Momentary Setback Doesn’t Deter Alina Bryden’s Enthusiasm At Speedbowl

(Press Release from New London-Waterford Speedbowl)

Alina Bryden on track at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (Photo: Passing Bird Photography)

WATERFORD — Unless the smoke is coming from a victory cigar, smoke on the race track usually means trouble.

That was the case for 17-year-old Alina Bryden of West Springfield as she was preparing for her second career SK Lite Modified start at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on June 16.
“We went out for the third practice and we were running good laps,” Bryden said. “Then I heard a bing and I saw a bunch of smoke. I quickly pulled in because I thought the car may be on fire, but there was no fire. Instead a piston rod put a hole in the oil pan and we blew the motor.”
That put her move to the SK Lites on hold, but Bryden said it’s a pothole the team is ready to climb out of.
“It is a big setback, but we’re weighing information on what we should do and what engine we should get,” Bryden said. “We’re planning to be back in two weeks.”
Bryden is making the jump from the Pro 2 Modifieds at Stafford Speedway’s Wild Thing Kart competition, where she had three career wins, to an SK Lite.
“My grandpa and my dad offered me an opportunity to race an SK Lite,” Bryden said. “It was the end of an era for me in the Pro 2s. And I didn’t want to go to the DARE Stocks or Limited Late Models.  I wanted to stay in an open-wheel car so we wouldn’t have to reset completely. And that’s what we did.”
Her family purchased a Modified from veteran driver Eric LeClaire, who competes primarily at New Hampshire tracks.
“It’s a Troyer chassis and it’s always been a fast car,” Bryden said. “Eric helped us a lot and sold us a lot of extra parts. We completely rebuilt the car during the winter. We changed almost everything.”
Her first race at the Speedbowl on June 9 turned out to be an enjoyable experience, even though she finished 13th out of  16 cars.
“I loved it,” Bryden said. “We got tangled up with another car in our heat race, but we got the car back out there and gained a lot of experience. Now I know what to expect moving forward. “
Bryden said this portion of her career is all about logging seat time.
“My goal is to move up from the back and be a contender,” Bryden said. “Racing in the back really  isn’t my forte. I expect more from myself. It may take a while, but it will come together.”
Bryden’s first taste of racing came in the Tiger B division at Stafford.
“Wade Gagner, who runs the Wild Thing Kart program, was the one who gave me a chance,” Bryden said. “My dad wanted to protect his little girl. But he finally let me race.”
Bryden has loved every minute of it.
“I was hooked,” Bryden said. “The adrenaline rush is amazing.”
Bryden advanced through the karting ranks, moving to the Junior Outlaws and Pros 2s before entering the SK Lite world.
Bryden wanted to learn more than just how to drive a car. She also wanted to learn how to set up the car.”
“I wanted to be more than just a driver,” Bryden said. “I’m in the garage almost every day, trying to balance my sports schedule and my racing schedule.”
Her sports plate at West Springfield High is loaded  with activity — and success —playing soccer and basketball.
Bryden plays on the West Springfield girls soccer team which have won back-to-back Western Massachusetts state titles. She is a defender on the team. The basketball team advanced all the way to the state semifinals before losing by one point.
Bryden is also an avid I-Racer and spends a lot of time on her computer trying to improve her skills.
She has put soccer and basketball on the back burner for now, however, to concentrate on racing.
Bryden’s car is sponsored by her dad and grandfather . who also work on the car along with Wade Gagner, Lauren Gagner, Cam McDermott, Gregg Gagner and Glen Gagner.
Now she’s just a motor away from resuming her racing career.
“I just want to learn everything I can about the car,” Bryden said. “It may take time but I think we can be amazing.”

Bryden already has a winning attitude — now she’ll try to put the rest of the package together.

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