Two For Two: Derrick O’Donnell Claims Second Memorial Day Classic 100 At Thunder Road

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Derrick O'Donnell celebrates Sunday at Thunder Road International Speedbowl

Derrick O’Donnell celebrates Sunday at Thunder Road International Speedbowl

BARRE, Vt. — Derrick O’Donnell’s bid to become just the second driver in Thunder Road International Speedbowl history to claim three consecutive Late Model championships got off to a dominating start Sunday.

O’Donnell, of North Haverhill, N.H., expertly navigated lapped traffic and drove away in the closing stages to win the caution-free Memorial Day Classic 100. It was O’Donnell’s second win in one of Thunder Road’s three annual marquee Late Model events, having also claimed the checkered flag in this race in 2013.

Scott Dragon of Milton, Vt., finished second, while two-time Thunder Road Late Model champion Nick Sweet of Barre, Vt., held on for third.

After starting third in the 29-car field, O’Donnell rode around the top of the high banks on the quarter-mile and took the lead from the polesitter Sweet off turn two on lap 8.

“I tried to save as much as I could,” said O’Donnell, who has won the last two Late Model championships at the track.

O’Donnell is trying to join Chuck Beede as the only driver to win three consecutive titles at Thunder Road. Beede won the 1992, 1993 and 1994 Late Model championships.

“I saved just enough, because it was starting to fall off pretty good,” O’Donnell said. “I was able to pull off some pretty quick laps at the end to get back out there.”

Dragon got to O’Donnell’s bumper — and may have even had a nose ahead at the start-finish line on lap 57 — while the two raced in heavy, two-by-two lapped traffic midway through the race. But once they cleared those machines, O’Donnell set sail.

“We had a good car,” Dragon said. “I was hoping (O’Donnell) was going to start slipping and sliding, but he held up good. We’re happy with second place — can’t complain about that.”

Brad Babb of Windham, Maine, who won the ACT Late Model Tour Merchants Bank 150 at the track earlier this month, finished fourth. John Donahue of Graniteville, Vt., was fifth.

Sweet led the first seven laps but faded to a straightaway behind O’Donnell with 10 laps remaining.

“Considering the last time I was here, this was a big bounce-back race for us,” said Sweet, who failed to qualify for the Merchants Bank 150.

The Memorial Day Classic joins the Vermont Milk Bowl and the Labor Day Classic as the signature Late Model races held each season at Thunder Road.

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