NORTHEASTERN INVADERS SET FOR SPEEDFEST by Mike Twist
Can a Rowe or a Clark Win Big in Florida?
Speedfest 2007 at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida has already drawn in entries from all over the map – from Michigan to Florida to Maine to Texas. It’s become a battle of regions, with some of the best Super Late Model racers in the country hoping to earn bragging rights for their home area.
In the first two runnings of Speedfest at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida, the winner’s trophy has gone in a few different directions. Wisconsin’s Charlie Menard brought it back to the Badger State in 2005. Last year, it stayed close to home when Florida’s Mike Fritts topped the field. Now, if a band of New Englanders has their way, it could be taking a long trip to the chilly Northeast when all is said and done.
Speed51.com has talked to competitors from all over who are preparing the race, which takes place from January 25th through January 27t, and we put together a series of previews divided among regional lines.
So enjoy part one – a look at how the Northeast hopes to invade Lakeland. Also, stay tuned for more on how the Midwesterners are hoping to repeat their efforts of the inaugural Speedfest, as well as how the Florida posse is hoping to protect their home turf.
PASS North competitors Cassius Clark, Ben Rowe, Mike Rowe, Corey Williams and Canada’s Patrick Laperle are expected to be among the Northeastern entries for the race that is scheduled for January 25th-27th. These guys aren’t coming just to show either. They are going with winning on their minds.
“We’re going down to that one,” said Cassius Clark. “We’ve got a motor for that race this year, so we’ll see about going down and racing with the big boys. It’s such as awesome facility. It should be a good race. We’re looking forward to that and it should be warm weather.”
The Northern teams have an extra boost of confidence after November’s Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston Speedway (VA). Clark won the race, which saw Northeastern drivers fill out seven of the top 10 finishing positions in a rich field that included distinguished Southerners like Travis Kittleson and Jason Hogan.
“I don’t see why anyone from the North can’t be competitive,” said Ben Rowe. “We proved that at South Boston. For us to go down there and put seven teams in the top 10 was pretty neat.
“Everybody talks about people from Florida, the Carolina, Georgia and Alabama and that’s the hub of racing, there’s no doubt about it. Years ago, they would come up here and kill us. They were so far ahead of us. But now, we’ve caught those guys.”
“We won a major, so we won’t have the butterflies this year,” said Clark. “It will be good to race against some of those guys and see them again. We’re going to race in their backyard and we’ll see if we can’t whip up on them a little bit.”
Mike Fritts kept the '06 Speedfest trophy in Florida. Where will it end up this year?
But with a stout field that will include Floridians Justin Drawdy and Tim Russell, as well as Midwesterners such as Chuck Barnes, Eddie Hoffman and Scott Hantz, a SoBo repeat could be difficult.
“Florida could be a different story [from South Boston], because there will be a lot of teams down there,” said Rowe. “But if we can put a couple guys from New England in the top 10 and just run with them, we’ll do well. I just want us to run with them all day and if that means a top five or top ten finish, so be it.”
“We were definitely good there [last year] and we have the same motor that we ran at Lakeland last year. We built it last for that track, so we’re excited about going down there. We ran third in the 100 lapper last year and our battery went dead in the 200 lapper. So I just want to go down there and be competitive.”
One team that won’t be returning to Speedfest this year is the #29 operation of Cushman Competition. The team had gone to Speedfest with Ted Christopher, but won’t be bringing a car this year. However, team owner Jay Cushman won’t likely miss the race.
“I’m not going with a racecar, but I doubt that I’ll miss it,” said Cushman. “I might end up helping someone out down there. You never know.”
Speed51.com will feature extensive coverage of Speedfest leading up to the race and throughout the race weekend once again this year, so stay tuned.
Both Ben Rowe (#4) and Cassius Clark (#8) are used to winning up North. Can they master the fast Lakeland track too? (Norm Marx Photo)