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O’Brien Brothers Looking For A Slice Of Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout Pie

O’Brien Brothers Looking For A Slice Of Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout Pie

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications

Pat and Danny O’Brien have a score to settle with their younger brother.  Since the 2005 inception of Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds the name “O’Brien” appears on the championship trophy only once and it doesn’t belong to the 4 time Mr. DIRTcar title holder or the 10 time Brockville Speedway track champion.  In 2011, Tim O’Brien captured the prestigious win with a thrilling late race triumph over Danny O’Brien and Mike Bowman.  With the 2012 edition of the Benson Auto Parts 100 lap extravaganza, presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca taking the green flag Saturday, September 22nd the older O’Brien siblings have a chance to earn a trip to the winner’s circle.  Track promoter Mark Rinaldi says the brothers are crowd favourites wherever they race.

“There’s no disputing the numbers these guys have put up throughout their careers and the fact that only one of them has picked-up the checkered flag at this race speaks volumes about the level of competition at our race,” said Rinaldi.  “Pat, Danny and Tim race each other as hard as – or harder than any other car in the field.  All 3 finished in the top 10 in points atBrockvilleduring the 2012 season, so our fans are in for a great show.”

After another self-imposed hiatus, Pat O’Brien returned to Brockville Speedway’s weekly wars this year.  His 4th place point finish – on the strength of a pair of wins in 17 starts – proved there is no slowing down the driver of the #6 Gypsum Logistics/Milestone Protective Coating Systems Bicknell Racing Products machine.  The eldest O’Brien would like nothing better than being the second family member to walk away with the $4,000 winner’s cheque in his back pocket.

His uncharacteristic 7th place point finish, with 2 feature victories punctuated a frustrating year at Brockville for Danny O’Brien.  On the other side of the coin, the middle of the 3 racing brothers finished 5th at Mohawk International Raceway and enters Brighton Speedway’s Mr. DIRTcar championship trail event 6th in the standings.  A perennial top 5 finisher on the tight 3rd mile bullring, no one would be too shocked to see the #17D 1000 Islands RV Centre/Ponte Brothers Masonry/103.7 BOB-FM ride in victory lane after 100 laps.

A series of late season mechanical woes prevented Tim O’Brien from cracking the top 5 in Brockville’s final point standings, but as the defending Applefest Shootout champion, the pilot of the #88 Jim’s Performance Plus/S.G. Wells/Windmill Construction Ford powered TEO Pro Car heads into the fray as a marked man.  The youngest of the clan will be looking to put his bad luck in the past and earn a second trip to the winner’s circle.

The Benson Auto Parts Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds – presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca – takes the green flag Saturday, September 22nd at 6:00 at Brighton Speedway.  For a complete schedule of events, see www.brightonspeedway.com, www.imagefactor.ca/applefestshootout or call 866.681.1102.

 

Photo attachment:  Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications

Kingston’s Pat O’Brien is looking to join younger brother Tim in having his name engraved on the winner’s trophy for the Applefest Shootout – Saturday, September 22nd – at Brighton Speedway.

 

Prepared by:  Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications

clarkemotorsports@hotmail.com

613.968.6410  /  613.922.0654

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DIRTcar Racing’s Rising Stars Get Ready For Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout

DIRTcar Racing’s Rising Stars Get Ready For Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications

At first glance, the youthful appearance of DIRTcar racing’s young lions may lead some to question their abilities but checking the resumes of these talent laden youngsters will paint an entirely different picture. Saturday, September 22nd, the sport’s brightest boyish stars will battle in the 100 lap Benson Auto Parts Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds – presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca – at Brighton Speedway.

“Maybe its saying something about me, but these kids seem younger every year,” said track promoter Mark Rinaldi. “From the go karts, through street stocks, sportsman modifieds and eventually the 358’s, there are so many different outlets available to develop their talent and skills. It’s never a big shock to see the young lions battle the veterans and come out on top.”

While still carrying his ‘Teenage Tornado’ handle, Chris Raabe made headlines as the youngest Mr. DIRTcar sportsman modified champion in the sanctioning body’s long history. The Napanee, Ontario speedster – who currently attends Queen’s University – missed last year’s Applefest event while making a handful of starts in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. While finishing 2nd in points at Mohawk International Raceway and 3rd at Cornwall Motor Speedway, Raabe stunned the touring stars by capturing the Seaway Valley quarter-mile’s Super DIRTcar Big Block show in his small block powered TEO Pro Car.

Turning laps at race speed at the New York State Fairgrounds has been known to intimidate even the most experienced drivers, but no one told Brockville, Ontario’s Matt Billings. The year was 2009 and as a fresh faced youngster, Billings captured the Super Dirt Week sportsman modified event on the Moody Mile in his first ever attempt. Fast forward to 2012 and Billings’ 5th place point finish, highlighted by 2 wins at Brockville. There are plans to head back to Syracuse in a couple of weeks, but Matt Billings would love to find victory lane at Brighton with his #74 Bicknell Racing chassis ride.

It was the biggest win of his young career and it just happened to come in front of a capacity crowd at his Saturday night home. St. Catharines, Ontario’s Mike Bowman – a Merrittville Speedway regular – was lucky enough to select a front row starting spot the pre-race draw and turned that good fortune into a thrilling flag-to-flag victory in the 100 lap Super DIRTcar Series big block modified tour event. What made Bowman’s triumph most noteworthy is the fact that he – like Raabe had done at Cornwall – accomplished the feat in a small block powered machine, against a field largely comprised of the more potent big blocks.

The Benson Auto Parts Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds – presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca – takes the green flag Saturday, September 22nd at 6:00 at Brighton Speedway. For a complete schedule of events, see www.brightonspeedway.com, www.imagefactor.ca/applefestshootout
or call 866.681.1102.

Photo attachment: Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications
Napanee, Ontario’s Chris Raabe would love to add an Applefest Shootout win to his already impressive resume. The event takes place Saturday, September 22nd at Brighton Speedway.

Prepared by: Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications
clarkemotorsports@hotmail.com
613.968.6410 / 613.922.0654

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Chris Morrow: Around These Parts, Folks Just Call Him ‘Mister’

Chris Morrow: Around These Parts, Folks Just Call Him ‘Mister’

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications – His flat-out, wide-open, no-holds-barred style has earned him time in the spotlight at Central Ontario venues including Barrie and Sunset Speedways. A two season run on the former All Star Late Model tour made him a household name wherever that series turned a lap. Claiming the NAPA Auto Parts ACT Late Model track championship and the big money, $3,000.00 to win Summer Sizzler during Kawartha Speedway’s 10th Anniversary season introduced the racer known as ‘Mr. Excitement’ to a brand new legion of fans.

At 39 years of age, Chris Morrow has accomplished a great deal since running that first race in a Thunder Car at Barrie Speedway in 1996. The father of two from Anten Mills, just north of Barrie works as an electrician with his father Bob at the family business, Morrow Electric. After a successful 2010 season at Kawartha and finishing second in points at Sunset, Morrow says he’s looking forward to the next big challenges in his career.

“As of right now, our 2011 plans haven’t been carved in stone,” said Morrow. “I’d like to defend my title at Kawartha, but the drive to the track is 2 hours each way.  We’re the type of team that likes to relax a little – maybe enjoy a couple of pops after the races and talk with the fans – and that can make for some pretty late night trips back home. I think we’ll do the first couple of shows there and see how things go, but Sunset Speedway has a pretty big points fund up for grabs for their Shootout Series and I’d sure like to have a share of that loot… plus it’s very close to home which is great.”

Like most people in the world of motorsports, Morrow loves the family aspect that exists at the racetrack. His father Bob is one of his biggest supporters and his involvement with the team extends far beyond signing a cheque to get his name on the side of the car. His wife Kerry – an elementary school teacher – gets the most out of her time at the track and leads the cheering section whenever the white and red #11 Chevrolet Monte Carlo gains a position or earns another checkered flag. Morrow says sponsor Dean Bell from CRS Rentals is almost like a brother. His company – under a variety of different names – has been affiliated with the program in one way or another since the beginning. The family atmosphere around Morrow’s operation starts in the garage, where crew chief Laurie Melson calls the shots and has been the team’s lead wrench for a number of years. A mechanic by trade, his assistance in prepping the car for action is a real blessing. His right-hand man in the shop and on the road is Phil ‘Flip’ Andros. Morrow says they’re both a big asset to the team.

“I’m just the lucky guy who gets to steer one of the best prepared rides in the province,” said Morrow. “My crew does a fantastic job and we have a great time whether we’re on a creeper underneath the car in the garage or on the roof, celebrating a win in victory lane at the track. Everywhere we go, we get to meet some new people, build the fan base and that definitely helps provide me with the motivation I need when we’re going door-to-door with some very tough competition.” 

The name over the driver’s door says ‘Chris Morrow’ and his hard charging manner on the track has helped gain the respect of the field and the crowd. Along the way, he’s earned the handle ‘Mr. Excitement’, but he’s perfectly fine with those who just want to call him ‘Mister’.

Prepared by:  Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications
                       clarkemotorsports@hotmail.com
                       613.968.6410  /  613.922.0654

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Every Sticker In Its Place: Sponsorship Drives The World Of Short Track Stock Car Racing

Every Sticker In Its Place: Sponsorship Drives The World Of Short Track Stock Car Racing

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications – The sport of stock car racing can be a very expensive hobby; even for a local driver who might only run 2 or 3 times a weekend.  While most NASCAR teams operate on million dollar budgets, weekly short trackers can get by on significantly less.  Still, money buys speed and there is an age-old question asked at every level of the sport.  How fast can you afford to go?

Bryan Mercer of Port Hope, Ontario races on pavement in the headline NAPA Auto Parts ACT Late Model division at Kawartha Speedway, where he finished 13th in 2010 points.  The father of 3 limits his action to the Friday night shows at Kawartha, with occasional visits to venues like Delaware and Peterborough Speedways.  Bath, Ontario’s Todd Stewart pilots a DIRTcar small block modified at Mohawk International Raceway and Brockville Ontario Speedway.  With his daughters Annie and Abby cheering alongside wife Janet, the 41 year old closed out twenty-ten 3rd in points at MIR and 11th in the final standings at The BOS.  Each driver would be classified as a veteran racer at their respective speedways and has enjoyed long-term support from a variety of marketing partners throughout their careers.

“Appleman Carstar Collision has been with me for nearly 15 years,” said Mercer.  “They paint the car before the start of every season and help get everything ready to be lettered.  Quantrill Chevrolet-Cadillac, where I work as a service consultant has been part of our program for the past 13 years.”

“We’ve had RW Electric on the quarter panels for 20 years.  They’ve been a great help and find supporting our program to be very beneficial to their business,” said Stewart.  “Most of the other backers that were on the car in 2010 have been associated with the team for at least 5 years.”

When recruiting a new sponsor, Stewart prepares a complete portfolio and offers a package that has been customized to a potential advertiser.  The team has several different templates to work from, depending on whether they’re interested in being a primary, associate or product sponsor.  Mercer also has a proposal that is presented to prospective sponsors and has found it to work very well throughout his career.  Each driver agrees that approaching someone new makes them a little nervous, but say you can’t be afraid of rejection.

“Its almost like asking someone for a date or talking to your boss about a raise in pay,” said Stewart with a laugh.  “The worst thing that can happen is they’ll say ‘no’.  I’ve had companies who turned me down on the first pitch call to offer their support a couple of years later. Once you open the door and make that first contact, there’s no telling what might happen.”

For the most part, Stewart says he enjoys the security that comes with putting sponsorship deals for his team in writing.  There have been some instances – usually with returning backers – that he’ll seal the deal with only a handshake and a smile.  In contrast, Bryan Mercer has raced his entire career without any form of contracts or written deals.  He admits he might be taking a chance, but says his team tries to be as accommodating as possible where payment is concerned.

“We’re based in a fairly small town and the track where we race is about an hour away from home,” said Mercer.  “Almost every name that has been on the car over the years is the friend of a friend of a friend.  As a team, we have a sponsor night every year.  Everyone gets together for a barbecue.  It’s a chance to meet everyone on the team, see the car and then head to Kawartha to watch the show.  Whether it’s a new sponsor or someone who’s been with us since day one, they all seem to enjoy the experience.”

Stewart and Mercer both admit they work with their sponsors concerning the size and design of their logo and its placement on the car.  Running in a full-fendered division allows Mercer some additional space for advertisers, while Stewart’s open-wheeled DIRTcar modified faces some different challenges.  The team has moved some of the decals around on the car to satisfy a particular backer’s needs.  The team keeps extra body panels on hand to ensure their equipment is presented well throughout the entire season and scrubs-down the car from top-to-bottom before every on track appearance, including several times during each event.  Both drivers have a wide range of associate and product sponsorships to help their programs.  Stewart says every sticker on their car is there for a reason and other than charitable organizations, there is a financial obligation associated with every decal.

Mercer and Stewart are each excellent ambassadors for their chosen performance arena and do their best to promote their teams and the sport of stock car racing, as well as representing the venues where they compete.  Bryan Mercer has been part of the Kawartha Speedway displays at the Canadian Motorsports Expo and at Cobourg’s Northumberland Mall.  Todd Stewart and his team go the extra mile by helping to organize an annual show Kingston’s Frontenac Mall that not only benefits their program, but serves to showcase the efforts of other racers.
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Bryan Mercer would like to thank his 2010 sponsors Sine’s Flooring, Creative Edge Graphics, Durmach Tooling, Quantrill Chevrolet Cadillac, Jewel Cleaning, Appleman Carstar Collision, Ganaraska Financial, Derek Friedrich Royal LePage Realty, Cressman Tree Maintenance and Landscaping, Century Electric, Durham Radio and Mathews Automotive.  Todd Stewart’s RAAL Motorsports team appreciates the support they receive from Penny Blake of Re/Max, R.W. Electric, Red Line Oil, Fort Glass, Southeastern Telecommunication Services, McCoy Bus Service and Tours, Greenshield Pest Control, Kwik Kopy Print & Design Centre Kingston, Tough Duck, Finish Line Web Design and Contractors Rental Supply.

For 2011, Bryan Mercer expects to be back at Kawartha Speedway and battling for the NAPA Auto Parts ACT Late Model track championship.  Todd Stewart will leave the familiar surroundings of his family run team and take his helmet bag and driver’s suit to the #M96 small block modified campaigned by LaSalle Motorsports, with sponsorship from Home Hardware.

Prepared by:  Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications
                       clarkemotorsports@hotmail.com
                       613.968.6410  /  613.922.0654

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When The Circus Comes to Town: Getting Ready For A Saturday Night Of Action At Brighton Speedway

When The Circus Comes to Town: Getting Ready For A Saturday Night Of Action At Brighton Speedway

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications – A weekly trip to the racetrack is a ritual of the spring, summer and fall for many Canadians.  Families gather to watch the action and cheer for their favourite drivers.  At most venues, the love of the sport is something that has been passed-down through the generations.  While the show may appear effortless when watching from the grandstands, there is a great deal of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Mark and Angela Rinaldi are the husband and wife promotional team at the helm of the 1/3rd mile clay oval known as Brighton Speedway; a track that has been part of their family’s lives for nearly 30 years.  When the clock strikes 7:00PM on Saturday nights from May to September, the facility comes to life as their 5 weekly classes and a variety of touring groups pound the ground.  The pair says there is actually more that gets done when the races are over than while the drivers are fighting for position.

“First thing Sunday morning, we start working on the press release from the previous night’s racing.  Photos are added to the web-site and we get the ads ready to promote the next week’s action,” said Angela Rinaldi who wears the General Manager’s hat.  “We also have to make sure the weekly sponsor’s have their passes.  There is food to order to restock the canteens.  Both of us have a checklist to go through…and sometimes we end-up adding things to it.”

Running the track is a full-time job on its own and Mark Rinaldi is fortunate that his position as a sales executive allows the flexibility to work from a home office.  When he’s not answering questions about aircraft maintenance issues, participating in conference or co-ordinating schedules for the various trade shows he’s required to attend, Rinaldi devotes his time to getting the track ready.

“Gary Vandertoorn on the grader Monday nights doing some rough prep work,” said Mark Rinaldi.  “We usually talk at the end of the night and come up with a maintenance plan for the following week.  Sometimes it involves literally tearing-up the clay from week to week and re-packing the track.  Luckily, we have some very good people in place to help with some of the other tasks like cutting grass and the grounds maintenance.  Once a week, we’ll go through the grandstand checking for loose boards and give everything the once-over. With a facility that’s more than 40 years old, you can usually find something to fix.  On Friday nights I’ll start watering the track and get back at it again around 8:00 Saturday morning.  By the time the first fans come through the gate at 5:00, we’ve usually already put in a full day’s work.

Mark Rinaldi says that he and his staff start watching the Weather Network around the middle of the week to see the latest updates on the forecast.  The speedway seats close to 2500 people, but an ‘iffy’ forecast can mean a crowd just a 5th of that size will come through the turnstiles.  Despite the size of the crowd, once the gates are opened the track is required to pay employee’s hourly wages as well as the driver’s purse.  There are also charges for insurance and hydro to take into consideration.  Ideally, they’re looking for perfect weather for every show, but understand that can’t ever be guaranteed.

On a typical race night, each of the Rinaldi’s wears a radio headset that keeps them updated throughout the show.  Mark Rinaldi is linked with the race director, scorers and starter.  He also has contact with the drivers through the one-way communication system each participant is required to use.  Angela Rinaldi takes care of business on the spectator side of the track, acting as a liaison with the staff, sponsors, invited guests and fans.  Each can be found tackling a variety of jobs that are essential for a smooth running show.

Even during the middle of the off-season, the Rinaldi’s phone is constantly ringing.  There are sponsorships to confirm, touring series like the Ontario Dirt Late Models and Southern Ontario Sprint Cars to book and a schedule to finalize.  Once all those plans are taken care of, Angela Rinaldi will start contacting drivers about displaying their cars in the pre-season events the track will be part of and then recruiting staff and volunteers to man the speedway’s booth.  Located in a highly built-up area, Brighton Speedway enjoys a positive, friendly relationship with neighbouring residents and the entire staff works hard to keep it that way by participating in community events and fundraising activities.  Track officials were recently part of 7 local Christmas parades to keep the speedway on everyone’s mind during the off-season.

“I’m sure many people think the only time we work is Saturday night,” said Angela Rinaldi.  “There’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes that the casual race fan never gets to see.  Running a racetrack is a full-time job, even in the dead of winter.”

At the close of the 2010 season, the Rinaldi family announced that Brighton Speedway was for sale.  Mark Rinaldi says there has been some interest expressed, including inquiries from some un-named local groups.  Fans needn’t be overly concerned.  Plans for the upcoming season are already well underway and if no buyer signs their name on the dotted line it will be business as usual in 2011.

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