This past weekend, thousands of racecar drivers, team members and fans headed to West Springfield, Massachusetts for the Speedway EXPO. Speed51.com was on hand and we filled up the notebook with a few off-season news and notes items from New England racing. Here are a few of the things that we observed:
DAVE DION AND THE ACT TOUR?
When the American-Canadian Tour announced that they were working on developing a Ford crate engine for competition on the ACT Late Model Tour, there was one driver who people immediately thought of - Dave Dion.
Dion and his brothers have fielded orange #29 Fords for decades on the old ACT Pro Stock [Super Late Model] Tour, in PASS North Super Late Model competition and in what is now known as the NASCAR Camping World East Series. Dion hasn't raced since late in 2007, but never officially retired either.
At the Speedway EXPO, Dion appeared in the Coastal 181 booth to meet fans and one topic kept coming up. Could Dion return to ACT racing in the near future?
He most certainly would be up to the task - provided that it would in a car fielded by the Dion Brothers Racing team.
“If you can get my brothers excited about it, I'm ready and just a phone call away,” said Dion.
JUST WHAT IS RAMSTROM UP TO?
For years, Ben Rowe has played his cards close to his vest when it comes to looking ahead to a racing season. Every winter, he'd be non committal about whether or not he would be running a full schedule and running for the championship in PASS North, but when each season he would be right in contention for that championship - having run every single event.
Now it looks like teenaged Derek Ramstrom, who won his first PASS North race in 2008, is taking a page from the Rowe playbook. The Massachusetts driver had two cars on display at Speedway EXPO - his PASS North entry was in the Lee USA Speedway booth and his Super Late Model was in the Thompson Speedway booth. He'll race both cars in 2009, but whether or not he'll chase one or two championships yet is something that remains to be seen.
“We're watching our budget this year,” said Ramstrom. “We'll be at the Icebreaker at Thompson and run the first PASS race and see how it goes. We're open for any opportunities that come our way this year. We're going to try and start off strong and see what happens.”
Ramstrom would also like to enter as many PASS South races at possible this season if the budget to do so is available for his family-owned team. Ramstrom has competed in a very limited schedule of PASS South races in recent seasons, making only one start in 2008. His best PASS South finish came at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in October, 2007 when he finished third.
HELLIWELL CONSIDERS HIS OPTIONS
Wayne Helliwell, Jr. is also looking at his options for the 2009 season. He reported at the Speedway EXPO that he will be entering a limited schedule of ACT Late Model races in 2009. Whether the former Lee USA Speedway track champion goes after another title at that facility is up in the air. “We'll see” was his response when asked about running for points there this year.
A DIFFERENT ROLE FOR REEN
For years, Glen Reen has been coming to the Big E every March to take in the sights of what was Racearama and has now evolved into the Speedway EXPO. This year, the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year was signing autographs at the show - which left him in a state of shock.
“This is very different,” said Reen. “I've been coming here since I was just a little kid. If you had told me that someday I would be here signing autographs, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. I still don't know why they want my autograph."
THINGS LOOK BLEAK FOR HENRY
In recent seasons, Ron Henry had developed a reputation for doing a lot with a little in ACT Late Model racing. The Maine driver has used a chassis that was older than some short track drivers to post solid results on the Tour and then stepped up to a new racecar with plenty of potential. But then the money ran out. Henry ran a limited schedule of PASS Modified events this past season, but he might not race much at all in 2009.
Henry, who was walking around the Speedway EXPO show on Saturday, reports that both his car owner for the ACT Late Model and the PASS Modified have parked their cars due to lack of funds. Either car could be race ready in no time flat if sponsorship was available though.
“I've been racing for 27 or 28 years, so it's going to be tough when the weekends come around this summer and I'm not going to the track,” said Henry.
ACT IS EVERYWHERE
There is always a good mix of racecars at the Speedway EXPO. This year, fans could can up close and personal with everything from Quarter Midgets to Dragsters to Camping World East cars to Super Late Models to Supermodifieds.
But because of its location in Southern New England, the EXPO (and its predecessor Racearama) has always seemed to have more Modifieds than anything else. This year was no exceptional as Dirt Mods, SK Mods and Tour-type Mods were just a few of the many Mods on display.
But the second most popular type of racecar might have unofficially been an ACT Late Model. At first glance, that might have seemed surprising since the tour is based in Vermont. However, an invitational race set for September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a gaggle of New England tracks that are running their weekly Late Model divisions under the ACT rules package have made the cars more and more popular this season.
At the EXPO this year, the ACT Late Models of Joey Pole, Cris Michaud, Brent Dragon and Dan McKeage were all on display in various locations along with many ACT-legal Late Models that will run weekly at various tracks.
Dragon's car might have attracted the most attention of the bunch. The #55, which appeared in the New Hampshire Motor Speedway booth, was sporting a new yellow paint scheme for the upcoming year. Past “Dragon Wagons” have featured the colors of white and orange predominantly.
MEET THE CHRISTOPHERS
Occasionally, Ted Christopher is used to sharing the limelight with a family member. After all, his twin brother Mike raced alongside him for years before cutting back on racing to spend more time with his family.
At the Speedway EXPO, Ted Christopher was sharing the spotlight again. But this time, it was with his wife Quinn Wazorko, who was the Grand Marshall of the show.
Both husband and wife appeared together signing autographs at the show. Fan interest appeared to be evenly split between the two.
TC had three different racecars on display at the EXPO. His Stafford Motor Speedway Late Model and SK Modified were at the show along with the TQ Midget that he will race this coming weekend in Providence, Rhode Island.
One interesting thing about Ted Christopher was the number that he used while signing autographs. After his name, he wrote a car number - but it wasn't the #36 that he uses on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour or the #00 that he recently won the Florida Speedweeks Modified championship with. Instead, he used the #13 that he made famous in the Mystique Motorsports days and still uses in the SK Modifieds at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).
"That's just my number I guess," TC said when he was asked about his choice.