MARQUIS A THROWBACK TO RACING'S GLORY DAYS By Mike Twist
Modified Hired Gun Still Gets the Job Done the Old Fashioned Way
Sometimes even Superman needs to slow down because of the factors in the world around him. In New England racing circles, Jerry Marquis is as close to "Superman" as you will find.
In a modern racing world sanitized with "young guns" and their five-year plans to get a NASCAR Busch or Cup Series deal, Marquis is one of the last of a dying breed of drivers. His desire is simply to drive the wheels off a racecar at any given track at any given time.
Marquis recently won the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Speedway (CT).
Not very long ago, his story wasn't unique - especially in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series - where drivers would commonly race three or more days a week. Nowadays, there are fewer drivers cut from this cloth.
Marquis is one of the "hired guns" in short track racing. Given the cost of running a race team, he knows that a driver like him, who looks to earn a ride based on talent, merit and experience rather than money brought to the table, is a tough sell to any team.
"There are young guns here who are up-and-coming and depending on how their wealth is, they might be able to fund a deal for a team that they approach," he said. "A lot of
good teams need that kind of support so they need to look at it as having the finances to go racing or not being able to go racing."
Fittingly, Marquis is paired up with a team from the glory days of racing - the famous blue #3 entry of the Boehler family, who have owned winning Modifieds for nearly five decades. Marquis' focus now is
primarily on doing the best job for this team and not just on driving a racecar whenever he can get a chance to.
"The level of commitment that is required to run the Modified Tour has gotten so great that it's not fair to the team for me to go off and race too much," Marquis said. "I've gotten a few calls to drive other cars here and there, but I need to look at how any racing that I do will effect the Modified team I'm with before I decide anything."
Jerry Marquis (left) has been a fixture of the NASCAR Modified Tour for years.
A decade ago, Marquis was able to spread himself out more in the racing world. He made starts in the NASCAR Busch North Series and in the Modified Series, all while also competing regularly in weekly shows throughout New England.
In 1990, he won three weekly championships - in the Pro Stock and Modified classes at Monadnock Speedway (NH) and in the Pro Stock division at the now closed Riverside Park Speedway (MA). If it weren't for a margin of 28 points, he would have won the Riverside Modified championship as well. He also found time for four Modified Series starts in that same season.
Today, Marquis doesn't have any plans for weekly short track
competition, but his desire is still there.
"I really miss running the 30-lap features," he said. "I miss racing
Monadnock and Riverside. We all came up that way and it was a
lot of fun. I started in Figure 8 racing a long time ago and I even miss that. I wouldn't mind driving one of those cars again."
Throughout the 1990's, Marquis' racing career went in different directions - sometimes at the same time. He earned the 1991 and 1999 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series regional championship for the New England region. He was a common face in the Modified Series with three wins during the decade and won seven Busch North races, including two victories in his 1994 rookie season.
Just a month before the 2000 racing season began, Marquis had no firm plans for the year. He agreed to drive in the season opener at Stafford for car owner Mario Fiore in what was supposed to be a race-by-race deal. The year started out well for the team and they chased points for the season and were rewarded with a championship.
The next season, he joined forces with the Boehler family. Last year, they won two events together. Both the driver and car owner have won titles before and there is nothing that they would like better than to win another one.
"It would mean a lot to me to win another championship," Marquis said. "Hopefully, we'll do better than last year. We didn't do bad last year, but it was not the year that we wanted. The guys work hard on this team and they want to win bad."
But you can't keep a true racer down, and while Marquis might have scaled back much of his racing, he hasn't cut out all non-Modified shows.
His 2004 plans also call for a limited schedule of Busch North races for the #52 team owned by Dave Darling. Marquis ran eight races for the team in 2003, with a fourth-place finish at Beech Ridge being the best result.
"We missed two Busch North races waiting on the rain for the Modified races at Seekonk last year," Marquis said. "We had planned on doing 13 races last year in the Busch North car, but got rained out too much. We hope to run nine times this year."
It's all proof that Marquis isn't giving it all up to be a "one series man," he's just scaling back, not running wide-open like he could in a perfect world.
"I'm not tired of racing at all," he said. "My desire is still there, even if the opportunity is not. If you give anyone in this pit area a chance to drive a good racecar, they'll jump right at it."
Jerry Marquis (#3) and Renee Dupuis (#90) battle at Stafford. (Howie Hodge Photo)