Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – SYRACUSE, NY – Doing something for the first time is never easy.
However, being better than others who are also doing that same thing for the first time can be nerve-racking.
For Felix Roy, Matt Caprara, Amy Holland, Randy Brokaw and Fred Lee this past season on the DIRTcar circuit, they proved they were the best of the best in their respective freshman classes and claimed Rookie of the Year honors.
Roy went out on the Super DIRTcar Series for the first time in 2023. With one top 5 and three top 10’s, the Napierville, QUE driver narrowly missed making the top 12 in Series points.
However, was the best of the first-year campaigners in 2023, including fellow countryman Steve Bernard.
“This is huge,” Roy said. “It was our first year in Big Block, like our “real” first year.”
Winning Rookie of the Year for Roy’s first season on tour was a big goal he set forth at the beginning of the season.
“It was huge for me,” he said. “I really wanted to win the Rookie of the Year title. Thanks to everyone behind our team, my Mom and Dad, Steve Morin, my crew chief, my Grandparents, everyone on the team and all of our sponsors, we were able to accomplish it.”
As the 2023 season progressed for Roy, you could see how he was becoming even more comfortable behind the wheel, especially at tracks where he was visiting for a second time.
“It was all about growing our notebook,” he said. “I think next year is going to be even better.”
Coming from a racing family, Matt Caprara made a statement in 2023. This year, he proved just how good he can be behind the wheel of a DIRTcar Big Block Modified.
Competing weekly at both Brewerton Speedway on Friday’s and Land of Legends Raceway on Saturdays, the Clayton, NY pilot had a best finish of fifth at the D-Shaped Dirt Demon on July 21st.
He was also able to pick up his first career DIRTcar 358-Modified win in early May at the Can-Am Speedway.
“I just can’t thank everyone enough,” Caprara said. “My mom and dad just put so much effort into this, behind the scenes. They kept me positive for the whole year as well as my siblings too. They all just help me so much.”
For 2024, Caprara plans to take his talents on the road and join the Super DIRTcar Series full-time.
“Yea, we’re going to try our hand at the Series,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot on our plate but I think we can handle it. Hopefully, we can get a few wins during the season and keep pushing so we can have a solid season on tour.”
After a successful 2022 season in a DIRTcar Sportsman which saw her win the track title at Brewerton Speedway, Amy Holland moved up to the 358-Modified ranks this past season and backed up that success.
Holland was able to beat some of the best of the best at Brewerton by claiming her first-career Modified win on July 28th to go along with six top 10 finishes.
She also had a strong run this season at the Fulton Speedway, her Saturday night home, where she came home sixth in track points on the strength of four top 5’s and nine top 10’s and finished ninth on the DIRTcar 358-Modified Series.
“It was definitely a learning curve for us moving up,” Holland said. “Racing with people that have a lot of experience and talent who were definitely people I looked up to when I was coming up through the ranks, so it was definitely important.”
What made a lot of people stand up and take notice was Holland’s win against the Big Blocks in July at Brewerton. She’s become a fan-favorite at the track and that showed how successful she could be for years to come.
“Brewerton’s my favorite track,” she said. “Some of the best race there so to win against the Big Blocks was phenomenal. I mean, there are a lot of drivers who follow the Super DIRTcar Series. It was definitely a race that will stay in the memory book for us. We’ll never forget it.”
Thunder Mountain Speedway regular Randy Brokaw had a strong 2023 season behind the wheel of his DIRTcar Sportsman. He was able to score three victories this season and very nearly won the track title in his first season.
“We had a good year,” Brokaw said. “I don’t know if I’m young and upcoming. I’ve been at this sport for a while. We had a really good year with a lot of help and had a good track to run on.”
In 2024, it will be business as usual for Brokaw who will return to the Center Lisle, NY track in search of the track title.
For 2023 DIRTcar Pro Stock Rookie of the Year Fred Lee, you could say he’s had a complete 180-degree turn in regards to his involvement in the sport.
In 2022, he was the Pit Steward at Lebanon Valley Speedway. This season, he wheeled his full-fendered #714 to seventh in points at that same race track.
“The type of season we had this year means a lot to me,” Lee said. “I’ve been going to Lebanon Valley my whole life.”
Being able to turn laps around the Valley of Speed, and run well in the process, meant a great deal to the East Greenbush, NY campaigner.
“The Valley’s part of my life,” he said. “I’ve worked there. I was the pit steward there for many years. I was also a manager there until recently.”
Even with being part of the officiating side of the sport, Lee always wanted to get behind the wheel. In 2023, he got that opportunity and made the most of it.
“I got the chance to drive a car this year and I loved it,” he said. “I can’t thank Jamie Scott and Chuck Scott enough for helping me get our car. Their support means a great deal and to win Rookie of the Year is a true honor.”
There’s also a person Lee competes against at the Valley who was a big help during his maiden voyage in the Pro Stock division.
“Big Bad Chad, Chad Jeseo, has helped me out a lot,” he said. “He loves to push drivers down the frontstretch. Everybody else complains about him but when he gets behind me, I wave my hand and tell him to keep coming.”