Seekonk, MA – Keith Botelho, took the lead on a lap 10 restart and went on to capture the Northeastern Midget Association’s 25-lap feature Sunday at Seekonk Speedway’s D.Anthony Venditti Memorial. Botelho’s first win since 1998 came in the Russ Stoehr-owned #25 and qualifies as NEMA’s upset of the season.
Starting third, Botelho followed John Zych Jr. (Zych 9), the only other leader, until caution fell for the second time. He beat Zych into the first turn and then battled Zych and Greg Stoehr (Stoehr 26b), who took second on lap 13, before claiming his third career win, the second at Seekonk. It the third race for the car.
Zych held on for third followed by Chris Leonard (Leonard 22) and Chris deRitis (deRitis 75).
“It was my only chance,” said Botelho of the restart, pointing out he used a move identical to one he tried on Zych in heat action the day before. On the outside, he “stayed on it until I couldn’t see him anymore.” He added “the faith I had in Zych as a driver, of him not drifting up” made the move possible.
Botelho, in a car powered by a 20-plus year old Gaerte Motor, wasn’t comfortable until two laps remained. “I expected somebody to bonsai by me on the inside” he said, crediting crew Carl and Kurt Kibbe with curing the previous day’s push. “I was telling myself, ‘I’m getting a top five out of this.”
Greg Stoehr, who started ninth and posted the fastest lap (11.390), did get close to the leader three times over the final seven laps.
“I tried to get on the gas sooner,” said Zych of the second restart. “I just couldn’t get up to speed.” Although “handling problems” caused problems coming off the turns, Zych was unchallenged for third over the final laps.
Zych, in fact, had no trouble getting away from Botelho on the first restart just three laps in. Yellow flew when Randy Cabral, after contact with Erica Santos, suffered front end problems. A definite contender for a third straight driver championship and clearly headed toward the front, Cabral admitted a lack of patience was a factor in his last-place finish.
The leader heading in the day, Russ Stoehr was tenth and, unofficially, takes a 50 point lead for himself and the Dumo’s Desire team into this weekend’s season-ending World Series at Thompson Speedway.
Greg Stoehr and Lou Cicconi Jr. won Saturday’s heats.
Russ Wood Sr., subbing for the injured (foot) Russ Jr. won Saturday 25-lap NEMA Lites race, besting Cabral and Whip City Quad4 Midget champion Joe Krawiec, the latter in a Seymour car.
- “There are not many races where you have the opportunity to win and I’m disappointed in that regard but we did beat a lot of good cars today,” said Zych after an outstanding run.
- Botelho, his motor and his crew chief were all veterans. Botelho’s last win was the last-ever Midget race at Riverside Park Speedway and Carl Kibbe has not been in Victory Lane for over 20 years. “Dave Humphrey was my driver,” he said.
- Teenager Anthony Nocella, getting a shot in the Seymour #4, did an outstanding job, coming from 11th to finish sixth, just ahead of Jeff Abold and Lou Cicconi Jr., the latter two winning in the car earlier this year.
- Botelho is the ninth winner this season.
RESULTS: 1. Keith Botelho, 2. Greg Stoehr, 3. John Zych Jr.,, 4. Chris Leonard, 5. Chris deRitis, 6. Anthony Nocella, 7. Jeff Abold, 8. Lou Cicconi, 9. Jim Miller, 10. Russ Stoehr, 11.Adam Cantor, 12. Paul Scally, 13. Mike Horn, 14. Brian Cleveland, 15. Pete Pernesiglio, 16. Lee Bundy, 17. Matt O’Brien, `8. Barry Kittredge, 19. Erica Santos, 20. Brit Anderson, 21. Randy Cabral.
Sources: Pete Zanardi/NEMA PR