Story By: KYLE SOUZA / GRANITE STATE PRO STOCK SERIES – WALPOLE, NH – When you mention Stafford Motor Speedway to Mike O’Sullivan, it feels like home.
The Massachusetts native, and two-time Granite State Pro Stock Series champion, is one of more than 25 registered drivers as the series gets ready for their debut at the half-mile on Saturday, April 24, as part of the NAPA Spring Sizzler weekend.
The Casagrande Builders 75 is the headliner of the Saturday show to open another season at the Connecticut oval.
“Very excited to race at Stafford,” O’Sullivan said. “When I was a kid, I grew up going to the track and watching the Modifieds, that’s how we started racing. I got my start at Stafford. It’s a 20-minute ride from my house. If I want to take my kids to the track, that’s where we go. I have family that races at Stafford every Monday in the Kart divisions… it’s right in the backyard. Stafford is where I started driving, got my first win…. everything revolved around there.”
O’Sullivan’s career as a weekly racing series competitor at Stafford started with limited starts in 1996, but it was in 1997 when the real racing started. O’Sullivan scored his first career win that year, en route to the Rookie of the Year honors in Stafford’s Pro Stock division. He would score three more victories over the next four years, before deciding it was time to go touring series racing.
He is hoping some of his experience at the half-mile will help him contend for the victory against a stout Pro Stock field. O’Sullivan was one of a handful of competitors that decided to take advantage of a pre-season practice session at Stafford on April 17, but wasn’t thrilled with the way his car handled. He is hoping they can do a bit more homework and show up to the race day with some more speed.
“I thought I was a little bit disappointed, we had some ideas on what we thought it was going to be like, but the drivers definitely run the track a bit different as it has progressed over the years,” O’Sullivan said. “We used to run up higher on the track, not as much on the apron. But I talked to Doug Coby and I changed my line a bit, and I said OK, it’s like opening the file cabinet again, I remember this. I used to get through turns one and two well and struggle in three and four, but now it’s like the opposite. I’m a competitive driver and I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
After a full day of practice, O’Sullivan and his team have just about five days of preparation ahead of the Casagrande Builders 75, and they are going to take advantage of the time and improve their speed going into what he thinks is going to be a difficult race. And, based on the entry list, he’s spot on.
Names like former Granite State Pro Stock Series champions Joey Polewarczyk, Derek Griffith, Joey Doiron and Devin O’Connell will be joined by multiple-time Stafford champions Keith Rocco and Tom Fearn on the entry list. Additional names include multiple-time Seekonk Speedway champion David Darling, DJ Shaw, Stafford veteran Cory Casagrande, Angelo Belsito, Eddie MacDonald, Bryan Kruczek and defending GSPSS Rookie of the Year Casey Call. And that only scratches the surface.
“My track experience should be helpful with passing, traffic, restarts… even if you just sit there and watch racing at a track where other guys don’t have many laps, you have an idea and I have experience there,” O’Sullivan said. “But touring series drivers are just good drivers. They will figure it out quickly. You have guys that have run there a lot before, some that haven’t, former champions… probably the top-10 guys at any given time will have a lot of championships between them, somewhere in their career. They seem to close the gap on new tracks quickly. I don’t expect to have too much of an advantage. I have too much respect for how good this field will be.”
He’s hoping some offseason homework and additional preparation, including assistance from the team at Complete Chassis Solutions, will help steer him towards Victory Lane. Without the support of Tom O’Sullivan & Sons Welding, Rosati Trucking, Teddy Bear Pools, CERIC Fabrication and many others, including his crew and family, O’Sullivan wouldn’t be heading to Stafford with a chance to open the season in Victory Lane.
“As much as I enjoy driving, I love the mechanical part of the car just as much,” O’Sullivan said. “I have all of the confidence in the world that we will come up with something that works. We did our homework over the winter and tried to make things better. I know the field is strong. It all starts with track position and having speed in your car… I’m optimistic about it. You have to have everything together and be prepared as you can be when you head to the track.”
O’Sullivan and the remainder of the Granite State Pro Stock Series field will be competing in the Casagrande Builders 75 on Saturday, April 24. They will be joined by the stars of Stafford’s SK Modifieds, Late Models, Limited Late Models and Street Stocks to complete a full card of racing. A limited amount of tickets are still available by visiting staffordspeedway.com/tickets. Stafford remains at a limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions in place by the state of Connecticut.
Practice begins at 11 a.m., followed by GSPSS time trials at 1:30 p.m. Qualifying and feature racing for the Casagrande Builders 75 will follow.