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The Westerly Sun Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 9:30 am | Updated: 10:12 am, Thu Aug 25, 2011.

Denton youngest NASCAR driver to win By DOUG CHAMPION / Sun Staff Writer The Westerly Sun | 0 comments


HOPE VALLEY - Two Hope Valley residents won feature races at Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday. They differ widely in age but share success on the track and a passion for racing.


Garrett Denton is 14 and has been racing competitively for eight years. He won the Mini Stocks feature at the Speedbowl for his first win in this his first year of racing in that division. His best previous finish was fourth about two months ago.


Rich Staskowski is 38. He started racing at the Speedbowl in 2003, the last five years in the Late Models Division. Saturday's win was his second this season, helping move him to third in the point standings for that division.


Denton led the 25-lap Mini Stocks feature race from green flag to checkered flag. He was shadowed by one veteran for almost the entire race and being challenged by the top two points leaders close behind.

"They applied a lot of pressure," Denton said. "I didn't look in the mirror. I just charged ahead and told myself to go for it."


Ian Brew of Wood River Junction placed seventh, Dale Sherman of Charlestown was 12th and D.J. Mc- Gouran of Westerly was 15th.


This is the first year that NASCAR has permitted 14 year olds to race in the Mini Stocks division. Waterford Speedbowl has a six-division NASCAR Whelen All- American Series racing program each Saturday for about 20 weeks, including Denton's Mini Stocks division and Staskowski's Late Models division.


"Denton is the youngest NASCAR feature winner at the Speedbowl, in any division," said Mark Caise, a member of its Board of Directors. "The three people he held off for this first win are the top three veteran drivers in that event. They have more event wins between them (about 50) than Garrett has starts (16)."

Denton started racing when he was six. In racing Quarter Midgets at the Little T track next to Thompson International Raceway in Connecticut, he said he won two championships, set four track records and had about 80 wins.


"One day my parents asked me if I wanted to race," Denton said. "I used to drive plastic cars around the yard they were like toys. I said ‘Sure.'


"My entire family at one time raced. My mom and dad each drove go-carts competitively. My sister Kelsey (a 2011 Chariho High graduate) drove Quarter Midgets at Little T. It's all in the family."


The family bought Garrett's Mini Stocks car last winter from a former Speedbowl racer. Denton said a Mini Stocks car essentially is a four-cylinder Mustang from the 1980s or 90s with a redone engine. He said it takes about "five grand" to buy a good car and might take another four-to-five if the engine needed to be replaced.


Denton has four sponsors, whose names appear on his car and provide some money to help out for repairs and maintenance: Larry's Auto Machine (Groton); Morrone's Auto Service and The Gentleman Barber (Hope Valley) and The Extreme Complex (Wakefield). He said he is looking for additional sponsors.


Denton, a Chariho Middle graduate, will soon enter his freshman year at Chariho High, where he is trying out for the soccer team. He will continue racing on weekends.


Staskowski started on the outside pole in Saturday's 30-lap Late Models feature win. He edged ahead of the pole-sitter in the opening lap and eventually pulled ahead for good within the first three laps.


Staskowski edged out the two points leaders for the win. Joe Curioso of Pawcatuck finished 10th.


Staskowski is third in the division standings with 660 points after 15 events. Bruce Thomas of Groton (690) and Jeff Smith of Old Lyme (688) lead the standings. The race winner gets 55 points; second place earns 48, third earns 46 and each successive finish earns two points less.


"Mathematically I still have a shot," Staskowski said. "I'm still in contention. It's not going to be easy. I came off a good weekend, but I need some good luck. There are six races left. We need to win one or two and finish every race.


"Thomas has been racing for 15 years at the track and has an edge up. I've been only racing Late Models for five years. It's all about experience and a little bit of racing luck. It's been a really good season. It's good to be up in the top three in points I've been fifth and fourth and now third."


Staskowski started in motor sports at the age of 10 with dirt bikes and progressed to street bikes and drag racing. He began racing Super X cars at the age of 31, moved to the Sportsman division for the next two years and then the Late Models in 2007. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in all three divisions.


He said the Late Models car he has been driving for the past five years is one step down from the premium division and has a body style that looks like the newest car on the street but with a custom tube chassis.

His No. 5 Late Model racing team has not had a sponsor this year. He said he just picked up one last week - Ultimate Lawn Care (southern Rhode Island).


"Times are tough right now," Staskowski said. "It's difficult getting sponsors. I'm still looking for that one major sponsor to help us get through the year. If we did, I might be able to drive on the American Canadian Tour for Late Models races that tour the northeastern states and provinces."
Westerly Sun, The (RI)

Hope Valley native passionate about racing
Published: June 18, 2009
Hope Valley native passionate about racing Sun Staff Writer Rich Staskowski's involvement in motor sports started at age 10 with dirt bikes. From there, the Hope Valley native moved to street bikes and then to drag racing at a strip in New Hampshire. Then, on a summer day in 2002, Staskowski went to the Waterford Speedbowl for the first time and found his next passion in motor sports. In just six short years, Staskowski has climbed up through the Speedbowl ranks and now occupies the second place position in the Late Model Division with 306 points seven races into the season. Staskowski started his career quickly in competitive racing. In 2003 Staskowski won a race, finished third overall in points and won the Rookie of the Year award at the Super X Division. Super X Cars are essentially street vehicles with some basic safety equipment installed. In 2004 Staskowski began racing in the Sportsman Division. In 2005 he won Rookie of the Year honors in his first full year in Sportsman Division racing and in 2006 he finished fourth in points and won two races. In 2007 he moved to on to the Late Model Division (2008 was his first full year) where he is currently in second place in the points standings with 16 Late Model events left in 2009. Staskowski, and his number five car, came in second in the Late Model 30-lap races on May 23 and May 30. The point system awards 50 points for a victory, 48 for second, 46 for third, etc. The driver with the highest point total at the end of the season is declared the champion. "My goal right now is get my first Late Model win," said Staskowski. "The next goal would be to win on points, but with a twotime champion ahead of me it's going to be difficult." Staskowski trails only 2007 and 2008 Late Model champion Bruce Thomas Jr. who leads the division with 338 points. "In the Late Models you're out on a 3/8 mile, oval, two-groove track. It's tight and it's fast. It's a lot faster behind the wheel than it looks from the stands," he said. Late Model racing features cars which have over 400 horsepower and reach speeds of close to 100 miles per hour. Staskowski also said that the maintenance and upkeep demands are every bit as taxing as the on track rigors. "Everything is hard (about racing). It's a hard sport to be competitive in. If you don't keep up with the changes you'll fall behind." "You've really got to do your research. You have to stay on top of the parts that are available when they come out with new stuff." Staskowski does a large amount of work on his car at his residence in his spare time, but also said that a good pit crew is essential for the maintenance of the car and success of the driver. "A dedicated pit crew to work on the car is a big part of any successful racing team," he said. Staskowski has had sponsors throughout most of his racing career to help defray some of the maintenance costs, but is currently without a sponsorship due largely to the economic downturn. Despite the lack of funding, Staskowski remains passionate about racing and continues to rack up the points. "I would say I'm satisfied with where I am," said Staskowski of his secondplace standing. "I'm a competitive guy, so it helps with (that part of his personality). There's a lot of satisfaction with accomplishing something you set out to do."

Copyright 2009, Westerly Sun, The (RI), All Rights Reserved.