By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – This Friday night, Plainville’s own Caterina LaBella is going to the races at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs.
But of course, she’s not going as just some spectator.
In fact, the long time racer gets her shot at Stafford in the Legend Car Challenge in what should be a competitive, 20-Lap affair.
LaBella has been driving – and winning – on many tracks all over the country over the years and now, she gets her shot at a track in her home state in what is one of Connecticut’s biggest and brightest racing stages.
While she’s still just a teenager, the veteran driver has over 10 years of experience in her pocket (this is actually her 11th season racing) and she’s ready to go this Friday night in Stafford Springs.
The Plainville Observer caught up with Labella this past Sunday and gained a little insight on her career and her upcoming race this Friday Night from Stafford Motor Speedway.
Plainville Observer: This is your 11th season racing. Does it feel like you’ve been racing that long?
Caterina LaBella: Not really because every year, I learn something new so it’s always a new learning process.
Plainville Observer: I know you’ve raced at tracks in places like Georgia and New Jersey over the years. But racing down in Stafford Springs, is that going to be any different for you?
Caterina LaBella: I think it will be a lot different because (I won’t be) moving as quickly around the track. There’s a lot more time to think and I’m just…I’m not used to my surroundings. The car is a lot different in my point of view. So, it will be a lot different especially learning how to shift and to stay in a tight pack. I’m used to having a smaller car where I have more control of the car.
Plainville Observer: Have you been down to Stafford before? I know a track is a track but are you familiar in what Stafford Motor Speedway has to offer?
Caterina LaBella: I haven’t been there in a while (and) I haven’t driven on the track. So I know it’s smaller than Waterford and there’s a lot of straightaway to it. But I have not raced it for myself.
Plainville Observer: When I think of Stafford Motor Speedway, I think of drivers who raced down there before like Plainville’s own Teddy Christopher and Dale Earnhardt. It is impressive that you’ll be racing on the same track as those drivers have battled upon before?
Caterina LaBella: I think it’s definitely an achievement of mine and I’m excited for this race season to start. And I think that maybe, that’s something that will reflect on me somehow, someway (down the road).
Plainville Observer: Is there any additional pressure being here, being home and racing in front of a little more family and friends than you’re used to?
Caterina LaBella: Yes, definitely. A lot of the people I’ll be racing with, I’ve raced with before when I was younger. So moving up and having everyone watching me, there is a lot of pressure but I think at the end of my first race, I’ll be fine. That’s really how I am. I’m nervous but once I get into that car, it’s just a whole other thing.
Plainville Observer: This Friday, at Stafford Motor Speedway, what should we expect out of you…what should fans expect to see that night?
Caterina LaBella: To finish the race, hopefully. That’s my goal for the first race, just to finish the race and do the best that I can. Each race, I’ll have a new goal throughout the year…maybe a win – that’s my greatest goal this year. (Getting into the) top five (or) top three, that would be great. But for the first race, it’s definitely just to finish the race.
Labella also wanted to thank a number of individuals that got her to this point in her career including some of her sponsors.
Her sponsors include LaBella Paving, By Carrier, Midstate Air Compressor along with help from her uncle Jerry (Michaud) and Mr. Cote (they’ve been working on the car) and Mr. DiMatteo, Cory and Dana who have been such a great help with setting up the car and teaching me the different tracks and how to get into the car and do everything.
And of course, she also wanted to thank her grandmother, grandfather and her mother and father.
NOTES…LaBella will be racing at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs in the Legend Cars challenge which will feature racers ages 12 and up…She’ll be racing in a vehicle that actually houses a motorcycle engine…The race day events start at 3 p.m. and LaBella will be involved in one of three 20-lap challenges…In all, seven events will be held over the session and the time of her race is to be determined. For further information, log on to http://staffordmotorspeedway.com.