51's Northern Exposure Compiled by Mike Twist
Kennison Wheels and Deals, Brown Is a Rocket With His Paperwork, A PASS Show and Much More
KENNISON AND BUSCH PREP FOR ’07 WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM JEFF TAYLOR
One of NASCAR's hottest young stars has purchased a Maine-built Pro Stock car, and one of Maine's most promising short track drivers is taking his program to the next level.
"The sale of the car came about through a friend of my new crew chief," says Kennison. "Seth Holbrook, who is Mike Rowe's crew chief on the PASS tour, is friends with Kyle and talks to him periodically. In one of Kyle's calls to Maine recently he asked Seth if he thought Distance could possibly build him a new car.
"As everybody involved in this sport knows, Jeff (Taylor) is incredibly busy up there at Distance and really couldn't set aside time to build him one in a timely fashion. So Kyle asked Seth if there was a nearly-new one out there somewhere he could buy, and Seth contacted Brian about the availability of my car. Seth called Kyle shortly after and gave him my price, he agreed to it, and I had his check within two days."
For now, Kennison and Burgess have stripped the body off the car Busch purchased and will take it to Taylor's shop where a new one will be mounted. The car will then be stored at the Kennison race shop until Busch decides on exactly when he will have it delivered to North Carolina.
Busch has driven Distance-built Pro Stock cars on three separate occasions, twice for the now-defunct SP2 team at Oxford and once last fall in Derek Ramstrom's car at South Boston, Virginia, in the inaugural Mason Dixon Meltdown. Of particular interest is the fact that Hamke cars are built not far from where Busch lives; in fact several other brands of chassis were readily available to him in a moment's notice. Yet he specifically chose a Maine-built Pro Stock from Distance Racing.
I thought a word from the chassis-building guru himself was in order. How did it feel to know one of NASCAR’s hottest stars wanted one of HIS cars to race on the side? And how many PASS North races will we see him (Taylor) compete in during 2007?
Kyle Busch, driver of the Kellogg's Chevrolet for respected NASCAR stalwart Hendrick Motorsports, has recently purchased a 2006 Distance-built Pro Stock car from Oxford native Chris Kennison. Busch has plans to compete in selected Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South races in 2007 and a few races in Las Vegas when his schedule allows.
Kennison, who ran part-time in the now-absent Pro Stock division at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2004, then full-time in 2005 and 2006, has purchased a 2007 car from well known and respected car builder Jeff Taylor (Distance Racing), hired veteran crew chief Brian Burgess and is planning a full-time assault on the 2007 PASS North series schedule.
The western Maine-based racer tested the waters of PASS last fall with strong results, running as high as second place in the prestigious PASS 300 at the famed Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
Just before traveling to Fairfield to pick up his new car, Kennison sat down to talk about his recent sale to such a high-profile racer and his plans for the 2007 PASS season. The former motocross racer has also assembled a fine group of marketing partners for the upcoming season.
Chris Kennison (Norm Marx Photo)
"It's pretty cool, I guess," says the forever-humble nine-time OPS champion. "He (Busch) probably could have had any chassis he wanted, even a complete car furnished for him. The fact he bought one of ours says a lot about our work and makes me very proud. We've got a lot of great customers up here who have done well, Mike and Ben Rowe, Cassius Clark, Corey Williams and many others. In fact, Ben almost won last month's Speedfest 200 in Lakeland, Fla., then got hit from behind late in the show."
It goes without saying that Taylor's cars have won a ton of races, thanks in part to quality workmanship, dedicated teamwork and skilled drivers.
As for his plans behind the wheel in 2007, you might be surprised.
"As of right now, we have no plans to race at all. I'm just so busy here at the shop (20 new cars on order), plus things have changed within my family so there really isn't the time to go race anymore. I'm going to stick with building cars for our great customers, and hope they enjoy a successful season with them."
Customers like Kennison, for example, who talks about his 2007 plans with a great deal of excitement yet also a sense of reality and cautious enthusiasm. A quick study, Kennison has figured out the three keys to success in motorsports; good equipment, experienced people and team chemistry.
"Right now, our plan is to run the full PASS North schedule," he explained. "That is what Brain (Burgess) and I have discussed, and that's what we'll do unless something really big comes up and bites us. We're excited about the opener at Beech Ridge (April 21) after running so strong there last fall. I think Brian is a little nervous about taking me to Speedway 95, only because I have no experience there. But we'll be alright once I get the place figured out."
The 15-race 2007 PASS North schedule presents a challenge to every team, offering a variety of tracks with different lengths and configurations to keep both drivers and crew chiefs on their toes. For Kennison, that challenge means being prepared each and ever week. The addition of Burgess to his team increases his chances for success in a big way.
"Brian has the knowledge and talents to take my program to new heights. He has his own shock dyno, everybody is always after him to do their shocks - plus his overall chassis knowledge is second-to-none here in the northeast. I'm thrilled to have him here, and hope to utilize his skills throughout the season. With a little luck, that will translate into some good finishes."
And no successful race team would be where they are without the help of marketing partners/sponsors to make it all happen. Kennison Competition has enjoyed the support of Thule trailers and accessories since it came into existence in 2004, as well as Kennison Real Estate. Chris added Cole-Man's Concrete of Oxford, Maine, to his program last fall.
Also on board is Old Port Press out of Portland, and new this winter is United Sports, a snowmobile, clothing and trailer retailer/distributor in North Turner, Maine. United Sports also has a large snowmobile museum as part of its complex that must be seen to be appreciated.
And so, with his program in order and plans coming together, Kennison hovers a few feet off the ground this winter, thinking about the possibilities in the months ahead.
"I try not to get too excited, but we do have a lot to look forward to this year. Brian is ready for the challenge, and so am I. Our realistic goal is to finish somewhere in the top 10 on a consistent basis, and I believe we can do that. It's going to be an interesting summer."
BROWN FILES FIRST OFFICIAL ACT ENTRY OF 2007
Roger Brown of Lancaster, NH has filed the first season entry for the 2007 American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Model Series. Brown finished fourth in last year’s standings, his best career effort since joining the Tour as a rookie in 2003, a title he went on to win.
Known as the “Rocketman” for his explosive on-track efforts, the 27 year-old racer is the elder statesman of ACT’s youthful contingent. “We’re psyched about the coming season,” the hotshoe commented. “After the Milk Bowl we didn’t really take any time off and got right at working on the car. In fact, we rebuilt the car I wrecked in the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic and it’s also set to go. We’re just waiting on a new crate motor from Butler & MacMaster – we’re way ahead of the game. Hopefully we’ll be able to improve on our performance last year.” En route to his top point finish Brown posted his second ACT victory with a convincing performance at Seekonk (MA) Speedway over several veterans including Phil Scott, Dave Pembroke and Brent Dragon.
When asked about the return of several of ACT’s former competitors, including a pair of multi-time champions, Brown was non-committal, “Those guys are just another racer to me. I’ll race Robbie Crouch, Brian Hoar and Kip Stockwell and any others who come along just as hard as I’ll race any of the other ACT drivers. I’ve raced with Brian and he’s going to be tough
to beat. I understand that Crouch is smooth as silk. If he drives the same way as I understand he used to, I’ll probably be able to learn something from watching him. I try to learn from my fellow competitors during practice as well as in races,” he added.
Brown also noted that six-time champion, Jean-Paul Cyr and second generation racer Brent Dragon will again be contenders for the ACT Tour title. “Those guys are great to race with. In fact, most of the ACT drivers, veterans and youngsters alike, are great to race with – there’s a lot of respect that’s traded back and forth.“
He continued, “I’m really looking forward to going back to Ste-Croix (a 5/8ths mile high banked oval near Quebec City, Qc), it was a good track for me and I learned a lot there following Donald (Theetge, 2006 ACT Quebec Late Model Champion). Also, the Super Series race at Kawartha (Speedway, Sept 15 in Fraserville, ON) will be a blast. I went out there for a tire test two years ago and I loved it. Everything about the place was awesome. As for the new track, St-Eustache, I like going to new places, that’s why I run the Tour,” he said before finishing with a grin, “In all actuality, I’d rather be first on race day than the first entry in for the season.”
The 2007 ACT Tour kicks off on Saturday, April 28 at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway with the New England Dodge Dealers 150. The second of 14 events, the ninth annual Merchants Bank 150 is set for Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl on Sun, May 6th
GADA READY TO CHASE HISTORY AT SPEEDBOWL
History is not lost on Dennis Gada. He’ll go after a record seventh SK-Modified championship this season at Waterford Speedbowl.
“The record is pretty much why we’re doing it,” says Gada, one of five defending champions returning to the Speedbowl wars in 2007.
“But,” he adds, “this is probably the last year. My son Joey is starting to race in the Legends. He’ll be racing in the Wild n’ Wacky Wednesdays series so I can both race and help him out. Past that who knows?”
Currently tied with Bob Potter and Phil Rondeau in the championship department (six apiece), Gada will begin the pursuit at the March 31-April 1 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Gada hopes to become only the second two-time winner of the Mod Nats’ SK-150. He won in 2003 and went on to capture his fifth straight championship. He was a contender in both ’04 and ’05.
“All the championships have special meaning,” says Gada, part of the Speedbowl’s “First” Family. “Ninety nine was the first one. We won the regional as well in 2003. Last year we got even with two of Speedbowl’s best ever and I did it as a car owner too.”
Gada drove for Harry Wyant for six seasons before becoming an owner/driver. He reached the 50-win mark sweeping last fall’s Double Down Shoot Out.
He is convinced, considering the competition, “consistency will win another championship.” He had only one win in the points races last year, but had seven seconds among 15 top fives. Those numbers, he insists, are testimony to “a crew
that puts their heart and soul into the effort.”
The SK field is expected to be stronger this year with a number of “newcomers” led by Kenny Horton joining a returning class that includes, among others, Tom Fox, Shawn and Diego Monahan, Rob Janovic Jr. and Jeffrey Pearl – all winners last year.
“A lot of good drivers in good equipment,” offers Gada. “It’s going to be much better for the fans, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me.” The Speedbowl, he insists “has some of the best racing around.”
Joey and cousin Adam Gada, also a Legends competitor, are both third generation competitors. Over a dozen members of the family have competed at the Speedbowl.
The Late Models (Tim Jordan), Sportsman (Dwayne Dorr), Mini Stocks (Danny Field) and Legends (Mark Bakaj) will have defending champions. “That is a good thing. It proves Waterford is a good place to race,” sums up Gada. “Even if those guys were not champions, they would be coming back. It’s a special place.”
PEDAL CAR RACES ADDED TO SPEEDWAY EXPO
The ever-growing list of events at SpeedwayEXPO, March 2-4, 2007, will provide an abundance of activities for kids of all ages. A highlight for the younger generation of race fans will undoubtedly be the Pedal Car Invitational presented by Martel Motorsports on Saturday, March 3rd. SpeedwayEXPO also is proud to present the Molly Bish Foundation Safety ID Program in conjunction with the pedal car races.
Children ages three to seven (with some size limitations) are invited to race “vintage” pedal cars during the Pedal-Power Nationals. The kids will get the green flag in a dash to the finish line in a drag race-style event. The top five finishers will receive trophies and the first 50 kids to enter will receive a participant medal courtesy of Martel Motorsports. “Heat race” winners will receive a copy of the children’s book Martin & T.J.’s Race Car Repair, by Susan Kelly Hearn, courtesy of publisher Coastal 181.
The nostalgic pedal cars are replicas of famous Modifieds from the Northern and Southern Tours—like “Ole Blue,” the legendary Boehler Racing #3, The Brady Bunch #00, the Hillbilly Racing #79 driven by Chuck Hossfeld and replicas from Southern racing heroes like Junior Miller, Tim Brown and more. A fan favorite will undoubtedly be the #711, dedicated to Bob Polverari’s “Last Ride” at the North-South Shootout TM back in 2004. Kids will also clamor to ride the Brian Pack’s Sponge Bob Square Pants Tribute car.
The Pedal-Power Nationals are scheduled for Saturday, March 3, at 3:00 PM in the Stroh Building. To pre-register for the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-847-0565. All other seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. As many events as possible will be run in the allotted time.
Amid all the fun and excitement of this great event will be an all-important child safety initiative. Parents are invited to participate in the Molly Bish Foundation Safety ID Program. Each participating family will be presented with a Molly Bish Life Guard Safety Kit, a booklet that provides basic safety rules and records personal safety information, and their children will be professionally photographed and fingerprinted by trained officers. The service will be available at no charge to families from 2:00-4:00 PM on Saturday in the Stroh Building. To learn more about the program log on to www.mollybish.org.
SpeedwayEXPO, the Northeast’s largest motorsports expo featuring more than three acres of indoor space dedicated to auto racing, will be held on March 2-4 at the Eastern States Exposition Center in West Springfield, MA. Discount advance tickets are available online at www.speedwayexpo.com for only $10 for adult general admission. Tickets will be sold at the Better Living Center during the weekend for $15 for adults. Children ages 10 and under will be admitted free. For more information on this and all events scheduled for SpeedwayEXPO, log on to www.speedwayexpo.com.
PASS EXTRAVAGANZA BACK FOR SECOND YEAR
Every year about this time, New England race fans start to get a little restless. They begin to exhibit symptoms of an often-widespread affliction known as "lack-of-racing-itis," a non-life threatening virus to which thousands can relate. To help those race fans overcome that depressing illness, officials from the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) are busy preparing for the 2nd Annual PASS Motorsports Extravaganza.
This year's show will be held at a different venue than last year, yet this change is a positive one. After a successful debut at historic Scarborough Downs in March of 2006, the show moves to the spacious and beautiful Gorham Sports Center on Route 202 in Gorham, Maine. The dates are set for Thursday, March 29, and Friday, March 30. Doors will open at 3 p.m. and close at 10 p.m. each day. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for students ages 7-15 and children age 6 and under will be admitted free with a paying adult.
The PASS Motorsports Extravaganza is once again presented in affiliation with the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Officials from Beech Ridge will be on hand to discuss the upcoming season with area race fans. Several weekly race teams from Beech Ridge will bring their freshly-prepared cars to show off and discuss their plans and goals for 2007. There will also be representatives from other area race tracks on hand, making this a truly regional celebration of racing.
Vendor space for this year's PASS Motorsports Extravaganza is still available. For more information regarding event participation, race team participation or vendor space, please contact Scott Reed at 207-625-3230.
The Gorham Sport Center is a futuristic dome-style facility that allows outdoor sports to be played indoors year round. The fabric cover gives it a translucent appearance, making it seem like daytime to its occupants all the time. Sports enthusiasts rave about the center's state-of-the-art playing surface that is less abrasive to players. The Gorham Sports Center is southern Maine's most modern indoor sports facility.
The Pro All Stars Series will begin its sixth season of sanctioning stock car racing here in the northeast on April 21 at the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Offering four touring divisions (Super Late Models, Outlaw Late Models, Modifieds and Sportsman), the sanctioning body provides teams of all interests and budgets an ideal place to race. The PASS North series competes at 11 different tracks in three states and two Canadian provinces. Defending champions from 2006 include Johnny Clark (PASS North Super Late Models); Mike Rowe (PASS South Super Late Models); Derek Ramstrom (Outlaw Late Model overall); and Chris Staples (Modifieds).
Clark returns in 2007 to defend his crown; Rowe now drives for P.T. Watts and has a full schedule on his plate; Ramstrom, the teenage sensation from West Boylston, Mass., steps up for a run at Rookie of the Year honors in the PASS North Super Late Models; while Staples will have to fend off the challenges of several new Modified teams in 2007 as he attempts to defend his title. Look for more details on the promising young stars of PASS in the coming weeks.
Just as they did in 2006, several teams from the northeast are planning to compete in the 2007 PASS South series opener, the second annual Easter Bunny 150, set for Saturday, April 7, at historic Hickory Motor Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina. The 2007 PASS South schedule also includes a stop at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC, along with events at Peachstate Speedway and Lanier National Raceway in Georgia.
CARQUEST COMES BACK UP NORTH
The Maritime Pro Stock Tour Limited is proud to announce that CARQUEST Auto Parts will continue to be the presenting sponsor for the 2007 season. The tour will continue to be known as the CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour.
“CARQUEST Auto Parts has been the presenting sponsor since the inception of the tour in 2001” said Ken Cunning, General Manager of Maritime Pro Stock Tour Limited. “We are proud to be associated with CARQUEST Auto Parts and to continue to present the CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour with them”.
“The CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour fits with our customer base and the race events are in the major areas of the Maritimes”, said Wayne Johnston, Vice President & General Manager Atlantic Division, CARQUEST Auto Parts. “We have stores throughout the Maritimes and this association allows us to present our brand to existing and potential customers, through the top stock car racing series in the Maritimes.”
The CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour visits five different race tracks in the three Maritime Provinces on the east coast of Canada: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Facilities are required to meet specific criteria for the CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour events, ensuring quality shows for the audience and the competitors. The complete 2007 schedule will be issued shortly.
With nearly 4,000 locations in North America, CARQUEST Auto Parts supplies the professional automotive service repair industry as well as do-it-yourselfers with replacement parts, tools and equipment.
The CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour is operated by Maritime Pro Stock Tour Limited and features an 11-race series at five different tracks in the three Maritime Provinces. Top drivers from all three provinces compete including 2006 champion John Flemming and former champions Rollie MacDonald, Shawn Tucker and Wayne Smith.
SPEEDWAY EXPO ANNOUNCES THE SPEEDIES
Recently the first annual SpeedwayEXPO announced its Speedy Awards. With the racing community assembled, SpeedwayEXPO provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate New England racing by honoring its best.
These recognition awards will be a tribute to the best racing competitors and organizations in the Northeast. Honors will be bestowed in 11 categories. The Speedy will be a prestigious distinction earned through the recognition of influential members of the racing community, their peers and the fans.
“The Speedy awards are destined to be among the most prestigious in Northeast
racing,” said Speedway Illustrated Executive Editor Dick Berggren. “Those who win
a Speedy in the first round will become a part of our history.”
Categories include Break-Out Racer Of The Year, Long Haul Award, Best Weekly Racer, Best Northeast Touring Racer, Best Weekly Show, Best Individual Performance In An Event, Best Individual Promotion, Best Series Or Track Coverage, Race Fan Of The Year, Outstanding Contribution Award and the Unsung Hero Award. The winners of the Speedy Awards will be honored during a special presentation on Sunday, March 4, at 3:00 PM.
In order to ensure that the Speedy Awards are true to the racing world, SpeedwayEXPO asks for the input of the entire racing community. Nominations for each category will be accepted on www.speedwayexpo.com.
All members of the racing community are invited to nominate those deserving recognition in each Speedy Award category. All nominations will require a brief explanation of the nominee’s merit. Nominations must be accompanied by the name and email address of the submitter. Nominations will be accepted until February 18, 2007.
A preliminary list of nominees for all Speedy categories has been compiled and may be viewed online at www.speedwayexpo.com.
SpeedwayEXPO will provide an ideal blend of fan attractions and trade amenities. A broad mixture of cars from tracks around the Northeast will combine asphalt and dirt stock car racing with drag racing and other forms of motorsports. The trade portion of the event will be the main attraction for enthusiasts and racers. Vendors of performance parts and accessories will be a major part of SpeedwayEXPO. Events during the weekend include an all-star line-up of celebrity appearances, informative seminars and interactive displays. The first annual SpeedwayEXPO will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 2-4, at The Big E, the Eastern States Exposition, in West Springfield, MA. Complete information, including a detailed schedule and advance ticket ordering, is available online at www.speedwayexpo.com.
MR. DIRT GOES STREET STOCKING
The DIRT MotorSports organization has been recognizing champions since it was established during the Bicentennial. 2007 marks the 32nd season of DIRT short-track competition and with it comes the creation of a Super Series for entry DIRTcar Street Stock racers. A final exclamation point will be added in October when the first-ever overall Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock titlist is crowned.
“We recently elevated the Street Stocks to new heights with a national point fund and now we’re taking it one step further here in the Northeast by recognizing an overall champion to mirror our other touring divisions,” said DIRT MotorSports NE General Manager Jack Deery. “This class has undergone some minor changes in alignment with DIRTcar on a national scale yet all the area promoters were still able to focus on those rules which were fine-tuned at their tracks. Offering a championship for these true weekend warriors further emphasizes that grassroots racing will always be the foundation of what we build on for the future.”
DIRT MotorSports NorthEast’s initial Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock Super Series will consist of nine races held at five central New York tracks throughout the summer. The Super Series champion stands to collect an additional $1,000 top-prize, while $500 is the winner’s share in each of the DIRTcar Street Stock Super Series events held.
“The upcoming season marks a renewed interest in entry-level racing around the DIRT circuit, especially here in Central New York,” Deery added. “While DIRT MotorSports is now viewed on a much grander scale, we continue to support all divisions that have been the backbone of our weekly shows since day one.”
The name change to DIRTcar Street Stock due to the establishment of the all-encompassing ‘DIRTcar Racing’ title has given DIRT MotorSports track affiliates in other regions of the country a general blueprint to market their popular weekly racing series more aggressively. In 2007 the national DIRTcar Street Stock point fund will pay a minimum of $3,000 and reward the top-20 places while the New York State point fund boasts at least $500 to the champion.
For additional information or rule questions, please contact the DIRT MotorSports NorthEast Office (315/834-6606) during normal business hours or log into the DIRT homepage anytime at www.dirtmotorsports.com to find out more about the entire circuit. DIRTcar Street Stock rules are also posted on the individual track websites at www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com, www.canandaiguaspeedway.com and www.rollingwheelsraceway.com.
2007 Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock Super Series Schedule
Thr-Jul 5Cayuga County Fair SpeedwayWeedsport, NY July-TBARolling Wheels RacewayElbridge, NY Sat-July 28Canandaigua SpeedwayCanandaigua, NY TBABrewerton SpeedwayBrewerton, NY Mon-Sep 3Rolling Wheels RacewayElbridge,NY Sat-Sep 15Canandaigua SpeedwayCanandaigua, NY Fri-Sep 21Rolling Wheels RacewayElbridge,NY Sat-Sep 29Fulton SpeedwayFulton,NY Fri-Oct 5Cayuga County Fair SpeedwayWeedsport, NY
*All events subject to change.
Kennison's #10 from last season has found a new home with a high-profile owner. (Norm Marx Photo)
Brown (#99) is all set to hit the track this year.
Dennis Gada is shooting for another title at Waterford. (Waterford Speedbowl Photo)
Pedal car racing has become very popular among young racers.
PASS will hold their second annual off-season show next month in Gorham, Maine.
The cars of the Carquest Maritime Pro Stock Tour.