NEW ENGLAND MOTORSPORTS NORTH
By Lou Modestino (for 3/9-3/11/12)
CJ Faison, an 18-year-old driver from Seaford, Del., has spent the last six months preparing for this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, which kicks off March 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Today, Faison, together with his team JMI Motorsports, announced the addition of Brandon “Chuck” Butler to the team as crew chief – the final piece of preparation in their vie for the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year in NASCAR’s widely popular development series.
“We’re very excited to have Chuck on board with us,” said Ronald Faison, owner of JMI Motorsports. “Chuck came highly recommended and his own success speaks for itself. We can’t wait to get the season started!”
Faison made three starts in the K&N Pro Series East last year including one at Dover International Speedway in Delaware. His best start was fourth (Dover) and best finish was 32nd at Richmond International Raceway. Faison’s background comes from dirt racing, where he accumulated several wins and championships. In 2008, Faison switched to asphalt and ran the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour, Pro All-Star Series, and Nascar Whelen All-American Series.
Knowing he wanted to take his career to the next level, Faison doubled up on his classes at Salisbury Christian High School when his senior year began and graduated before the rest of his classmates on January 27th. After receiving his high school diploma, Faison relocated to North Carolina to concentrate on the 2012 race season. He was one of nearly 30 drivers to test at Bristol Motor Speedway last week. The test yielded promising results and has the entire team optimistic for the season opener.
“My number one goal is to win races and win Rookie of the Year,” said Faison. “We tested at Bristol and were in the top-10 cars out of 30. We were really happy with that. We’re not going to focus on the championship, but if the chips fall where they fall and we end up in the hunt for it then we’re going to go all for it!”
Butler will be a significant part of that. The 35-year-old crew chief comes to JMI Motorsports from Revolution Racing, where he acted as the crew chief to Michael Perry in the All-American Series and K&N Pro Series East. Butler has been around racing all his life and has also worked as a car chief for Randy Humphrey Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and with Diamond Racing in the ProCup Series.
“I grew up a stones throw from Hickory Motor Speedway,” Butler said. “I’ve been around racing since I can remember. I’m passionate about being successful and I think this is going to be a great deal all around. I’m accustomed to working with young drivers so I think that will definitely help his learning curve. Heading into the season, I just want to be competitive and be prepared. I want to develop CJ’s talent and run in the top eight or ten positions at every event. Obviously we want to be in the top five or better, but realistically I’d be happy to be in the top-10.”
Bristol ushers in a 14-race schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East that features 12 different tracks across the eastern United States. JMI Motorsports will field a Chevrolet with Faison sporting the number 39 and sponsorship from Delaware Auto Exchange.
American Canadian Tour veteran Claude Leclerc of Lanoraie, Quebec has filed a full season entry for the 2012 Série ACT Castrol season. Leclerc is coming off an 8th place effort on the series in 2011. It was his fifth straight top ten in the final standings.
Leclerc began competing on the former NASCAR North Tour during its inaugural 1979 season. He competed full-time in each of the Tour’s seven seasons through 1985, and finished in the top ten six times, including third in the 1981 standings. He continued to race full-time with the ACT Tour from its inception in 1986 through its final Pro Stock season in 1995. From 1979 through 1995, Leclerc had the most starts of any driver on the NASCAR North/ACT Tour with 397. He finished in the top ten in the standings in 13 of the 17 seasons, and earned six career wins.
“Claude and I started at just about the same time in this business nearly 35 years ago,” commented ACT President Tom Curley. “It is a remarkable record of racing achievement he has compiled over the years. I remember immediately after the NASCAR North days when Claude was one of three drivers, along with Jamie Aube and Dick McCabe, who drove to Burlington, VT and encouraged me to start the American Canadian Tour,” continued Curley. “When it was time to go to Dover Downs, DE, Milwaukee, WI, Nashville, TN, Thompson, CT or Nova Scotia, Claude was always the first to make the commitment. ACT is very proud to have Claude Leclerc still racing competitively with us going into the 2012 season. He is truly one of a kind and a good friend,” Curley concluded.
Leclerc returned to full-time ACT competition in 2007, the first season of the Série ACT Castrol. He has now started all but one of the 52 Castrol events run to date. The 70 year old has 447 starts, 6 wins, 96 top fives, and 253 top tens during his 22 seasons on the NASCAR North/ACT/ACT Castrol Tours. He has finished in the top ten in the standings in 18 of those 22 seasons.
The 12-event 2012 Série ACT Castrol season will kick off at Autodrome Montmagny in Montmagny, Quebec with a 100 lap event on Saturday, May 26. It will be the sixth season of Série ACT Castrol competition.
A pair of Massachusetts drivers, Jon McKennedy and Eddie Witkum Jr., each of whom excels in a different form of high speed racing. are among the contenders for victory at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI, on Saturday & Sunday, March 10 & 11 during the Len Sammons Productions Indoor Races.
Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford races in the central New England based Modified Racing Series and won the drivers championships in 2009 and 2010. Eddie Witkum, Jr. of Westford races Supermodifieds weekly at Lee, N.H. Speedway and is a two time track champion there, winning in 2007 and 2008.
The pair of accomplished regional stars will race together in the weekend race meet that includes two days of qualifying races and feature events for the powerful TQ (Three Quarter) Midgets and the bullet-like Champ Karts, culminating on Saturday with the running of “The Coffee Cup Classic”, a 40-lap TQ Midget feature, paying $2,000 to its winner. This Saturday, March 10, racing begins at 7 p.m., one hour after the arena gates swing open.
On Sunday, the feature for TQ Midgets is a first time event, to be run over a 100 lap distance with a planned mid-race break to allow teams to make adjustments and, if possible, to re-enter the race. Racing begins at 2 p.m. preceded by ‘Fan Fest’, an interactive ‘meet & greet’ autograph signing session and photo opportunity for ticket holders. Qualifying races precede the features this day as well.
McKennedy, 25, will drive a car out of the highly touted Aston, Pa.-based Lou Cicconi racing stable. It is the same driven two years ago in Providence by Indy Car driver Davey Hamilton. In addition to his Modified experience, McKennedy has also raced ISMA Supermodifieds and at age 18 was named Rookie of The Year by the ISMA group.
Witkum. 38, will steer the potent and venerable creation owned by Tommy Williams and Donnie Adams; Adams has driven this car to to numerous outdoor wins and championships in the past. Witkum is of a racing family that includes his father Ed, uncles Bobby and Joe, brothers Richie and Randy, and young nephew Jeffrey. Multiple championships, feature wins, and decades of success can best describe one of New England’s most decorated racing families.
The pair of Bay State past champions will compete this Saturday and Sunday, March 10 & 11. Tickets to the see these stars and nearly 100 others in the Champ Karts and the headlining TQ Midgets in the Len Sammons Productions of Indoor Racing in Providence are sale now by contacting the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Box Office at 404.331.6700 or Ticketmaster 800.745.3000. Each of the 52 TQ Midget and 42 Champ Kart available slots are gone, assuring a full, quality laden field for both races.