Reigning PASS Rookie of the Year Ready To Shine In 'The Race'
BERWICK, Maine – Joey Doiron figures he was probably only four years old the last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competed at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, but he sensed the history as soon as he visited the venerable racing grounds on a recent trip.
“I think I used to watch the races then, but I honestly don't remember if I ever saw North Wilkesboro or not,” Doiron said this week. “It's a really cool place, though. It's like stepping back in time when you get there. It was kept up pretty well for no one really touching it in 15 years or so.”
Doiron will join dozens of other Super Late Model drivers at North Wilkesboro on April 8-9. And it's not just to see how history has treated the place either, as they will compete in the PASS-sanctioned “The Race” – a $75,000-to-win 300-lap main event on Saturday night.
No points, no worries. Just a large potential payday and a chance to get the 2011 season started a few weeks early on a very big stage.
“The money is probably a big part of what makes this special, but it's more than that,” Doiron said. “Not many people can say they've ever raced at North Wilkesboro, and being able to say you raced there is a big deal.
“The other thing is that there are not many slouches entered in this race. Everyone that's coming could probaly win it. I don't think you'll see another Super Late Model field this tough all year until maybe the Snowball Derby (in the winter).”
Doiron is guaranteed a starting spot in the main event after finishing ninth in the overall PASS North Series standings in 2010. His Rookie of the Year-winning campaign included four Top-10 finishes and one Top-5 in 12 starts. Fast-forward to the start of this season, and Doiron believes his team is capable of contending at North Wilkesboro Speedway – and surprising a few people in the process.
His No. 73 JBJ Machine/Rescue Welding/Dale Shaw Race Cars Chevrolet tested at the track earlier this month. The .625-mile facility has been largely dormant since four-time series champion Jeff Gordon won the final Sprint Cup race held there in 1996.
“It went a lot better than I expected,” Doiron said of the test. “We went with a setup we've never really used before up here (in the PASS North Series). I think we found something – and I'm really excited to go back. We were one of faster cars there during the test, too. Something like that always give you confidence.
“I'm excited to start the PASS North Series year, too, just because I feel like we've gotten better.”
Doiron, whose father serves as the crew chief for the family-operated team, said he actually believes his Super Late Model career starting making gains late in 2010.
“At this time last year, I didn't think our program was good enough,” he said. “But I think we turned a corner at the end of the season. We didn't have the finishes at the end of the year maybe that we wanted, but we were definitely a Top-5 caliber car at some of the tracks we were going to for a second time.”
With that confidence of finishing off last season on a strong note, and now heading to North Wilkesboro on the heels of a good test for the team, Doiron is excited about the possibilities.
“Everyone goes to the race track with the expectation of winning,” he said. “I think it's possible for us. It doesn't matter who it is, Augie Grill or Bill Penfold, or how good your car is – you've still got to have luck on your side. You need a lot of luck, too, especially in a race like this. Anything can happen.”
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