WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - When Frank Maratta's Auto Show migrated north from Connecticut to the Big E in West Springfield, it brought an economic boost to Western Massachusetts. The weekend show also returned a bit of Race-A-Rama to the area after a void of several years. New England speedways, stock cars, karts, and dragsters shared the floor of the Big E's Better Living Center with vintage classic cars, customs, and cycles. There are those who looked at the cars that showcased the glory days of the American auto industry with memories of cheap gas, Sunday drives, and a "wish I had bought one back then" feeling.
For race fans, seeing cars from their favorite tracks was just another reminder that each day is not only a day closer to spring, but a day closer to the return of weekly racing. Thompson International Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut will open for their first of two practice sessions on Saturday, March 30. The track's Icebreaker with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Granite State Pro Stocks is scheduled for April 13 & 14.
Thompson's new Race Director is Jeff Zuidema of North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Zuidema is a past weekly racing winner and champion well-known to fans and competitors alike. Zuidema described his move from driver's seat to speedway management as going "to the dark side," but many competitors will like the fact that Zuidema understands what teams face in local racing. Drivers, owners, and crews will also be dealing with a race director that used to be one of them, and is unlikely to fall for too many tall tales involving rule-bending and on-track incidents.
Zuidema joined the number of fans disappointed with the outcome of the recent NASCAR Battle at the Beach in Daytona, where second place drivers spun-out leaders late in the race. Jeff compared it to professional wrestling, and said that's not racing.
"It's nothing we want in NASCAR. On the first race, they (NASCAR) allowed the winner to spin the leader of the race, and that just went on to the second race and the third race. We don't want to promote that. Racing is racing. You're supposed to pass clean, you're supposed to come down for the win, you're not supposed to just wreck the leader. That will not be allowed at Thompson Speedway or most of your short tracks around. They would never promote something like that."
The Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire has scheduled their season kickoff for Saturday, April 20. The Valenti Modified Series has become an opening night tradition at The Dog.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway representatives were working the show with ticket value packages for their NASCAR Sprint Cup Weekends in July and September.