Salemi Hopes That Changes Pay Off in 2007 by Denise DuPont and Mike Twist
Busch East Driver Aims for Breakthrough Season
Salemi at the recent Speedway EXPO. (Jim DuPont Photo)
John Salemi is hoping that his third season in the NASCAR Busch East Series is the charm. But, the personable New Hampshire driver isn’t just wishing his way towards that goal. Salemi has made several changes in the off-season to transition him to a contender in the series.
First, he’ll be switching rides. Salemi left the #15 Willoughby Motorsports team after the 2006 season to join a new second team for an existing operation.
“Our plan for this year is to take Daddy’s Hot Sauce from last year’s team to this year’s team,” said Salemi. “That’s a sponsor of mine that we kept. We’ve also signed with Milwaukee Tools who’ll giving us sponsorship. We’ll be driving a second car for Jamerson Motorsports, so we’ll be racing with Dion Ciccarelli.”
But wait, there’s more…Salemi just can’t talk about that quite yet.
“There’s a lot more that we really can’t announce yet. There’s a lot of exciting things there. We’ll give you the ok when it’s ready. There’s not much I can tell you. I can tell you that I’m very excited.”
Salemi’s family will be a major part of the new arrangement, but it will also be a far cry from the 2005 season, when his family-owned #63 team fielded an entry in the series.
“We brought my family to the team we were racing for last year. So that was a split team. We’re doing kind of the same thing this year. It’ll be mainly the Jamerson Motorsports team. They’ll be doing probably all the work. I’ll be bringing my family team as help for pit stops and things like that. We’ll also have a new crew chief [who Salemi can’t name yet] and it will be pretty exciting to have him.
“We’re gonna have some fun this year. We won’t be running the #63 but #65 [Salemi’s new car number] is pretty close. Hopefully you’ll see us in victory lane ripping some doughnuts by the end of the year.”
Salemi has over 50 career victories in motorcycle racing, so he knows that he can get the job done in the Busch East Series – especially when the competitors get to turn left and right on a road course.
“We ran top five at Lime Rock last year,” said Salemi. “With the crew chief that we’ll leave unnamed, we’ll be very good on a road course. If he can give us a good set up we could win that race. That might be our best shot.”
2006 was an educational experience for Salemi. It was a productive year in some respects, but not others. However, he has left the #15 team on a positive note.
“I learned a lot last year,” said Salemi. “You know some people may think we left on bad terms, which it wasn’t. It was more of a chemistry thing. Sometimes you just don’t mix with an operation.”
“I know I can drive a car pretty good. I just need to be one with the racecar. I just never felt I could get that last year. It was maybe too may chiefs, something like that. Not so much people not getting along, but when people have been doing something so long they don’t want to change. Where I’m so new at it, I don’t know what they used to do. But I know what works now - and I can do that now.”
Going back to his own team was the path that Salemi intended to take next, until this current opportunity came along.
“I knew which direction with racing I needed to make a change. So we had planned to run the #63 car this year on our own. And we got a phone call from Larry Jamerson. He asked me if we’d like to be part of his team and he didn’t have to ask me twice. To me he’s the future of this sport. We need more owners like him in here.”
Aligning with Jamerson should allow Salemi to step up his game. He knows that he’ll have better tools at his hands to do just that.
“We’re on a new team and we have to do what’s being successful now. You know, the #44 car [of Sean Caisse] is not running up front cause they’re using old stuff. So we just have to step up. And if you can afford it and you can kind of swallow your pride a little bit and make that change you’ll be successful.”
Salemi drove his family's #63 car in 2005 (Top - Salemi Motorsports Photo) and the #15 Willoughby Motorsports car in 2006. (Bottom - NASCAR/Hodge Photo)