LEE OKTOBERFEST CLOSES NE RACING SEASON by Mike Twist
Plenty of Racing Invaders Head to New Hampshire Oval
The 2004 New England racing season was brought to a close with this past weekend’s running of Oktoberfest at the Lee USA Speedway (NH). The two-day event brought hundreds of entries spread between 10 different divisions.
There were quite a mix of different drivers and teams assembled for this season’s race. Most of the region’s touring series were represented. Drivers from the NASCAR Busch North Series, NASCAR Modified Series, PASS Pro Stock (Super Late Model) tour, True Value Modified Racing Series and ISMA Supermodifieds were there in various rides.
Regional tracks also provided plenty of entries. An informal look around the pit area shows cars from Star Speedway (NH), Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME), Monadnock Speedway (NH), Oxford Plains Speedway (NME, Seekonk Speedway (MA), Thompson Speedway (CT) and Riverhead Raceway (NY).
Naturally, it’s also one of the most anticipated races of the season for the home trackers at Lee.
“I love this race,” said Lee Late Model regular Scott Bonney. “You’ve got guys coming from all different tracks, so it’s quite an experience.”
Of course, with all of these teams and cars there was no shortage of stories.
LEE GRAD AND TRACK REGULAR BATTLE FOR LATE MODEL CHECKERS
The first major event of the day for the track’s headlining division, the Late Models. A surprise in the field was the appearance of Busch North driver Eddie MacDonald, while 2004 track champion Ricky Wolfe was not there due to a well deserved nearly post season vacation. Since no points are paid for Oktoberfest, the absence was an excused one.
Racecars small and large, open wheeled and fendered and just about anything in between filled the pit area at Lee. (51 Photos)
At the start, Bryan Kruczek got the jump and pulled away while MacDonald went for a sideways ride through turn two. Somehow, MacDonald avoided spinning and did not hit any other cars, but he lost quite a bit of ground with a very obviously loose racecar.
“We tried to adjust the car from the heat race Saturday and we were just kind of guessing at it,” said MacDonald. “We tried to tightened it, but didn’t go nearly enough.”
Meanwhile, Kruczek pulled away from the field with Scott
Scott Bonney enjoys his victory lap.
Bonney in his wake. MacDonald took a few laps to figure out the car and then started working back towards the front.
“I needed to find a line that would work and I moved up a couple of grooves to try and make something work,” said MacDonald.
By the time that MacDonald got near the front, Bonney had taken over the top position thanks to a lapped car.
“He (Kruczek) just got messed up with some lapped traffic,” said Bonney. “A guy was pushing up and put him higher than he wanted to go. We were able to sneak through the bottom.”
With three laps to go, MacDonald made a move on the high side of Bonney’s #25, but the caution flew right at the same moment and the pass didn’t stick.
On the restart, the pair drag raced into turn one with MacDonald getting the jump, but Bonney pulled ahead on the backstretch to continue on to the victory.
“Eddie and I had a great race,” said Bonney. “We went side by side for a little bit at the end there. He was coming fast, but once he got to the outside the track was so cold that he couldn’t get much traction up there. With three laps to go, I was able to hold him off.”
MacDonald would have liked it if the caution hadn’t come out, but he was still happy with his runner-up finish.
“I was by Scott just a little bit before the caution came out,” said MacDonald. “If I could have kept my momentum on the outside, I might have got by him. But I congratulate him, he’s always been a clean driver and it’s a lot of fun to race with him.”
RICCI POWERS TO MODIFIED VICTORY
The recipe to win the 35-lap Modified feature was a complex one. Take one young racer who is current a key crew member for Scott Mulkern’s PASS Pro Stock team, combine with a NASCAR Modified Series team, mix it with over twenty entries with most of the teams that run with the True Value Modified Racing Series and what you ended up with was a dominating victory.
Bryan Kruczek (#72) leads Scott Bonney's #25 earlyin their Late Model race.
Tony Ricci joined forces with the #(7)11 team of Czarnecki Brothers Racing for the event. Normally, they run the NASCAR Modified Series with Bob Polverari and two-thirds of his legendary number from the now-closed Riverside Park Speedway (MA). But for this race, they teamed up with Ricci instead.
“I changed tires for this team in 2001 on the Modified Tour,” said Ricci. “We stayed in touch and they knew that I was racing. In the middle of the summer, they asked me if I wanted to do this in the fall and I’ve been looking forward to it for the last couple of months.”
The race was worth the wait. Ricci won the pole position on Saturday and backed that up by leading every lap of the feature on Sunday.
Ricci pulls the #(7)11 into victory lane at Lee.
“It was a perfect weekend,” said Ricci.
The race was closer than it might have appeared though. In the middle stages of the race, Ricci’s lead wasn’t quite what it was early on.
“The car got a little loose as the race went on, but part of that was me,” said Ricci. “I was trying to drive a little bit hard there. I regain my composure and got back at it.”
NASCAR Modified Series driver Jim Storace closed up to Ricci’s back bumper in the middle of the race, but the biggest threat to Ricci came with the charging car of True Value Modified Racing Series champion Kirk Alexander. The #42 of Alexander, closed up to Ricci but did not have what it took to get by him.
“I ran out of tires,” said Alexander. “I used the car up starting in the back. The guy that started on the pole didn’t have to use his car up quite as much.”
Ricci knew that he had company during the closing laps, but he didn’t let it bother him.
“I knew that they were there and I was told on the radio they were there, but I didn’t even look in my mirror. I just drove my own race.”
Alexander finished second and was followed by Storace, Ed Dachanhuson and Peter Daniels.
“VINNIE WHO?” BESTS DIVERSE PRO STOCK FIELD
After the 2002 season, Lee managed dropped the Pro Stock division due to rising costs and declining car counts. That didn’t mean that the division wouldn’t be able to return to the track for a successful open show and this weekend proved it with 30 cars taking the green flag.
A few regulars got the chance to return for a race with Pete Frappier and J.R Baril leading that list. PASS drivers Larry Gelinas, Bill Rogers, Donnie Lashua, GeGe Gravel and Bobby Cabral were also there.
Baril took the early lead in his #77, while Lashua took a wild ride in turn three and ended up on top of the #5 car of Tom Furtado. Both drivers were OK, but their cars were badly damaged.
Gelinas toyed with Baril for the lead briefly, but neither driver
Donnie Lashua (#20) waits to come down off the roof of Tom Furtado's #5 car.
could hold off a charge from Seekonk champion Vinnie Annarummo, also known as Vinnie Who to those that have neither been able to pronounce or spell his name through a long career of New England Pro Stock racing.
The former Lee regular made the most of his return to the track by pulling away from the rest of the field and running mostly unchallenged through the second half of the 50-lap feature to record the victory.
“There’s nothing like being here, the fans are super and the track is super,” said an excited Annarummo after the race. “I am so happy today. I wish that I ran here all year. Maybe I will next year.
It wasn’t the first appearance for Annarummo at Lee this season, but the first trip to the track was a disaster. He credited his team for bringing back a much better car this time.
“I came up here for the PASS race and we were out to lunch,” said Annarummo. “My crew got this car prepared. They went home and got the car back on the money. It’s not me, it’s them.”
The victory fills a space on Annarummo’s trophy shelf that he really felt to be missing.
“I should have won two Oktoberfests before, but Larry Gelinas got them,” said Annarummo. “This year, I finally got my Octoberfest!”
Besides the headlining divisions, there was plenty of other racing over the weekend.
Ron Bolduc won the 50 lap Lance Davis Memorial Street Stock feature.
Other winners of Oktoberfest were Jacob Lebreque (Min Cup), Ricky Washburn (Hobby Stocks), Louie Mechalides (350 Supermodifieds), Steve Dumas (Roadrunner Mini Stocks) and Brian Vincent (Outlaw Mini Stocks).
Annarummo (#11x) runs on the inside of Barry Gray (#29), a Monadnock Speedway regular.
The Modifieds get ready to rumble on a restart at Lee.