WATERBURY-The annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, now in its forty-ninth edition, 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, N.H., brought his flathead coupe to the winner's circle in 1961. The 2007 King of the Road, David Pembroke from Montpelier 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.
There were two seasons when the race was not run, 1979, during the brief ownership of the infamous Tommy Kalomiras from Long Island, N.Y. 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.
Thunder Road Late Models took over in 2005, '06 and '07 with three new winners, Trampas Demers, Shelburne, Brent Dragon, Milton, VT and the first of three for David Pembroke. John Donahue won in an ACT US event in 2008.
On Sunday, May 29, 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.