July 2, 2016
By Tim Bertrand, photos by Tiffany Payne
Ryan Locke captures Historic First NEMA Win at Waterford Speedbowl
A storybook ending was the scene for thirteen year old Ryan Locke, as he captured his first ever NEMA Lite win, becoming the youngest driver to ever win in NEMA’s sixty three year history. Locke bested a strong field of twenty two competitors, ranging from Indiana to North Carolina, to Pennsylvania at New England’s premier 3/8 mile oval, the New London Waterford Speedbowl.
Although Locke may be unfamiliar with victory lane as a driver, the thirteen year old’s family is not. His father, Jeff, operator at Locke Crane Services, a fierce ISMA Super Modified competitor, and grandfather, Ken, a long time, winning Oswego Super Modified car owner, are no strangers to the podium.
The evening started strong for the young Locke as he jumped out into the lead from the front of the pack. The win would not come easy, however, as the likes of 2015 Lites Champion, Anthony Payne, and up & comer Meg Cugini were running some lightening fast times as they worked their way through the pack. Further behind them, multi feature winner, Danny Cugini was also working his way to the front as was Modified standout, Joey Cipriano, who started in eighteenth position.
As the laps wound down, the Locke, Payne, and Meg Cugini trio staged an epic battle, with the three exchanging the lead four times in the last three laps of the event. Locke would cement his spot in victory lane with a pass for the lead, and he went on to take down and exciting victory by a narrow margin. Payne and Cugini would follow him, followed by Danny Cugini, Joey Cipriano, Ben Mikitarian, PJ Stergios, Paul Scally, Randy Cabral and Nikki Carroll.
“I started racing in the tiger sprint go carts 3 just years ago. I raced tiger sprints for 2 years before getting the NEMA lite last year. I practiced at Star last year because I was too young to race, but all the practice paid off,” said the young Locke. I think the key to winning the race was having a good race car and starting with good track position.
I never could have imagined winning this early. I still can’t believe it. The first thing I said when I saw my dad in victory lane was, “did that just happen?”,said an elated Locke.
NEMA and the NEMA Lites pick back up their schedule at Star Speedway this coming weekend.
AUGUST 18, 2013 – SUNSET (JEFF LOCKE)
Innisfil, Ont. (Aug. 1, 20138) – On August 7, 2009, ISMA rookie Jeff Locke pulled off a surprise career first win in his initial visit to Delaware Speedway in Canada. Four years later, Jeff picked up his second career ISMA win in the inaugural race at Sunset Speedway near Barrie, Ontario. This time he was no rookie and it showed as he took the lead on the first lap of the 75-lapper and stayed out front for the entire distance. One thing that disappointed Jeff about this achievement was the one person absent from his career first, his dad Ken, was also absent from his career second. Jeff commented on this in the post-race interview before the huge crowd, which had, came for the race.
“This kills me. My dad isn’t here. This is my second win and the second time my father hasn’t been here. It’s killing me. Brian Allegresso, Doc Hathaway, Jerry Martel, made this long trip out here for me and to work on this racecar. I am proud and privileged to drive this car. My father, Ken, gives us everything we need. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here but I know he’s excited back home. Track position was key and we kept it up there. We kept the wheels underneath it and the tires on it and here we are. I burned it off a little too early though and that last caution with eight to go really helped me. It cooled down the tires quite a bit. And then the last eight laps with the tires cooled down, we were able to stay ahead of Alison, and by the way, congratulations to her. That’s awesome. I was proud of that team and for Ryan Coniam. That’s great for him too.
“This is a great organization and this is a great race track, I really appreciate them for letting us come here and race and the people who came to watch. I also would like to thank the sponsors, Glenn Shanks Oil, Shawmut Equipment, Locke Crane Service and NEMRS (New England Motor Racing Supply).”
Locke’s main competitor throughout the event was rookie Alison Cumens who scored her second podium finish in this her first full year of ISMA competition. When asked if she thought she had a chance to get a win when the yellow fell late in the event, she said, “Our car was super tight right in the center of the corner and loose coming off. Maybe I could have caught Jeff on that last restart, but it’s a big maybe. If anything I would have really had to drive it in hard and get underneath him and kind of shoo him out of the way. I didn’t really get that chance. Maybe next time. Thanks to the people who got me here – Mom, Dad, Lou, Janet, a bunch of random strangers who helped us throughout the weekend, and everyone at home. ”