Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Stafford Speedway’s Limited Late Model division will see the return of its winningest driver in history during the 2020 season as Chicopee, MA native Andrew Durand comes back to full-time competition.
Durand, the driver of the #43 Universal Plastics, ran the final 2 races of the 2019 season, which were his first starts at Stafford since the 2010 season. It was a tribute to a friend that brought Durand back to the track for the first time in nearly 10 years.
“My best friend Neil Provost, who used to race at Stafford, passed away so his passing motivated me to get back to the track and go racing in his memory,” said Durand. “We’ll be taking things one race at a time and we’ll see what we can do but we’re coming to the track to win races. Thanks to Universal Plastics and Joe Hamm for their support and my buddy John, my Dad, and Billy for helping me to put the car back together.”
Durand’s two starts in 2019 saw the former track champion struggle with mechanical and tire issues that limited him to 11th place finishes in both of his starts. Durand suffered through a blown rear end in his first start and then 2 flat tires in his second start so he is hoping that he got his bad luck out of the way and he can start fresh in 2020 with the same car he last ran in 2008. Durand was also coming to grips with his car, which had many changes made to it since it last ran in 2008.
“The car is a car that I last ran in 2008 and we put a new front clip and body on the car and it’s got a bunch of new parts and pieces,” said Durand. “We lost the rear end in my first race and then in the second race we had 2 flat tires, so it was tough. We were going out there against people who have ran all year and we were just getting back into it and there’s been a lot of changes on the cars. There’s a different gear rule, we got new shocks, and we had to buy a bunch of other parts to get the car to meet the rules.”
Durand is no stranger to winning races at Stafford. Durand began his Stafford career in 2001 driving in the Street Stock division, where he won 5 races between 2002-2004. In 2005, Durand moved into the newly created Limited Late Model division where racked up 25 feature wins, a total which still stands as the most Limited Late Model feature wins by any driver in the history of the division. Durand also won the track championship in 2009, winning 5 races that season. Durand’s last Stafford victory came on August 20, 2010 but he will be looking to add to his win total in 2020, starting off with the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler®. Durand won the 2004 Street Stock Sizzler feature and the 2009 Limited Late Model Sizzler feature and he would like to add a third Sizzler win to his resume.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out on the track and seeing if we can do what we used to do back in the day,” said Durand. “You never know what’s going to happen and we’ll be looking to win the Sizzler. In order to win a championship you have to finish races so hopefully we can avoid getting any more flat tires.”
Kart Graduate Damian Palardy Ready For Rookie Year At Stafford
With the dawn of the 2020 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series season at Stafford Motor Speedway, yet another graduate of the Wild Thing Karts program will challenge for Rookie of the Year honors. D
amian Palardy, who was the 2016 Wild Thing Kart Tiger B champion, will get behind the wheel of the #87 Surdell Motorsports Limited Late Model.
“I’m very excited for the season, it’s going to be my first time driving a car with a V8 engine other than the 2 races I ran last season,” said Palardy. “I just want to learn the car, learn the track, and learn how to drive a car with a lot of torque. Seeing all the kids who have come through karts and are now racing the big track at Stafford, I thought if they can do it, then one day I can do it and now I’m old enough to race at Stafford. I’ve seen the success that guys like Ronnie Williams and George Bessette, Jr. have had and hopefully once I learn enough about the car and gain some experience I can have the same kind of success.”
While Palardy is one of four rookie drivers registered thus far in the Limited Late Model division for the 2020 season along with Lucas Leone, Tess Beyer, and Jay Clement, his main goal for the 2020 season is to learn as much as he can about his car and the track along with gaining experience in order to go full out in the 2021 season.
“I’m not really going to be worried about racing for points or wins or anything like that this season,” said Palardy. “I’ll be more focused on learning the car and learning the track so we can go racing and focus on those things in the 2021 season. If we have the opportunity to get into the top-5 then we’ll go for it, but that’s not going to be our main focus. My objective is to keep the car in one piece for the entire season. If I could get a top-5 finish this year, I would be as happy as can be and it would be like a win in my book.”
Palardy made 2 starts at the end of the 2019 season to help get him acclimated to the new car and new division after racing go karts for the last 10 years. Palardy was left disappointed with 11th place finishes in both of his starts but the experience paid off for the Willington, CT native as he learned what he needed to work on for the 2020 season.
“The two races I ran last year were a great learning experience for me,” said Palardy. “I learned that you can’t floor the throttle coming out of the corners and I have to keep the car down in the corners, I can’t be racing up in the marbles. It was a little bit tougher and the car was a little faster than I expected, but I think I got used to it pretty quickly. The car was easy turning into the corners and the throttle control was easy, I just have to learn the exits of the corners. In my first race, I spun a couple of times in the practice sessions and then backed the car into the wall during the feature, so hopefully I got all my bad luck out of the way and we can go up from here.”
Should Palardy run into any troubles during his rookie campaign, he can always lean on his father R.J. Surdell, who is a veteran of the Limited Late Model division.
“It’s nice to know someone who can tell me what to do and I’m not going into the season blind,” said Palardy. “He can tell me where not to go or what not to do, so he’s a great person to have on my side. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun this year. I have respect for all the drivers in the division and the Limited Late Model division is the perfect place for me to gain experience and learn. I have to thank Surdell Motorsports, Kaylee’s Sweet Creations, and NAPA Tolland for all of their support. I’m counting down the days to the Spring Sizzler and I’m trying to stay busy driving by going to On Track Karting during the off-season.”
The 2020 Limited Late Model season kicks off with the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 24-26.