Racin' Preview News and Notes by Mike Twist
Catching Up With PASS North, TVMRS, LM, SLM and Busch East Racers
Fans and competitors in Northern New England got a sneak peek at the 2007 racing season with this past weekend’s Racin’ Preview in Portland, ME. The annual racing show is promoted by Marco Thomas, editor of the Racin’ Paper and attracted plenty of interest.
(L-R) Trevor Sanborn, Ben Rowe, Johnny Clark and Mike Rowe all signed autographs in the PASS North booth at the Racin' Preview (51 Photo)
While there was still snow on the ground outside, there were plenty of racecars and personalities inside. On Friday night alone, PASS North drivers Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe, Johnny Clark, Alan Tardiff, Richie Dearborn, Trevor Sanborn and Jeremie Whorff were on hand. PASS North car owners Jay Cushman, Richard Moody and Dan Williams were spotted making the rounds as well. NASCAR Busch East driver Mike Gallo was in attendance, as well as Late Model track champions JR Baril and DJ Shaw. The PASS Outlaw Series were represented by Gary Norris and Matt Sanborn, and True Value Modified Racing Series fans got to see Tony Ricci, Johnny Bush and their cars. Also in attendance were vintage racer Dodo Brockman and NASCAR Drive for Diversity finalist Katie Hagar.
With that many racers to talk to, Speed51.com came away from the show with plenty of off-season news to bring you up to speed on.
ROWE TO RUN THE RATTLER
Ben Rowe and his Richard Moody Racing team have made a habit of heading South to race lately. During the PASS North off-season, they nearly won both the Mason-Dixon
Meltdown at South Boston Speedway (VA) and Speedfest at Lakeland, Florida. A flat tire and a bump from behind keep them from either victory, but the team is hoping that the third time is the charm for this coming weekend’s Rattler at South Alabama Speedway.
Rowe is planning to enter both Saturday’s 125-lap Pro Late Model feature and Sunday’s 250-lap Super Late Model show.
“That’s the plan so far,” said Rowe. “Two weeks ago, we didn’t even have a car to go down there. Jeff [Taylor] did the chassis for us and the guys have been working day and night putting it together. We put the crate motor in it and it’s ready to go. We’re loading up and heading out Tuesday.”
The Rattler wasn’t a race that the team had planned on running, but after finding out about it at Lakeland and talking to fellow PASS North car owner Jay Cushman, the team decided to go for it.
“I didn’t know anything about it. A guy came up to us at Lakeland and handed us a couple of pamphlets. I’m always interested in going anywhere."
Even though Cushman helped talk Rowe’s team into racing, his team has now decided not to enter the Rattler with driver Trevor Sanborn. A rough Speedweeks with Ted Christopher behind the wheel of the #29 car sealed that fate.
“[Jay] Cushman said that he was going to go, so that kind of influenced us to go. Now, he’s not going because they had a bad Speedweeks, but we’ll go down anyways and represent the North.”
Ben Rowe's #4 RMR Machine is going on tour this week. (Norm Marx Photo)
Johnny Clark's #54 was on display at the show. (Norm Marx Photo)
CLARK HELPS OUT AT SPEEDWEEKS AND GETS TO RACE
Johnny Clark got to experience the roller-coaster of Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway first-hand. He traveled down to Florida to help out the Cushman team during their frustrating week of bad luck.
“We had a good time going down there with Jay Cushman, his new driver Trevor Sanborn, Ted Christopher, two or three guys who are on his crew every week, Robert Green – a guy on my crew and myself,” said Clark. “We went down there for Speedweeks and unloaded as one of the fastest cars. It was fast all week long, but we just couldn’t put anything together to finish up front.”
Luckily, Clark also brought his driving suit and got the last-minute chance to wheel a car himself while at New Smyrna. He snuck into the #12 car that had been piloted by Michael Annett and finished 12th in a race midway through the week.
“Louie Mechalides had a second car down there and it was being rented by a kid (Annett). I don’t know what happened, I’d be guessing at the story, but he got up and left. It had four brand new tires on the car and he had just time-trialed 10th. I said, ‘shoot, it can’t be that bad!” So I told Louie that I’d jump in the car and get his tire money back. He said to go ahead.
“So we found a bigger seat from BJ McLeod and put that in the car. He’s about the same size that I am. Literally, I sat in the car for the first time about five minutes before the feature started. I got two warm-up laps before they threw the green and that was the only experience that I had in driving at New Smyrna before the race. We went out, started 26th and finished 12th. It was good.”
Clark was signing autographs for fans at the Racin’ Preview and was pleased to be a part of the show.
“Portland is only an hour away from home and I like to support Marco and the Racin’ Paper because they support local racing. We do what we can to come down here.”
RICCI SHOWS OFF HIS MODIFIED
While most of the cars at the Racin’ Preview were of the full-bodied variety, there were a few Modifieds to be found in various places. One of those belonged to True Value Modified Racing Series competitor Tony Ricci, who was very happy to go out and see some racing folks.
“It’s just good to do anything for racing,” said Ricci. “It’s been a long winter.”
Ricci’s black #4 attracted plenty of attention too – especially among children who were lined up to see his car and meet its driver.
“Most of them have never seen a Modified before, so I’ve been handing out [hero] cards and balloons all night long,” said Ricci. “I remember being that way [as a kid]. Modifieds are the best and the coolest, so the kids really love them.”
BARIL TO DEFEND LEE TITLE – AND DO SOME TRAVELING
J.R. Baril appeared with his car in the Lee USA Speedway booth, representing the track as its 2006 Late Model champion. His plans for this coming season as to try and repeat that accomplishment.
“We’re going to go back to Lee and try to defend the title this year,” said Baril. “When I won the Pro Stock championship in 2002, they got rid of them [and moved Late Models up as the track’s top division] so I didn’t get a chance to defend my title. This year, we’re going to go back with Bruce Howard and the same team as last year. Hopefully, we’ll have another championship in 2007
Since Lee holds their weekly races on Friday nights during the summer, Baril and his team will have the opportunity to go on tour a little bit this year as well. Baril plans to be busy in 2007 with his team’s Super Late Model.
“We’ll run a few PASS races I’m sure. We’ll probably go to White Mountain, Canaan and travel around a little bit. We’re going to keep busy. We always stay really busy every summer.”
YOUNG SHAW PREPS FOR BEECH RIDGE
Another Late Model champion at the show was White Mountain Motorsports Park top
gun DJ Shaw, who won’t be defending his title in 2007. Shaw will switch tracks and types of racecars for the coming season.
“I’m going to race at Beech Ridge in the Pro Stocks this season,” said Shaw. “I’m going to run a few Late Model races too. I think that it’s going to be fun. I think that there will be a lot more cars at Beech Ridge this year than in previous years.”
The teenager has a valuable resource in his father, former NASCAR Busch North champion Dale Shaw. Yet even though the elder Shaw has had plenty of success at the Ridge, he might not be able to help his son much since the two racers have different styles.
“I tested with him there last year. We drive differently; he enters the turns differently than I do, so it’s hard to [exchange information].”
LITTLE TEAM THAT COULD, MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO ANYMORE
Against the large haulers and big-money operations that assemble for the NASCAR Busch East races at New Hampshire International Speedway in recent years, a small team has attracted plenty of attention. Mike Gallo’s #88 team have been able to rely on a dedicated crew and several small sponsors to show up to the track and compete. They’ve run in the top 10, the top five and contended for victories. That might change this coming year though unless Gallo is able to find some additional backing.
“The car is sitting at the shop without a body after it got wrecked at Dover and right now, the JBR team is sitting waiting on a couple of deals to work out,” said Gallo. “It’s getting late in the year, so I don’t know what will happen. If anything comes up, we’re going to try and do whatever we can to make Loudon. We’ll do anything, but right now we’re shut down.”
Being the “Little Team That Could” should help land some sponsorship help, but so far that hasn’t been the case for Gallo.
“I wish that it would, but it’s not helping with the way that NASCAR is running the series now,” said Gallo. “We’re just little guys. We’re a small race team that runs out of a garage. To be able to go to Loudon and run the way that we do, I just don’t know how we do it. Now, it’s just getting tougher and tougher. We have to go out and buy a spec motor now, just to keep up with these guys. It’s tough.”
SANBORN BECOMES ANOTHER OUTLAW
Matt Sanborn has had a bad case of timing lately. The Maine racer competed in the Late Model class at Oxford Plains Speedway before deciding to build a Pro Stock to move up to the track’s top division.
Sanborn sat out a season to ready his ride, but then the track dropped the division and moved the Late Models to top dogs of the speedway. Now, Sanborn is going on tour with his #6 AIM 2 PLZ Concrete ride. He’ll run in the PASS Outlaw Series this coming year.
“We plan on doing the whole Outlaw schedule and some races at Beech Ridge in between when I can,” said Sanborn. “There’s all pretty much one-day shows, without much traveling and there are some pretty cool tracks that we’ll go to, like Riverside and Canaan. I’ve always wanted to race there. I think it’s the way to go. It’s a little bit cheaper and I still get to race a Pro Stock. We’ve got a new Port City car and we’ve been piecing it together. I’ve got brand new equipment – the best of everything, so it should be pretty good.”
TARDIFF IS A FACE IN THE CROWD
PASS North driver Alan Tardiff walked the crowd at the Racin’ Preview. For the first time
in several years, his #8T wasn’t on display at the show, in is currently being rebodied
after a wreck in the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston.
“It’s different not being here [with my car],” said Tardiff. “Usually we have a car ready for
the show, but this year we’re a little bit behind the eight ball. [Repairing] damage from
the race at South Boston really took up our time over the winter.”
Still, Tardiff enjoyed making the rounds.
“Meeting with the people who we race with over the season is pretty nice. It’s good to
catch up with them and see what they’ve been up to. It gets you more geared up to work
on your own car and get ready for the season.”
Another nice thing about the show was that Tardiff was able to visit with some of the competitors who he used to race with weekly at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. That was his home track before joining the PASS North tour and the facility had an extensive display at the Racin’ Preview.
“You don’t see them during the year much, except for the two times that we race there, so it’s nice to see them and chit-chat.”
HAGAR WORKS ON HER FUTURE
After an impressive showing in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity test last year at South Boston Speedway, Maine driver Katie Hagar is hoping to be able to move up from Late Models into the NASCAR Busch East Series. She was at the show this weekend and talked about the diversity program.
“It was a great experience. I definitely showed my talent when I was down there. I had a great time and ranked first among the females when I was there.”
As far as her efforts to move up in racing, Hagar is still working on a deal for 2007.
“Right now, it’s still kind of up in the air. I’m pushing NASCAR and Access Marketing to work with me and try to find a sponsor to take to a Busch East team. I had the opportunity to go and race for a NASCAR West team, but that fell through with me living on the East Coast. Hopefully, something will become of it all and within the next few weeks we’ll hopefully see some kind of result. If not, we’ll stick with the Late Models and that’s okay too. You always push for bigger and better things and hopefully, we can go forward.”
Baril's #77 Late Model (51 Photo)
DJ Shaw (L) shares a laugh with Modified racer Tony Ricci at the Racin' Preview. (51 Photo)
Gallo has had good and bad luck at New Hampshire.
The Beech Ridge display include Dan McKeage's sharp-looking #40. (51 Photo)
Tony Ricci's Modified. (51 Photo)