14-year veteran Pantani has moment of glorywaterford
WATERFORD — Dennis Pantani has two career Legends wins at New London-Waterford Speedbowl, but he says the latest victory he captured Wednesday stands out.
“It was sweet because we had to pass some cars to do it,” said Pantani who dropped as far back as sixth place before he made his charge to the front. “When I won seven years ago, I was in fifth place, and then the four cars in front of me wrecked and I moved up to first. It was a win by circumstance. The win I got Wednesday night I really had to earn. This was a different caliber of winning.”
At the start of the race, Pantani, who started fourth, got bottled up in traffic and fell to sixth. That’s when he began his power surge to the front.
“The first driver I got by was Mason Levesque,” Pantani said. “He kind of washed up the track and I dove underneath him,” Pantani said. “We banged a bit. But I consider myself a clean racer. It was nothing intentional.
Then he got past Anthony Bello before challenging Colin Haley for the lead.
“I consider his car to be my equal, or maybe a little better,” Pantani said. “He got loose, and I got underneath him and I got the lead.
“After that, it was run for all I got.”
It tuned out that he had enough firepower to hold off Peter Bennett lap after lap.
“Bennett was behind me and he certainly wasn’t it making it easy,” Pantani said. “But he didn’t pass me.”
With 11 laps to go, in the 25-lap feature, Haley tagged the catch fence and rode the wall for several feet, bringing out a red flag. Before the race could be resumed, it started raining and the event was red-checkered with Pantani in the lead.
“I got turned in that incident and I spun completely around,” Pantani said, “but I never stopped. I kept moving and I wasn’t part of the caution. I was hoping the officials would let me keep my spot and they did.
“Maybe Bennett would have caught me if we finished the race,” Pantani said. “But it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that we had a lot of fun.”
Pantani said he’s made steady progress since kick-starting his Legends career 14 seasons ago.
“Fourteen years ago, we were in the back of the pack,” Pantani said. “And 10 years ago, were in the middle of the back and the pack. Then we moved to the front of the back of the pack. And finally, we moved to the middle of the front pack. It’s been a great feeling to keep getting better..”
Pantani, however, says he doesn’t run to put fast laps on the scoreboard and stockpile podium finishes.
“This is just a hobby,” Pantani said. “I’m 50 years old. I love coming down on Wednesdays to have a great time. And if I can put it on the trailer in one piece, it was a great night.
“I’m running with a lot of kids who want to move up to the next level. But I’m having a great time just competing.”
Pantani’s sponsor is his uncle, George Noble, who owns and finances his car.
“During the winter, we had Sean Buffington and Rob Vitale look over the car and I think we picked up a two tenths of a second. And that’s why this has been one of my best seasons.”
He’s been able to win and he’s also had a lot of fun. Pantani can’t ask for more than that.
Colin Haley is sore, but he suffered no major injuries or broken bones following his crash in Wednesday’s Legends feature. He is resting at home.
His car was completely destroyed in the incident, which means it may be a long time before he comes back as a competitor.
Bob White won the special Vintage Midget feature. The rest of the card — the Bandoleros, X-Cars and Super X-Cars were rained out. Those features will be rescheduled.
25-lap Legends feature: 1. Dennis Pantani, Branford; 2. Peter Bennett, Cromwell, 3, John O’Sullivan, Salem; 4. Brandon Remson, Norwalk; 5. Anthony Bello, Newtown; 6. David Lespinasse, Milford; 7. Zachary Martinez, North Kingston, RI; 8. Tyler Barry, Griswold; 9. David Shinder, West Granby; 10. Tyler Palmer, Watertown.
Press release from the New London-Waterford Speedbowl
Contact Mike Serluca at firstname.lastname@example.org