“I think we can come out and win. The car’s good,” said Wethersfield racer Frank L’Etoile Jr. about next weekend’s season-opening Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway. Photo: Dave Burnham Autosport
WETHERSFIELD - Wethersfield racing driver Frank L’Etoile Jr. and his #33 DARE Stock team are looking to take up residence at Stafford Motor Speedway’s most valuable piece of real estate--NAPA Victory Lane--in 2014.
Stafford’s long-awaited season kicks into gear over the weekend of April 26-27 with the Spring Sizzler event.
“I think we can come out and win. I don’t see any reason why we can’t. The car’s good,” said L’Etoile Jr. as he climbed out of his Chevy Monte Carlo after tearing up the asphalt during the Spring Sizzler practice day April 12.
It’s easy to see why L’Etoile Jr.’s confidence is high. The 22-year-old took two wins in three races at the end of 2013 and was looking strong for a good finish at the Fall Final when his engine let go during a qualifying heat.
“The team gave the car a thorough rebuild over the winter. We rebuilt the 305ci motor and had the transmission checked out. We went through the entire thing. It’s pretty much a brand new car and it’s good. Today we were running a few tenths of a second faster than last year,” L’Etoile Jr. continued.
“I can’t wait for the Spring Sizzler to come around to get out there and get into the action. Today was good to get the jitters out. The motor’s fine and everything felt great.”
L’Etoile Jr. finished the 2013 championship in eighth place overall and was the leading rookie driver in the series. He took six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes to go with his wins Aug. 30 and Sept. 13.
L’Etoile Jr. made his DARE Stock debut at the 2012 Fall Final in readiness for his first full season of DARE Stock competition in 2013. So when the green flag dropped to start the April 2013 Spring Sizzler, L’Etoile, Jr. realized a dream that had been three years in the making.
“Joey Ferrigno had an old Monte Carlo lying around, so I got the car from him. Me and my dad spent three years going through it and putting a DARE Stock together. We did everything ourselves. We built the motor and the rear end and we had a lot of parts that were pitched in by other guys.”
L’Etoile Jr. is also Stafford Motor Speedway’s reigning Senior Outlaw karting champion.
“That was my third karting championship. I won in 2008 and 2009 and finished second in 2012.”
New to the #33 team’s 2014 sponsorship is Minuteman Press of Wethersfield, which will be joining Jet Electric, Zeke’s Pump Service, K & W Custom Auto, Wild Thing Karts and Dave Miller from Auto Machine in East Windsor to back the former Wethersfield High School student in his second full year of DARE Stock racing.
A Dare Stock race car is based on a 1969 or newer American-made full-frame car with a 108” minimum wheelbase. Engines are limited to a GM 305ci, Ford 302ci or GM Performance 350ci crate motor with restrictor plate. The most common choice is the Chevrolet Monte Carlo body with the 200hp, 305ci engine and Turbo 350 transmission. All cars run on Hoosier tires.
L’Etoile Jr.’s car has an added advantage. The Chevy’s dashboard carries a photo and placard with a poem dedicated to his mom Beth, who passed away last year shortly before he took his first victory.
Crew member Roger Stiso created the tribute so that Beth is with the team for every turn of the wheel. “She’s still with us in a very big way,” said Stiso. “We’re running with wings in a division that outlaws them.”
“This year the team has surgical precision in what we do. We melded last year and we’ve had all winter to age like a fine cheese not to be soft, but to be hard - hard pressed not to do anything but win,” said Stiso.
“When we have to get down to it, everyone knows what to do. There’s no guessing. There’s no ‘Hey, did you get this?’ Frank Sr. handles the chassis. Gil Grismala handles the motor and drive train. Debbie Sullivan [Beth’s sister] handles the timing, tire temperatures and pressures. Mike Procaccini is the wheel and fuel man. I’m the guy who looks, and looks, and looks to see if there is that one shred that’s hanging that can be our downfall.
“We have better focus and clarity in what we need to do in 2014. The team was carved out last year and as the races and laps drove on, we continued to sand the rough edges to smooth out the final product. And the final product that was displayed in 2013 was a winning team. After the first year of sanding, the collywobbles are gone and I can’t wait for Sizzler weekend because I have a funny feeling we’ll be standing in some prime real estate.”