NORA completed the fourth of five races on their 2011 schedule on Saturday night, and true to form, a different winner graced victory lane at Thunder Alley Speedway in Evans Mills.
The SBS division has been a very competitive division for years, as those who follow them are well aware. You can go on any given race night and not have a clue as to who will capture the checkered flag at the end of the night...the racing is that good, the cars that well-prepared and the drivers that competitive.
The 2011 season opened for the NORA SBS division at Thunder Alley back in April with Barry Kingsley winning the opener. Rob Pullen took the second race on May 7th and Sophomore sensation Mike Bruce captured his first-ever SBS points race on May 21st. Saturday night's racing saw veteran SBS driver Tim Barbeau add another feature win to his resume at the Northern NY track.
NORA will not race on August 13th at Thunder Alley, as it will be a much-needed weekend off for the drivers and teams unless it is a rain date for an Oswego Speedway makeup date. NORA will have one last race following the huge Classic Weekend at Oswego with a race in September at Thunder Alley; after Saturday night's racing, there are only 79 points separating the top 7 drivers in points...and as we all know, anything can happen on any given night. These 7 drivers are also all "perfect attendance" drivers...Rob Pullen, Vern LaFave, JJ Andrews, Mike Bruce, Pitt Watson, Barry Kingsley and Ivan Steen.
The points have been updated on the website below to reflect the current standings...so the race in September is going to decide this year's NORA champion. It is possibly going to be an "extra lap" affair, with NORA officials in discussions with the Thunder Alley officials on exactly how many laps will be run. As more information becomes available it will be posted here.
We are hoping that other SBS teams will join us at Thunder Alley for the season finale, and that fans will make the trip north to support the division.
NORA officials would like to thank the fans who have traveled north to watch us race and that your support, past, present and future, is greatly appreciated!
ON THE CLOCK
Our second installment of "ON THE CLOCK" features the driver who was the SBS Rookie of the Year in 2010...Mike Bruce. Mike's demographics look like this: he just turned 19 on March 18th, is single, and a Freshman at Alfred State studying for an Associates Degree in Motorsports Technology. He has been racing since the 7th grade (only 7 years) and has one feature win to his credit in the Mod Lite division. This will be his second season behind the wheel of a SBS. Previous experience include go karts and the aforementioned Mod Lites. His rookie season at Oswego produced one heat win and an 8th place finish in the season-long points race for the SBS division. Mike's parents Frank and Jackie are huge supporters of his racing, and he gives them all the credit. "My parents have gone far beyond making me happy, they support me 110%. I couldn't ask for a better set of parents-my dad does everything he can and more for me to be able to race, and my mom supports our every move. My brother, Robbo, has also been an important part of my career. Hopefully he will be getting into racing this year and I hope he wants to follow in my footsteps and be the second Bruce to be rookie of the year at Oswego Speedway in another year or two. He has done tons and sacrificed a lot for me to be able to race as much as I do. My sister Brittany has also been a huge supporter of my racing." Near the end of the 2010 season, the Bruce family purchased the former Shawn Walker #68, which will be renumbered #22 for the 2011 season. Mike lists his brother Robbo as the crew chief, with mom Jackie as "the cleaner" and dad Frank and former car owner and now teammate Rob Pullen (#2) as "the brains of the project". Sponsors of the #22 for 2011 include C's Farms, Woodchuck Saloon, Bruce Electric, Pullen's Plumbing, FFB Chassis (Mike's car is a 2005 model) and Bob Bruce. When asked who or what got him interested in racing, Mike told me that as he was growing up his parents always had the racing on tv, and when he became old enough (age 3-4), his dad started bringing him to Oswego. He would sit in the grandstands with his mom or sister and watch his dad in the pits working with Jeff Holbrook, Dave Trytek and Bob Magner, who he states are the drivers he looks up to the most. Dave Trytek and Jeff Holbrook gave him his first go kart, one that was hanging on their wall and weren't doing anything with. He eventually raced the "road course" inside the pit area of Oswego, and travelled to Avon once with a travelling series. Graduating to the Mod Lite division he ran at most of the dirt tracks in Central NY, as well as Evans Mills, Utica-Rome and Canandaigua. Evans Mills was the site of his first (and to date, only) feature win with the Mod Lite. Bruce considers the Pullen Deuce his best ride so far; "He (Pullen) gave me the chance to open some eyes, and Rob probably didn't even know my first name when we talked about my driving. I guess he got a good vibe and trusted me, as we picked up the car the day after we talked." When asked what he would consider his best moment in racing, Mike immediately says it was opening night at Oswego last season: "We started scratch in our heat. Being a rookie, I just wanted to keep my nose clean and see what happened; I found myself racing with Brian Sobus (who I later found out was a great shoe in the SBS division), and when the checkered flag fell, I had finished 3rd--I was excited! Starting mid-pack for the feature right behind Steve Abt, I once again just wanted to keep my nose clean and hope for a good finish. Getting the green and going into turn one for the first time in a feature, there's a wreck. I followed Abt through a hole and missed it..I was a little more excited. A few laps later, another wreck on the front straight with cars everywhere, and I somehow found another hole and got through that one, too, although it was a little closer. After the second wreck and things settled down, I found myself in 5th place, running with drivers like Abt, Mike Bond, Brian Sobus and Dave Cliff...I was very excited." He continues, "my worst moment came shortly after that (he estimates 15 minutes later) when I got a bump from behind and hit the inside hub rail, knocking out the toe. I pitted and when I came back out, I was a little angry. We ended up getting tangled up with a couple of other rookies ending my night. When I came back into the pits, I looked at my car owner's (Pullen) face and I don't think he was the happiest man alive with me because I just wrecked his race car...he was actually pretty understanding, because he had wrecked it plenty of times himself." Other than your dad, do you have anyone you consider a mentor? "Well, without my dad, I wouldn't be half the person I am now. I would also say Bobby Magner-he was one of the drivers I remember coming up to me my first race at Oswego and he told me to quit biting my nails because I made myself look nervous. He loosened me up and gave me a lot of good advice, too." In closing, when asked what the future holds for him, Mike put it plain and simple..."Right now, my future hasn't been decided. I'm hoping to be in a Supermodified; it would be nice to go further than that and drive for someone else, but times are tough these days and free rides are becoming slim, so who knows what's going on in the future." You can be sure of one thing, though....Mike Bruce is a talented young man, and with the right amount of skill and luck, he will grace the podium many times at Oswego and on the NORA circuit, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him follow in the footsteps of his mentors Holbrook, Trytek and Magner from the ranks of the SBS to the Supers in the near future.