HICKORY, N.C. – Once the calendar turns to April, a bevy of racers will be anxiously loading up their trailers for a more than 700-mile holiday weekend getaway from the New England states.
Connecticut’s Cory Casagrande is one of those drivers who will be a participant in a double-packed docket at Hickory Motor Speedway during the annual Easter Bunny 150.
The Pro All Stars Series has promoted and headlined since the event’s inception in 2006. The 2020 edition was not able to occur as originally scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to make up for the lost time they are hosting the 2020 edition on Friday, April 2 with the 2021 edition to follow on Saturday, April 3.
Each day’s festivities be headlined by a 150-lap Pro All Stars Series super late model feature as well as features each day for the American-Canadian Tour late models.
Although Casagrande has not competed in this particular event before, he has run at the historic .363-mile oval twice in the autumn months, achieving a top five finish on both occasions.
“I don’t know what it is but every time we’ve shown up we’ve been really good,” the 27-year-old driver pointed out. “At the Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown in 2018 we started near the back but drove through the field after getting spun out and falling a lap down. We really have to put emphasis on a better qualifying effort and take up some of the slack.”
The North Carolina track has been a popular one for those living up north ever since super late models began competing there regularly a decade and a half ago. These days a majority of traveling competitors will bring their crate motors, similar to what they choose to utilize at the smaller tracks across Maine and New Hampshire. Despite Hickory’s size, it doesn’t necessarily relate to any of those facilities in particular.
“It’s so hard to compare Hickory to anything,” Casagrande admitted. “It has so much character, it has two extremely raceable grooves which gives you options, and it feels faster, which makes it such a great race track.”
His 2017 FURY Race Car that was acquired from Steve Wallace’s former fleet is ready to go and can be loaded on the trailer if it needed to be today. That has allowed the team he started super and pro late model racing with six years ago, owned by his father Rick and led by crew chief James Connors, to focus on building a new FURY that will debut the weekend that follows Hickory.
That race will take place at Thompson Speedway Motorsport sPark in Connecticut. He plans to compete in other special events closer to fill out his busy schedule. One of those occurs in late April where Casagrande will have an eight-minute homecoming commute to Stafford Speedway for the Granite State Pro Stock Series season opener.
A return to Pennsylvania’s Jennerstown Speedway is included for his third attempt in the Motor Mountain Masters event. The team has purchased another crate engine to be prepared for the summer, which could include an earlier trip to the scenic half-mile oval in June for a 75-lap warmup.
A new race on his list is the prestigious Oxford 250 at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway.
“I’ve never run it and this is finally the year,” Casagrande noted. “The Oxford 250 is the race in the Northeast and one of the biggest for super late models in the country. If you want to be anyone, you’ve got to attempt it at least once. We may go there for a Saturday night show in May and test.”
After the season concludes up north, another visit to the southeast is not out of the question. Much of the ability to have that potential is thanks to the connections and support within in the industry in which he feels fortunate to have.
“Charles Lewandoski (owner and operator of Mooresville, N.C.-based ChaLew Performance) is my dad’s cousin,” Casagrande indicated. “His mom actually lives next door to my grandparents. It’s helpful knowing where to get parts and knowing certain people in general so that we can compete.”
Casagrande is additionally thankful for the assistance received in continuing his racing hobby and goals over recent years from sponsors like Wicked Powersports, a Connecticut-headquartered dealer of products such as snowmobiles and quads.
The Easter Bunny 150 weekend at Hickory will start off with an optional practice day on Thursday, April 1. Both Friday and Saturday schedules feature PASS time trials at 5:15 p.m. and racing beginning at 6 p.m. with ACT heat races.