51's Northern Exposure Compiled by Mike Twist
Big Race at T-Road, Speedway 95 and Oxford Escape The Rain, Carquest Tour Kicks Off and More
T-ROAD MEMORIAL DAY CLASSIC IS RICH WITH TRADITION
The Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic 100 is more than a stock car race at Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road. It is the event with the longest history at the famed ¼-mile oval, and is among the oldest continuously running short track events in United States. The list of past winners reads like a “who’s who” of northeastern stock car racing, and winners are often referred to, throughout their entire careers, as champions of the event.
“I won the Labor Day Classic a couple years ago, and we’ve won the Spring Green and the Fall Foliage,” said Dragon. “Now, we’ve won the Memorial Day Classic and the Milk Bowl. We’ve won our five big races and I’ve completed it now. If I didn’t race another day, I wouldn’t care.”
Kip Stockwell says his family holds a special place for the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic. The Braintree veteran is making his return to full-time Thunder Road racing after nearly ten years away, and looks to add his name to the winners’ list for a second time.
“The Memorial Day Classic is one of my favorite races at any track, anywhere, with any type of car,” he stated. “We finished third in 1995 when Ralph Nason won, and then we won it in 1996. I had survived three heart attacks just a few weeks earlier, and it was really the perfect way to bounce back. We started on the pole and led every lap, and then my father rode in the car with me on my victory lap. It was a great day for my family. It’s a great race with a lot of history, and I’d love to win it again.”
Dragon and Stockwell will meet the challenges of former Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic winners Trampas Demers, Joey Becker, Joey Laquerre, Cris Michaud, and Phil Scott on Sunday at Barre’s Thunder Road. General admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children, and just $25 for a family of four. Green flag racing action is scheduled to begin at 1:30pm.
This season marks the 45th running of the race since its inception in 1961.
Roy “Pappy” Forsythe of Keene, NH won the inaugural Memorial Day Classic driving a flathead-powered Ford coupe. Forsythe won nine more feature races that season, setting a record that still stands in 2007. Legendary Canadian racer Jean-Paul Cabana won four times from 1965 to 1988, topped only by Hudson, NH’s Dave Dion, a nine- time champion of the event. Dion won the event four years running on two separate occasions – the first from 1975 through 1978, the second from 1989 through 1992. Dion also won in 1982. Other past winners include champion drivers Robbie Crouch, Joey Kourafas, Russ Ingerson, Jean-Paul Cyr, Kevin Lepage, and Joey Laquerre.
Second-generation racer Brent Dragon of Milton won the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic last year, and considers it to be one of the five most important events in the region. By winning the Classic in May and the season-ending Milk Bowl in October, Dragon feels he has nothing left to prove.
“That race was exciting. We started deeper in the field than we did last week. With this being the third points race, the rookies got to start up front and we were close to the back,” Adams noted. “I’m absolutely tickled with this third-place run. The car wasn’t quite as good as last week, obviously. It wasn’t that far off. We know what we need to do to kind of make it better.”
Shawn Martin, seeking to repeat Adams’ accomplishment of two division titles in four seasons, finished fourth ahead of second-generation phenom D.J. Shaw. The teenage son of Dale Shaw and a graduate of the JARRacing Photography Go Kart Series, D.J. was competing in his first Late Model feature at OPS after winning the title as a rookie at White Mountain Motorsports Park last summer.
Rolfe patiently worked his way through traffic and the late-race carnage to claim sixth in front of Doug Coombs, Glen Luce, top Wal-Mart Rookie Travis Stearns and Dale Verrill.
Making his third visit to OPS in the first four weeks, MacDonald nipped reigning champ Adams for second.
Although the NASCAR Busch East Series veteran is a product of his family-owned Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire, MacDonald has local ties. His chief mechanic is Rollie LaChance of New Gloucester, who has turned the wrenches in the past for two of Oxford’s all-time greats, Tracy Gordon and Dale Shaw.
“The car was running really good tonight. Rollie LaChance did an awesome job setting it up. He and his father have been doing an awesome job getting this thing ready. I just can’t thank them enough,” MacDonald said. “We’ve been playing with it a little bit every time we come back, and we think we’ve got a pretty good set-up now.”
Adams kept pace with Ricky Rolfe in the points chase, producing another podium effort at the helm of the Dacata Repair/River Valley Grill #03E.
Eddie MacDonald collects his second place trophy at Oxford. (OPS / Trudy Marshall Photo)
“The crew has worked hard. We put the Crazy Horse engine back in,” Spencer acknowledged. “It’s got plenty of power, that’s for sure.”
In the main event, Spencer breezed through the first half before averting a potentially heartbreaking finish on two fronts.
Contact between T.J. Watson and Rick Valentine and Valentine’s ensuing spin in turn two brought out the second yellow flag of the event with three laps remaining.
That left Spencer and race-long runner-up Jon Brill on the front row for the final dash with fast-closing Travis Adams, Eddie MacDonald, Carey Martin and Shawn Martin immediately in tow.
RAIN WINS AT MOST NEW ENGLAND TRACKS OVER WEEKEND
Last weekend was not a very good weekend for New England racing at all. Rain washed out the action at several area tracks including Beech Ridge, Waterford, Stafford, All-Star, Lee, Monadnock and Seekonk.
Oxford Plains Speedway got their Saturday night show in (see below) and Speedway 95 also avoided some rain clouds to get in a lineup of features that included John Phippen, Jr. holding off Paul White to win the Pro Stock feature. Greg Morse, Josh Frye and Jessie Smith rounded out the top five.
Pole Sitter Brenton Parritt of Steuben lead from Green to Checkers in the Limited Sportsman, with Deane Smart of Bradley some distance back for second. Joe Allard of Glenburn crossed the line in third in the caution free race.
In touring action, both the PASS North Super Late Model race at New Brunswick International Speedway and the NEMA Midget show at Seekonk fell to the weather.
SPENCER OUTGUNS RAINDROPS AND THE REST OF THE FIELD AT OXFORD
It hasn’t been a spectacular start to the season for Dennis Spencer Jr.
Second in points a year ago and the 1999-2000 Oxford Networks Late Model champion, Spencer finished 31st in April’s New England Dodge Dealers ACT 150 when his Cole-Man’s/Magnum Homes machine succumbed to electrical problems. A week later, Spencer was scored last in the 26-car field in the Championship Series opener, and he surrendered the early lead before settling for fifth in his most recent outing.
Spencer established early in the evening that Saturday would be different, charting a course in the outside lane to dominate his heat race.
There wasn't much racing in New England this past weekend, but in one of a few events Brenton Parritt won the Limited Sportsman race at Speedway 95 in his #27 machine. (51 Photo)
Spencer's #8 Late Model (51 Photo)
Brent Dragon's #55 (51 Photo)
Brill attempted to sneak a generous jump from his outside perch on the restart, prompting race officials to wave off the green. That triggered a chain reaction behind the leaders, with the top-10 cars of Carey Martin, Tommy Ricker and Brad Hammond damaged in the fracas.
With Brill assigned to the rear of the field for his role in the melee, last summer’s championship rivals Spencer and Adams were reunited on the front row.
Spencer asserted himself in the first corner after the resumption, leaving Adams forced to fend off MacDonald from the high line. That was enough diversion to give Spencer the edge by a car length at the checkers.
SPEEDWAY 95 TO BE BUSY ON SUNDAY
There will be a full card of racing at Speedway 95 near Bangor, Maine this coming Sunday.
The Community Pharmacies 100 will take place on Sunday afternoon and will be highlighted by a 100-lap feature for the PASS Outlaw Late Models. The PASS Modifieds will also be part of the show, along with the inaugurial appearance of the Pullen Heavy Industries PASS Sportsmen.
Practice starts at 11am, with racing scheduled to kick off at 2pm.
CARQUEST TOUR GETS SEASON STARTED THIS WEEKEND
EDWARDS SET TO PLAY IN THE DIRT
Cedar Ridge RV Center presents a special appearance of NASCAR Nextel Cup/Busch Series driver Carl Edwards and his car owner Jack Roush at Orange County Fair Speedway on Thursday, May 31. Edwards is scheduled to compete in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Cedar Ridge RV Center-WRWD 107.3/99.3 FM headliner against the top Big-Block Modified drivers in the Northeast before returning to Dover Downs (Del.) for an early Friday morning practice session.
Rookies Lonnie Sommerville, Saint John NB, Jonathan Hicken, Brudenell PE and Gary Bursey, Moncton NB will be in attendance striving to grab the lead in the EIT Race Radios Rookie of the Year award.
Racing action begins at 6 p.m. with the Atlantic Tiltload Time Trials running at 5:10 p.m. Grandstands open at 3 p.m.
Lucas Oil Products is one of the fastest growing additive lines in the consumer automotive industry. A premium line of oils, greases and problem solving additives has firmly established Lucas as a prominent figure in this marketplace. Lucas also produces a heavy-duty line of products for the industrial and agricultural markets.
The CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour visits four 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 CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour presents the Lucas Oil 100 on Saturday, May 26th at Scotia Speedworld in Halifax, NS.
This is the inaugural event for the CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour for 2007, a 10 race Pro Stock summer series held in the Maritimes. Over thirty drivers have placed tire orders, including 2006 Champion John Flemming of Halifax, NS. Past Champions Rollie MacDonald, Pictou NS, Shawn Tucker, Fredericton, NB and Wayne Smith, Timberlea, NS will be on hand trying to secure the 2007 championship.
Also making the trip to Scotia Speedworld are Kent Vincent, Crapaud PE, Stacey Clements, Five Island Lake NS, Shawn Turple, Enfield NS, Greg Proud, North Wiltshire PE and Chris Hughes, Winsloe PE.
Frank Fraser will make his CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour debut at the Lucas Oil 100. Fraser is a Maritime stock car legend, who is returning to the driver’s seat. He plans to run three or four races and then evaluate his performance before making a decision on the year. Fraser has high standards for the car and himself, and wants to ensure that he meets those standards.
The PASS Modifieds will be one of three tours at Speedway 95 this Sunday. (51 Photo)
John Fleming is looking to defend his Carquest Pro Stock title this season. (51 Photo)
Also planning to be in attendance are NASCAR Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year candidate and Busch Series driver David Reutimann and his legendary racing father, Buzzie Reutimann, Orange County’s 1972 Eastern States 200 winner and 1972 & 1974 track points champion.
“The car is being painted up as we speak and I’m ready to give it a test drive Saturday at Middletown,” confirmed Joey Barbagallo Jr., President of Cedar Ridge RV. Edwards plans to steer the same yellow/blue/magenta-colored Darryl Davis-owned Cedar Ridge-backed Double D Big-Block Modified entry that he did last year, only with a number change from 99 to Barbagallo’s familiar 53. The multi-colored TEO machine will be powered by a JPM motor with car designer Bobby Hearn, Bert Robidoux from Bert Transmissions, ATL Fuel Cell distributor Craig Mitchell, Brian Davis from Premier Powder Coat and DIRT MotorSports NorthEast Hall of Famer Tony Ferraiuolo once again contributing to the effort.
“Carl was really upset about not qualifying last year and said he’s even more excited to come back and make a better run. In his first time here he arrived late, only got a lap or two of practice and went into time trials blind. That kind of set him back for the night as its tough to get around Orange County even when you know the place. He was offered a promoter’s option to start the race but turned it down feeling he didn’t deserve it. Carl knows these drivers are out here trying to earn some money so he didn’t want to steal their thunder, he’s just that kind of guy,” Barbagallo said.
This is the second appearance at Orange County for Edwards and Roush. Edwards, whose background includes racing IMCA-type Modifieds in the Midwest, has driven DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds on several previous occasions. Roush Racing, the most visible of Jack Roush’s automotive, aviation, and marine companies, has five top Nextel Cup race teams, including the No. 99 driven by Edwards.
As part of the Advance Auto Parts SDS Cedar Ridge RV Center promotion, Edwards and Roush will take part in special pre-race Opening Ceremonies and interviews in front of the main grandsstands during intermission. Added Barbagallo, “Earlier in the year Jack actually asked me about coming back to Middletown, that was pretty impressive considering all the commitments he has at so many tracks across the country.”
Edwards was relatively unknown when he jumped behind the wheel of Brett Hearn’s DIRT Big-Block Modified for the first time in 2004. The Columbia, Missouri native failed to qualify that day yet returned in May of ’05 to finish 26th (flat tire after 13 laps) teamed with Hearn. His customary backflip was put on hold last July at OCFS after he time trialed 50th fastest, finished last (9th) in the second qualifying heat and settlied for seventh in the consolation round. “Local racing is where everything starts, some tracks just happen to be bigger and some cars faster but its all about racing and having fun,” Edwards, 27, said to last year’s Orange County crowd. “Its always good to go back on dirt. I remember the time when I used to sneak into tracks because I didn’t have the money to get in and then begging owners to let me drive. I’m pretty fortunate to be hooked up with Jack, he’s just as crazy as I am and now I can even go to the store and buy whatever I want. Not forgetting your roots is important no matter where you end up. You just never know who may turn out to be the next star in Nextel Cup.”
Fans can expect the Cedar Ridge RV Center 75-lap, $6,000-to-win race to draw the largest field of Modifieds at any track thus far in the 2007 racing season. Invader Billy Decker won the 2006 Series race and “The Doctor” Danny Johnson is out to better his impressive early season record while Tim Fuller is the current points leader. But fans know Orange County’s own Modified racing stars will be up to the task. They’re led by defending track champion and all-time winner Brett Hearn, plus former track titlists Jeff Heotzler, Chuck McKee and Rich Eurich. A special appearance by the DIRT 358-Modifieds capped off by a 25-lap small-block feature will close out the mid-week card.
Gates open for the stands and drive-in section at 4:00 pm, with Integra Shocks Modified Time Trials set for 6:30 pm. General admission for the Advance Auto Parts Modified Super DIRTcar Series race is $22. Reserved seats in the covered grandstand are $25. Parking on the fairgrounds is free, while there is a $1.00 charge for drive-in section parking. The drive-in parking fee goes towards the drivers’ point funds.
DQ…NO NOT THAT KIND OF DQ…SETS UP FUN KIDS DAY AT NBIS
Race fans always get excited about a great stock car event. But this weekend’s events have a little extra for the sport’s youngest fans. On Saturday, May 26th, Dairy Queen will present Kids Day at NBIS, an annual favorite for fans and drivers of all ages. The racing starts at a new start time of 6pm, but the real action for the kid’s starts at 5pm with the pre-race autograph session in the pits. There were also be several other attractions for the younger fans.
Kid’s Day is an annual event, but this is the third year that Dairy Queen is sponsoring the day and in co-owner Steven Burns’ eyes, they made a huge impact.
“It’s always been a really popular event on our schedule, but last year DQ pulled it up another notch. They had a real presence and were very active, bringing their characters and some treats for the kids,” says Burns. “We had lot of happy kids and parents at the end of the day. You don’t even have to be a stock car fan to enjoy this kind of fun.”
The event includes an In-the-Pits pre-race autograph session from 5pm-5:45pm, where kids get to meet their favourite driver in the pits and get some goodies. Drivers enjoy the session as much as the kids since they don’t normally have time to interact with their youngest fans for an extended period prior to the race. They are usually busy tweaking their cars and preparing for the race.
Aside from racing, the candy scramble is the most popular and entertaining event of the day. Kids of all ages get a chance to race, on foot, from the pit exit to the front stretch to grab as much as candy as possible. Last year the kids picked up 50kg of candy in less than two minutes. “They are the only thing faster than the cars on that day,” said Burns.
Along with the DQ Kids day events NBIS is also piloting a new project, the District Schools Day. Tickets were distributed amongst a few districts to see how many kids from each district would participate in this weekend’s event. “It was a new thing we thought of this year and thought we’d try it out..” said Burns “It’s only a pilot project however just to see how it goes, it could grow bigger next year and include more districts and an exciting challenge for the kids and schools.”
As the result of a rain filled weekend, the DQ Kids day will be the first points race of the season for all drivers. In between off-track events, there will be points racing in the CARQUEST Pro Stocks, Martin’s Home Heating, and Coast Tire Street Stock Divisions. Make sure you come on out for an event packed day at NBIS because, guaranteed, it’s an event you don’t want to miss.
Carl Edwards (NASCAR Photo)