, NH found his way to Thunder Road and won an incredible four in a row from 1975-1978. Jean-Paul Cabana won two of the eight titles during that span. [Unbelievably, Dion would again duplicate the feat of four in a row over a decade later from 1989-1992 in the ACT Pro Stock division].
There were two seasons when the race was not run, 1979, during the brief ownership of the infamous Tommy Kalomiras from Long Island, NY. When Ken Squier and Tom Curley took over Thunder Road by court order in 1980, Mike Barry won on what was then the NASCAR North Tour. The track was back in the courts again and there was no Memorial Classic in 1981.
Robbie Crouch, the ‘Tampa Tornado’, and Joey Kourafas from Sharon, MA won the other three classics under the NASCAR North banner. In 1986, the American Canadian Tour was established and ten (10) years of stability with the ACT Pro Stocks saw seven (7) different winners during that time (note: this was part of the Dion 4 in a row dominance).The race continued under the present ACT Late Model division for nine more years from 1996-2004. There were nine different winners during those highly competitive seasons with the new Late Model division.
Thunder Road Late Models took over in 2005, 06 and 07 with three new winners, Trampas Demers, Shelburne, VT, Brent Dragon, Milton, VT and the first of three for David Pembroke. John Donahue won in an ACT US event in 2008.
“I love the history of Thunder Road, and I really want to set as a personal goal to get my name on as many monuments as I can,” said Nick Sweet, the winner of the past two opening day Merchants Bank 150 ACT US events, and also the 2010 defending Thunder Road Champion. “This would be a great weekend to begin that goal. From what I have heard this is going to be the best field of Thunder Road Late Model cars we have seen in a many years. There are a lot of drivers who can get their first win in this kind of race. We all know how tough it is on Thursday nights with only 50 laps of racing, really with the competition we have at Thunder Road in this division, the 100 lap event can be pretty much the same. I’m sure it is going to be exciting for us and the fans,” concluded Sweet.
On Sunday, May 29, 2011, the gates open at 10am and post time for the Twin 100 lap events is 1:30. Admission is only $15 for Adults and children ages 6-12 are just $5. A discount family ticket of 2 Adults and 2 children is just $30.