Roche keeping busy on track this season

For modified driver Rick Roche, there’s no better feeling than hitting the track for another day of racing. And with some extra time on his hands this season, he is taking full advantage by racing at tracks throughout Canada and the U.S.
A fixture at the Emo Speedway for the past several years, the affable 32-year-old International Falls native continues to lead the overall modified points standings there this season.
It’s a title he has won the last two seasons–and is a good bet to win his third-straight. He finished sixth in the heat and second in the feature race last Thursday to remain first overall with 317 points (Mark Rea is second at 295).
Meanwhile, because Emo switched to Thursday night racing this year in hopes of boosting attendance, Roche now has the chance to race in Hibbing each week as well.
In fact, if he finally gets the spare motor he was searching for last week, Roche plans to race in Winnipeg tonight, Emo tomorrow, Superior (Wis.) on Friday, and then Hibbing on Saturday.
Admitting that travelling to four different tracks in one week can be expensive, Roche said he definitely couldn’t do it without his strong contingent of sponsors from both sides of the border.
And while Roche routinely hits the tracks in Manitoba, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, he keeps coming back to the one in Emo–despite the smaller crowds and lower payouts.
He said as many as 180 cars are at the races in Wisconsin compared to only about 20 at Emo but added he likes the camaraderie of racing there.
“For one thing, it’s just 30 miles away, and there’s good guys there,” noted Roche, who began his racing career in Bemidji when he was 17. “Guys like Greg Ferris, Chuck Arpin, and Gary Wilson are a good bunch of guys.
“You get to know all the guys, and everyone helps each other out,” he added.
But while Roche would like more fans to come out to Emo for the racing each week, he said tracks in the States also have seen poor crowds this year.
“Like you said, it’s just one of those things that goes in cycles and people have other things to do,” he noted. “It’s like people are just taking a year off.”
Roche also said he hopes Emo switches back to Friday night racing next season (an idea he said organizers are now contemplating) in hopes of attracting more drivers.
“They’re trying to find a night to race on. [Emo] switched to Thursday to get more fans out but the drivers haven’t been coming out,” he said.
Arpin won the modified feature race ahead of Roche last week, with Gavin Paull third and Dwayne Pelepetz fourth. Chad Jonson won the heat.
In streets action last Thursday, Don Wilson took the checkered flag in the feature, finishing ahead of Richard Visser, Chris Shine, and Wes Morrisseau.
Westover, Visser, Morrisseau, and Shine was the order of finish in the heat.
Visser, with 311 points on the season, maintains a slim lead over Westover (309) in the overall streets standings.
Meanwhile, the mini sprints saw Rick Bates finish first in the feature ahead of Merrek Hietala and Steve Arpin. Dick Vandrunnen won the heat, followed by Bates, Ken Perry, and Arpin.
Perry leads the overall points standings with 215 points, just seven ahead of Arpin.