It was up to Laura Kibbe. Her father Gene Angelillo’s Dumo’s Desire race team, part of the Northeastern Midget Ass’n for more than three decades, would continue. She made the decision on the day of Angelillo’s funeral in March 2010.
She kind of surprised herself.
“I was 8 when my father bought his first midget and joined NEMA [in 1980],” she explained. “My mother [Marilyn] became part of it right away. My whole life, basically all of my family structure, revolved around racing. There were times as an adolescent, as a young adult, when I hated it. Racing came first and everything else second. So, I always wondered about what would happen if they were both gone.”
Then she was shocked at her doubt. “Of course we have to continue, of course we have to race the car,” she told herself. “I wanted to be competitive; I wanted to continue to be part of the NEMA family.”
The story ends with the 15th NEMA owner’s championship, driver Russ Stoehr clinching it after finishing third in the season finale at Connecticut’s Thompson Int’l Speedway.
The most successful owners in club history, Gene and Marilyn (who died in 2007) were major forces in NEMA. It was Marilyn who named the team in memory of Gene’s father Dominic, called Dumo.
“It was meant to be,” Kibbe told the gathering at NEMA’s awards banquet in November, actually using the phrase “divine intervention.”
She insists she was not thinking championship when she got together with Stoehr and Joe Fiori, the latter a lifelong associate whose family had actually introduced Angelillo to auto racing. Stoehr, who had won three of his five NEMA driving titles with Angelillo, and Fiori, who had campaigned a sprint car on the URC circuit for 21 years, agreed to stay on. With Fiori aboard, the car would continue to be based at Angelillo’s shop in Oxford, Conn.
Jack Giannini and Kurt Kiermont, also longtime Angelillo associates, signed on as did Brian Wynn, Paul Liphardt and Nick Rinaldi. Things came together. Scottie Law stepped up to take on tire responsibilities, something he had never done before.
“My father was like a tiebreaker,” Kibbe explains. “People on the crew would disagree about an approach to take and he would end it saying, ‘Do it this way,’ usually with some authority. Well, we didn’t have that anymore.”
A very successful attorney with an international agenda, Kibbe presented the challenge: “We have to put egos aside and come together. We all have important jobs to do and if we don’t do them, we will fail miserably.”
Her job was “paying the bills.”
She says she’ll always remember the overwhelming emotion watching the car finish third in the season opener March 27 at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl so soon after her father’s passing.
It is poetic that Stoehr and the Dumo’s Desire team took the point lead for good with a win at the Angelillo Memorial, a race Kibbe sponsored in memory of her parents at the Speedbowl in September.
“It was then that I said, ‘Wow, this could happen,’” she says. “I realized then the championship was possible.”