51's Northern Exposure by Mike Twist
The Latest on Tardiff, Modugno, Penfold, PASS Sportmen and Snow
One Racer....Three Tours
There are basically three big dogs in New England when it comes to fendered short track tours. There are the PASS North Super Late Models, the ACT Late Models and the NASCAR Camping World East Series – when they don’t venture too far from the region where the series got its start, that is.
In the past, there have been plenty of crossovers between the three tours. While only Dale Shaw has won in all thee types of racecars (the old-style ACT Pro Stocks are excluded in this case), a host of other drivers like Ben Rowe, Mike Rowe and Brad Leighton have wheeled all three kinds of cars.
Let it Snow….In The Springtime?
The calendar might say Spring, but it still seems like winter in parts of Northern New England…and that can’t be good for racing. The capital of New Hampshire, Concord, is now on record as having the second snowiest season ever (behind 1873-74 we’re told) and a few more inches fell through Maine and New Hampshire this past week.
Nobody has really taken assault on all three tours in one season before. Politics, geography and different types of equipment have kept that from happening, but all of the stars have lined up right for Maine’s Alan Tardiff in 2008 and as a result, you will see him run partial schedules in each series this coming year.
The main focus for Tardiff is to move up to the NASCAR Camping World East Series driving the #38 of car owner Archie St. Hilaire in at least a half dozen races.
“I’d like to thank Archie St. Hilare for giving us the opportunity to take our team the next level,” said Tardiff. “We’re going to run a few Camping World East races. We plan on running six of them right now. April 19th at Greenville, South Carolina will be our debut. We’re going to go the both New Hampshire races, Thompson, Stafford and Dover.”
“We’re going to run four ACT races at Oxford counting the TD Banknorth 250 and we’re going to fill that in with as many Super Late Model races with the Pro All Stars Series – both in PASS North and PASS South. We want to race those on all of the off weekends that we have. We’re going to take everything and race as much as possible.”
The alliance between Tardiff and St. Hilaire started last season when Tardiff sold the owner of Bestway Disposal and BBI Waste Systems the Pro Series car that he formerly raced weekly at Beech Ridge, before moving up to PASS North. Ironically, that planned the seed that now allows Tardiff to have that car at his disposal for the ACT Late Model races.
“It was kind of weird. He was interested in buying our car and he wanted to see it run, so we took it to Beech Ridge last year. It was the only weekly race that we ran last year. We started dead last and finished second. We possibly could have won it if we had two more laps. He saw that and had to have the car, so we delivered it the next day. The reason that he bought that car was to run Kevin Lepage in it at the TD Banknorth 250 last year. After that was done, he gave me the opportunity to get behind the wheel and we ran it multiple times last year. We’ll run it some this year as well.
“Archie is both a car owner and a friend. He’s given us the opportunity to do this and it’s been really fun and excited. He is just as into it and I am. He’s a really energentic guy and he’s hands on. I think that is really going to help make this work out.”
Tardiff isn’t nervous about crossing over between three different types of cars this season.
“A racecar is a racecar,” said Tardiff. “They have their own characteristics and you have the drive them a little bit different, but if you can get the feel for a racecar, you’ll be alright. [2007 PASS South SLM champion] Ryan Lawler was in a [NASCAR Craftsman] Truck this week and he did pretty good.”
Gary Modugno plans to step up from to the PASS North Super Late Model Series this season with his #48 Puglisi Motorsports entry. Modugno had the car on display at the PASS Motorsports Extravagnza in Gorham, Maine last weekend. He is a veteran of various divisions at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway and All-Star Speedway.
The True Value Modified Racing Series has already postponed their planned season opener, which was supposed to take place at Monadnock Speedway (NH) on April 12th. The new race date is April 26th and the season will now start at Lee USA Speedway on the weekend before.
For the April 19th PASS North season opener to take place at Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, there will have to be some warmer days in the next few weeks. The area still has several feet of snowpack. If the snow melts too quickly, flooding might postpone the race like it did last season, but with two and a half weeks until go-time, everyone is hoping for the best.
There is better news in the Southern parts of New England. Thompson International Speedway has hosted two consecutive weekends of practice for this weekend’s Icebreaker and although it has been cold, the track and the pits were clear and everything should be all clear for the race season to start this weekend.
No April Foolin' - This is a current photo of what it looks outside the Maine offices of Speed51.com. What will that mean for racing in the area? (Lisa Twist Photo)
Alan Tardiff will split his time between the NASCAR Camping World East Series (Top - 51 Photo), PASS North (Middle - 51 Photo) and ACT Late Models (Bottom - Jamie Williams Photo) in 2008.
...and Staying Put
Meanwhile, Bill Penfold is staying close to home in 2008. The short track veteran of (what was at the time) the NASCAR Busch North Series is going to race weekly at Wiscasset Raceway (ME) with his pink #0 Super Late Model and has no plans to enter any PASS North races, like he has over the past few seasons.
“I’ve never raced for a championship in my career,” said Penfold. “Every time that I’d get into a point lead, I would think that I had everyone beat and go on to different track. But I’m planning to race the full year this year at Wiscasset. We have two cars ready to go and could finish a third one if we need to.”
Penfold has plenty of experience at Wiscasset.
“I could tell you where every crack and bump in the track is,” said Penfold.
PASS Sportsman Gets Pluffybilt Power For ‘08
In an announcement that comes close to this writer’s heart, Pluffybilt Racing Tractors will become the title sponsor of the PASS Sportsman Series in 2008.
In just one season, the PASS Sportsman Series has already become known for its close competition, high car counts and ability to attract weekly competitors from many area tracks to touring series events. In the same time, Pluffybilt Racing Tractors has been part of a movement that has taken Southern Maine motorsports by storm with bi-weekly lawnmower racing as part of the North Saco Lawn Mower Racing Association league in North Saco, Maine.
Pluffybilt was founded in 2007 by Bruce Plouffe and former SP2 Motorsports team owners Scott Pullen and Steve Perry, to field a team of racing tractors for the North Saco races. The team, which is also referred to as SP2 Mowersports, is housed in the same shop where stock cars driven by Mike Rowe, Kyle Busch and Brad Leighton were once prepared.
Now, among the trophies for PASS Super Late Model race wins up and down the East Coast, sits a gaggle of racing lawnmowers. In 2007, Team Pluffybilt fielded a total of twelve different mowers that won five feature events and took the top two positions in the stock division series championship, with Perry winning the series championship by a slight margin over Plouffe.
Plouffe is no stranger to stock car racing. He has been a fan of the sport for years and is now excited to become more involved in it.
“After being able to present the trophies for the Pullen Heavy Industries PASS Sportsman race at Beech Ridge in the fall, I wanted to become more involved with the series,” said Plouffe. “PASS has a great group of competitors, officials and fans in all of its divisions and I know how competitive this particular division is. We’re very proud to team up for this year.”
And with racers being racers, the link between PASS racing and the lawnmower events is a close one. In September, a special PASS drivers lawnmower race was held for charity. A roster of drivers that included Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe, Cassius Clark, Johnny Clark, Richie Dearborn, Scott Chubbuck, Alan Tardiff, Chris Kennison and Tony Ricci all showed up to compete.
“When guys like the Rowes and the Clarks came out to run an exhibition lawnmower race, that really got people talking about what we do,” said Plouffe. “We were really proud too that when Mike Rowe won that night, he did it on a Pluffybilt Tractor.
The weekly lawnmower races also have a racing connection. Team owners Steve Perry, Scott Pullen and Mike Lux all competed in the series in 2007, along with a number of weekly Beech Ridge Motor Speedway competitors.
Mike Rowe could also be found driving the pace tractor at the races on several occasions.
The Pluffybilt Racing Tractors PASS Sportsman Series will start its 2008 seasonon April 19th at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine.
Gary Modugno is going on tour with his #48 this year while Bill Penfold is keeping his #0 closer to home. (51 Photos)