Although Northern New England is still months away from seeing any regular outdoor short track racing activities, that doesn't mean that race fans, crew members and competitors have gone into hibernation. Last week, the Northeast Motorsports Expo took place in Augusta, Maine for the 24th year. This allowed the opportunity for racing people to catch up with racing people during the three-day show, which was promoted by Stephen Perry. Of course, with racing people all in one place, there were plenty of news and notes to report about. Here is what filled the Speed51.com notebook after the show:
Another Brackett Enters Oxford Late Model Ranks
Following in the winning footsteps of her father Tim and brother T.J., Vanna Brackett will enter the Late Model ranks at Oxford Plains Speedway this coming season. The youngest Brackett racer is a veteran of the Ladies division at Oxford, where the record book credits her with 35 victories in a span from 2004 to 2010. She then spent the 2011 season in the Strictly Stock division before getting ready for this year's big move.
Vanna will drive the #3 Late Model owned by Gene Hatch and Kevin Burgess, out of Winthrop, Maine. She will compete for Rookie of the Year honors in a division where both Tim and T.J. plan on running the full season as well.
“It's either going to be really good or really bad with all three of us racing together,” said Vanna with a laugh.
Vanna Brackett also plans to enter the TD Bank Oxford 250, the ACT race at Oxford and possibly the mid-summer ACT Late Model event at nearby Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) this season.
Fifield Sets Her Sights on the Modified Racing Series
Vanna Brackett isn't the only Northern New England female driver looking to make a big career move in 2012. Melissa Fifield showed off her #07 Modified at the Northeast Motorsports Expo. The New Hampshire driver, who cut her racing teeth in the Allison Legacy Series, is planning to compete in the Modified Racing Series this coming year.
Fifield has been a Modified fan since childhood when she developed a love for that type of racecar as they shook the ground in front of the grandstands that she sat in with her father. This year, the 19-year-old plans to start out the MRS season and see where it goes - with a full season campaign possible if luck and sponsorship cooperate.
A First Time Championship Team That's Been a Long Time in the Making
It's hard to believe that the Northeast Motorsports Expo is the first time that the legendary #71 ME Modified owned by Goodwin and Anne Hannaford has appeared in public as a championship-winning ride. But that is true as the longtime Maine car owners won their first ever track title this past season at Star Speedway (NH) with Josh Cantara at the controls of the car.
The team received another accolade at the show as Goodwin Hannaford was awarded the Crew Chief of the Year award. The #71 ME Modified appeared in the Star Speedway booth at the show and attracted plenty of compliments and attention throughout the three-day event.
Gary Smith Looks Forward to Another Big Year
One of the biggest feel good stories in all of short track racing in 2011 was Gary Smith breaking through to outduel Johnny Clark and win the PASS North event at Lee USA Speedway (NH) in July. Smith will be back for a part-time PASS North campaign again this season and while he is sad about Lee falling off the series schedule, he's very happy about the addition of Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) to the PASS North slate of events.
“That's another track to get off my bucket list,” joked Smith. “I wish that I could count them all off. I've always wanted to race at Stafford and now, we can.”
Another Smith, Another Tour
Jesse Smith will travel with his father Gary to those PASS North races this year, turning wrenches on the family-owned #75 Super Late Model. Jesse also has some big plans for the downtime in his father's schedule, as he will roll out his own #55 entry in the Granite State Pro Stock Series for the season. Jesse, who worked the parts display for his employer Quirk Chevrolet at the Northeast Motorsports Expo, has entered several PASS North events as a driver during his career. In 2010, he ran a Late Model at Speedway 95 (ME).
Moore Racing in 2012
We caught up with Kelly Moore at the Northeast Motorsports Expo and he told us that he would be back with his #47 Super Late Model to run a limited schedule of PASS North events in 2012. That immaculate Chevrolet won't be the only family car to hit the track this year though. Moore will also turn wrenches on the #74 Super Late Model of his son Ryan in various events. Ryan's first races will take place next month at New Smyrna Speedway during the 2012 World Series of Asphalt Short Track Racing.
Ryan Moore had a good 2011 Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna, as he won of pair of features and was in contention for the Super Late Model championship until a run of late week bad luck.
Past Rivals Have a Good Time at Augusta
Andy Santerre recalled the last time that he spoke with Kelly Moore as a time when the two were nearly nose to nose and yelling at each other. That incident came when the two were working with younger drivers who had an on track incident in what is now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East division - Santerre was heading up his Andy Santerre Motorsports team at the team while Moore was tutoring his son Ryan.
This weekend at the Northeast Motorsports Expo though, the two acted like old chums. Both drivers appeared to meet fans and promote the new book “Busch North Scene - The Busch Years” on Friday night. Despite not talking to each other for a few years, the two had a great time at the show swapping stories and talking to fans.
Pelotte Heads Down South
Oakland, Maine teenager Willie Pelotte was walking around the Northeast Motorsports Expo with warmer temperatures undoubtedly on his mind. Pelotte, who raced a Late Model at his home state tracks of Unity Raceway and Oxford Plains Speedway in 2011, is moving to North Carolina soon to attend the NASCAR Technical Institute. Once there, Pelotte would like to line up a ride in a Late Model Stock Car at a track like Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) or Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC).
Pelotte isn't giving up his New England racing completely though. He still has his Late Model and will still come home to attempt the 2012 version of the TD Bank Oxford 250. Pelotte is a former kart racer in Maine who has been making the right moves off the track as well - he was a participant in the non-profit “Jobs For Maine Graduates” program, where he learned about public speaking and he has helped out the Racing Against Cancer charity as well.
Even the young man's part-time jobs while in high school centered around automotive work - he has labored as a assistant in the automotive department at his local K-Mart and detailed cars at DNK Select Autos - the same used car dealership that promoted the big-money PASS North DNK 400 won by Johnny Clark at Unity Raceway several years ago.
Nile Heads South Too…But Not Nearly As Far
Ben Nile is another young race driver heading South in 2012, but he won't be going nearly as far as Pelotte on the road. Nile will turn 15 this year and his family plans to head South from their Central Maine home to race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) weekly in the Wildcat division - which is known to feature some of the closest and tightest racing of any division in the state. Nile is another karting graduate in Maine, who like Pelotte has helped out the Racing Against Cancer program. After winning races and championships in a kart at Richmond Raceway (ME), Nile moved up into big cars at Unity Raceway (ME) and earned the 2008 Teen Thunder division championship. In 2010, he toured the state in Maine Modified Series.
- The Northeast Motorsports Expo is notorious for having snowy weather hurt attendance at some point during each year's show. Despite the fact that the ground is still bare in most of Maine right now, this year's show was no exception. On Friday, a wintery mix of snow and ice made getting to the snow a little bit of a challenge for teams. It probably didn't help attendance either as Friday night was a little bit slow. Things picked dup greatly on Saturday though, as warmer temperatures and clear skies made travel easy and packed the Augusta Civic Center with race fans.
- A few of the visitors who we spotted at this years show were Austin Theriault, Bill Penfold, Scott Mulkern, Andy Shaw, Mike Ordway, Jr., Jacob Dore, Andy Santerre, Kelly Moore, Gary Crooks, Brian Hoar, Johnny Clark, Gary Smith, Joey Dorion, Dan McKeage, Bill Rodgers, Bill Dixon and SPEED's Steve Magnante.
- To see some of the sights from the Northeast Motorsports Expo, check out the Speed51.com gallery from the show, by clicking here.