Greg Stoehr has been driving race cars for over 30 years. He’s been a Northeastern Midget Association competitor since the mid 1980s. After all that time he’s going after a championship.
The quest continues May 3-4 when NEMA takes on Seekonk Speedway, helping the “Cement Palace” open its season.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever really wanted a championship,” says Stoehr. He feels he owes the effort to the people who have helped him, notably Bruce Beane and John Andruk of Circle Performance Motors. They are the masterminds behind the unique Mazda engine that powers the Stoehr 26b.
He is not exactly a stranger to championships. Older brother (by 11 months) Russ has five NEMA crowns. “Russ knows how to win championships,” understates Stoehr. “He knows how to get it done.” The run, he adds, “is the culmination of a lot of trial and error.”
Stoehr joins two other veterans who have lofty intentions – Joe Payne Jr. and Nokie Fornoro also know how to win championships. “You need a lot of reliable equipment, you need good people and you have to be smart on the track,” says Stoehr.
The Stoehrs have a combined eight NEMA wins at Seekonk, five for Russ. Only Nokie (8) and Drew (2) Fornoro have more. Stoehr comes to Seekonk off a strong third place at Waterford Speedbowl’s Modified Nationals. Greg has a first and a second in heat action.
“[Seekonk] has to smile at you,” says Stoehr who sees the historic quarter-mile in contradictory terms. “It is,” he continues, “a rhythm track as opposed to a gas and brake track. You smoother you are the more Seekonk rewards you because if you slow down, a lot of cars are going to pass you. And you have to be good in traffic because you are in it almost immediately.”
Stoehr, who spent 10 years driving fendered cars at the ‘Konk, believes it’s a place where experience counts. There are exceptions (Randy Cabral and Bobby Santos III) but “some guys never get it,” says Stoehr.
The Stoehrs and Fornoros are both sons of drivers -Paul Stoehr and Nicky Fornoro respectively. Nicky Fornoro actually won a AAA race at Seekonk in 1952.
“You’ve got to let the car run free at Seekonk,” says Nokie Fornoro. “You can’t hold it down. You’ve got to let it go.” He claims he often “gets into such a rhythm there that the right rear actually ticks the wall in the front stretch.” Nokie, who uses no brake, says he learned a lot about driving Seekonk from Mike Scrivani Jr. and Modified Hall of Famer Leo Cleary.
Among active drivers, Randy Cabral (3), Jeff Horn (3), Joey Payne Jr. (2) and Bobby Santos III (1) join Fornoro and Stoehr on the Seekonk/NEMA win list.
Stoehr and Fornoro agree it will take laps in the low 11 seconds to win a Midget race at Seekonk. That compares with laps in the mid 15 seconds back in the early 1950s.
NEMA’s first race was at Seekonk on May 30, 1953, the late Fred Meeker beating Al Pillion and Cliff Riggott. The next NEMA feature will be the 71st at Seekonk.
The legendary Oscar Ridlon won the first-ever event at Seekonk, a Midget race, on Memorial Day in 1946. Through the years Seekonk has run events sanctioned by many sanctioning bodies including Bay State, Triple A, ARDC and USAC. The win list is extraordinary and includes the likes of Bill Schindler, Joe Sostillio, Johnny Thomson, Len Duncan, Billy Randall, Joe Csiki, Mel Kenyon, Johnny Mann and Dutch Schaefer.
Sources: Pete Zanardi/NEMA PR