Northeast Motorsports Expo kicks off 2014 racing season
Fans, race teams, and vendors made their way to the Maine state capital, Augusta, this past weekend for the 26th Annual Northeast Motorsports Expo.  The three-day event marked the start of the 2014 racing season in the Northeast region and gave fans the opportunity to check out what their favorite drivers, tracks and series have in store for the upcoming season.

This year’s event was the fifth Northeast Motorsports Expo organized by Mainely Motorsports TV host Steve Perry after he took over ownership of the show from Tim Attaya five years ago.  At the end of the day on Sunday, Perry was very pleased with how the event went despite the bad weather that hit the area on Saturday.

“This weekend went great,” Perry said.  “Everybody brings beautiful cars, beautiful displays, and they spend all weekend up here in Augusta.  I’m really happy with what they do and how they do it.”

Drivers from many different tracks, series and tours were present in Augusta.  Many of them had their cars on display, while others will use the show as motivation to get their 2014 racing season started.

“This show has notoriously been the kick-off for racing here in New England,” said Perry.  “Tim Attaya started this event 26 years ago on the first weekend in January.  We moved it to the second weekend in January.  I heard from guys here this weekend that said they have to go start working on their cars. It gets everybody pumped up.”

Perry will also be organizing The Racin’ Preview Show at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine on February 21 and 22.  While getting things ready for the show in Portland, the Mainely Motorsports host is already getting plans together for next year’s show in Augusta.

“I started thinking about next year before we started pushing cars in Friday,” Perry told Speed51.  “I’ve got about five weeks to prepare for The Racin’ Preview Show while also doing everything else with Mainely Motorsports TV.”

2013 Oxford 250 winner Travis Benjamin without sponsor, unsure of plans for 2014
Looking back at the last two seasons of Super Late Model competition in the Northeast, you’d be hard-pressed to find a driver that has experienced as much success as Morrill, Maine’s Travis Benjamin.  Benjamin, who won the 2012 PASS North championship, added one of the most prestigious races in the country to his list of wins in 2013 by winning the Oxford 250.

Just six months removed from winning the biggest race of his career, Benjamin finds himself without a primary sponsor for the 2014 race season after losing his sponsor from 2013.

Benjamin discussed his plans on Sunday after watching his pit crew win the 2014 Heluva Good Pit Crew Challenge at the Northeast Motorsports Expo.

“I hate to say this but we don’t really have anything in the works yet,” Benjamin said about his 2014 plans.  “We lost our sponsor from last year so that hurts us.  We’re just going to take it one race at a time.  If we’re doing alright, we’ll stick with it.  If I break an engine or wreck really bad, I won’t be able to go to the next race.  It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.  We’re going to plug away and just do what we’ve been doing the past couple years because it’s been working. “

The 2013 Oxford 250 winner has given his sponsors plenty of exposure during the past two seasons with multiple race wins, top-three finishes, and the 2012 PASS North championship.  He’s hoping this will help attract a sponsor for the upcoming race season.

“You’d think as much as much as we were on newspapers, websites and magazines that it would prove something,” Benjamin said.  “It’s so hard to prove to companies that they get anything out of it.  It’s so hard to get sponsors anyways.  Everyone’s budgets are so tight. “

Without knowing whether or not he will be going racing the following week, Benjamin plans on going to each track this season with one goal in mind.

“Win races,” Benjamin said when asked about his goals for 2014.  “That’s the kind of the attitude we had in 2012. Just go to every track and go there to win.  If we wreck and we blow up, we don’t have to go racing next week.”

2014 Granite State Pro Stock registrations piling in; Babb, Tardiff expected to run full-time
Granite State Pro Stock Series owner Mike Parks, who took over sole ownership of the series during the offseason, is pleased with the way the 2014 season is shaping up.  The series released their 10-race schedule back in December.  This upcoming season the series will make their first visit to White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH), while also making return visits to tracks such as Star Speedway (NH), Hudson International Speedway (NH) and Thompson Speedway (CT).

In addition to the impressive schedule put together by the series, Parks is also pleased with the amount of excitement surrounding the upcoming season.  Former Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) competitor Matty Sanborn will make his debut on the tour in 2014, while two former Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) competitors, Bradley Babb and Alan Tardiff, are also expected to race full-time with the Granite State Pro Stock Series in 2014.

Parks and the Granite State Pro Stock Series will host an informational meeting at Thompson International Speedway’s (CT) clubhouse at 12 p.m. on Saturday, January 18 to discuss what they have in store for the 2014 season.

Third-generation driver Gunnar Rowe to make debut in Pro Late Model
The Rowe last name has been a household name in the Northeast motorsports circle since Mike Rowe began his Pro Stock/Super Late Model dominance back in the 1970’s. Mike’s son, Ben, has won multiple Super Late Model events around the country including the Oxford 250.

In 2014, the next generation of Rowe’s, Gunnar Rowe, will make his first attempt at Late Model racing when he straps into a Pro Late Model at Oxford Plains Speedway.  Rowe will be piloting the #24, the same number that his grandfather, Mike, has taken to victory lane on so many occasions.

Gunnar is coming off of a successful season racing in the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Whiz Kids division, while also having a successful young career racing go-karts at Richmond Karting Speedway.

Reid Lanpher to focus efforts on Super Late Model in Northeast
Fifteen-year-old Reid Lanpher spent the 2013 racing season traveling up and down the east coast racing as a developmental driver for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and JR Motorsports.  In addition to racing in the JR Motorsports No. 8 Late Model Stock Car at Southern National Motorsports Park and Motor Mile Speedway, Lanpher also competed in multiple PASS North events in the Northeast.

In 2014, Lanpher will narrow down his schedule and will focus his efforts on his Team EJP race team. The team plans to run full-time in the Pro Series at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, while also making occasional appearances at PASS North events.

“This year, we’re in a position to stay local,” Lanpher told Speed51 on Sunday in Augusta.  “We’re going to run the Pro Series at Beech Ridge, as well as some PASS races at Beech Ridge and Oxford.  We’re just going to try to build the team.”

Lanpher’s team has also hired experienced Super Late Model crew chief Jason Ricker to assist the team in 2014.  They’re also in the process of buying a new race shop near Lanpher’s hometown of Manchester, Maine.

“We had a huge week this week,” Lanpher said. “We’re working on a deal getting a race shop. Coincidently, the shop is two miles down the road from my house.”

Last season, Lanpher attracted a lot of attention after leading multiple laps in the PASS North race at Beech Ridge.  The success the 15-year-old has seen in multiple Legends Car starts, as well as the amount of success he had in his previous Super Late Model start at the track, helped make his decision to race at the Scarborough, Maine track an easy one.

“Having the speed there gave me a little bit of confidence,” said Lanpher. “I like the track. I ran the legends car there last year and had a bunch of fun on Thursdays.  Andy (Cusack) does an awesome job running the facility; it’s a first class show.  We figured it’d be a good place to start and get a crew going. We’re just really looking forward to it.”

Northern Exposure: News From the Northeast Motorsports Expo
Excitement Building for New England Race Season
By Brandon Paul, Northeast Editor - Twitter: @CLNS_Brandon
The pit crew competition, won this year by PASS North driver Travis Benjamin's crew, is always one of the more popular features of the Northeast Motorsports Expo.  ( photo)
The Granite State Pro Stock Series is gearing up for a big 2014 schedule and drew a lot of buzz in Augusta. ( photo)
Gunnar Rowe will continue the family's Late Model legacy in 2014.  ( photo)
Reid Lanpher will sport a sharp new look in 2014.   ( photo)