MAGNIFICENT NINE — Pictured from left are Utica-Rome Speedway drivers Jeremy Nestved, Charlie Tibbitts, Billy Shantel Jr., Randy Shantel, Chris Mackey, Paul Kinney, CJ Castelletti, Brent Joy and Aaron Page. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Part I: Utica-Rome Speedway driver round table

Published Apr 15, 2018 at 9:00am

We had some fun last week by getting Utica-Rome Speedway drivers together and asking them some not real serious questions. We are going to break this up in a couple of columns because all the answers were great but I only have so much space here.

The idea came from Kim Shea who owns Utica-Rome Speedway with her husband Bill. She got everyone together with pizza and off to the races with questions we went.

The drivers who came out to play were 602 Sportsman drivers: Charlie Tibbits, Chris Mackey, CJ Castelletti, Jeremy Nestved and Brent Joy; 358 Modified drivers: brothers Billy Shantel Jr. and Randy Shantel; Pro Stock standout Aaron Page and Empire Super Sprint star Paul Kinney.

The questions were pretty easy, I thought, with a couple thrown in to kind of get the drivers state of mind when they’re engaged in competition.

For the most part this sample of drivers don’t really have a favorite superhero, or for that matter even know who the superheroes are. The exception was Tibbits, 14, who was very clear with his anwser of Spiderman. Billy Shantel is a Captain Incredible fan, Castelletti and Nestved are both Ironman fans. Beyond that the drivers were not really tuned in to superheroes.

Kinney asked which one of the superhero’s flies, he was told Superman flew so that was what he liked. I’m not sure what Captain Crunch’s superpower is but that’s Randy Shantel’s guy. Mackey couldn’t answer the question and Brent Joy pointed to the “General Lee,” the car from the Dukes of Hazzard, as his superhero.

The best answer was from Page who immediately stated his brother Bobby Page Jr. as his superhero. Bobby passed away Dec. 24, 2005 after a courageous battle with cancer.

I think race car drivers are superheroes. Drivers can’t fly or lift buildings or stop speeding trains but they can harness 600, 700 or 800 horsepower and do things with race cars that us mere mortals could never dream of doing.

Speaking of hero’s that brought us to our next question: If you could race against one person for a win in the world or in history, who would it be?

Now when I thought of this question I thought to myself who would I want to “race” against. I’m not a racer but I thought Dale Earnhardt Sr., AJ Foyt, Richie Evans, Roger Treichler, Dale Planck (some of my racing heroes) but I guess I was really surprised with some of the answers.

Tibbits went in the direction that I thought most of the drivers would go with — somebody in history. Tibbitts answered Muhammad Ali, “Just so I could say I beat Ali.” I thought that was a great answer. Brent Joy would like to race against “Barefoot” Bob McCredie. Another solid reference to a legend. 

Billy Shantel Jr. said his father Billy Shantel Sr. would be who he would like to race. Nestved also wanted to race for the win with his dad. Randy Shantel mentioned Rocky Rothwell whom he pitted next to for years. 

Remarkably both Mackey and Castelletti want to beat Matt Sheppard who has ruled the DIRT racing scene for the past few years. I was amazed at this answer. I guess I shouldn’t be because they want to defeat the best. In 30 years guys might still point to Sheppard as someone they would like to beat.

Page cracked everybody up when he said he wanted to race “somebody.” Page will be entering his third year in Pro Stock division and the learning curve has been cruel at times for the pilot from Rome. Many features in the first season found Page by himself learning the whole driving thing. Last season was better yet and he got very competitive by the end of the season. This season watch out.

I thought the best answer was from Kinney who flatly, almost coldly like there’s unfinished businss, said, “Stewy, I finished second to him too many times.” Kinney is referring to Stewart Friesen who is now racing in the NASCAR Truck Series. The old John Force motto “second is just the first loser” has definitly stuck in Kinney’s craw. He’ll probably get his wish to race “Stewy” in the upcoming weeks and months.

The last question we’ll look at for this week was the question that riled up the drivers. The one that gets them yelling in their helmets. What moves or actions on track by other drivers irritates you the most?

Reverting back to the lap prior right after the caution flag comes out was Joy’s sticking point. It bothers me too. If you have to work really hard to get by somebody then just as you clear them the caution comes out and you haven’t completed the lap the guy you just passed get the position back. Going along with the yellow, according to Nestved is the “guys still racing” when the caution comes out. This is an old old trick that drivers like to do to gain a position or two before the lap keepers have a chance to catch up to them. Utica-Rome track director John Tiff Jr. could give you a few stories about that topic.

Tibbitts hates it when he knows he’s faster than someone but just can’t get around them. Randy Shantel’s answer kind of goes with Tibbitts when he talked about the super wide race car that has a hard time picking a lane making it impossible to pass. Mackey had the same complaint with “someone driving over their head and using the whole track.” Sounds like the New York State Thruway.

Billy Shantel Jr. says that having his front end run over by another driver turns the inside of his helmet blue. Castelletti has had some similar experience when other cars “use you going in to the corner.” After the race the other driver will usually say I was losing my brakes. Sure you were.

Kinney and the sprint drivers do a thing that is called a slide job where a driver will dive below another car getting into the corner and then drift up in front of the other car to hopefully take the spot. What gets Kinney’s blood boiling is the “dirty slider that’s going to end up” bad for both drivers. If you have ever seen a sprint car race you’ll know immediatley when a slide job has gone bad because one or both cars will be flipping violently.

Our Pro Stock driver Page said he thinks getting lapped is just an awful occurance on the track.

“I just don’t see a reason for that,” Page said tongue firmly in cheek. 

See you at the races, hopefully next weekend!