PENNY’S TWO CENTS – By Penny Aicardi
Kudo’s to Josh Vanada and his staff at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for promoting last night’s K&N East race as an ode to the series past. Overall, I think the Busch North Throwback 100 was a success: there was a decent crowd, a few familiar faces, and the race itself had some really great moments even under the threat of rain. People I talked to after the event had nothing but positive comments. The series will return to the track for the next two years, and my hope is that last night’s event is used as a building block rather than a template.
I was very excited when I first heard the NASCAR K&N East Series was coming to Thompson. This series has been my baby. I started working in the Busch North back in 1994 as a beat writer – first for Area Auto Racing News and then more permanently for Speedway Scene. I also worked for many years as a public relations representative for many of the teams – including five of its series champions. I saw its name change three times, and I gained many new family members in its competitors while we traveled around sometimes 21 times a year. In 2011, when travel costs skyrocketed, I had to hang it up – reluctantly. To say that I’m bias towards this series is an understatement. I missed them going back to Stafford, but I wasn’t going to miss this one – especially with the Throwback theme.
It was the first time since 1994 I have attended a NASCAR K&N Series race as a spectator. I had general admission tickets (thank you Myfm 101.3), and I sat in the grandstands instead of the press box. I could have bought paddock access, but since I didn’t show up until early evening, I thought it would be a waste. I didn’t quite know how I was going to take being at a K&N race without working. It was tough at first, but admittedly, I enjoyed just being a fan!
The Throwback designs were awesome. Eddie MacDonald sported Andy Santerre’s Aubuchon Hardware scheme; Doug Coby had a Mike McLaughlin Coors design; Rev Racing honored Rogilio Lopez and Tommy Houston; and Bill McNally Racing put Stub Fadden’s name on its NAPA entry. I would have loved and hoped to have seen more, but I imagine cost was a factor here. Does a team spend the money on a new wrap or do they buy a set of tires? Unfortunately, these things come into play – always have, always will. The chatter in the crowd was certainly on the throwback cars. People definitely seemed to be there for the nostalgia of its beloved Busch North teams. When eventual winner Harrison Burton and runner-up finisher Todd Gilliland were battling for the lead for several laps, the crowd around me was talking about Gilliland’s car being a nod to Stub Fadden. I hope teams pay attention to that because these things do matter.
The autograph session was very popular. Fans flocked to 1991 Daytona 500 Champion Ernie Irvan, whose son Jared is a regular in the NASCAR K&N Series. Jared revived his father’s iconic paint scheme from that Daytona victory more than 20 years ago. As you got to the end of the line, however, a rich history of the Busch North Series was present: champions Mike Stefanik, Joey Kourafas, and Andy Santerre. I was talking to Julie Stefanik for a few moments after she took a photo of these guys, and we agreed the caption of “legendary lineup” was accurate for her Instagram post. A lot of victories, hard fought battles, and championships were sitting right in front of us. A lot of what made New England racing great was sitting right there in one spot. Rogilio Lopez was in attendance, but not sitting down at the autograph table. Rogilio talked with me for a few minutes about his career and how he’s competing in the NASCAR Mexico Series. He’s very humble when he talks, but he’s done well for himself as well. In fact, he won at Autodromo Potosino just this past April. Glenn Sullivan was also in attendance, as a spotter for the No. 30 entry of Tyler Dippel. I had a few laughs with Glenn reminiscing about the past.
I must admit that I wanted more.
This was a good starting point, but I hope it’s just that. Perhaps next year they can pull in even more drivers: Kelly Moore, Brad Leighton, Mike Olsen, Matt Kobyluck, Dave Dion, Dale Shaw, Jamie Aube, and maybe even Ricky Craven! These are just a few that come to my mind. Perhaps there can be even more throwback schemes. If it were up to me, I’d start working on this now. Honoring the series legends is a great way to draw in some of the full-bodied race fans that long for that time period when this series catered to its New England fan base.
The fans loved the Busch North not only for its racing, but for its huge personalities. Thompson tapped into that a little bit last night, and I hope they go for more!