Cruising turns to racing

SALEM – Everything worked out right for the second annual Salem Super Cruise Autocross.

With warm temperatures and sunny skies, 30 drivers took to the Salem High School parking lot for the autocross event, an increase from last year’s count of 18. Northern Ohio Valley Racing regional executive Joe McMullen credited it to more recognition.

“There was a lot more going on, there was a lot more help,” McMullen said. “The Steel Valley Super Nationals had our name in their flyers. We even saw it in the newspaper, and this year, we saw 30.”

Many drivers from last year returned this year, like the husband-wife team of Lloyd and Cindy Willis of Rogers, and enjoyed coming out as they ran with their Mini Coopers.

“We have a couple Mini S’s,” Cindy said. “They’re supercharged and they’re faster.”

“It’s a fun day for everybody to do car handling,” Lloyd said. “It’s not like specialty things. Anybody who owns a car can do it, which is what makes it fun.”

Bob Bertelsen’s four years of racing experience paid off on Sunday. The Columbiana resident – who stayed at home instead of going to a race in Wisconsin this weekend – picked up trophies for “Coolest Car” and the “Quickest Experienced” as his best time was a 37.305 in his 1969 Chevrolet C-10, which he calls “Orange Rush”.

“I race all over from Chicago to Massachusetts to Charlotte to race,” Bertelsen said. “I’ve been gone four weekends in a row. I’m tired of traveling. Every event is like eight to 10 hours away.”

The event also attracted newcomers like Sean Hays of Rogers and Kyle Myers of Alliance, who won the “Fastest Novice” award with a time of 39.242.

“I’ve never had a car to take to the drag strip,” Hays said. “I don’t drag race. This is something you can take whatever you have, and have fun.”

“It was a total adrenaline rush,” Myers said. “When I got done, my left leg was shaking. It was way more than I thought it would be. I wanted to go back and do it again.”

Recent Salem High School graduate Dominic Righetti returned as this year’s event coordinator. When he organized the event last year, he looked to see a variety of cars to see how well they can run the course.

“When people started coming, I didn’t want it to be just a bunch of hot rods, or a bunch of Japanese-type cars,” Righetti said. “I really wanted it to be a mix of different stuff. That way I can tell people, ‘See, your car can do it, too.’”

The event moved location to the high school lot this year following last year’s event at the Walmart parking lot. Those who competed last year, like Carl Roeger of Guilford Lake, liked the moved because of the extra space.

“It’s a tight track, but it’s a more open track, and it’s a good one for an inexperienced or minimally-experienced driver,” Roeger said. “The Walmart track was a very technical track and I don’t know if everybody did make all six runs and drive the whole course. It was a very small area we had to work with.”

Righetti also enjoyed the course and also acknowledged he had a little trouble with it at first.

“It’s tough, but it’s a fun course because it flows real well and it’s real tight. Then it’s fast and then it’s real tight,” Righetti said. “If you think something is going wrong, it’s better to stop. If you just go, bad things can happen.”

Stretch’s Rod Shop, owned by Roeger, sponsored the event. Roeger will take over as event coordinator next year as Righetti will step aside to focus on mechanical engineering studies at the University of Akron.

“The plan is for the event to come back next year, but I will not be back as I will be focusing on college,” Righetti said.

“Dominic will be in college next year ,so he won’t be able to head it up,” Roeger said. “So I’m going to take the bull by the horns.”

Members of the Salem Chapter of the National Honor Society also helped with concessions. Proceeds from the event went to the Banquet in Salem, which offers meals at the Salem Memorial Building to anyone regardless of income.