NEAR at Thunder Road

May be an image of text that says 'THUNDER ROAD 'nation's site of excitement'

NEAR is off to Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vt. this Thursday, June 16, 2022. Sign in will be at 12:00pm and it is a points/running show. Per the track all NEAR registered membership cars/driver are free, no plus one for this event. 3 hour track time (12:00-3:00) plus Features-Sportsman and Modified. See you all there!

NEAR at Riverside, N.H. 6/4/22

This Saturday, June 4, 2022 NEAR will have it’s first running event of the season. We’re off to Riverside Action Park in Groveton, N.H. for a pit entrance at 12 noon and racing to start around 6 p.m. Sportsman and Modified classes will run. Adequate track time is available between 12 and 3 p.m to work out the winter bugs. If you have not yet paid your 2022 NEAR Membership, you must before being allowed to enter. Forms will be available at the track. We anticipate 2 entrances free per car. See you there!

Show is on for tomorrow!!!!!!

North East Motor Sports Museum

New England Racers Reunion presented by Wall’s Ford and the Northeast Classic set for April 16th

The New England Racers Reunion will feature a variety of vintage and modern race cars for outdoor display at the North East Motor Sports Museum (922 Route 106, Loudon, NH) on Saturday April 16th. In addition the event will feature five exhibits from New England racing museums. These exhibits will showcase unique auto racing memorabilia and artifacts from around the region. All types of race cars from any year are welcome to display and local tracks and sanctions are encouraged to attend to promote your upcoming season’s races. In the afternoon make sure to check out all the feature racing action at the Northeast Classic on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway oval.

Museums committed for display include the Ron Bouchard Museum, ProNyne Motorsports Museum, Ollie Silva Museum, New England Antique Racers and the Maine Vintage Race Car Association. Race car clubs that will have multiple cars on display include Senior Tour Auto Racers, Atlantic Coast Old Timers and the Wicked Good Vintage Racing Association. Cars on display will roar to life with our traditional gentlemen start your engines at noon.

The Stanley Museum of Kingfield Maine will also be on site with an operational Stanley Steamer steam car. The Stanley Museum has graciously offered to take guests for a ride in the steam car for a $20 suggested donation per passenger, kids free. The money raised from the rides will be split between the Stanley Museum and the North East Motor Sports Museum.

The 2022 best appearing race car awards will once again be presented by Wall’s Ford at 1:30pm. The museum is asking for a $20 donation for each race car that would like to display. This donation also includes two free tickets to view the museum the day of the event. The awards given out will be the following.

Best of Show
Best Appearing Open Wheel Race Car
Mary Lima Best Appearing Modified
Best Appearing Stock Car Race Car
Best Appearing Drag Race Car
Best Appearing Road Race Car

Join us on Saturday April 16th from 9:00am to 1:30pm for the New England Racers Reunion. The museum will be open for viewing from 9am till 4pm. The North East Motor Sports Museum is the largest motor racing museum in New England and displays 30+ regionally historic race cars and motorcycles. Exhibits change on a yearly basis so there is always something new to see.

Admission to view the outdoor show is $5 per adult at the front gate with museum members admitted free. Admission to view the indoor museum is $10 for adults with kids under 12 free to view both outdoors and indoors. As always museum members view the museum for free. You can become a member of the museum the day of the event. An onsite food truck will be available and we will have a 50/50 raffle. The event is a fundraiser for the North East Motor Sports Museum, a 501-c-3 educational nonprofit organization. A rain date is set for Saturday April 23rd.

Once you have finished at the museum make sure to check out all the high speed racing action at the NHMS oval. Triple 50 lap feature events are on tap for ACT Late Model Tour, PASS Super Late Models and the Modified Racing Series, as well as support division action. All of this wheel to wheel feature racing excitement is set to start at 12:30pm at the Magic Mile.

If you have questions about the event or displaying your race car call 603-783-0183. 

Rhonda Blanchette passes

From Pete Newsham—–She was an awesome team player with NEAR for many years
2004 Charlie Stebbins award recipient…2011 Dan Pardi award …RIP Rhonda, and thank you!

Rhonda Mae Blanchette (Seller), 65 of Panama City Beach passed away peacefully on February 13th. Rhonda was born in Southington, CT and resided there until 2019 when the beaches started to call her name. She is predeceased by her parents Robert and Rachel Seller (Goetchus). Rhonda spent her career working for several banks working her way up from teller at Southington Savings Bank at the age of 16 to Tax Officer/IRA compliance, Vice President of Key Private Bank. She was a member of Frederica Chapter #110, O.E.S. based out of Plainville, CT and served as treasurer and board member for the New England Antique Racers for many years. She was an avid gardener and lover of sea turtles and hibiscus plants. She leaves behind her loving and caring husband Gerry Blanchette of Panama City Beach, her son Robert Blanchette and his girlfriend Melody Neal of Panama City Beach, her daughter Megan Blanchette of Old Orchard Beach, ME, her brother and sister-in-law Rod and Kris Seller of New Britain, CT and her special feathered friend Rocky. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Rhonda’s name to the Hope Regional Cancer Center 2900 South Highway 77, Lynn Haven, FL 32444.

2022 NEAR Event Schedule

          NEAR NORTH/SOUTH SCHEDULE

                      FOR 2022 EVENTS

June 4         Sat     Riverside Spdwy     Groveton, NH

                     Sign-in:  3PM                 Points/Running

June 16       Thurs       Thunder Road      Barre, VT

                     Sign-in:   12 NOON          Points/Running

                     Three hour track time      [12 to 3]

June 18        Sat      Seekonk Spdwy      Seekonk, Ma

                      Sign-In:   1pm                   Points/Running

June 24       Fri     Claremont Spdwy   Claremont, NH

                     Sign-in:  5 PM                 Points/Running

July 16        Sat     Northeastern Spdwy  Waterford, VT

                     Sign-in:   8 to 9AM      Points/Still/Parade

July 23        Sat   Bethel Motor Spdwy   White Lake NY

                     Sign in:  1pm                   Points/Running

Aug 6         Sat    Monadnock Spdwy  Winchester, NH

                    Sign-in:   3PM                  Points/Running

Aug 12-13-14   VAE Car Show             Waterbury, VT

                    Sign-in:    9AM            Points/Still/Parade

Aug 20       Sat     Bear Ridge Spdwy       Bradford, VT

                   Sign-in:   12 NOON      Points/Still/Parade

                               **Tentative**

Aug 27       Sat  Waterford Speedbowl   Waterford,CT

                    Sign-in:   1pm               Points/Running

Sept 24      Sat    Plainville Reunion   Berlin Fairgrounds CT

                    Setup: 8 AM  show 10-2       Points/Still

Oct. 1         Sat Pines Speedway Reunion       Groveland,Ma                                                                                                                          

Sign in 10:00 AM     Still

** ALL DATES AND EVENTS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE**

**EVENTS MAY STILL BE ADDED**New England Antique Racers

Dates still not decided: Danbury Reunion, Hof Banquet

Iconic car restored for late NASCAR great Michael Stefanik’s posthumous HoF induction


by TAYLOR ROCHA, NBC 10 NEWSMonday, December 20th 2021

UserWay icon for accessibility widget
This is a submitted photo of Michael Stefanik.

8VIEW ALL PHOTOSThis is a submitted photo of Michael Stefanik.

Facebook Share Icon
Twitter Share Icon
Email Share Icon

Born to a racing family, Julie Stefanik admired her husband before the two had ever met.

“He had won his first race before we met. I actually had a little picture of him on my bulletin board from the newspaper,” said Stefanik. “The rest is history.”

Through Michael Stefanik’s nearly 40-year racing career, in which he became one of only two racers to capture nine NASCAR championships, Stefanik was her husband’s spotter. During races, she would be in constant communication with him in order to keep him out of harm’s way.

Michael Stefanik is seen with his wife Julie. (Submitted photo)

“I know down South, the men don’t think the women should tell the men how to drive, so it’s kind of funny,” she joked. “I would be a set of eyes ahead of his.”

When Michael died in a plane crash at just 61 years old, Julie couldn’t see it coming.

“He got into aviation and got his sports pilot license,” said Stefanik. “I told him he was an adrenaline junkie because he had to go fast. He enjoyed and lived his life to the fullest. I have no regrets. I just wish we had our final chapter together, but I guess I wouldn’t change anything.”

Michael Stefanik’s iconic NASCAR car has been restored. (Submitted photo)

Now, Stefanik has to make a speech on her husband’s behalf in Charlotte at the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Jan. 21, 2022.

“There’s no way I can thank everyone personally because if I tried, I would miss somebody,” said Stefanik. “You all know who you are. It’s an honor. We’re bringing a whole lot of love there for him.”

Also making the trip to Charlotte is “Big Red,” the car that will represent Stefanik in the hall of fame.

Michael Stefanik’s iconic NASCAR car has been restored. (WJAR)

“He was a fabricator and he built his own race cars,” said Stefanik. “This was the last one he built.”

Stefanik was Skip Wilcox’s childhood hero: “Growing up, I was starstruck with him. He asked me to clean the race cars. That was my first job,” said Wilcox. “It turned into racing with him up and down the East Coast.”

From fan to best friend, Wilcox and Stefanik stayed in touch after the modified racing legend’s retirement in 2014, especially during New England Patriots games.

Michael Stefanik’s iconic NASCAR car has been restored. (WJAR)

“I was waiting for one of his texts during the game and we heard that he had a plane crash,” said Wilcox. “We went to the hospital and as soon as you walked in, you got a sense of how serious it was. I was lucky enough to go into the room to say goodbye before he passed.”

Wilcox’s final job for Stefanik would be spearheading the restoration of Big Red.

“Michael was so respected,” said Wilcox. “So many people came out wanting to help.”

Michael Stefanik’s name is seen on his iconic car that has been restored. (WJAR)

The task came with an extreme amount of pressure: “Michael was a perfectionist at everything he did,” said Wilcox. “Whether it was his fabrication, his driving, his lawn — if it wasn’t perfect, he didn’t do it. When we took it on, we knew if it wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t going to be happy. We had to make sure it was right.”

A labor of love that took over a year to complete became worth the effort as soon as Stefanik saw her husband’s revitalized car for the first time.

“I had the car in my garage and the guys came and got it. I haven’t seen it since,” said Stefanik. “The car turned out exceptional. They got everything to perfection. Michael would have been very proud.”

Michael Stefanik’s iconic NASCAR car has been restored. (WJAR)

The car brought back a flood of memories for the widow: “It brought tears to my eyes,” said Stefanik. “There are happy tears, too. There are so many wonderful memories. We have two beautiful daughters.”

The names of Stefanik’s daughters, Nicole and Christine, appear on the car’s dash. The two will forever ride shotgun along their father in the hall of fame.

“I just wish Michael was here to see it,” said Wilcox. “I was looking forward to helping him with this project. I miss the guy a bunch.”

The names “Christine. Nicole” are seen on Michael Stefanik’s restored car. (WJAR)

In January, the NASCAR world will reflect on the life and legacy of Stefanik, while his family celebrates the pinnacle of his career.

“When he won his last race at Bristol, he was like a little kid,” said Stefanik. “It’s just a big honor.”

Stefanik didn’t love the sport because of the fanfare. His wife said that even when nominated, he downplayed his achievement: “He was a racer. That was his office. He put his helmet on and that’s when he went to work. He would have gotten up and given a speech without writing anything down. He always talked from the heart.”

This is a submitted photo of Michael Stefanik.

“Whether you rooted for him or against him, he holds all the records,” said Wilcox. “He’s going to be along the best names in NASCAR. That’s where he belongs. He was that good.”

The Class of 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Jan. 21, 2022 in Charlotte. Stefanik will be inducted alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Red Farmer. Additionally, Ralph Seagraves will be honored with the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to the sport.

NEAR will miss Steve Zukowski

Bio done October 24, 2016 by Judy Poirier

It is with great sorrow that we must announce the passing of Steve Zukowski Steve was one of NEAR’s biggest supporters. He drove the truck to many events, showed and raced his car, did car shows, and was just a great member and representative of our club. When we receive arrangements we will announce them. Godspeed, racer!!

If you visited Westboro Speedway “back in the day” – which was a high-banked 1/4 mile paved oval located in Massachusetts that ran from 1947 through 1985 – you might have seen our NEAR colleague Steve Zukowski, competing at one of his favorite tracks in his Chevrolet Vega #53. Steve started his racing career in 1960, he joined NEAR in 1998 and is the original owner/driver of the #53; which you could still see at the Vintage races today.

Other tracks Steve competed on included: Stafford Speedway, Riverside Park, Seekonk Speedway, Lakeville Speedway (Middleboro, MA), Thompson Speedway, Riverside (Groveton, MA), Hudson Speedway (NH), Brookline Speedway (NH), Star Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl.

The numerous car owners Steve drove for are some of his most memorable moments in racing; some include #78 owner-Nelson LeCleir (driving a ’50 Ford), #78 owner-Ron Langiven (driving a ’53 Ford), #17 owner-Ina Smith (driving a ’47 white Caddy – nicknamed the Joker), #21 owner-Don Silberman, #11 owner-Tony St. Angello, and #25 Coupe owner-Dave Johnson (Steve’s son-in-law).

As a Crew Chief, Steve worked on the #26 Bush North D.W. Toys Racing Team for 4 years, with Scott Bonley as the wheel-man; and then for the #94 Team with John Lesniak as the driver.

Wearing the “hat” of Head Mechanic, Steve worked on the #14 Bush North Ken Bouchard Team; and as a “Body Man”, Steve worked on the Al Becker and Ken Bouchard Team at Westboro; and then on the Red & White Movers, Ron Bouchard’s Team at Westboro and Seekonk Speedways.

Steve received the “President’s Award for Oustanding Service to NEAR February 27th – March 1st, 2015”, at the March 17, 2015 New England Antique Racers (NEAR) monthly meeting. Steve represented NEAR with his daily presence and displaying his car at the Frank Maratta Auto Show & Racearama in the Eastern States Exposition Center in West Springfield, MA; encountering one of the many New England winter snow storms.

With this kind of resume you could almost guess, Steve has been affiliated with automobiles since 1957 in Used Car Sales and Repairs. He always has a racing experience to share, if you just want to sit down and talk “racing”.

By Judy Poirier