It was couples night in Victory Lane on Friday at Lee USA Speedway. The first regular season race night of the year ended with a pair of pairs holding up trophies.
In the Ironman Division, defending track champion Christin Destefano held off her husband, Brian, to win the special 35-lap Don and Aline Coster Memorial Ironman race, while the Pure Stock Division saw Jacob Michaud win and his wife, Jessica, place third.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Christin Destefano. “Me and (Brian) raced against each other 10 years ago, then last year at Oktoberfest we did it just for fun. He wasn’t going to race this year because we don’t have the budget to race his (Street) Stock, but after the rain delay he decided to get into my backup car and come race.”
That decision proved to be a good one as husband and wife battled door to door in their heat race, then came out and took the top two spots in the feature race. They were running second and third for most of the race, but when a slower car got in front of leader Adam Knowles, Christin made a move to the bottom of the track to sneak past him, and Brian followed to secure the top two spots.
“I was riding around behind Adam and I kept feeling someone nudging the back of me; then I realized it was my husband,” Christin said. “I love racing Adam. He’s a good competitor and a great guy, and I was rooting for him. But we caught up to those lapped cars and he went high and I went low.”
The icing on the cake for the Destefanos was that the strong finishes came on the eve of their anniversary.
“When people were razzing Brian for me beating him, he told them he had to let me win so I wouldn’t be mad at him the day before our anniversary,” she said before adding with a chuckle: “Sure, whatever you have to tell yourself."
While Christin Destefano was the defending champion, the strong finishes for the Michaud family were a bit more of a surprise.
“Last year was my first year racing and I never finished on the lead lap of a race,” said Jessica Michaud. “So to finish third was amazing, and I owe it to Jacob.”
Jacob, who has raced in the Hobby/Street Stock Division at the track for 15 years, had never won a race. But he decided to join his wife in the Pure Stock Division this season, went out and won his very first race.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I didn’t expect that,” he said. “I just bought this car from someone else who hadn’t had a lot of success in it, and I was really surprised how well I did. I have been racing for 15 years but never in a front-wheel drive, so to go out and win was fun. Honestly, though, I was more proud of (Jessica). She came a long way from last year and did a great job.”
While both couples said they would not let the nature of competition create any awkward situations at home, Jessica did say she has a standing bet with her husband if she finishes ahead of him in an upcoming race.
“Before the season I saw a skit online of a wife who put pictures of her face all over her husband’s car,” she said. “I told him if I beat him in a fair race, we’ve got to put pictures of my face all over his car.”
“It’s a lose-lose for me,” Jacob said. “Everyone in the family expects me to do well because of my experience, but we all want her to do well and beat me.”
He said he almost cost both of them a strong finish when he was passing his wife in the feature race.
“It took me a while to get past her, and as I was finally passing her, I got sideways and almost took us both out,” he said. “That would’ve been a problem.”
Results are in
Other winners on Friday night at Lee USA Speedway included Bryan Kruczek in the Late Model Division; Mike Murphy in the Super Modified Division; Alby Ovitt in the Street Stock Division; and Robbie Bryant in the North East Classic Lite Touring Division.
On Saturday night at Star Speedway rookie Super Modified driver Jeffrey Battle stole the show, running away with the feature win over Steve Duphily and Mike Collins. Jim Storace (Strictly Stocks), Eric Waterhouse (Six Shooters), Aaron Day (Road Runners), Jackie Foster (Powder Puff), Sid Smith (Wicked Good Vintage B) and Caleb Willett (Wicked Good Vintage A) also went home winners on the night.
A look ahead
New England Dragway kicks off the weekend with street night on Friday, featuring the Pure Speed Racing Experience. Saturday at the Dragway will feature Bikes in the Valley and NE X275, while Sunday is points racing.
Friday night at Lee USA Speedway, the feature event will be the twin 44-lap Late Model features. The Super Modifieds, Street Stocks, Ironmen and Pure Stocks will also be in competition.
Saturday night at Star Speedway, the North East Midget Association comes to town with both NEMA and NEMA Lite races. The weekly Late Model, Six shooter, Roadrunner and Strictly Stock divisions will also be competing.
Terrill Covey is a Seacoast Media Group correspondent and longtime observer of auto racing. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at tcovey11.