Waterford Speedbowl will host the 2011 Northeastern Midget Association opener, the club scheduled to make its 59th season debut at the Budweiser Blast Off. NEMA is the region’s oldest sanctioning body in terms of consistency.
Chris Leonard hopes to join an impressive list with a second straight season-opener win. It’s happened only eight times, Randy Cabral the last to do it in 2008 and ‘09. Bill Eldridge (1954-55), Dutch Schaefer (1959-60), Walt Gale (1966-67), Johnny Coy (1970-71), Armond Holley (1976-77), Drew Fornoro (1982-83) and Ben Seitz (2004-05) are the others.
Russ Stoehr and Randy Cabral join a group seeking to become the 13th driver to win the opener and go on to win the championship. Despite six titles including last year, Stoehr has never done it. Cabral has done it twice (2008-09), short of Drew Fornoro’s record three times (’83, ’86 and ’98). Eldridge (’54, ’58) and Ben Seitz (’04-05) did it twice; Dick Brown (’61), Johnny Mann (’72), Holley (’76) and Joey Coy (’91) once.
With the Lites also scheduled, a pit full of Midgets is expected as the Speedbowl hosts the NEMA season opener for the seventh time since 1999.
Erica Santos returns in the Breault #44. Other contenders include Jeremy Frankowski, making his debut in the Cantor 7ny, veteran Greg Stoehr in the family 26b, Todd Bertrand in the family’s Honda-powered #39, John Zych Jr. in a new Esslinger-powered Drinan, Keith Botelho in the Stoehr #25 and Chris deRitis in the Bertrand-prepared #75. Jim Miller and Mike Horn are also factors.
Newcomer Seth Carlson, the 2010 Whip City Speedway 270cc champ, leads a group of newcomers to a Lites field that includes standouts Anthony Nocella, Anthony Marvuglio, Jim Santa Maria and Paul and Ryan Bigelow.
Only eight times has the winner of the previous season finale come back to win a season-opener. Cabral ( 2007-08) and Russ Stoehr (1998-99) have done it in the past. Others on the list are Eldridge (‘54-55 and ‘57-58), Bill Randall (‘62-63), Johnny Coy (‘69-70), Holley (‘76-77) and Drew Fornoro (‘88-89).
Fornoro is the all time opening day winner with eight.
Other Numbers of interest: Russ Stoehr is two wins away from tying Nokie Fornoro (45) in third place on the all-time win list. Randy Cabral, who has 30, needs three to move into the top-five…Cabral enters the season with at least one victory in 11 straight seasons. Only Dave Humphrey’s 16 is better.
Sources: Pete Zanardi/NEMA PR