Kids satisfy need for speed at Riverside Speedway
Kids satisfy need for speed at Riverside Speedway
Ariel Switser, 9, worked on her racing car in the family garage. Following in the footsteps of her brother and father, Ariel will be old enough to race this season in the youth division at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., and will be hitting speeds approaching 50 miles per hour. Asked what was the best part of her upcoming 10th birthday, she replied, "I'll be double digits and I can race."
Racing family matriarch Rosie Gilcris, 65, played with one of her seven great-grandsons, Payton Pickel, in her home while the boys worked next door on grandson Nick's car. "I don't think there's a day they don't work in that garage," said Rosie, who used to work in the pits, but whose role now in the racing family is to run around buying parts.
Billy Hennequin of Johnson, Vt., watched the 200-lap Enduro race at Riverside Speedway. The quarter-mile race track, which opened in 1964, attracts racers and fans from across northern New England. According to Melinda Kennett, Groveton's town clerk, the track "is probably the only thing in town that's bringing people in."
Jenna Randall, 14, and Dylan Laleme, 12, waited for their race to begin at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. One night when Jenna was 11, as her father was tucking her into bed, she told him, "I kinda want to try racing."
Sitting in his parent's kitchen, Pete Gilcris and son Nick strategized over a french fry lunch. They were under the gun to finish Nick's Camaro for opening day at Riverside Speedway in two days. Pete broke his neck racing in 2010, and Nick rolled his car over six times during his first year of racing when he was 12.
Nick Gilcris helped secure 19-year-old Ashleigh Roy's seat in her racing car before opening day at the Gilcris family's garage. Recalling his first race when he was 12. he says, "I came out and put the hammer right down. I thought it was great."
Howie Switser gave some last-minute advice to his daughter Ariel, 10, before her first practice run at the Riverside Speedway on the day before opening day. Ariel had spent some time with her father learning to drive in a field behind their house. "She knows how to drive a little bit," said father Howie.
The checkered flag came out in the final youth division race of the season at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H. According to 13-year-old racer Matt Kopp, "When you first get in that race car your leg gets to shakin' and your first race is pretty scary. But once you get the hang of it you're fine."
For many families in the north country, racing cars is a family tradition that often bonds three generations. Doug Laleme was cheered on by father, Douglas Laleme, and his racing son Dylan Laleme, 12, sitting behind his grandfather.
Keith Kopp of Lancaster, N.H., and his racing family and friends watched a race from the back of his roll-back trailer at Riverside Speedway. His 12-year-old son, Matt, races at the track, and he sometimes wonders if a parent should be putting a 12-year-old in a race car.
Ronald Gilcris took a break from working on grandson Nick's car to visit with his granddaughter Jamie Kay, 19, and his great grandson Payton Pickel when they stopped by the garage for a quick visit. For the Gilcris family, car racing is the common denominator. "It's always been family, always," says Rosie Gilcris. "It's something you can do together."
Nick Gilcris loaded up spare tires before heading to the Riverside Speedway for practice with his father and grandfather. Nick's grandmother Rosie Gilcris said there's nothing for the kids to do in the north country. "If they're not kept occupied they're going to get in trouble. What one can't think of, the other one is going to."
The Gilcris family racing team helped teen racer Ashleigh Roy finish up her car in time for opening day. For the Gilcris family, allowing Nick to race is an incentive for him to finish high school. His grandmother Rosie Gilcris says, "It keeps Nicholas in school, because if he flunks he doesn't drive.
A worried wife Janet Smith and mother, Brenda Mitchell, watched a practice run at the Riverside Speedway the day before opening day. Mitchell whose 11-year-old son, Cody, was on the track, says of him racing, "I get sick to my stomach, but I was out voted."
Jenna Randall, 14, was plowed into during the 200-lap Enduro race at Riverside Speedway. When asked if racing is dangerous, father Tege Randall said, "Yeah, it's dangerous, but so is baseball, so is softball. Life is dangerous." Following the crash Jenna's radiator was damaged and she was forced to drop out of the race.
The yellow flag came out after a spinout during a Saturday night race at the track. Tege Randall insisted that allowing his daughters to race is not an act of parental neglect. With all the safety equipment required at the track, no one has ever suffered life-threatening injuries, according to pit steward and Groveton town clerk Melinda Kennett.
Dave Potter and Ronald Gilcris laughed during the pre-race driver's meeting when the race organizer jokingly asked the racers if they wanted to go right around the track instead of the usual left.
Ariel Switser, 10, put on her game face at the annual car show at the Riverside Speedway the day before opening day. "Ariel's been waiting," said her father, Howie Switser. "She wanted to race a couple of years ago but wasn't old enough."
Three generations of the Gilcris family, from left, Ronald, Pete, and Nick worked on tires for Nick's race car in Ronald's garage. During the season they are in the garage constantly, especially if Nick was in a crash the weekend before. According to Nick, "You take a car, you build it, you beat the hell out of it, and you junk it."
Angel Kenison, Courtney Styles, and Morgan Landry checked out cute racers in the pit at Riverside Speedway. For many in this remote northern community the Saturday night race at Riverside is the place to be, and since the mill shut down in 2008, it’s the glue that holds the community together.
Wendy Bennett, left, of Stark, N.H., and family members watched as her husband, Floyd Bennett Jr., accepted the trophy after winning the 200 lap Enduro race at Riverside Speedway. After a late collision in the final laps with Nick Gilcris, Bennett held on for the win.
"Stop! Now!" Nick Gilcris screamed as he restrained his father, Pete , who was furious at another racer for running Nick into the wall in the final laps of the 200-lap Enduro race at Riverside Speedway. Asked if racing means everything to him, Pete replied, "It is to 90 percent of us that live up here. There's nothing else."
Wendy Bennett of Stark, N.H., drove off with the trophy and winning check after her husband, Floyd Bennett Jr., won the 200-lap Enduro race. While there is some money to be made if you are a successful racer, "you never make back what you put into it," says Nick Gilcris.
Paul Ouellette and his racing family from Milan, N.H., posed for a photo after his 15-year-old daughter, Nicole (with checkered flag), won the Angels division (women all ages). Nicole's friend Jenna Randall, right, was asked by the family to join them for the picture. The family watches NASCAR together, and Christmas presents are fire suits and helmets.