News and Notes from the Northeast Motorsports Expo by Mike Twist
Lawler, Cassius, The Rowes, Shaw, Rolfe, Cantara and More
Ben Rowe added anothwer trophy to his collection at the NE Motorsports Expo. (NE Motorsports Expo Photo)
Many New England-based racers came out of hibernation, or their busy race shops, to meet fans and mingle at last weekend’s 20th Annual Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta, Maine. Speed51.com was on hand to catch up with several drivers to see what they have been up to in the off-season and what the 2008 season has in store for them.
MAINE RACERS OF THE YEAR ARE HONORED
The Northern New England racing media cast their votes and a pair of racers were declared winners when it came to Racer of the Year award. The award has gone to a number of well-known short track names through the years starting with Joe Bessey winning the first award in 1992. Since then, Ricky Craven, Mike Stefanik, Dave Dion, Dale Shaw, Johnny Clark, Cassius Clark, Ben Rowe, Mike Rowe and Andy Santerre have all been among the winners of the touring series award, while racers such as Mike Weeden, Bobby Gahan, Jeff Taylor, DJ Shaw and Scott Chubbuck have won the Weekly Racing Series version of the award.
For the second time in his career, Ben Rowe was named the Touring Series driver of the Year this time around. The four-time PASS North champion also received the award after his championship winning season on the now-defunct NEPSA Pro Stock tour in 2000.
The Weekly Racing Series winner was a first-timer this time around. Oxford Plains Speedway track champion Travis Adams was voted as the top pick in that category after winning six regular features and an ACT Late Model event at the track this past season.
The new owner of Wiscasset Speedway, Doug White, did a good enough job in his half season at the helm of the coastal Maine facility to be named Promoter of the Year. For the first time, a media member was also saluted at the awards ceremony. Travis Barrett of Central Maine Newspapers was presented with an Award of Appreciation for Newspaper Writing in a [Maine] Daily Newspaper. In addition, appreciation awards were also handed out to all of the official sponsors of the show, in addition to several show participants.
DJ TO DOUBLE UP FOR SPEEDFEST
After winning the Late Model championship at White Mountain Motorsports Park in 2006 and then moving to the Pro Series [Super Late Model] division at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway this past year, teenager DJ Shaw plans to go on the road a little more by competing with the PASS North Super Late Model Series. Shaw isn’t going to leave his Late Model roots behind though, he also plans to run plenty of LM shows as well.
DJ Shaw (Left) appeared with Mike Rowe, Johnny Clark and Cassius Clark (L-R) to sign autographs at the Expo. (Norm Marx Photo)
As for the upcoming Speedfest 2008 at USA International Speedway in Florida, Shaw just couldn’t decide which car he wanted to race, so he’ll enter both the Super Late Model show and the Crate-Engine Late Model feature. That has meant a lot of work for the young driver and his crew, led by his father former NASCAR Busch North Series champion Dale Shaw.
“We’re getting there,” said DJ Shaw of his team’s preparations. “We still have quite a bit of work to do on the ASA car. But once we get our shocks, back we should be in pretty good shape with that. It’s been busy. We decided that we were going to bring two cars about two weeks ago and that car wasn’t even close to being ready. It was pretty beat up from the last few races.”
Shaw is looking forward to honing his racing skills at Speedfest.
“It’s good competition from all across the country and seat time is what I need. I didn’t have a great year last year and we started to turn things around at the end of the year. So now I’m just looking for seat time. I’m excited to go down there.”
A NEW LOOK FOR CASSIUS
Cassius Clark has had a few paint schemes on his #8 Super Late Model during the past season. He started out 2007 in blue and silver livery and won with those colors at Scotia Speedworld in a PASS North show. Midway through the summer, he paid tribute to his father Billy, by painting the car in a scheme like the elder Clark’s Ridgewood Toothpicks Buick from the mid-1980’s.
Cassius Clark's #8 Super Late Model. (51 Photo)
And at the Augusta show, he had another new look – this time a yellow and blue design that he literally came up with at the last minute.
“We still had some blue paint left over and found some yellow, so we threw that all together,” said Clark. “We got the body back on Monday and wanted it in the show (on Friday), so we got cracking on it. I do my own lettering and that helped because we didn’t have much time. We finally got it done around 2 o’clock this morning. There were a long couple of nights there.”
Clark plans on debuting his new colors at Speedfest later this month.
“Hopefully, we’ll be there. You never know what is going to happen, but we’ll try to make it down there. It’s always a good time and it gets us out of the three feet of snow up here right now.”
LAWLER MAKES TRIP TO GREAT WHITE NORTH
2007 PASS South champion Ryan Lawler was on hand to meet fans at the Expo, but the large snowdrifts and single digit temperatures were something completely new for the Texas native now living in North Carolina.
“It’s a little chillier than what I’m used to and I’ve never seen this much snow,” said Lawler.
Lawler appeared in the New England Race Fuels booth along with 2007 PASS North champion Ben Rowe. It was during that time, that Rowe told Lawler all about some of the fringe forms of Maine racing – including lawnmower racing, ice racing and just bombing around on a frozen lake with a bunch of demo derby cars.
Lawler appeared to be impressed.
“We’ve got a few stories from Texas, but we only run on the flatlands and there is no snow involved.”
Did Lawler know that some of the Mainers were quite so…uh…rustic in their motorsports pursuits?
“Yes,” laughed Lawler. “I’ve raced with a few of them already.”
All in all, Lawler really did enjoy his weekend up north.
“It’s pretty cool. I’m far away from where I’m used to, but it is a good time up here.”
A FULL PLATE OF RACING IN STORE FOR BEN ROWE
The other half of the PASS Champions autograph table wasn’t even originally sure that he’d be competing for a title in 2007. At last year’s Augusta show, Ben Rowe told Speed51.com that he wasn’t even sure he would race for points with his Richard Moody Racing team. Well, they did and they were successful in winning the title.
Now, with the 2008 racing season looming, Rowe still has no idea what he’ll be doing this year. He will likely make up his schedule with PASS North, PASS South, ACT Late Model and ASA Late Model events and he might even go for not one, but two championships…or he might just forget about points completely. At this point, Ben just doesn’t know his plan.
“Not really,” laughed Rowe. “I know that this year in PASS North and South you can miss a few races and still be eligible for the points championship, so maybe we’ll look into that. I really enjoy running the Southern races and we’re going to do a lot up here. As of right now, the only race set in stone for us is in Lakeland in two weeks. That I’m sure of. Other than that, we’ll probably run most of the schedule in PASS North and South and fill in our schedule with some other races too.”
Rowe’s #4 car that was on display on Augusta sported the same paint scheme as the past season, but had one major change made to it. This year, it will feature a Ford Fusion body on it instead of the familiar Chevrolet Monte Carlo lines that Rowe has competed with for many years. The car will still be powered by a GM engine however.
One thing that won’t be in the cards is any Modified races. Rowe wrecked hard in a True Value Modified Racing Series event at Waterford last season and his team has since sold that car. There will probably be some ACT shows though in their plans.
“We got rid of that, but we still have our ACT car, so we’ll probably run that some too. David Avery bought our old car and called me and said that if I wanted to run that, I could. So I might do that too. You know me, I love racing and if I can fit a race into my schedule, we’ll be going to it.”
At the show, Rowe enjoyed spending time with Lawler and meeting fans together.
“It’s always fun. Ryan and I always have a good time. They try to play it off that we are enemies from North and South, but we really have a good time and he’s fun to race with.”
ROLFE IS CRANKING OUT CARS
The off-season is a busy time for car builders and Oxford Plains Speedway Late Model championship runner-up Ricky Rolfe knows that very well. He’s been hard at work at his Racebasics shop building new customer cars for the ’08 season.
“We’ve been real busy building chassis for everybody.,” said Rolfe. “We built probably six or seven cars so far. We build some cars for Oxford and a lot of cars for the ACT Tour. We had four of the top five Tour cars this past season. That was pretty good. The top two cars in the championship race at Oxford were Racebasic cars too.”
In fact, one of his own creations, driven by Travis Adams, beat Rolfe for the championship at Oxford last season.
“It just proves that I build equal cars,” said Rolfe. “It all came down to driver and crew and he had me beat last year.”
And while Rolfe might be busy working on customer cars, his own #51 has been a little neglected this off-season.
“All that I’ve done to my car is to take the body off. It’s not even on jackstands yet.”
McKEAGE IS MENDING UP NICELY
Lyman McKeage was minding his own business while driving down the road in his pick-up truck earlier this season when a car came straight at him. A head-on collision came next and the well-known Beech Ridge racer, and father of 2007 PASS Sportsman champion Dan McKeage, was left with multiple serious injuries.
But McKeage was back in action at the Augusta show, wheeling around in a wheelchair and catching up with friends. There were no #40 decals on the wheelchair since it was a rental unit, but McKeage reports that his recovery is going great and that he plans to be in the driver’s seat of his Wildcat racer when the Beech Ridge season opens in April.
CANTARA TURNS TO MODIFIEDS
Former Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Pro Series regular Josh Cantara is making a change in his racing career for the upcoming season. The 17-year-old is shedding his fenders and will drive the legendary #71ME Modified for car owners Goodwin and Anne Hannaford at All-Star Speedway (NH).
“We’re going to try and go for a decent position in the points and win the Rookie of the Year award [at All-Star Speedway],” said Cantara. “Most of all, we’re going to have fun.”
Teaming up with the Hannafords is a dream come true for Cantara…and it has helped his learning curve as well.
“They’ve taught me a lot. If I’m not doing something right, they give me pointers. They show me what I should be working on and share a lot of their knowledge. It’s a big help.”
Cantara tried out the seat of the #71ME late in the 2007 season and took to the new car right away.
“I ran it twice at the end of the year. It has a lot more power than the Pro Stock and it’s a little tougher. It reacts differently.”
Also in 2007, Cantara broke through to victory lane at Beech Ridge in the Pro Series (Super Late Model) machine. That gave his young career a boost as well.
“It built confidence and that helps out with everything.”
MIKE ROWE LOOKS FORWARD TO BARNSTORMING IN ‘08
Mike Rowe isn’t quite sure what his 2008 season has in store yet. He’s got a Super Late Model ride. He has a Late Model ride. Both cars are proven winners. Rowe has looked at the schedules and although he might not race anywhere for points, he foresees a season with plenty of races in the North and South ahead of him.
“Right now, we’re just going to run a few races for PASS and a few ACT races. We’re going to do what we want. I’ll be back with Paul Watts [as a car owner] in PASS and Mike Lux in the Late Model.”
There isn’t much new in the Rowe camp this winter when it comes to the race teams, but like most Mainers, he’s been busy with doing one chore quite a bit already this year.
“Not much is new. I’ve just been plowing a lot of snow.”
FLEMING STEPS UP
The one change to Rowe’s team in 2008 is the fact that long-time crew member Seth
Holbrook will not be back this year. Rowe and Holbrook are still good friends, but won’t
be working together daily anymore. Instead, Holbrook will head up the #97 team of
Canadian John Fleming, who has moved his equipment to Maine and plans to step
up his racing program this coming season.
FRESH OFF THE TRACK
While most of the racecars at the show were either re-skinned since last season or
brand new machines, there was one that had actually been raced within the past week.
Mike St. Germain’s #777 car was featured in the Unity Raceway booth. Just five days
before, it was raced in the pre Hangover 150 at Riverside Speedway – and even in the
show it still sported all of its battle scars from the winter enduro race.
Ryan Lawler (L) and Ben Rowe (R) chat during the show. (51 Photo)
Ben Rowe's #4 Ford (51 Photo)
Ricky Rolfe might have finished second in points, but one of his cars, Travis Adam's #03e, won the championship. A bare Racebasics Chassis sits in the background at the Northeast Motorsports Expo. (51 Photo)
Josh Cantara will drive the #71ME Modified in 2008. (51 Photo)
Just days before the show, this #777 raced at Riverside Speedway. (51 Photo)