Pete Falconi, the voice of the Northeastern Midget Association, remembers being “a little scared” watching the Midgets at his family’s Westboro Speedway. “As a young kid, they looked so dangerous, you were almost afraid to watch them. You were afraid of what could happen.”
He, of course, has conquered that “fear.” Falconi, 54, will start his seventh season as NEMA’s announcer when the club opens the 2009 season Saturday, May 23 at Monadnock Speedway.
“I enjoy the camaraderie in NEMA,” says the son of New England Auto Racers Hall of Famer John Falconi. “The racing is, of course, very exciting and I really love getting around to all the different tracks. I enjoy seeing the different divisions of racing.”
NEMA, facing a 17-race schedule in ’09, will visit seven different tracks. Ever-increasing speed has made NEMA a sought after attraction. “Places like Waterford and Seekonk are so fast,” Falconi says. “You look down and there’s only two or three laps left. You’re amazed.”
It is also a never-ending challenge for Falconi.
“You have to get into the rhythm,” continues Falconi. “Stock cars are a little more predictable. You have to follow Midgets all the way around. Still, usually more happens than I can get on the microphone.”
Sometimes, he “can see things shaping up,” the result of “learning more about the drivers and the moves they like to make.” Long-time NEMA competitors Mike and Bobby Seymour, he says, were instrumental in his becoming a Midget announcer.
Part of New Hampshire International Speedway’s Sprint Cup weekends for the past 10 years, Falconi had “stationary jobs at Stafford Motor Speedway in the 1970s and at Lee USA in the 80s. While he admits to being “raised on the stock car side of things,” he was hardly a stranger to the Midgets in general and NEMA in particular.
His father, a one-time car owner, moved into promotion at Westboro (before owning it), Thompson and West Peabody. Pete watched a lot of NEMA history including Dave Humphrey’s exploits, Jerry Wall’s storied Yellow jacket and the Rollie Lindblad-inspired Badger era. “I was at Westboro from the 1960s until the place closed in 1985,” he says.
He remembers Nokie Fornoro dominating in the Scrivani car in the early 80s. “I don’t think Nokie has lost a step,” says Falconi. “He hasn’t lost a thing and what is amazing is the kids have come up to run with him and guys like Joey Payne.” He is “very impressed” with youngster Jeff Abold (“he just sort of glides getting it done”). Defending champion Randy Cabral, Bobby and Erica Santos, Adam Cantor fit “nicely” between them. He is “looking forward” to battles between Greg and Russ Stoehr, the latter back in Gene Angellilo’s #45.
The future for Midgets is “golden.” They have become a stepping-stone thanks to the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. He is a big supporter of the NEMA Lites pointing out “kids are now coming out of quarter midgets and go karts, turning 16 and moving into Midgets. I think the Midgets have as strong a future as any division anywhere.”
Sources: Pete Zanardi/NEMA PR