Strickland’s positive attitude stronger than any handicapwaterford
Press release from New London Waterford Speedbowl
WATERFORD — Chris Strickland of Uncasville comes to the New London-Waterford Speedbowl every Wednesday looking for action and improvement, not sympathy.
Some would think the second year X-Car driver would be at a disadvantage — he lost his right hand in 2006 while serving in the Army in Iraq.
Strickland, however, doesn’t view it that way.
“I never consider myself to be handicapped,” Strickland said. “It doesn’t affect anything that I do. A lot of people think I have a automatic transmission because I would have trouble shifting, but I have a standard. And I shift just great.
“In certain situations, I might be at a disadvantage. But with the right support group and the right attitude, there’s nothing anyone else can do that I can’t do.
“I don’t just race one-handed. I do 99 percent of the work on my car by myself. It gives me a lot of satisfaction. No matter where I finish, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
Strickland will be trying to accomplish something special Wednesday night when he competes in the crown jewel of the X-Car season — a 35-lap feature as part of Wild and Wacky Wednesday at the Speedbowl. It will be the highest paying race in the history of the X-Car division — lap money will be distributed in addition to many contingency bonuses. In addition to the X-Cars, the Super X-Cars, Legends and Bandoleros also will be in action. The action is scheduled to get under way at 6:45 p.m. with X-Car heat races.
Strickland is coming into Wednesday’s big event with some added confidence.
“This is still like a rookie year for me,” Strickland said. “Last year after five races, my motor blew. It’s been a struggle trying to find a set-up that works.”
And there was an unexpected health problem — a kidney stone issue.
“I tried to race and when I strapped in, I really was in severe pain,” Strickland said. “That was the night I wrecked — it made the pain even worse.”
Despite that setback, however, Strickland says he is making some real progress in 2018. He is in 19th place in the standings out of 31 drivers.
“Last year at this time, we were running 19.8 second laps,” Strickland said. “This past Wednesday, we were running 18.7s. I’m learning to run a more consistent line and I’m getting better every week. I think I’m a lot smoother as the race goes on.”
Strickland is looking forward to the 35-lapper because of what happened last year.
“I think it was my breakout race,” Strickland said. “I was second for most of the night, but I blew a tire at the end. If it were a regular 25-lapper, I would have finished third. “
And then Strickland would have achieved his ultimate goal — to finish among the Top 3 and wind up on the podium.
“So far my best finish is 11th at the season opener, and I do have a top 10 finish at Seekonk Speedway,” Strickland said. “My ultimate goal is to run up front and be competitive with all the best drivers.”
Being involved in racing is part of a family tradition for Strickland.
“My grandfather owned a speed shop and used to drag race and my dad worked at the Speedbowl and used to help a lot of people,” Strickland said. “But if it wasn’t for Phil Evans, I never would have got inside a race car.”
Evans is one of the Speedbowl’s all-time top Mini Stock drivers and is currently competing in the Sportsman division.
“When I lost my hand and came back from Iraq, he was running Soup Civardi’s No. 93 Mini Stock and he actually talked me into running in an Enduro,” Strickland said. “And I was actually going for the lead in that race when I got wrecked. I started 49th out of 50 cars and I actually got as high as second,”
That convinced Strickland that he might have a bright future at the Speedbowl. He bought an X-Car from two-time champion Dave Gargaro Jr. and went to battle.
“I decided to see if I could do it,” Strickland said. “And every week I get faster. It’s all about being more confident in traffic. People like to push you around when you’re not aggressive so I’m learning how to fight for position.
“One of the hardest parts for me is that the people who help me, like Phil Evans and Allen Coates, know Mini Stocks and Sportsman cars, but we’re learning as we go when it comes to the front-wheel drive X-Cars. No matter how fast you go, it’s how you handle in the corners that matters.”
Strickland’s sponsors include Motor Sports Nation, Evans Carpentry, Thib’s Barbershop, Yost Home Improvement and Benoit’s Signs of Norwich.
Strickland’s dad helps him in the garage, along with Evans. He hopes all the work pays off Wednesday night for the extra-distance race.
“I’m just glad we still have the Speedbowl to run at,” Strickland said. “The management has gone above and beyond the call of duty to line up all this contingency money for Wednesday’s race.
“I’m really proud to be part of the X-Car division. We have the most cars, and we have some great racing. We do have our drama, but it stays in the pits, not on social media.
“Tonight’s race is huge. I wasn’t expecting as many people to step up and become lap sponsors and contingency partners. I hope we can put on a great show.”
Expect Strickland to play a huge part of it. He is known to his fellow competitors as “Nubsy,” a name that he views as a token of affection and respect from his fellow competitors.
“I have that name plastered all over my car,” Strickland said. “As long as I go out on the track, turn left and come away with a smile, I’m happy.”
The fans are happy too. Strickland wants to be known for one thing — his competitive spirit.
Wild and Wacky Wednesday notes
There is still time to become a contingency partner for Wednesday’s race. Contact the track’s social media director, Mike Serluca, at MikeS@speedbowlct.com to become involved. All the lap sponsorship has been sold, but contingency partners are still needed … All four of the weekly point battles are tight as the Wednesday season approaches the midway mark. In the Legends, Peter Bennett, thanks to his two wins, owns a seven-point lead over John O’Sullivan. Bennett, O’Sullivan and Blaskey have two wins apiece while Colin Haley has one win … Dave Yardley’s lead in the Super X-Car division has been reduced to seven points over Marc Shafer, who leads the division with three wins…Corey Caddick has a six-point advantage in the X-Car division over Eddie Loomis who moved back into the point race with a second-place finish last week … Maddie Harkin not only leads the Bandolero division by nine points over Nicholas Hovey, she also leads the division with four wins. No one else has more than one.
For more information, contact Mike Serluca at MikeS@speedbowlct.com