Coming into the new year, Connecticut Super Late Model driver Devin O’Connell is getting set for a bold adventure, as his homegrown family team looks to journey outside New England in 2020. While the cause has been bolstered by his selection to Team PFC Brakes, another opportunity has presented itself for O’Connell to expand this talent, only this one is right up the road.
For the first time in his career, O’Connell is going Modified racing throughout 2020, with the main focus being on one of his home tracks, a true mecca for Modified racing: Stafford Motor Speedway.
“We’re going to be doing all four of the Open Modified shows at Stafford Motor Speedway and some select Modified Racing Series shows which we’ll pick and choose when the time comes around. We’re pairing up with Dale Holdridge to do them,” O’Connell told Speed51.
The 2018 Granite State Pro Stock Series champion will be part of what’s already becoming a diverse field of Modified drivers from across the Northeast who are ready to face off at Stafford for the four Open shows. From out-of-towners like Jon McKennedy, Andy Jankowiak, Matt Swanson, Eric Goodale, and Craig Lutz to local favorites Ronnie Williams, Chase Dowling, Todd Owen, Michael Christopher Jr, and Keith Rocco, O’Connell will face a field that he knows well but has never actually raced against.
“I’m always down to give anything a try when the right opportunity comes around; I’m giving it a go. I’ve been a Super Late Model guy while everybody else in Connecticut has gone Modified racing. I’m not going to turn down an opportunity.”
O’Connell will pair with one of the longtime family operations in the region, helmed by father and son Dale and Mike Holdridge. While Mike has long wheeled the car through 2019, the time to take a step back seemed to be coming, with circumstances accelerating those plans at the end of last season.
“Dale’s grandson and I went to high school together and before Mike had his big wreck at Seekonk, Dale gave me a call because Mike wanted to get out of it, to see if I wanted to drive the car. When Mike had that big wreck, that pretty much solidified the whole deal. They live two miles from my house, which certainly helps if I need to work on the car,” O’Connell explained.
The first Open Modified 80 show on Friday, May 15 will be both a homecoming and a debut for O’Connell, who won a Legend Car track title in 2015 on Stafford’s 1/5-mile mini-oval. The night will be his first laps in competition on the full half-mile oval.
“As crazy as it sounds. I go to Stafford all the time but I’ve only ever got 80 laps [of practice] on the half-mile. I’m there all the time, used to drive Legend Cars there and got a championship, but that was on the fifth-mile. They haven’t done any Pro or Super Late Model racing in a long time. So, that first Open Modified race in May will be the first time racing the half-mile.”
Excited as he is to be running his home state’s race car of choice, O’Connell is readying for his full-fendered campaign. While much of his schedule has yet to be decided, one of the races will also be at Stafford in the first Pro Late Model open on May 29. The rest of his schedule will most likely be far from home.
“We’ve got a rough schedule together of about 10 races between the Super and Pro Late Model. Of course, we got the Stafford Pro Late Model race. We got two races at Jennerstown with the CARS Tour and then the Pro Late Models. The All-American 400 we’re going to attempt. If everything goes well we might attempt the Snowball Derby, we’re not sure yet, but we’ll know as we get closer. It’ll probably be five with the Super and five with the Pro. If we got a week off and we get some sponsorship, we’ll try to race where we can.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Mod Squad Racing Media