What would it take for a young driver from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, a town closer to the Canadian Border than Charlotte is to Hickory Motor Speedway, to be able to chase a full schedule of PASS South…yes South….Super Late Model racing?
A little bit of help from some friends. Just ask Stephen Legendre, who is driving a full season of PASS South racing in addition to a few starts on the PASS North tour as well.
“Without people around me and people helping me, none of this would be possible,” said Legendre. “I really appreciate it.”
But those aren't just any friends that Legendre has. The 17-year-old is being helped by none other than six-time PASS champion Ben Rowe, 2009 PASS South championship contender Jay Fogelman and the folks at the short track racing division of Ford Motor Company.
In fact, it was fellow New England Rowe who gave Legendre the idea to race in a series that holds most of its races about 1,000 miles away from home.
“My sister lives in North Carolina and I go down and visit her often. She's dating Ben Rowe, so he told me about PASS South and how he's run it,” said Legendre. “He has come and helped me out. Down there, it's all tracks that I haven't seen before so he gave me insights on how to get around them. Having him around really helps. So we said what the heck. We ran North last year, so we'll run South this year.”
Once down in the South, Legendre formed a friendship with Fogelman. In addition to gaining advice, Legendre formed a partnership with the former driver in what is now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Legendre is a teammate of sorts to Fogelman and keep his PASS South equipment at Fogelman's North Carolina shops.
“We're working with Jay and Jeremy Upchurch,” said Legendre. “They are great people to work with. They helped us out last fall when we ran the Mason-Dixon Meltdown and the Greenville Howler. We did it with them and they taught us a lot. They're starting out in PASS too. Last year was their first year, so it has all been good.”
Before the start of the 2010 season, Legendre also formed an alliance with Ford, who has introduced a new crate engine to the Super Late Model ranks.
“Ford's been really good,” said Legendre. “They stand behind things 100% and have a real good product. It's in development, but all in all, I think they have a really good piece and it runs really well against the Chevys. They are a great bunch of people to work with.”
All of those friendships have paid off for Legendre so far this season. He started out the year with a solid sixth-place finish in the PASS National Super Late Model race at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) and backed that up with his best career Super Late Model finish, a third, at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC). Despite a recent run of bad luck, Legendre is still ranked within the top ten of the current PASS South point standings.
Along the way, he's discovered a few differences between the PASS North and PASS South worlds.
“The North and the South - there's a big difference,” said Legendre. “Down south, everyone is so laid back. It's Southern boys and down home and country-fried. Up here, everyone is a little bit more particular about their stuff. Down south, they have a lot of full-time guys. Then there is the North vs. South deal. So it's different.
“When you go down there and race against guys like Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch and David Stremme have cars. It makes it tough because there is some stuff competition out there.”
Still not even a adult, Legendre isn't laying out long term plans for his move up the racing ladder. He's working on succeeding in PASS before entertaining the idea of moving anywhere else.
“We're just getting our feet wet in the big leagues,” said Legendre. “We'll see what comes next. I don't know.”