Hoping to capitalize on the momentum created earlier this month at the season-opening Icebreaker event at his home track, Derek Ramstrom has altered his 2010 racing plans.
The youngest track champion in Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway history, Ramstrom will attempt to win a second consecutive title in the track's Super Late Model division. After winning both ends of an Icebreaker doubleheader for the Super Late Models, Ramstrom took a hard look at returning to weekly competition full-time.
"It's a good opportunity and to go out and try and repeat," said Ramstrom, 18, who originally planned to race only a partial schedule at Thompson. "I have a lot of track time there now, and every week I seem to run better and better. I'm just more on top of my game when I race there and know I can win the championship again.
"I have a lot of confidence coming into this season."
Part of Ramstrom's confidence comes in having started this season with a ride on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He said that while he's stepping back from that opportunity for the time being, it was a tremendous learning experience.
He hopes to translate what he learned in the K&N Pro Series toward his Super Late Model efforts, which includes an ambitious schedule of PASS North Series events in addition to Thompson's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly program.
"The K&N Pro Series was a great opportunity -- it really was -- but it just didn't work out the way I hoped," said Ramstrom, who posted a career-best finish of 6th in the K&N Pro Series season opener at Greenville Pickens Speedway in March. "If anything, I just feel like I need to be a little prepared going forward, maybe. There's just so much competition on that series that you've got to be ready mentally more than anything.
"I know that I have the talent to be there under the right circumstances, just like everybody else."
For a young driver looking for exposure, Ramstrom feels that PASS -- which sanctions races from as far north as Canada and as far south as Georgia and includes a national championship series -- rivals NASCAR's regional tours in terms of recognition. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch, David Ragan, Regan Smith and others have all competed in PASS events.
"There's just a phenomenal amount of competition in PASS," he said. "Every week, there are at least a dozen guys at every race that can win. That's big for me, where you know that coming down to the end of close races, you really have to have a lot of confidence to get the job done.
"PASS is a great series with really good exposure. They race all around the East Coast, with a ton of different drivers and driving styles. A lot of people don't know how good a series it really is, and I'm looking forward to running there some more."
Ramstrom said that when he's back with his family-operated Super Late Model team, he'll be better prepared from having competed in NASCAR's feeder division.
"We're going to be really good, which is great," said Ramstrom, who won four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series events at Thompson last season, as well as a PASS North Series race. "Just running those couple of K&N Pro Series races with the team I was working with, it definitely helped me out mentally. I'll definitely be more prepared for PASS racing, and hopefully the things I picked up from the K&N Series will help me there."
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule at Thompson International Speedway begins May 20 with a 30-lap Super Late Model feature.
In the meantime, Ramstrom will join the PASS North Series when it opens its 2010 season this Saturday, May 1, with the PASS 150 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine.