Rising from the ashes of the once-glorious Racearama Racing and Trade Show, the Speedway Expo got its start in 2007 and was an instant success. The off-season gathering of fans, racers, officials and vendors drew plenty of show participants, sold a healthy number of tickets and drew rave reviews.
This season, Speedway Expo at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts was back and did not suffer any type of sophomore slump. Seminars were held to share knowledge with race teams, tracks were showing off their most impressive racecars and building interest towards the upcoming race season, awards were handed out and everyone got the chance to mingle.
The weather played a role in the show this year, with several inches of snow being dumped outside on Saturday, but the crowds were strong anyways. If anything, the inclement weather helped make Sunday an even busier day by allowing those stuck in Northern New England the day before a chance to head to the show.
Speed51.com was on hand and got to catch up with several competitors to see what news they have to share with the 2008 racing season right around the corner.
Grigas Driver Development Program In Full Swing
Before the Speedway Expo took place, Bobby Grigas, III didn’t know that his Modified team had a driver development program. After the show, he is now looking his over his shoulder to make sure that a younger driver in the family doesn’t take his seat in the future.
Grigas’ cousin, Josh Parsons won Saturday’s pedal car race at the Speedway Expo, driving a small car painted up just like the #09 Modified.
“There’s a new winner, so I’m already looking to get kicked out of my own ride,” said Grigas. “There’s a fast family member out there. Josh is five and he’s in kindergarten. He’s getting prepped and we’re breaking him in.”
Josh has already tried to fit into the seat of Grigas’ Modified – and has plans to hit the track himself before too long.
“He’s sat in it and we’re going to try to get him into a quarter midget at the Little T at Thompson. He’s a madman. I’m not sure that I want to help him get going though – he might make me look that much worse.”
Josh won the pedal car race without any spotting assistance or driving tips from Grigas in fact.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know what was going on,” said Grigas. “He came over with a huge smile on his face, a trophy and a gold medal. He put them right in my face and told me that he won a trophy with his #09 car.”
Grigas’ own Modified team didn’t go home without their own trophy though. The #09 Modified, which was designed by his mother Pam, was recognized for the “Best Presentation of Paint and Design” in the show.
A Team of Drivers Shows Well in Pit Crew Challenge
What happens when three racecar drivers and a spotter try to act like a pit crew?
In a real race situation, they might drop tires, find a way to bolt lugnuts on backwards and drop a racecar off a jack, but in the Pit Crew Challenge at the Speedway Expo, a team of racecar drivers did pretty well for themselves. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour/ARCA RE/MAX Series/USAC Open Wheel hotshoe Bobby Santos, III teamed up with ISMA Supermodified pilot Mike Ordway, Jr., NEMA Midget driver Jeremy Frankoski and Brian Crowley (who spots for Matt Hirschman in Modifieds and Jerry Marquis in fendered cars) to place second in the event.
“We signed up at the last minute and it was fun,” said Santos.
“That was different,” said Ordway. “Usually I’m the one in the car and this time, I was running one of the guns. We got them [the lugnuts] off pretty quick though. We pretended that we knew what was going on.”
A team featuring NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Woody Pitkat won the competition. Pitkat falls into both the driver and crew member categories. In addition to his own racing, Pitkat serves as the crew chief and shop foreman for the #28 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team of King Racing and driver James Civali.
Joey Pole Preps for Season After a Strong Speedweeks
Joey Pole appeared in the ACT Late Model booth with his #97 car. Unlike most of his fellow competitors on the Tour, Pole has already been racing this season. He took part in the Crate Late Model events during Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway. Pole turned a lot of heads with several impressive runs down south and news of that found its way back to New England.
“It was kind of surprising,” said Pole. “It didn’t think so many people up here knew what happened down there. It was pretty cool that people knew about it.”
The show also gave Pole an off-season chance to meet up with some of the drivers he battles with during the season.
“I’ve seen a lot of them. It’s good to see everyone and catch up. It’s about that time again and we’ll be racing soon.”
Pole will be racing soon, and often, this season. In addition to his full-schedule ACT campaign, he will also run a Super Late Model for Richard Moody Racing in several PASS North shows, starting with the season opener in April at Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
“That’s the plan,” said Pole. “It is pretty much a definite and we’re hoping to do five or six PASS races for Richard Moody as Ben Rowe’s teammate. We want to do well for them. We went up to their shop in Maine about a month ago and met the crew. I talked to Ben a little bit and as time goes on, I’m sure that we’ll talk more. I’m going to try and learn as much as I can from him.”
Ramstrom Readies For a Busy Season
Derek Ramstrom’s #35 Super Late Model anchored the PASS booth at the Speedway Expo. The 16-year-old second year PASS North driver has a busy season of racing ahead of him in 2008.
Ramstrom will return to the PASS North wars, chasing points and running the full schedule of races. He’ll head to a select number of PASS South shows as well, starting with the March 22nd Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway. He also plans to compete weekly at Thompson International Speedway (CT) and go after the Pro Stock championship with a new car just finished by chassis builder Jeff Taylor.
“I’m going to try and get as much seat time as possible this year,” Ramstrom told Speed51.com
Even though Ramstrom lives just a short distance from Thompson, he has never raced there weekly in his career because the track requires that competitors be at least 16 years of age. Despite being a former PASS Outlaw champion and racing all over the map over the past few seasons, Ramstrom did not satisfy that requirement until this year.
Car #40 Where Are You?
It seemed that everywhere you looked at the Speedway Expo, there was a #40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet. A total of three cars from the Matt Kobyluck stable were on display at the show. They appeared in the NASCAR display, New Hampshire Motor Speedway display and the Sunoco booth.
MacDonald Plans For a Lot of Traveling This Year
Eddie MacDonald was at the Speedway Expo this year alongside his pristine white #71 NASCAR Camping World East machine. After running a partial schedule in the series last season, MacDonald will run the Robert Grimm-owned car in all of the 2008 events.
But that’s not quite enough racing for Eddie Mac or his crew chief Rollie LaChance. They also have a pretty fast Late Model in their stable and plan to race that as much as possible in 2008 as well.
“We’re in the middle of trying to figure everything out right now,” said MacDonald. “But it looks like we’ll be able to make both the [Oxford] 250 and the opening [ACT Late Model] race at Lee. We’re racing at Greenville [on Lee weekend] and Nashville [on Oxford weekend] those weekends. So it will be exciting. We’re looking forward to doing a lot of racing this year.”
“We’ll put Rollie’s father to work getting the Late Model to track on time and with some planning, we ought to be able to get ourselves to the track on time.”
For the past several years, MacDonald has approached a new season not quite knowing how many events he’d be able to run. With the backing of a new team this time around, he’s already sure of running the full CW East schedule and that’s a welcome change.
“It’s going to be great. We’re going to have the car more ready than they have been in the past. We’ll be more prepared. It’s going to be a little more difficult is some ways because it takes more cars to run the whole series, but in the long run during the season that will help a lot. We’ll be able to actually work on a car that we race the next week.”
Camping World East and ACT might not be the only place to see Eddie Mac race this year either.
“We’re going to do all of the racing that we can,” MacDonald said. “We’re looking to maybe get a PASS race or two in too. We’ll see.”
Baril is Back at Lee
The last time that we heard from JR Baril, he had just stepped into the Dave Reynolds Late Model ride at Lee USA Speedway and ended the 2007 season by winning Oktoberfest. That capped off his second straight championship season at the New Hampshire track.
Baril will be back in the Reynolds ride this season chasing another track title. He’s also planning to enter the season-opening ACT Late Model event at Lee in April.
That might not be all of the racing that Baril does either. The #58 Pro Stock that he used to win four features at All-Star Speedway as well as to pull off a thrilling victory in the PASS Outlaw race at Beech ridge in September was up for sale this off-season, but has not sold yet. Baril might also race that at times during the upcoming season.