51's Northern Exposure Compiled by Mike Twist
Waterford Gets Goes, a Big Year for Oxford Late Models, Midgets and More
WATERFORD SPEEDBOWL IS READY TO ROLL
The battle for Waterford Speedbowl’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champions begins at the March 31-April 1 11th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals. There are defending champions in all four of the NASCAR divisions including the SK-Modifieds.
Gada is putting off retirement in deference to the pursuit of the seventh championship. The usual list of contenders – Tom Fox, Jeff Pearl, Rob Janovic Jr., Shawn and Diego Monahan, Jeffrey Paul – is enhanced this year with the addition of Doug Coby, Kenny Horton and Dennis Charette. Fox, Pearl, the Monahans and Paul have won titles in the past.
Defending champion, Dennis Gada will begin his quest for a record seventh crown in Sunday’s $20,000 SK-150, the highlight of the nine-division weekend that also includes extra-distance events for the ‘Bowl’s Late Models (50 laps), Sportsman (30) and Mini Stocks (30).
Other defenders include Tim Jordan (Late Models), Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman), Danny Field (Mini Stocks) and Mark Bakaj (Legends). Field seeks a third straight championship.
The Northeastern Midget Association, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Race Trucks and Allison Legacy Cars will be on hand as well. Qualifying, including SK Time Trials will be on Saturday followed by the Legends, Truck, Pro4 and Legacy Car features.
Playing catch-up is almost impossible in the pursuit of racing championships. Gada, in fact, loves leading the point race. He rode a victory in the 2003 SK-150 to his fifth straight championship.
Last year Dorr was the 12th driver to carry a Modified Nationals victory all the way to the championship. In the Late Model ranks, Ed Reed Jr. (’97), Allan Coates (’98), Jay Stuart (’99 and 2000) and Corey Hutchings (’04) have done it. Hutchings did in the Sportsman division in ’98 and was followed by Chris Douton (’99) and Keith Rocco (’04). Jeff Miller won both the Mini Stock Mod Nats feature and championship in ’99.
OXFORD TO FEATURE CROWDED TITLE CHASE
We’re not sure that any one word is worthy to describe the all-new Oxford Networks Late Model division at Oxford Plains Speedway, but “loaded” is a good place to start.
You’ve heard about the record-shattering entry list of 166 drivers (and growing) for the 34th annual TD Banknorth 250. Yes, it’s going to be a fantastic show, one that nobody with an affinity for the time-tested summer classic should miss.
One problem: That race is still four months away. So how can we quench our thirst for door-to-door Late Model excitement until then? Try every Saturday night in May, June and July, for starters, since everyheat, consolation and feature race is shaping up as a miniature 250.
The cars and stars of PASS will be on display this week. (Norm Marx Photo)
Thursday night will be old-timers night at the show, featuring racing legends from all around the region. On Friday night, there will be all all-star autograph session featuring present-day drivers including 2006 PASS North champion Johnny Clark, 2006 PASS South champion Mike Rowe, three-time PASS North champion Ben Rowe and many other racing stars.
“We’ll get down there and meet some of those fans,” said Ben Rowe. “It’s getting closer and closer to the racing season, so you get more of the New England fans out of their houses and to some of the shows. I always enjoy going and meeting some of the fans and signing autographs.”
ICE STARTS TO CRACK, THOMPSON PRACTICE SET FOR THIS WEEEKEND
The Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway is scheduled for April 14th-15th and tams can get a jump on the event this weekend when the track hosts an open practice for the race on Saturday from Noon through 5pm.
Several NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams are expected to take part in the test. The Icebreaker will start off their 2007 racing season as well.
Allen Coates, Bruce Thomas Jr., Larry Goss, Duane Noll, Dave Zemke, Joe Perry and Ernie Bertrand all have hopes of knocking Jordan off the throne. Coates, a three-time champion, Thomas and Bertrand all have new cars. Wayne Corey is back in the mix while Joe Curioso III, up from the Sportsman ranks, is a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Although Dorr won a record 11 races a year ago, the Sportsman division had a total of eight winners and six of them – Richard Staskowski, Joe Bertholet, Al Stone III, Greg Butler, Billy Gertsch Jr. and Jim Procaccini – are all due back. They’ll join John Puglisi, Roger Perry, Sean Curtis and Tim Fogg. Two former champions – Ted Dupre and Norman Root Jr. – have filed entries as well.
Joe Godbout III and Ken Cassidy Jr. are two prime Mini Stock contenders. Both were among the fastest in the division a year ago. Veteran Phil Evans, now on the Jeff Miller team, is another. Chris Williams found victory lane last year and wound up third in points. Rookie of the Year Mark Panaroni, veteran Chuck Rogers, Kyle James will be returning as well.
Dennis Gada’s son (Joe) and nephew (Adam) will be driving Legends this summer. They’re part of a continuing youth movement that includes a number of championship prospects including Jason Palmer, Brian Quimette and Max Zacham.
PASS TO SHOW OFF THEIR DIVISIONS AT MOTORSPORTS EXTRAVANGANZA
The second annual PASS Motorsports Extravaganza is set to take place this Thursday and Friday evenings at the Gorham Sports Center in Gorham, Maine. The show will feature plenty of racecars and drivers from various PASS tours, as well as from tracks that PASS visits.
Tim Jordan (Speedbowl Photo)
Dennis Gada (Waterford Speedbowl Photo)
Based on number reservations and off-season inquiries, there is the likelihood of a “full field” in Oxford’s top division for the first time in decades. On any night when more than 30 cars roll through the pit gate, championship-caliber cars and drivers will be left sitting on the sidelines during the main event.
Consider the possibility that some Late Model features could showcase a staggering 10 drivers who have captured the track championship in a current or past headline division at OPS.
With the retirement of the Pro Stock division after the 2006 campaign, three former champions of that class are expected to focus their weekly short track efforts in the blended Late Model division. Ricky Rolfe, Tim Brackett and Scott Robbins all have demonstrated their strength in multiple classes at the historic speedway.
Robbins was the 2002 TD Banknorth 250 champion, while Rolfe and Brackett each hold top-five finishes in the lucrative event. Of course, Rolfe and Robbins are also past champions of the “old” Late Model division.
Last year’s points duel between Travis Adams and Dennis Spencer Jr. ended with Adams winning his second title in four seasons and joining Spencer as the only two-time Late Model champions. Both men have established themselves among the best “pound-for-pound” drivers OPS has to offer, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see a drop-off despite a significant hike in the level of competition.
Shawn Martin has nothing to prove, either, with an Oxford Networks Late Model championship, two American-Canadian Tour race victories at his home track and two successful ventures in the TD Banknorth 250 to his credit without ever leaving the Late Model ranks. Martin has run a limited schedule the last two years while earning his stripes with ACT, but you can bet he would like nothing better than to give one of his major sponsors (Oxford Networks) the title in its first year of affiliation with the class.
Chuck Colby endured a star-crossed season in 2006, but his domination of the previous campaign en route to the Late Model crown sent the message that the mid-coast wheel man has no trouble finding the fast lane around Oxford. Chuck and father Charlie Colby will be one of several potential family combinations in the field.
Notice we haven’t even mentioned former Late Model and Charger champion and 2003-2004 TD Banknorth 250 king Ben Rowe, who will probably tackle a handful of spring and early summer races in his Richard Moody Racing machine. And let’s not forget his father, 150-race winner and seven-time track champ Mike Rowe, who will pilot the Mike Lux/Jerry Hicks ride in a limited schedule.
The list of past race winners, points runner-ups, rookies of the year and just plain talented racers hoping to win the Oxford Networks Late Model championship hardware could take a whole day to discuss.
Dale Verrill, Jon Brill, Dave MacDonald, Bill Childs Jr., Mike Ferguson and T.J. Watson all finished in the Late Model top 10 last season. Scott Moore, Tommy Tompkins, Ricky Morse and Kevin Kimball are expected to join them after storming the top 10 in the final Pro Stock parade.
Carey Martin is one of only three drivers to win at least five OPS championships, all of those in the Limited Sportsman division. That class also blends with the Late Models this season, which could be good news for Martin. He’s been a double-duty threat the past two years. With Martin’s full attention fixed on the #18 Late Model program, the sky seems to be the limit.
Scott King, Jeff White, Corey Morgan, Brad Hammond and T.J. Brackett have abundant experience making the commute to Oxford’s victory lane. So do Frank Snow and Don Wentworth. Ditto for David Raymond and Chris Bowie, who lead the pack of potential “comeback kids” in ’07.
And how about the Wal-Mart Rookie of the Year class? It’s hard to imagine a deeper field than past Limited Sportsman standouts “Two Lap” Tommy Ricker, David Vaughn, Brian McClure, Troy Morse and Neil Martin, OPS Acceleration Series graduate Travis Stearns and former Allen’s Strictly Stock challenger Tim Pendergast.
With the L-A Harley Davidson Late Model Challenge and TD Banknorth 250 offering five opportunities for huge paydays and a sizable point fund, you are certain to see numerous ACT invaders whenever their tour schedule permits. Six-time ACT champions Robbie Crouch and Jean-Paul Cyr are among the teams expected to use selected Saturday races as a shakedown session. Brent Dragon, John Donahue, Eric Chase, Joe Becker and Dan Colby are also considering the long haul through the Green and White mountains on a semi-regular basis.
It’s the deepest and most talented division ever to grace a weekly show at OPS. Don’t miss the Oxford Networks Late Model division in the season-opening ACT New England Dodge Dealers 150 on Saturday, April 28, or in the first race of the weekly championship chase on Saturday, May 5.
NEMA TO GET SEASON STARTED THIS WEEKEND AT THE BOWL
The 2007 season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive on record for the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA). The roster, the schedule, and the intensity will be the impetus for some of the fiercest competition that NEMA has seen in many years.
The motivation is there for all the teams; the marquee teams of the club in particular. Defending Champion Ben Seitz of Buzzards Bay, MA, comes into the season with the chance of becoming the first driver ever to win four consecutive driver championships. The team, led by car owner Peter Valeri of Monument Beach, MA, is poised for the challenge but will have a tremendous season-long fight as many top teams are gunning for the championship in 2007.
Joey Payne of Fairlawn, NJ, who was on his way to a stellar season in ’06, was sidelined by a devastating wreck at Stafford near mid-season. Although the team has put it behind them, it is undeniable that the determination of the owner Gene Angelillo of Wolcott, CT, and the entire team is fueled by “what could have been”.
The “Jersey Jet” is coming into the 2007 season with a vengeance. If they can continue with the momentum enjoyed at the tail-end of the 2006 season (and with lady luck on their side), the Payne-Angelillo team may be unstoppable.
Many feel that the brilliance of the Cabral/Bertrand pairing has not yet even begun to shine. Despite their winning ways in 2006, the powerful combination of team owner Tim Bertrand of Brighton, MA, and driver Randy Cabral of Plymouth, MA, have battled mechanical woes and their share of bad luck. For this hungry duo nothing short of domination is the goal. And a distinct possibility for the Bertrand Motorsports team. With a fan base that is far-reaching, Randy Cabral has got to be the emotional favorite for the 2007 championship.
The Bertrand stables will get an added boost of power during the 2007 season when the legendary Lou Cicconi, Jr. once again will jump behind the wheel of a Midget as a teammate to Cabral. The first of several races for Cicconi will be the season opener at the Waterford Speedbowl on March 31-April 1, 2007.
The Mike Jarret-owned team may have the decided edge for the 2007 season. As much as this competitive team wants to win races, their ultimate goal is to have fun. The elder statesmen of the Club, Jarret and his driver Nokie Fornoro of Stroudsburg, PA, have nothing to prove. Fornoro will likely see the NEAR Hall of Fame while Jarret has earned respect and recognition as both a car owner and sponsor. They wanted to race together again and prove that the old dogs could still run with the pups. In 2006, run they did, winning two races and staying in the hunt for the championship right down to the wire.
Fornoro, who will once again miss races due to his commitment to the International Supermodified Association, will share the driving responsibilities in the potent #4 with part-time teammate Shane Hammond of E. Bridgewater, MA. With this talented pair in his corner, it might be Jarret’s turn to stand as the owner’s champion in 2007.
As for the rest of the talent-laden Northeastern Midget Association roster, their determination will be evident right out of the box at the season opener at Waterford. Look for the 2007 season to be the one which finds Shane Hammond in victory lane.
“Ben (Seitz), Joey (Payne) and Randy (Cabral) should be up front again this season,” said Hammond. “There are a number of other drivers that will be right up there also. As for myself, I hope I can mix it up with them. This year I’m hoping to get my first victory. It’s going to be very challenging with the very strong competition we have in the club. It’s time for me to put a little pressure on myself to step it up.”
Mike Keeler of Danbury, CT, has shown he can win races. Now with a new team, his visits could become more frequent. Adam Cantor of Dix Hills, NY, has endured a winless streak that has been plagued by bad luck. A new season means new possibilities for the capable
driver, who would like nothing more than to hit a hot-streak in 2007.
Other NEMA drivers capable of visiting victory lane include the Dolan Brothers-Ryan and Sean, Pete Pernesiglio and Kyle Carpenter. A whole new rookie class enters the ring with years of racing experience behind their youthful exuberance including proven winners like Brit Andersen, Aaron Wall, Mark Irving and many more.
The 2007 season kicks off at the Waterford Speedbowl on April 1 and culminates at the World Series at Thompson Speedway in October. The schedule gains momentum in late May with visits to the new All-Star Speedway and the first visit to Monadnock Speedway. The series will make appearances at such notable tracks as Stafford and Seekonk Speedways along with a return to Beech Ridge for a total of 15 action-packed races.
NUTTING TO TAKE OVER TECH AT LEE
The management of Lee USA Speedway, Lee, NH, have announced the appointment of long time NASCAR official Russ Nutting as the Chief Tech Steward at the 3/8 mile NASCAR sanctioned facility for the upcoming season. Lee opens for the year April 21, 22, with the running of the “Governors Cup 150” for Late Model stocks cars. All divisions’ will also be in competition.
The Limerick. ME, resident has been involved in racing for close to fifty years as a car owner, driver, builder, and as an official at area speedways having spent the last 13 years at the former Star Speedway. Nutting will assume the top tech position at Lee and oversee all weekly divisions that compete there
“I’m looking forward to it, anxious to get going,” said Nutting Monday night. “I enjoy it, I really do, had a lot of fun the last 13 years, don’t like the DQ part of it but it’s my job to get people to do what they are supposed to do. I’ve been on both sides of it, I’d rather shake their hand at the end of the night,” he said.
Track owner Red MacDonald is pleased to have Nutting joining his already veteran staff. “We needed to go in a different direction in our tech department and we feel this is a good move for our operation,” said MacDonald. He added, “Russell has been involved in this sport a very long time. We are lucky that he was available, that much experience is hard to come by.”
In addition to the Nutting announcement, the speedway also disclosed that Dennis Ciotti, a longtime sponsor and owner of Ciotti Racing Products, 44 Maple St, Dover, NH, will sponsor the Late Model division this season. The Hobby Stock division, sponsored by Ciotti for several seasons, will be presented by Planet Aid, a non profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in developing countries.
A Triple Crown Series for the Ciotti Racing Products Late Model Division will be presented by Hooters of Manchester, Nashua, and Salem. A special promotion will be announced soon.
A preview of the 2007 season at Lee will take place at Lilac Mall, Rochester, NH., with several racers on display. The special exhibit will take place Mar 30, April 1, 2, with speedway officials on hand to answer questions.
FOCUSING ON MIDGETS
The Northeast Ford Focus Series (NFFS) is well into the preparation for their season opener scheduled for April 28, 2007 at the Waterford Speedbowl, in Waterford, CT. Title sponsor Wirtgen America along with Connecticut Trailers and Pace Trailers have rejoined the growing organization for what is shaping up to be a thrilling season. Series officials spent several months crafting a 14-race schedule (up from 12 in 2006) that includes races at historic facilities throughout the region.
Places like the Waterford Speedbowl, Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, MA, and All-Star Speedway (formerly Star Speedway) of Epping, NH, where the Northeast Ford Focus Series makes two stops apiece in 2007, have long since produced some of the best midget races this area of the country has ever seen. As a relatively new series, NFFS relishes the opportunity to add to the legacy of excitement.
The young contingent of racers will have plenty of chances to impress the racing community throughout the northeast as the Focus series will visit tracks of various shapes and sizes in five states. Stops include the ultra-fast Oswego Speedway, at bullrings like the high-banked Wall Township Speedway in Wall, NJ, and the state-of-art Adirondack Speedway.
The NFFS will return to the Chemung Speedrome for two races in 2007 while adding two stops at their sister facility, the Spencer Speedway. Both facilities are under new ownership. The futures of both facilities look bright with new sanctions and fresh new insight from owner and former driver John White and family. Located in upstate New York, Spencer Speedway is a flat track while Chemung is a 3/8th-mile banked paved oval.
Also under new ownership is the All-Star Speedway. Another racer, Bobby MacArthur, will take over the ¼ mile speed plant in Epping, NH. Under the tutelage of former owner Bob Weber, MacArthur has revamped the race program. With capital improvements already underway, the facility has been given a new look for 2007.
“We feel extremely fortunate to be part of the racing activities at such notable and historic tracks like Oswego, Seekonk, Wall and Waterford,” said Series Director Steve Wall. “But it is also very exciting for all of us to be part of the new era at facilities like All-Star, Chemung and Spencer. We know that the Focus Series has the best of both worlds with our schedule.”
For the second straight year, Wirtgen America, the world’s largest manufacturer of pavement milling machines, will serve as the Series’ presenting sponsor. The company’s marketing strategy has utilized motorsports successfully for nearly 20 years-traditionally in the open wheel ranks through associations with the World of Outlaws and the Northeastern Midget Association. The tradition continues with the Northeast Ford Focus Series. To learn more about Wirtgen America log on to www.wirtgenamerica.com.
“Together Wirtgen and USAC are fostering the aspirations of up and coming racers,” said Wall. “We are grateful for their continued and ardent support.”
NFFS also receives promotional considerations from Connecticut Trailers of Bolton, CT and manufacturer Pace Trailers.
“Each week our Series operates with a high level of professionalism that would not be possible without the assistance of these two fine companies,” concluded Wall.
After gaining momentum in other parts of the country, the Ford Focus Series burst onto the racing scene in the Northeast late in 2005. Since then, the Series has gotten stronger with larger car counts, more race dates, and more racing excitement. The next chapter begins at the season opener on April 28, 2007 at the Waterford Speedbowl. For more information on the race event, log on to www.speedbowl.com. For a comprehensive look at the Northeast Ford Focus Series, visit www.northeastfordfocusseries.com.
The Ford Focus Midget Series is an affordable entry-level division sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC) that features traditional Midget racecar with self-starters and a powerful spec motor from the Ford Motor Company.
2007 NORTHEAST FORD FOCUS SERIES SCHEDULE
DATETRACK Apr 28Waterford Speedbowl - Waterford, CT May 26All-Star Speedway, Epping, NH Jun 2Seekonk Speedway - Seekonk, MA Jun 16Chemung Speedrome - Chemung, NY Jul 6Spencer Speedway, Williamson, NY Jul 7Oswego Speedway - Oswego, NY Jul 14Wall Township Speedway - Belmar, NJ Jul 21Waterford Speedbowl - Waterford, CT Jul 27Adirondack Speedway - Lowville, NY Aug 10Spencer Speedway, Williamson, NY Aug 11Chemung Speedrome - Chemung, NY Aug 18Wall Township Speedway - Belmar, NJ Sep 1All-Star Speedway, Epping, NH Oct 6-7Seekonk Speedway - Seekonk, MA "D.A.V. Memorial"
Ben Rowe knows how to win in a Late Model.
(Leif Tillotson Photo)
NEMA will spring into action this weekend at Waterford.
Side-by-side Midget action. (Jim DuPont Photo)
The Northeast Ford Focus Midgets feature wheel-to-wheel and sometimes even sideways action. (www.northeastfordfocusseries.com Photos)