Speedway EXPO is an Out of the Box Success by Mike Twist
New England Race Show Rises from the Ashes of Racearama
The racing show has long been a staple of the Northeastern racing scene. Maybe it’s because of the harsh winters and the fact that typically short track racing seasons end in October and don’t start up again until April, but fans love their winter shows. The racing shows in New England are as much of a tradition as hearing the theme from Shaft on the PA system at Stafford Motor Speedway or seeing a cow in Thunder Road’s Milk Bowl victory lane.
Autographs sessions at the Speedway EXPO were well attended by drivers and fans. (51 Photo)
For years fans have been coming to shows to collect track schedules, meet their short track heroes and see the latest paint schemes and cars before they hit the track. Yet like any other tradition, there have been ebbs and flows.
One of the biggest racing shows around, Racearama, has been a victim of that. The show that once took up three buildings and was known throughout the country had fallen on hard times recently. The longtime event promoter moved it from its long-time home of West Springfield, Massachusetts to the home of the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, in 2006, but the show still wasn’t a commercial success. After decades, it looked like Racearama was dead.
Well, that would prove to be only partially true. While the Racearama show has been retired, a new incarnation of it has appeared. The Speedway EXPO took its place and returned racing to the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts this past weekend, led by the vision of Dr. Dick Berggren and organized and promoted by the staff of Speedway Illustrated.
Early indications are that it was a roaring success. Tracks, sanctioning bodies and vendors from around the region filled two buildings. Drivers supported the cause, putting on several autograph sessions throughout the weekend with dozens of participants. The NASCAR Busch East Series, for example, had every active full-time driver who had ever won a championship in BES (or its predecessor the Busch North Series) there to meet fans on Saturday. Seminars covering a variety of racing topics were well-attended. Fans lined up almost out the door to meet their short track heroes. Even racers from other disciplines showed up to take it all in,
with USAR Pro Cup’s Benny Gordon driving up from Western Pennsylvania just to walk around and take in the show.
“It’s definitely going in the right direction,” said Busch East driver Charles Lewandoski. “This was always the premier racing show in the Northeast and over the past few years, it just went in the wrong direction. To see Speedway Illustrated and Dick Berggren take this over is definitely exciting. I’m looking forward to this for several years to come.”
Lewandoski had a unique perspective on the show, now a professional driver, he can remember being a pint-sized racer himself who was in awe of the cars and stars of Racearama.
“I had my quarter midgets and my Busch North car in this show before,” said Lewandoski. “I grew up coming here and would come every year. To see it have new life now is really cool.”
Other racers echoed Lewandoski’s thoughts.
“Every year, I show up here,” said Busch East driver Matt Kobyluck. “It wasn’t here last year and maybe the show needed something a little bit different. That didn’t seem to work out too well, so it’s good to be back here this year. It seems to be just as good or better than it’s ever been. I like the new direction of it. It’s great to be back here and see all of the fans. There’s a huge fan base around here.”
“I think that this is really good,” said ACT Late Model driver Joey “Pole” Polewarcyzk Jr. “It’s set up great, so that you can walk around and see a bunch of different facilities. I’ve walked around and talked to some of the drivers, but mostly I’ve been just a face in the crowd and taken it all in. [Back at the ACT booth] I’ve met some new people and some fans who have been by before for some hero cards.”
"I think that this was a great first attempt," said Waterford Speedbowl Late Model champion Tim Jordan, whose car was on display at the show. "It brought back a lot of notoriety to New England racing shows and it will only grow from here. I really enjoyed it. Sometimes these shows seem to drag on, but there was never a time all weekend that I was asking if it was over yet. I enjoyed everyone's display. There was a good variety of vendors, racers and tracks represented. You just couldn't get bored."
With racing being an ever changing sport, the show also gave everyone a chance to talk about new events and changes that will take place during the 2007 season.
Some of those topics were having ACT Late Models taking part in the Oxford 250 in 2007 and the additional of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race to the schedule at New Hampshire’s Twin State Speedway.
“It’s going to be a big year [in ACT] and they’re talking about it a lot,” said Polewarcyzk. “I’ve been hearing a lot about Robbie Crouch, theother guys come back and the Oxford 250. It’s going to be an interesting year.”
“We’ve been getting a lot of interest here about all of our racing, but especially the Modified Tour race,” said Twin State race director and PASS North Super Late Model driver Mike Parks. “It should be a good show and the fans really seem to be talking about it.”
The ACT booth was a place where there was plenty of conversation this weekend. (Alan Ward Photo)
There were plenty of racecars ranging from small to large at the show. (51 Photo)
Even drivers who had never been to Racearama, loved the Speedway EXPO at first sight.
“The people who I’m talking to who have grown up around this show are really impressed with it now,” said Busch East driver and North Carolina native John Freeman. “I’m just impressed with it being my first time here.”