Remember the name: DREW STAVELEY, one to watch in Rolex Grand Am GT!!!

One of my most enjoyable motorsports announcing jobs is doing the webcast for the Rolex Grand Am series. The series consists of two distinct divisions: Rolex Grand Am Series, featuring Daytona Prototypes (DP) and GT (Grand Touring, for production car-based entries) and the Koni Challenge Series, a series for production vehicles, also split into 2 classes: GS (Grand Sport) and ST (Street Tuner). (NOTE: for those who may remember the old Firestone Firehawk series or “Showroom Stock” series, the Koni Challenge is the Grand Am current equivalent).

Not only do I get to see and announce some great road racing, the job requires me to travel to places I might not otherwise would ever get to see. Plus, just as in any other form of motorsports, I have the opportunity to watch great driving performances. One would expect veteran drivers to put on a great show and most of the time, they do! However, it’s always cool to be able to watch a young and/or new driver very few people have ever heard of put in a great performance.

This past weekend, the schedule featured the Koni Challenge and the Rolex GT cars at Lime Rock Park CT, located in the northwest corner of Connecticut, about 1 1/2 hours southeast of Albany NY. Each race was 2 1/2 hours long and all three were great races. However, one young driver in the Rolex GT Challenge took his driving reputation to the next level. REMEMBER THE NAME: DREW STAVELEY.

Before the Lime Rock race, I had seen Drew race before but nothing really stood out about him. Like so many other drivers, he started his interest in racing at a very young age–10. His family were SCCA road racers, who had earned many championships. When he turned 16, he began driving road racing cars such as a Mazda RX-7 and Mazda Miatas. He earned success quickly, as all his finishes were in the top 5 and 3 of those were podium or top 3 finishes!

Until a driver gets “noticed”, he or she has to have a “real” job. Drew found his in racing as both a fabricator and a driving instructor for Toyota, Jaguar and a driving school. His “pro” career began just 2 years ago when he competed in the SCCA Pro Miata Series. Last year, he got 2 podium finishes in the newly-renamed MX-5 Cup. This year, he came to the attention of a new team in the Rolex Grand Am GT, Racers Edge Motorsports. They bought a brand new Pontiac GXP-R to race in the GT division, built by the lengendary Pratt & Miller shop (in case you think you’ve never heard of them, they built Chevrolet’s Corvette road race machines that have won both the Rolex 24 at Daytona as well as the LeMans 24 hours, Sebring 12 hours and other prestigious road racing events.)  The Racers Edge team has competed well in this, their first year of competition in the Rolex Grand Am GT division.

 

But this past weekend, Drew Stavely turned in a stellar performance.  After qualifying the car 5th, (Grand Am rules stipulate that the qualifying driver must start the race), Drew drove superbly in his first stint, which lasted just over the halfway mark of the 2 1/2 hour race.  Even though the Lime Rock Park 1.53 mile circuit is notorious for being a tough place to pass, Drew took the #30 Racers Edge Pontiac GXP-R to the lead, passing veteran Grand Am drivers such as eventual winner Leighton Reese, Nick Ham, Spencer Pumpelly and others, just before pitting to hand the car over to his co-driver, Mark Pavan.  Pavan got into trouble not of his own doing and the team eventually finished the race in 5th place (incidentally, that’s the second consecutive top 5 finish for Drew in the series–anyone noticing a trend here???).  But it was the WAY that Drew accomplished the feat that was the most impressive.  He was very smooth and very patient, making passes only when the opportunity was right.  That meant being aggressive only when necessary combined with having the maturity to wait for the best chance to get it done.  It was sheer enjoyment to be able to watch such a fantastic performance! 

It’s always refreshing to see new talent emerge during race events of any kind.  I’ll be talking a lot more about Drew Staveley in the future in Grand Am, if his performance at Lime Rock Park is any indication! 

Mike Paz, Motorsports Announcer
 

 

 

 

Thomas Fletcher: 3rd generation drag racer coming along just fine!!!

One of the best kept secrets in the Rochester media (unfortunately) is the fact that the area is home to one of the best drag racers in the country. Churchville’s Dan Fletcher quit a good job at Xerox over 10 years ago to follow his dream: to race NHRA and IHRA national and divisional events and do it well enough to make it a living. To say he has succeeded would be an understatement: he has been the NHRA World Super Stock Champion TWICE (1998 & 2001) and has won over 50 NHRA & IHRA National Events–and this doesn’t even take into account his divisional race wins.

Dan Fletcher’s 1969 Camaro Super Stocker started out life as a street car. As most local drag racing fans (and other local drag racers from that era know), Dan’s late father, Tom, bought the car new from a Rochester dealership and other than the trip home, it has been on dragstrips ever since. The car (called “CheckMate”) has seen many modifications over the years but it is still the same basic car that Dan’s dad began what has now become the Fletcher family drag racing dynasty! The car is the WINNINGEST car in NHRA history–no other car comes close. Dan’s prowess behind the wheel comes directly from two things: his dad’s early tutelage and Dan’s own natural ability and experience.

Just a couple of years ago, Dan added a similar 1969 Camaro to run in NHRA & IHRA stock competition and it didn’t take long for Dan to start winning in that car as well.

Now, Dan and his wife Donna have 3 children: Thomas(the oldest of the three), Timothy & Taylor and wouldn’t you just know it, Thomas is already living up to the drag racing legacy his grandfather started.

Just over a year ago, Dan bought a 1969 Chevelle wagon from another WNY drag racing family, the Leber’s out of Kenmore NY. After repainting and freshening up the powerplant, it became Dan’s drag racing teaching tool for his son, Thomas. Proving (again!) that “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the (drag racing Christmas) tree”, Thomas entered races around the WNY area (just as grandfather Tom did with Dan) and SURPRISE!!! he started winning!

But it was this past weekend that proved that maybe, just maybe, the spirit of Tom Fletcher not only lives inside his son, Dan, but also is shining brightly through his namesake grandson, Thomas. Competing at the NHRA open in Maple Grove, PA, Thomas drove his dad’s 1969 Camaro stocker (for the very FIRST time, mind you!) and took it all the way to the finals!!! A red-light start in the final (only missing a perfect start by .002) was the only thing that got in the way of his first win!

What does this all mean? Well, for Super Stock and Stock racers all over the country, it’s more bad news. It’s bad enough that they have to come up against Dan sooner or later in NHRA and IHRA competition. NOW, they gotta worry about the kid!!!  And maybe, just maybe, the local media might pick up on this great racing story!!!

Mike Paz, Motorsports Announcer

Is the unthinkable about to happen??? Dale Jr. gone from DEI???

  

Today, (May 10, 2007) at around 11am, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will hold a “major” press conference, supposedly about his racing future.  Since he is literally the “face” of NASCAR, the announcement, not to mention the anticipation of it, will have roughly the same effect on the sport as, let’s say, a major earthquake in the LA area…maybe even bigger than that!

But let’s take a little closer look here at Dale Jr. vs DEI:

Dale Jr. is his father’s legitmate son. His sister Kelly is handling the negotiations for Jr. and she too has an interest here. And don’t forget the Eurys either!

Teresa was left in the unenviable position of operating a company started by her husband following his death–with stepchildren involved in the operation. ANY negotiations were bound to be difficult, at best.

Some facts have been lost in all the hype surrounding these negotiations:

Teresa comes from a racing family herself (some older race fans may remember her uncle, Tommy Houston). She married Dale Sr. in 1982 when Dale Jr. was only 8 years old. She is a very intelligent woman–it’s common knowledge that it was her keen business sense that helped build DEI in the formative years.

Another fact is this: when Dale Sr. died, Teresa had to take over the company in the most difficult circumstances. Dale Jr. was quoted at the time that he wanted nothing to do with the operation side of the business, he just wanted to drive. Now that’s changed.

Some people have the opinion that in the years following the death of Dale Sr., Teresa has operated DEI as some sort of “living shrine” to him–that somehow, ALL decisions made in the day-to-day operation of DEI are “what Dale Sr. would have wanted”.

The “bottom line” for this story is exactly that– what’s best for the bottom line of DEI. Most people believe that if Teresa truly has the best interests of DEI at heart (in other words, what Dale Sr. would have wanted), Jr. needs to be with DEI–in whatever capacity keeps him there. Should Jr. leave and go somewhere else, most feel DEI would lose–in many ways.

Dale Jr. is EXACTLY where he always said he wanted to be in this deal–in the “driver’s seat”(pun intended!)

Mike Paz, Motorsports Announcer

ANNOUNCING AT DAYTONA–AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE!!!


THE RACE FANS HAVE SPOKEN–ONCE AGAIN, I HAVE THE HONOR AND PRIVILEGE OF ANNOUNCING AT DAYTONA FOR PRE-SEASON THUNDER AND SPEEDWEEKS!!!

 

Here again in 2008, I have the honor and privilege of working as the PA Track Announcer for Daytona International Speedway. My first Daytona race as Track PA was the ’99 Pepsi 400 but it wasn’t until the 2001 season that I got invited to the Pre-Season Thunder test sessions as well as Speedweeks.

On www.raceny.com as well as this space, I will once again be sharing pictures and commentary about the goings-on down at “The World Center Of Racing”. I hope you’ll check back here often in the next 2 months!

Send me an email with any questions or comments you might have about the start of the 2008 racing season at Daytona International Speedway.

Remember, it’s the 50th running of “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500! Plus, it will be the debut race of the COT at the track and it should be another history-making event! The start of the 2008 season is just around the corner!


Mike Paz, Motorsports Announcer