Dale Shaw. Brad Leighton. Tom Curley. Some of New England's most notable racing personalities have stood up and taken notice of young Joey Doiron's abilities behind the wheel of a stock car.
Doiron, a soft-spoken high school senior, hopes that he'll continue to open eyes in 2010. One year after winning the ACT Late Model Tour's Rookie of the Year award, Doiron has his sights sent on the same mark in the PASS North Series this season.
"It will be a lot different," said the 18-year-old Doiron. "ACT has some good caliber teams there, but going against guys like Richard Moody Racing, Scott Mulkern's team and Johnny Clark on all those different tracks with PASS this year -- it's going to be a big step for me."
It's a step that many believe Doiron will make seamlessly.
Last year, car builder Dale Shaw noted that Doiron's go-kart racing background built him into a smooth driver that "doesn't make waves." Doiron said he and Brad Leighton -- a multi-time champion in what is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East -- have developed a good working relationship. And Tom Curley, a Hall of Famer in New England racing circles, saw fit to include Doiron in the first-ever Late Model race contested at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September.
"My goal is to win Rookie of the Year with PASS and just run competitively," Doiron said. "I think we can do that."
Last season was Doiron's first full-time season in a stock-car touring series of any kind. He ran a limited schedule in 2008 in a Late Model at Oxford Plains Speedway and Wiscasset Raceway in his home state of Maine, after a few seasons of competition in a weekly support division at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
Prior to that, Doiron spent the better part of five years racing go-karts -- where he found his racing addiction.
"I used to be into baseball as a kid," said Doiron, who works with his father and crew chief, John Doiron. "Then I went and watched a go-kart race -- and after that, I didn't want to do anything else."
In the highly-competitive ACT Late Model ranks, Doiron finished 12th in the 2009 standings after posting one top-5 finish and a pair of top-10s in 10 starts. His best career finish came in early September when he ran fourth at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., just days before he was one of 36 drivers invited to compete in the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway -- New England's largest track and host to two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events each year.
All Doiron did at New Hampshire was start from the outside pole and lead the first 20 laps in the 50-lap event on the 1.058-mile oval, before blistered tires on his family-owned No. 73 took him out of contention.
Those days are gone, though, for Doiron -- who will tackle the challenge of PASS. He has two career PASS North starts, at Beech Ridge last season. In one of those races, he was in position to win before running out of gas late.
That particular disappointment has worn off for Doiron now. In fact, he's encouraged by his ability to compete against seasoned race teams as he enters a year where he will encounter bigger teams, bigger tracks and bigger speeds than he saw as a Late Model competitor.
"The races for the most part in PASS are going to be a little longer, so that will be a challenge," Doiron said. 'But we get to go back to Beech Ridge, which is a plus, because we know that track well.
"I'm a fairly patient driver and I like to wait for the end to make our moves. With longer races, I think that helps me -- it's more finesse than just running to the front as soon as you can, which I think is good for me.
"If I could make a living at racing, that would be great, but I'm not going to hold my breath that someday I'll end up in NASCAR -- but I'm going to enjoy doing this every day that I can."
Doiron's racing season begins with the April 18th PASS North Series opener at Speedway 95 in Hermon, Maine.