Local Racers Mourn Loss of Ed Carroll

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

 

Ed Carroll passed away Tuesday evening, shortly after being removed from the ventilator he had been connected to since being shot in a bizarre hunting accident more than a week ago.

Carroll, 59, was sitting in his recliner watching football last Sunday afternoon, when an errant bullet pierced the wall of his home and struck him below the left ear. Doctors were unable to perform surgery to remove the bullet due to questions about its construction, and public pleas by his family for information went unanswered.

Carroll’s infectious smile, impish wit, and love of the sport made him a favorite among drivers, crewmembers and officials alike, will he will be dearly missed at Thunder Road and Airborne Raceways next season. Thinking back over the 15 years I knew Ed, I never knew him to be down or discouraged. His smile always arrived five minutes before he did, and his outlook on life was unfailingly positive. Even in the midst of last summer’s problems at Airborne Raceway, when ACT officials often feared for their personal safety, Ed chose to focus, not on the troublemakers, but on the members of the Airborne community who loved the sport and conducted themselves well.

“Dave, it’s just a few bad apples,” said Carroll one night at midseason. “That’s what stinks about this whole deal. There are so many good people here, and they’re having their track ruined.”

At Thunder Road, Carroll is best remembered as the official who lined up the cars on the backstretch during yellow-flag periods, usually with the voice of Race Director Tom Curley thundering in his ear. Some fans say the banter between Curley and Carroll was more entertaining than the racing itself, and Eddie loved every minute of it.

Sadly, Carroll’s death came shortly after he had made a decision to slow down and enjoy life more. This fall, he announced that he would not return to Airborne in 2003, choosing instead to spend his weekends with family and friends. I spoke to Ed late last summer, and he explained that at 59 years of age, he had decided that there was more to life than work. He was looking forward to “working less and playing more” in coming years; a wish that now will sadly never come true.

Many will remember the tragic and senseless way Ed Carroll died. That’s understandable, but it’s also a mistake. Those of us fortunately enough to know Ed Carroll will remember him -- not for the way he died -- but for the way he lived. Eddie loved racing. He loved life, and he lived it to the fullest.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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The New England Dodge Dealers have extended their support of the American Canadian Tour through the 2004 season, with the 2003 ACT New England Dodge Tour schedule slated for release within the next two weeks. With that support, however, will come change.

"The New England Dodge Dealers have…raised the Tour to new heights," said ACT President Tom Curley this week. "We’re extremely happy to have reached an agreement with them, and we are even more excited about the potential of the ACT New England Dodge Dealers Tour."

Those comments were echoed by former Busch North Series racer Lou Rettenmeier, who now oversees the New England Dodge Dealers motorsports management team. "We couldn’t be more pleased with the results we’ve seen from our partnership with ACT," he said. "The 2003 ACT New England Dodge Dealers Tour will make a firm statement about our commitment to ACT’s program, and New England motorsports as a whole."

While the New England Dodge Dealers have provided a major financial and promotional boost to ACT, the organization’s regional scope is also forcing the series to change. Up until now, ACT has intentionally confined its efforts to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, with an occasional trip north of the border to Quebec. Now, however, the Dodge Dealers are anxious to expand the circuit into southern New England, in an effort to give their Massachusetts dealers some well-deserved bang for their marketing buck.

As a result, the 2003 ACT New England Dodge Tour schedule will likely include at least a couple of events in southern New England; at tracks like the Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Seekonk (MA) Speedway, or the Lee USA Speedway in southern New Hampshire. The addition of those tracks means that either the overall Tour schedule will grow beyond last season’s 16 events, or the number of races at Thunder Road and Airborne will be cut.

ACT officials announced last week that Thunder Road will retain at least three ACT New England Dodge Tour events in 2003, beginning with the Merchants Bank Freedom Lynx 150 on Sunday, May 4. The Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic (Sunday, May 25) remains on the schedule, as does the annual Vermont Milk Bowl on Saturday/Sunday, September 27 and 28. While last week’s announcement includes the return of NASCAR’s Busch North Series on August 30, no specific mention was made of a companion New England Dodge Tour event on that date. Our sources say that omission was no mistake. While the ACT Late Models will be on the card that night, the event will reportedly not be part of the Dodge Tour. Instead, the race will award points only toward the 2003 Thunder Road championship.

Airborne, meanwhile, will see its slate of New England Dodge Tour events trimmed to just two; the 28th Spring Green on Saturday, May 10, and the 32nd Fall Foliage 200 on Sunday September 14. Those moves create the potential for as many as three new ACT Tour races next season, and Seekonk, Waterford and Lee are primed to fill the void. All three tracks are reportedly ready to make changes in their Late Model rules, bringing them in line with ACT, and allowing their drivers to join the Dodge Tour field when the series comes to town.

As a result - as reported here more than a month ago - you can expect to see an ACT New England Dodge Tour sanction on Lee’s season-ending “Late Model Nationals” next year, while Waterford should also join the ACT New England Dodge Tour schedule for the first time. ACT will also return to Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway at least once in 2003, capitalizing on the deteriorating relationship between OPS owner/promoter Bill Ryan and the PASS Pro Stock Tour. That relationship took a major downward turn last week when PASS promoter Tom Mayberry announced plans to sanction a $100,000-to-win Pro Stock race at Maine’s Wiscasset Raceway next October, and to run weekly Pro Stock races there, in direct competition with Oxford. Those moves appear to have accelerated Ryan’s plans to give more money and attention to his Late Model class, which runs rules virtually identical to ACT’s. In fact, our sources say there may be two ACT-sanctioned Late Model events at Oxford this season, including one the night before the legendary “True Value 250.”

 

ACT’s increasing popularity with northeast promoters is a positive sign. There are, however, some potential pitfalls. Coddling a wildly divergent group of regional promoters is never easy. Add-in a major sponsor with a wish list of its own, and a group of racers with an affinity for an occasional off weekend, and you’ve got a very difficult line for Curley to toe. Fortunately, the ACT President has experience in the line-toeing department.

In fact, a similar situation took place nearly two decades ago, when the original American-Canadian Tour began to gain in popularity. Previously, the series relied heavily on Thunder Road and Airborne to fill its schedule. But as more and more tracks sought dates, the circuit became increasingly travel oriented. After once hosting as many as four events per season, the two “hub tracks” - Thunder Road and Airborne -- saw their involvement drop to as few as two races annually. ACT’s Curley has repeatedly stated his intent to keep ACT a 16-17 race affair, in order to give his teams four or five weekends off per season.

A mans’ reach should never exceed his grasp, and it’s a good thing Curley knows how to juggle.

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Casey Mears will drive the No. 41 Target Winston Cup Dodge in 2003.

"Casey adds a lot of excitement and energy to the team," said team-owner Chip Ganassi this week. "Our company is about winning races…and we're confident that Casey's work ethic and talent can help us do just that."

Mears has just one year of experience in stock cars, after earning only two top-10 finishes on last year’s Busch Series. He finished 21st in driver points and was rarely a threat to win, but his success in USAC, CART and IRL open wheel was apparently enough to convince Ganassi that he may have another Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart in the making. Mears is the nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, and the son of off-road racing champion Roger Mears.

"I'm excited to be starting my Winston Cup career with Target Chip Ganassi Racing," said Mears "This is a great opportunity for me to be a part of a first-class organization that is dedicated to winning championships" Veteran Jimmy Elledge will serves as crewchief for the team, after spending four years in the same role at Andy Petree Racing.

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Tony Stewart was on his best behavior at last weekend’s NASCAR Winston Cup banquet in New York City, even earning a few laughs from members of the media. While on stage to receive his awards, Stewart pulled out a camera and began snapping pictures of the photographers, saying he had always wondered what the attraction was. Later, the newly crowned champion held up an alleged "diploma" from an anger management course, joking that NASCAR President Mike Helton had ordered him not to attend without it.

Earlier in the week, Stewart showed his appreciation for crewchief Greg Zipadelli, following through on a long-forgotten promise by presenting Zipadelli with a brand new, red Chevrolet Corvette; parked at the Park Avenue entrance of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

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Short (Track) Subjects…

…Kevin Lepage is branching out. The Shelburne driver, still seeking a full-time Winston Cup or Busch Series ride for next season, will compete in the Rolex 24 sports car race at Daytona on February 1-2, joining fellow Vermonter Dave Machavern in the Heritage Motorsports Mustang. Lepage and Machavern will team Tommy Riggins and a fourth driver to be named later.

"Getting the chance to run the Rolex 24 will be the thrill of a lifetime. I've always liked road racing, and this will give me a chance to start 2003 behind the wheel of a competitive race car."

…Sterling Marlin is back behind the wheel. Marlin -- who suffered a fractured cervical vertebra in a late-September crash at Kansas Speedway -- was examined by neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty and spinal injury specialist Dr. Dom Coric last week. The two declared Marlin healed and ready to race again, and the veteran driver took part in testing at Talladega earlier this week.

…A.J. Foyt Racing will switch to Dodge in 2003, with engines supplied by Ray Evernham. Foyt's son Larry will drive the #14 Intrepid, with sponsorship from the Harrah’s Casino.

…New Canaan Fair (NH) Speedway owner C.V. Elms, III, announced this week that the New Hampshire asphalt oval will run a weekly Saturday night program in 2003. A new sanctioning body -- Canaan Association of Racers for Racers (CARR) - will oversee a weekly six-division slate of Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Late Models,
Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, and Strictly Stocks on the 1/3 mile Canaan track. The group consists mainly of recently disaffected Claremont (NH) Speedway Pro Stock drivers, who saw their division dropped at the end of last season, and now need a new place to race. A rules meeting for interested drivers and car owners has been set for next Saturday at noon at the Canaan Fair Speedway function hall.

…Brian Vickers has been tabbed to steer the Hendrick Motorsports/GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet on the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series. Car-owner Ricky Hendrick made the announcement this week, saying, "I've always been impressed with his attitude, personality and ability on the race track. Brian has the potential to be a
great race car driver. He's bringing the kind of energy and desire it takes to be successful in this sport, and I have no doubt that he'll be a winning addition to Hendrick Motorsports."

…Our sources in the Granite State say that New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre will once again grind and resurface the asphalt in the turns of the Loudon oval next spring; the latest in a series of seemingly futile efforts to satisfy critics of the Loudon oval.