FALMOUTH, Maine – After a pair of wins last season and a runner-up finish in the PASS North Series championship standings, Mulkern Racing heads into 2012 eager to build on the success it forged in the second half of 2011.
New Brunswick driver Lonnie Sommerville is back with crew chief Gary Crooks to run the full PASS North schedule, while team owner Scott Mulkern will run a partial schedule with Seth Holbrook calling his shots atop the pit box. Sommerville won at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in July and finished second in the final standings as a PASS rookie – garnering co-Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts, while Mulkern won the season finale in October at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Both drivers feel all the parts are in place to improve on their strong finish a year ago.
“We can keep things going. We're going to just get better and better, I really believe that,” Mulkern said. “Time is everything, really. It takes time to build all the stuff you need to get it where you want it. If you're working on setting everything up, it just takes time.”
“I think Gary and I knew what our potential was having worked together so much in the past, but the other guys on the team probably needed to see it for themselves,” Sommerville said. “I think once we went out and finished fourth (in the season opener at Beech Ridge), everybody started believing in what we had.
“We've all worked together now, and we all have a little more fire in our bellies to get this done. I think we're all on the same page.”
The PASS North Series season begins next Saturday, May 5, with the SouthernMaineMotors.com 150 at Beech Ridge – the first of three scheduled events at the track in 2012. Sommerville's No. 48 A.E. McKay Builders Chevrolet posted an average finish of 3.0 in the three starts at Beech Ridge in 2011, while Mulkern's No. 84 Southern Maine Motors/Community Pharmacies Chevrolet finished second in the PASS 300 at the track in September.
Mulkern plans on competing in the three races at Beech Ridge this season, the two dates at Oxford, the All-American 400 at Nashville in October, and the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., in December. He will also turn over his seat to Ted Christopher when PASS makes its inaugural visit to Stafford Motor Speedway in August and field a third car for Alan Wilson at Oxford in July.
Mulkern Racing will also back the effort of Bobby Timmons, a 19-year-old driver from Windham who will compete as a rookie in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Beech Ridge on Saturday nights this season.
Crooks thinks last year's second half is the perfect springboard to this season.
“Last year, we knew our potential going in,” said Crooks, of Crooks Racing Inc. in Mooresville, N.C. “What we didn't have was confidence we could hit the ground running. We felt pretty good after Beech Ridge, running fourth, and then we strung together a few more finishes like that. It was funny, because we went from knowing what we could do to almost being frustrated because we weren't achieving it.”
With two cars running most race weekends this year and Tony Ricci working in the shop during the week, Crooks said the organization will benefit as a whole.
“We run the exact same setup in both cars, so there's no negative in that aspect,” Crooks said. “If Seth tries something different with Scott and it works, then we find out about it; if we try something with Lonnie and it works, they find out about it. That part of it is all good.”
Confidence is the buzzword around the Mulkern Racing shop with just days remaining before the first green flag of the season.
“We all communicate well, we all do our job at the race track,” Sommerville said. “In that sense, I'm confident we can compete for the championship. You can always improve, and going back to some of these tracks for a second and third time, we have notes now we can work from.
“When that car leaves the shop, I am 100 percent confident in saying the preparation was 100 percent.”
A lot of the credit, Sommerville says, goes to Mulkern Racing owners Scott and Vickie Mulkern.
“Last year, we really were competitive every week and fast every week with both race cars,” Sommerville said. “Any success we have is about their contribution to the sport, and any failure is never going to be on their shoulders. There's nothing we want for. If we need it to go faster, it's at our fingertips. I can't imagine there's another team out there that has something we don't have to make them better than us.
“(Scott and Vickie) have the same passion for the sport that we do.”
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