Penny’s Two Cents: Looking Back At Busch North Throwback Night At Thompson Speedway

Penny Aicardi is a former racing reporter for multiple publications and has also worked previously in the public relations industry for numerous New England based racing teams. She will bring her views of local short track racing on an occasional basis to RaceDayCT with the column Penny’s Two Cents.

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!

Penny Aicardi has been involved in NASCAR racing in New England for more than 20 years. She began her career as the NASCAR K&N Series (then Busch North Series) Editor at Speedway Scene from 1996-2006. She also covered the series for Area Auto Racing News and Busch North Scene. In addition, Penny served as the director of Public Relations for several NASCAR K&N Series teams up until and including the 2011 season. In 2012, Penny took over as the press box coordinator at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, where she remained until 2015. Today, Penny still enjoys the races, and gets to the track whenever she can.

 

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Comments

  1. My gut tells me something is amiss. A cheerleader for full bodied racing in modified country. Encouraging more looking back to the past many would argue is a sop for those wary of taking on the challenges of the future of local oval track racing. And the universal theme of promotion, fair skies, full car counts and great competition.
    Welcome Ms Aicardi and best wishes. Hoping those writing skills include sharp teeth and a little bite metaphorically speaking when the occasion presents itself.

  2. NH Mark says:

    I have my doubts the series will be back in 2018. These CT dates are favors to Nascar, Thompson this year and Stafford last year. Nether track has any burning desire to host the series. Only 20 cars and the 4 New England guys were all just announced within the last week or two. Probably to get butts in the seats. The Busch North was a tremendous series with tremendous champions. Nascar killed it and we need to let in RIP.

  3. Penny Aicardi says:

    I respect both your opinions. As far as I know, Thompson is under contract for three years so I’m going to count on them coming back. 20 cars was slim pickings (even a couple of them came from out West I believe). I really think Thompson was smart in looking to the past though because there’s no fan base for the series. By tying it in with drivers that people connect to they at least created some interest! Will the K&N Series ever be a prominent series in New England again? I don’t see it happening. Full bodied fans (which I am one, and yes, in Modified country), have moved on to PASS and ACT.
    I felt Thompson deserved the kudos, and I’m sticking by it. 🙂

  4. Great read Penny. Nice to have seen you this weekend.

  5. That show last night was terrible. 20 Cars and 4 were non-competitive. What a waste of money. Bunch of little rich kids climbing the so called NASCAR latter. NASCAR must have paid the bill for last night. The place was a ghost town. Sorry to say Thompson signed on for 3 years and this is year 1.

  6. I have to confess that I didn’t go to this race but it sounds like it was a cool promotion. I just love the nostalgia and history of all sports. Youngsters and newbies need to learn the history of these sports. At the K&N level these days, some may disagree with me here, but most teams are funded sufficiently, but believe NASCAR should help out teams that participate in this promotion. Besides, it mainly benefits NASCAR and the strengthening of its fan base

  7. Definitely agree it was a great idea to have a “throwback” race to honor the Busch North Series and its rich history. Had a great time looking at some old photos and memorabilia on hand. at the track. A little disappointed too that more current K&N teams didn’t invest a couple of dollars for a special paint scheme – would have loved to see cars for Dave Dion, Jamie Aube, Kelly Moore, Bobby Dragon, Brad Leighton, etc. A guess it’s probably a combination of the really young racers, likely unaware of the Busch North history, and a lack of New England roots in the current series these days.

  8. JimBinCT says:

    I enjoyed it. Would like to have seen a larger field. Good seeing and hearing names and paint schemes from the past. Decent crowd for a series that sort of pulled up its New England roots. I hope the series continues to makes regular visits to the tracks in CT. My favorite memories of the Busch North Series was seeing them race Riverside Park Speedway. Those were fun. Nice article.

  9. (Craig) Honestly don’t know what your talking about? The racing was good and so was the crowd. What do you want these young spoiled kids to do? Turn down down a K&N ride because you don’t think they deserve it?? Just go to the race and have fun !!!!!!

  10. The crowd was by no means small. In fact, it was surprisingly good, given the weather. Lots of folks left during the rain, and it’s hard to say how many returned. The K&N field was light, and would’ve been lighter if not for Parent, Preece and Coby. But the cars looked professional and they were surprisingly fast (at least to me). I’m not much of a K&N fan… First and foremost a Modified fan, but I used to really enjoy Busch North. And part of that enjoyment came from seeing mod drivers (e.g., Stefanik, McLaughlin, Marquis, etc.) crossing over to the full-fendered cars. But when the series abandoned its northeast focus, it lost me. I see PASS as the natural heir to the old Busch North, and I hit several of their events across New England each year. PASS doesn’t necessarily put on a great show at Thompson, but on a 1/4 or 1/3 mile track — Star, Beech Ridge, Oxford Plains, etc. — they put on a great show. Thompson drew some good fields last night … 22 SKs (though a lot of iron) and solid numbers in the other divisions. The SK Lights were the exception at 9 entries, but they put on an entertaining race nonetheless. Not sure it was a $40 show, but I’ll be there again next year.

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