Racing late model cars at Rockford on and off since 2010, Papini’s racing efforts were kind of limited in 2012.
“We kind of bounced around last year and ran a real limited schedule, commented Papini about his underfunded team. “I got a great group of guys together over the winter and striped the whole car down to nothing. It’s the same car we ran last year, but it is basically a brand new car. There is not one nut or bolt that went untouched. My crew deserves this (win) as much as I do.”
The win was an emotional one for Papini as his dad, Al Papini III, died from a massive heart attack 12 years ago while competing in the season-opening feature race at Rockford on April 1, 2001. Papini crashed hard into the wall between turns one and two as a result of the attack. After his victory Sunday, young Papini, with the checkered flag in hand, stop briefly along the wall between turns one and two for a moment of reflection.
With 37 entries on hand for the Big 8 Late Model opener, officials accounted for 40 late model-style track championships among the group from a three-state area, labeling the drivers the “best weekly warriors in the country.”
The Mid American Stock Car Series saw only 12 entries show up for the circuit’s opening event of the season with the feature event of the afternoon changed to a twin 25s format, instead of the scheduled 50 lapper. Minnesota’s Adam Bendzick and Jack Stern of Slinger, Wis. shared victory honors in the twin features with veteran driver Mark Pluer of Brookfield, Wis. taking overall victory honors.
Illinois Vintage Racing saw 11 cars show up for the afternoon’s action with Dick “Buckshot” Kath of Janesville, Wis. scored the victory in the group’s 20-lap feature race in his Chevelle ahead of Tim Hamburg and Pat Echlin.
The Rockford speed plant opens for its 66th consecutive season of racing action on Saturday evening, April 20, again featuring NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action.