Laquerre Poised To Make T-Road History

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

 

When the ACT New England Dodge Tour returns to Thunder Road Sunday for the Mekkelsen R.V. “Memorial Day Classic,” Joey Laquerre will be looking to add one more entry to his mile-long racing resume. Just two months shy of his 60th birthday, the East Montpelier veteran will attempt to become the first repeat winner of the Memorial Day Classic since Dave Dion copped four straight Memorial Day checkers between 1989 and 1992.

Last year, ACT’s resident tribal elder topped rookie John Donahue by just four feet in a spellbinding battle to the checkered flag, and two weeks ago, he served notice that he is ready to repeat with a runner-up finish in Thunder Road’s 44th season opener. After a rough night at Airborne two weeks ago, Laquerre stands 11th in the ACT Dodge Tour standings, just six markers behind defending Tour champion Phil Scott, and should be ready to rebound on his home track.

If he doesn’t, it certainly won’t be because the driver was rusty.

With no ACT Dodge Tour action scheduled last weekend, the 59-year old Laquerre hauled to New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park, finishing sixth in the track’s Late Model feature. In addition to a full slate of ACT and Thunder Road weekly action, and an off-weekend excursion or two to WMMP, Laquerre will race at the Autodrome Montmagny in Quebec a handful of times this season, as well, in a second car he has stashed north of the border.

With the health problems of a year ago now behind him, Thunder Road’s elder statesman appears determined to squeeze every race he can out of however many years he has left. Still annoyingly devoid of even a single gray hair, Laquerre appears ready to race for another decade or two, meaning that drivers on the American-Canadian Tour (or Thunder Road, or White Mountain, or any other racetrack within a 12-hour haul on an off-weekend) will have his white-and-red #15 to deal for a little while yet.

Laquerre has said he’ll quit racing when it stops being fun, and if his recent on-track performance is any indication, he’s still having his share of laughs. He and more than 30 other Late Model drivers are expected to chase the $20,000 Memorial Day Classic purse Sunday, along with a full compliment of Tiger/Sportsmen and Street Stocks also be in action. Gates open Sunday at 10 a.m., with post time set for 1:30. Should Mother Nature turn thumbs-down on the action, they’ll try it again Monday, same time.

rrrr

It’s been five and a half months since Ed Carroll was mortally wounded by a hunter’s bullet while watching television in his Berlin home. Carroll, a longtime official at Thunder Road and Airborne Raceways, lay in a coma for 10 days following the December 1 shooting, while family members pleaded for the involved party to come forward and provide information on the type of bullet lodged in his brain; information that could have saved his life.

No one stepped forward, and Ed Carroll died. Today, Washington County State’s Attorney Terry Trono says he still can’t decide what to do about it. In a story by Sky Barsch in Monday’s Times-Argus, Trono said that while he knows who shot Carroll, he is not sure that person should face criminal charges.

Ed Carroll’s shooting was a tragic, horrible accident. His death, however, was anything but. Had the responsible party told the truth from the start - rather than lying to the police and denying having fired a gun that day - Ed Carroll might be with us today, herding Street Stockers onto the track at Thunder Road. Sadly, that person chose to remain silent and let Ed die. For that, they deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.

Earlier this month, two men pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in a similar case in Rutland, which saw a stray bullet strike a woman in her home. Thankfully, that woman was not killed. In fact, she suffered only minor injuries. Why then, have the men who shot her been prosecuted, while the person who killed Ed Carroll has not?

In late January, Trono said he would make a decision on whether to prosecute the Carroll case within two weeks. Today, nearly four months later, he continues to sit on his hands. I’m not a lawyer. Don’t even play one on television. But it seems to me that the facts in this case are known, and Carroll’s family and friends have waited long enough. At the very least, lying to the cops is a crime.

Mr. Trono, it’s time for action.

rrrr

Short (Track) Subjects…

 

…Construction at Homestead-Miami Speedway began this week, and should be completed in time for the track’s 2003 Ford Championship Weekend, November 13-16. The $10-million project will see the track's banking jump from its current six degrees to a maximum of 20 degrees, with the amount of banking increasing progressively from bottom to top. Homestead-Miami will be the first NASCAR Winston Cup track to use the variable banking system.

 

…Updating a story reported here two weeks ago, New Hampshire’s Star Speedway was open for business Saturday night, after obtaining a conditional operating permit from the Town of Epping. The track had been forced to cancel its scheduled Opening Day activities when town officials cited owner Bob Webber, Sr., for numerous structural, electrical, and plumbing code violations. The most serious violations have now reportedly been addressed, and Webber has agreed to meet a series of deadlines to repair the other deficiencies.

As part of an agreement with the town, Webber must have a licensed structural engineer assess the track’s buildings and grandstands, provide a report to the town, and begin “aggressive” action to fix code violations. Webber must also install and maintain at least 12 portable restrooms until permanent facilities can be repaired, repair or remove a pair of substandard buildings, and repair or replace fencing between the track and grandstands. The track will not be allowed to use an elevated section of seating or the race control tower, forcing race operations to be moved temporarily to the press area, until repairs can be made.

“If Mr. Webber misses a step, his license will be revoked immediately,” said Kevin Kelley, Code Enforcement Officer for the Town of Epping. Sean O’Connell, attorney for Webber, said the track will comply with the deadlines.

Webber’s other track, the Hudson (NH) Speedway, also received operating permits last week after being cited for similar problems.

…Bill Elliott will race in Sunday’s “Coca-Cola 600” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, with a carbon fiber brace protecting his injured right foot. Elliott suffered three broken bones in the foot in a crash during last weekend’s “The Winston.”

…Developer Morton Salkind wants to build a superspeedway in Linden, New Jersey, just outside New York City. NASCAR wants Salkind to stop using its name to promote the project.

NASCAR President Mike Helton sent Salkind a personal letter late last month, saying the Daytona Beach sanctioning body has “absolutely no affiliation or connection with you or your company, and has made no commitment or representation of any kind to hold a NASCAR-sanctioned event at your facility, if built. NASCAR
cannot and will not advise you on the development of your stated project.”

Helton's response came after Salkind told the Star-Ledger newspaper that NASCAR would "happily" sanction a race at his proposed 0.92-mile Liberty Speedway, to be built on a 140-acre former chemical company site. Salkind has promised a 100,000-seat venue, complete with a 400,000-square-foot entertainment center and a 20-story hotel and conference center; to be built at a reported cost of $401 million.

…The U.S. Navy jumped ship on Jon Wood’s Roush Racing NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last week, reportedly to join the FitzBradshaw Racing Busch Series team. FitzBradshaw, partially owned by NFL Hall Of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, currently builds cars for driver Kerry Earnhardt, and will reportedly field a second entry for driver Casey Atwood, sponsored by the U.S. Navy. Sources say the team is already talking about a move to Winston Cup next season.

…Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc., sold thousands of shares of new stock recently, in an effort to raise cash for the purchase of a speedway. In the aftermath of the stock sale, Smith now has a war chest of some $230 million, and has talks scheduled with the economically troubled Dover Downs Motorsports group, which owns the Dover, Nashville, Gateway, and Memphis tracks.

Our sources in Charlotte also say Smith will meet with rival Brian France about the possible sale of the historic Darlington or Rockingham speedways. Smith also has not ruled out building a new track.

…Last week’s edition of “The Winston” may be the last ever held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Talk has long circulated that NASCAR will take its all-star race to another venue next season, and after a series of behind-the-scenes clashes between Lowe’s Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler and a string of NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation, and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco representatives last week, sources close to the situation say it will be a miracle if the event returns to Charlotte again. Leading candidate to replace Lowe’s? Richmond International Raceway, possibly as part of a weeklong series of events similar to Daytona Speedweek.

…It's all but official now. Darlington Raceway will lose its traditional Labor Day weekend event. Darlington -- NASCAR's oldest superspeedway - will see its schedule cut to just one NASCAR Winston Cup race in 2004, with its Southern 500 date moving to California Speedway.

…Am I the only one scared to death by the advent of children’s racing divisions at local short tracks? Here in the northeast, New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park is in the second year of its Kids Truck division, while Riverside Speedway in Groveton, NH, has also dabbled in a couple of kids-only events. At White Mountain, rules allow children between 10 and 16-years old to compete in virtually stock, four-cylinder pickup trucks, modified only for safety. Track owners Don and Teri Avery chartered the new division in an effort to “allow kids a chance to get involved in racing at a young age,” as well as “to (give) families and children a chance to work together as a racing team.

“Racing in this division is not about going out on the track…to win races,” says the WMMP rulebook. “This division is being done so that younger people can learn from and help other younger kids, and have fun in racing.”

Those are laudable goals. But somehow, I can’t get comfortable with the idea. Putting a scared-to-death 10-year old out there in an ill-handling race machine -- inches away from a bunch of other scared-to-death 10-year olds in equally ill-handling machines -- strikes me as a tragedy just waiting to happen.

I understand that kids mature faster these days. I realize Jeff Gordon was manhandling an honest-to-God, fire breathing sprint car by the time he was 14-years old. I believe that spending time in the race shop with mom and dad is infinitely better than playing 12 consecutive hours of “Mutant Cannibal Cyborg III” on the GameCube. But you know what? I still don’t like it.

These kids have their entire adult lives to race, if that’s what they want to do. Stock car racing does not need “Little League.” Let kids be kids.

…Pro All Stars Series promoter Tom Mayberry sure knows how to give his sponsors some bang for their buck. Last weekend, during the Super Street feature at Canaan Fair Speedway, Mayberry hopped into his DNK Used Cars-sponsored PASS pace car, slammed it into gear, and pulled onto the track, right in the middle of the race. Mayberry ran a handful of laps - admittedly well away from the rest of the pack - before pulling into the infield and parking, reportedly with a smile a mile wide.

…Defending Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart wins this week’s “Selectively Indignant” award, for comments made immediately after a wild, six-car crash in “The Winston.” Stewart admitted causing the wreck, after clipping Terry Labonte’s rear bumper in turn two. The crash eliminated both drivers, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett. Afterward, however, Stewart threatened to boycott next year’s race, to protest rough driving by others.

"Next year, I'm going to take the weekend off and somebody else can drive this thing," said Stewart. "It's starting to become not worth it. I want to be racing a long time, and I don't want to get wrecked in a non-points race that has turned out to be a hack-fest every year."

Hello,Tony?!? You were the hacker!

On the other hand, now that Stewart has threatened to skip next year’s All-Star Race, NASCAR is now officially on a par with the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball on the list of “big-time sports.”

…Tomorrow night, it’s “Race Against Cancer Night” on the Canaan (NH) Fair Speedway dirt, headlined by Round Four of the Twin State Modified Series.

Saturday is the busiest night of the holiday weekend, with Plattsburgh’s Airborne Raceway returning to action with the Tiger/Sportsmen, Streets and Renegades in action. All Scouts and Little Leaguers in uniform are admitted free, post time of 6:30. Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway presents its “Gilmour Ford Memorial Day Special,” with a full program of weekly events, plus the first Twin State Sportsman Coupe event, and a V-8 Enduro. Riverside Speedway in Groveton, NH, presents the 23rd Annual “NAPA Opening Day Spectacular” Saturday night, with Late Models, Flying Tiger/Sportsmen, Strictly Stocks, Cyclones and Dwarf Cars all getting their first taste of competition for 2003. On the Canaan Fair Speedway asphalt, Gary's Claremont Tire & Auto presents the Pro Stocks, Late Models, Super Streets and Mini Stocks, along with the full-size Enduros and the New England Antique Racers, beginning at 6 p.m. The NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series to the Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Massachusetts Saturday night for the “Budweiser 150.”

Sunday, the ACT Dodge Tour returns to Thunder Road for the Mekkelsen RV “Memorial Day Classic,” with the first green flag flying at 1:30. The New England Dodge Dealers also present a five-division program at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH, Sunday, headlined by a 75-lap main event for the WMMP Late Models. The green flag waves at noon. And after being rained out a week ago, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven finally gets its 2003 campaign on track with its annual “Memorial Day Classic and CDL Night,” with a post time of 6 p.m.