-by Justin St. Louis
April what? Feels like June. I'm in shorts and a t-shirt as I write this column, and my lawn is as green as I've ever seen it this time of year. By the way, this week's "Juice" has no real direction, but rather it's just a mindless collection of thoughts and notes I've taken during the last few days. Then again, I guess that's pretty much what this column is every week anyway. Enjoy.
We continue to watch Kevin Lepage in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Since missing the cut at Daytona, the Shelburne native has easily made the starting field in all four events, qualifying no worse than 28th in Jack McNelly's #56 MacHill Motorsports cars.
Alas, Lepage is forced to "start and park" his car each week due to a lack of funding. A botched sponsorship deal with distributor Revolucion World Wide and its START Natural Energy Drink brand left the team scrambling for money to go racing. McNelly is funding the now-sponsorless operation out of his own pocket at this point, and can't afford the costs accumulated by completing the entire distance of each race.
On Wednesday, this post came from Lepage himself on a message board dedicated to his fan base: "First of all, the MacHill Team is a better team then what I'm showing," he wrote. "We need to take care of these two cars so I can be at the track each week. Second, until we get a sponsor we will continue to [start and park]."
Go support the Autism Puzzle Foundation's "Casino Night" fundraiser at the Barre Auditorium on Saturday. This is the fifth year that the benefit will have the stars of the American-Canadian Tour and Thunder Road on hand to deal Black Jack, Craps, and Roulette, and it's a great time for a great cause.
Over 150 items will be auctioned off, including trips to Ireland and Las Vegas, and $1,000 cash. The dealers will be ACT Late Model Tour champion Brian Hoar, "King of the Road" Jean-Paul Cyr, top dogs Phil Scott, Robbie Crouch, Dave Pembroke, John Donahue, Nick Sweet, Joey Laquerre, and Eric Chase, and ACT/Thunder Road president Tom Curley.
Click here for more information.
We got a nice response from Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl race director Scott Tapley regarding our comments on Keith Rocco's restarts on March 28. After suggesting that Rocco was kinda-sorta getting away with jumping the gun a little bit in last week's "Juice", Tapley responded with this:
"No special treatment for Rocco, in fact, his first three restarts were perfect. Our rule is that leader must maintain pace car speed and the leader, and only the leader, well be the first car to fire at the restart line in the middle of turn 3.
"His next restart, however, was a brake check at the line (I know because I race direct at the line), and I immediately told our spotter official to tell Rocco's spotter that that was his one and only warning on the brake check. He maintained his correct restarts for the remaining restarts with absoultely no question in my mind.
"[At] our season finale last year ... Keith's team argued for "extra" caution laps when the rule is four laps no matter what ... because of our pit in/out blending problems. (Editor's note: Waterford has a very odd pit road; the only entrance from the track surface is a swinging gate on the backstretch that can only be opened by an official during a yellow flag period.) We went green at our normal four laps and it took the Rocco team 18 laps to complete the change. A broken track bar braket cost him the title, as he entered the event the leader. The team claimed that we could have provided a "courtesy" [lap] but I my opinion it would nullify any rule ever made.
"If you dont have ruling consistency than you have no crediblity, and I'm proud of the fact that I and our officials have shown that in our first year of operation, much different than the Speedbowl I attended when I first moved to Connecticut in 2005."
So there you have it. Thanks to Scott Tapley for reading VMM, and thanks even more for the response.
Sad news comes with the passing of pioneer racer Ronnie "Satch" Hunt on Easter Sunday. Despite his youth, Hunt was a top driver in the barnstorming days of the open-wheel Coupes in Vermont and New Hampshire, winning multiple features in the #59 and #60 cars at Barre's Thunder Road and Northeastern Speedway near St. Johnsbury. At the time of his first win at Northeastern in 1960, he was just 19 years old.
Satch owned and operated Hunt's Auto Repair and AKM Recycling in his native Franconia, N.H., and was an active member of the community; he had roles with the Franconia Board of Adjustment and the Franconia Planning Board, was a town selectman and firefighter, and was a member of the LaFayette Lions Club. He also attended the Northeastern Speedway 50th reunion last July.
Satch was 68.
That NCAA title was one of the best basketball games you'll ever see. And thanks to Duke, I won a basketball hoop of my very own. #bracketology
There's something about Dale Brackett that you can get behind. Most small teams -- especially when they're based more than a thousand miles away from most of the action -- don't make it in the big leagues of NASCAR. I don't know whether or not Brackett's new NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team will, but at least he's got the right attitude about it.
"We're trying to make our own opportunity here," he said after failing to qualify for his debut at Martinsville on March 27. "It's a huge jump from where we've been, and we know that. There's no real way to prepare for it. But you've either got it or you don't."
Some numbers from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year. Just for fun.
Winners: Darrell Wallace, Jr. (Greenville), Max Gresham (South Boston)
Oldest winner: Gresham, age 16 years, 11 months, 4 days
Number of starters: 30 (Greenville), 26 (South Boston)
Number of rookies: 16 (Greenville), 16 (South Boston)
Average age of Top 10 finishers: 22 (Greenville), 21 (South Boston)
Average age of Top 10 finishers at South Boston without Matt Kobyluck (age 40) and Eddie MacDonald (age 29): 18
Drivers younger than Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., (age 20) at South Boston: 13
My, how this sport has changed.
Our many thanks to Dave Parker and Subway of Barre, Montpelier, Waterbury, and Northfield for the live updates at Hickory Motor Speedway's Easter Bunny 150, part of the PASS National Championship series. Dave made it possible for us to get photos, interviews, and mid-race updates from North Carolina (much as he did for us at New Smyrna in January).
Unfortunately our northern drivers didn't fare too well overall, but what can you do?
Tarheel racer Preston Peltier won the race over Jay Fogleman and young Ryan Blaney. Maine's Cassius Clark led a bunch of laps before finishing fourth and Ben Rowe turned in a "miracle" performance to finish in eighth place, but that was the best we could get. New Brunswick racer Lonnie Sommerville was 25th, with Maine racers Johnny Clark 26th and Ryan Moore 28th, New Hampshire's Brad Leighton -- who entered the race as the National point leader -- 30th, and Danville, Vt.'s Steven Legendre a crashed-out 31st.
We had it all covered on our Twitter page on Saturday, including quotes from Moore and Legendre, and photos of guys like David Ragan and Max Papis, who were moonlighting from their regular gigs as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to have a little short track fun.
If you're not on Twitter, you'll be missing some good stuff this year that you may not find on the VMM homepage, like in-race updates, photos, quickie interviews, contests, and who knows what else!
Saturday, April 10
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, N.Y. -- 1:00pm (Open Practice)
Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, N.H. -- 2:00pm (Open Practice)
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Fri., April 9 -- Phoenix Int'l Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz. (9:00pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sat., April 10 -- Phoenix Int'l Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz. (7:30pm)