Rowe to be a Wilkesboro Rookie
There aren't many short tracks where Mike Rowe has not raced before. The Mainer has toured every track imaginable in New England as well as much of Eastern Canadian through his decades-long career driving PASS Super Late Models, on the old ACT Pro Stock Tour and in what is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He's even toured the southern states from time-to-time as well, as evidenced by his 2005 PASS South championship.
However, Rowe will add a new facility to his list this spring as he enters as car owned by Scott and Vicki Mulkern in the April 9th “The RACE” at North Wilkesboro Speedway (NC). The track is one of the most historic joints anywhere and Rowe told Speed51.com while signing autographs at the recent Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta, Maine that he can't wait to try out the asphalt there.
“That's where I really want to go, it should be awesome,” said Rowe.
Although Rowe has been friends with the Mulkerns for years, and has raced against Scott in both the PASS North and South series, this will be his first time to drive one of their racecars.
Canadian Lonnie Sommerville will drive the Mulkern #48 entry in a full season of PASS North competition this coming year. Speed51.com also caught up with him at the Expo and will have a feature story on him coming up soon.
Not Much Else New in PASS Circles
It doesn't seem that there is much else new in the PASS North world at the moment. Speed51.com visited the PASS autograph alley at the Expo and there just wasn't much to find out.
“I'm laying low for once,” joked Ben Rowe.
“It's just the same out stuff going on,” said 2010 PASS North Rookie of the Year Joey Doiron.
The only real change that could be found was a tweak of the paint scheme on Johnny Clark's championship-winning Super Late Model. Clark, who produces his own graphics, decided to add more yellow to the paint scheme after polling fans on Facebook about whether to feature red or yellow more on the car this year.
“Yellow won,” laughed Clark. “Red came on strong there at the end, but just didn't pull through.”
South of the Border
In addition to the New England tracks that were in attendance at the Expo, Speedway 660 also had a display featuring a showcar and a larger-than-life banner promoting its 2011 racing season - including the Auto Value 250 Super Late Model blowout set for Labor Day weekend.
“We're gearing up for the 11th ,” said Speedway 660's Chris Johnston. “A lot of people have been stopping by up here to find out what the race is all about - and they are finding that we aren't that far over the border.”
Although Speedway 660 is in another country, it is only located slightly over an hour from the border of Maine.
Modifieds are the Stars Again at Star
The rebirth of Star Speedway (NH) is coming along nicely, as the track set up shop at the Expo with a display for fans and racers. The most buzz centered around the Keys4Cars Modified division at the track. Hall of Famer Russ Nutting and former Modified Racing Series chief technical inspector Pete Frappier will lead up the technical inspection team at the track this season.
Appearing in the Star Speedway booth at the Expo was the #71ME Modified owned by Goodwin and Anne Hannaford. That familiar car has been idle for the past few years, but will return to action this coming season with young Josh Cantara back at its controls.
Back Home Again
One personality who was having fun meeting fans at the show was four-time NASCAR East Series champion Andy Santerre. Now in a management role at Revolution Racing, Santerre is a native of Cherryfield, Maine and got his start on the short tracks of the state before moving to North Carolina.
“It's cool to be here,” said Santerre. “I haven't been to this show for six or seven years. I'm glad to come back. I can't remember everyone's name, but I recognize so many faces. It's been a long time because the little kids that I knew are all adults now.”
Dusting off Some Sheetmetal
Back when Santerre was winning in the East Series, Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) legend Tim Brackett was trying out the series (then known as Busch North0 as well by racing a handful of events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. These days, Brackett is sticking close to home - winning the 2010 track title at Oxford and watching his son T.J. and daughter Vanna race there.
This year, Vanna is moving up from the Ladies divisions where she has won championships and dozens of races, to the Strictly Stock division…and she is using a little bit of leftover equipment from her father's touring days. The body on Brackett's Strictly Stock is the same one that graced her father's Busch North car. Since OPS rules call for a steel body, this was a perfect fit for the new ride.
Babb is Ready for Sophomore Success
Maine's Bradley Babb had his #4 ACT Late Model in the Tour's booth at the show and last year's ACT rookie if looking ahead to bigger things this coming season.
“I'm hoping to run a little bit better and when we have good runs, I'm hoping to finish those races strong this year,” said Babb. “I'll be going back to the tracks I raced at last year again, which is important. When I showed up for the season opener at Thunder Road, I had only driven a Late Model once in my life before. I was a true rookie and it was kind of nerve racking. Now I have more experience and now what these tracks are like.”
It's hard to miss Billy Penfold. He speaks his mind, he drivers hard and he lives hard too. Penfold is always great for quote and he's never one to recite a politically correct answer. Fans love him. Fans hate him, but he's never dull.
Penfold hasn't race much recently and has spent time focusing on his auto recycling business in Oxford, Maine. We did run into him at the Expo though and found out that Penfold is planning to get back into the driver's seat this coming year. Penfold is expecting to run his own Super Late Model in “The RACE” at North Wilkesboro Speedway (NC) on April 9th, as well as in the two PASS North events at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Penfold will run his infamous pink paint scheme this year on his #0 car.
“The pink is back,” said Penfold. “That won't change.”
There was a little bit of cooperation among competitors shown at the Expo. The paint scheme on the #4 Richard Moody Racing Super Late Model of Ben Rowe was a creation of fellow driver Alan Tardiff, who runs a part-time schedule in PASS North. Tardiff's day job is running AMT Designs and he lettered up the racecar just days before the show.
And the Winners Are…
The Northeast Motorsports Expo isn't just a show - it's also a competition. Awards are presented for the best looking rides of the show, along with a handful of awards presented to Maine drivers for their accomplishments of the 2010 racing season. Here were the winners:
23rd Annual Northeast Motorsports Expo Drivers of the Year
Premier Touring Series - Johnny Clark (PASS)
Support Touring Series - Chris McKinstry (North East Mini Stock Tour)
Premier Weekly Division - Frank Moulton (Unity Late Model)
Support Weekly Division - Kurt Hewins (Oxford Strictly)
Show Award Winners
Award Of Excellence - Peter Prescott
Best of Show - #72 Charlie Colby
Best Track Display -Unity Raceway
Best Appearing Super Late Model - #4 Ben Rowe
Best Appearing Late Model - #0 Shane Green
Best Appearing Limited/Super Street - #84 Matt Dow
Best Appearing Wildcat/Strictly - #60 Vanna Bracket
Best Appearing Mini Stock - #19 Zach Audet
Best Appearing Entry Level Race Car - #26 Missy Morgan
Best Appearing Open wheel Race Car - #5 Super Modified Vern Romanowski
Best Appearing Truck - Olde & Dirty Ray Penfold
Best Appearing Pulling Truck/Tractor Full Size -Instigator
Best Appearing Pulling Tractor- Dale Martel
Best Appearing Vintage Race Car - #2 Kevin Waterhouse
Best Appearing Go Kart - #48 Caleb Spaulding
Best Appearing Mini Cup - #18 Matt Grant
Best Appearing Legend Car - #56 Evan Beaulieu
Best Appearing Drag Car - Alan Elliott's Rail Car
Best Vendor Display - Magnus Racing Products