On Saturday July 28th, the Northeastern Midget Association invaded the New London-Waterford Speedbowl for the annual Jim O’Brien Memorial Race, a fifty lap event. Youngster Jake Trainor beat back veterans Avery Stoehr, Richie Coy and Paul Scally to take down his first ever victory, to become one of the youngest ever winners in the Northeastern Midget Association at thirteen years old.
Jim O’Brien was a legendary car owner and club officer, who for a span of four decades personified the best of NEMA. At a very young age, he was introduced to the Midgets by his father and in 1970, joined the NEMA family as a car owner. He earned feature wins with Johnny Evans, driving his Falcon powered Kurtis, and Doug Cleveland who powered to victory in his home built “Pink Panther” laydown chassis.
“Jim O’Brien was a staple in the foundation of NEMA,” said NEMA President Tim Bertrand. “He was one of the pioneers who helped pave the way for pavement midget racing in the Northeast, as we see it today,” he said. “To put on such a great show for the fans with the Lites was icing on the cake for Jim and the O’Brien family,” said Bertrand.
When the green flag flew in the O’Brien Memorial this past Saturday, Trainor and Kyle Valeri brought the field to the green flag. Meg Cugini jumped out into the lead from her third starting spot. Cugini paced the field through the first ten laps, as Valeri and Trainor were closely in tow.
Trainor would get by Valeri, and then begin setting his sights on Cugini. On lap ten, Trainor would strike and pass Cugini for the lead.
Further back, Avery Stoehr was working his way from the twelfth starting position and was fifth by lap twelve, along with Richie Coy, Paul Scally, and Dylan Duhaime.
A lap twenty five caution, the only one of the event, would bunch the field back up. On the restart, Stoehr would blast his way into second, and stay within two carlengths of Trainor.
As the duo approached lapped traffic, Stoehr looked low a couple of times, but Trainor worked the traffic masterfully, and would go on to take down the victory. Stoehr would finish second, followed by, Coy, Scally, Duhaime, John Zych, Ryan Locke, Dan Cugini, Meg Cugini and Randy Cabral.
“The race started off with me just working the top after falling to 3rd on the start. Kyle Valeri and Meg Cugini put up a good fight trying to run them on the top. Once I got the lead, I took it easy until the caution came out on lap 24 for a car dead on track. By then it was mainly defensive driving and constantly hearing the 21 car driving in right on my left rear. With 3 to go I came up to a lap car that I got around quickly on the top and if Avery didn’t get hung up for about corner he probably would of gotten me. And I really had no words after winning, and I couldn’t believe I held off the 21 to win. I just want to thank all the members who believed in me and made this year possible,” said Trainor.
“We had to start further back, but the car was working awesome on the top,” said Stoehr. “On the restart I got to 2nd and my car got progressively tighter – then I moved down to the bottom and was hoping Jake Would get hung up in lapped traffic but he really did a phenomenal job kept it under him watched him get loose a few times and he straightened it right out, he did a great job, hats off to those guys,” said Stoehr.
NEMA picks back up on August 8th with the full NEMA cars at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.