Tom Northem has what he calls the “3 F’s” principle that he applies to his racing lifestyle as a two-time and defending NASCAR Pro Charger champion at Holland Motorsports Complex. He says that, in order, family, friends and fun should be an intricate part of every racer’s game plan.
As far as family, Northem and his 15-year-old son Max will again compete at Holland this season, as they did a year ago in the NASCAR Pro Chargers when Holland opens its 57th season on May 28. Tom’s wife, Kim, is the owner of the two-car operation and the couple’s other son, T.J., 18, works behind the scenes in the shop and at the race track.
“What I tell my sons is that what this sport is supposed to be about is family, friends and fun,” said Tom, 47, of Alden. “People forget that and, too many times, people start fighting and feuding. We need to keep and put camaraderie back into our racing. Without my family, this sport wouldn’t be worth it.”
Max had a solid rookie season at Holland last year, finishing eighth in points and was named Holland’s Rookie of the Year and also the NASCAR Pro Charger Most Improved Driver. He won a heat race.
“Max worked hard,” said Tom, who is Holland’s 2013 and 2015 NASCAR Pro Charger champion. “He took the car we gave him and he took it all apart himself, right down to the roll cage, and he completely rebuilt it for his rookie season.”
Max is finishing his sophomore year at Alden High School. T.J attends Genesee Community College.
As for friends, Tom mentions many who have helped mold his career as well as that of Max. Tom credits the Krawczyk family with sparking his interest in racing as a young man. As race cars and technology have changed over the years, Mark Mercurio has been instrumental in keeping Tom up to pace.
Veteran race driver Troy Williams has been a valuable mentor to Max.
“They have all been important,” said Tom. “In fact, I owe the Hamann family a lot of gratitude. When I won my championship last year, I had a tough battle with Kris Hamann. I finally beat him for the point championship and he was the first to come over and congratulate me. In 2013, when Kris was not racing that year, his father Rich helped our team win that championship. The Hamanns are sporting and classy people.”
Tom began racing 20 years ago but curtailed his driving for family reasons when T.J. was born. Following a layoff that encompassed 12 years, Tom returned behind the wheel six years ago.
“You know, back when I first started racing, the cars in the division were a lot bigger and practically drove themselves,” said Tom. “Now the cars are a bit smaller and if you change one little thing, it changes the entire car. They’re very fickle. In recent years, I’ve had to relearn a new driving style and car mechanics.”
The Northems enjoy sponsorship from A&N Automotive, S&W Automotive, A to Z Transmission, Zolads Construction, Sherwin Williams and Advanced Auto Parts.
“It was fantastic, winning my two championships,” Tom said. “It’s a feeling I can’t explain. It’s a hobby that is a glorified sport and to think that I’ve gotten better and better at it is awesome. I hope to win more but what I really want now more than that is for Max to win.”
This season, Holland’s marketing staff has launched the NASCAR Hometown Heroes Program that will take place there on July 16, July 23, Aug. 6, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20. Each of these five nights will feature Holland competitors based on their hometown. On their specific night, drivers will receive 25 free race tickets for family and friends. Their sponsors will receive a number of free tickets for customers and clients. Drivers from these towns will be announced prior to their specific division’s race, and will be photographed together following the full event’s conclusion.
Early season honor roll
Merrittville Speedway drivers Brad Rouse (DIRT.car and Sportsman) and Paul Klager (Mod Lites) have each won three races at the Thorold, Ont.-based dirt track this season. Brad Shepard (Mini Stocks) has a trio of triumphs this season, including a pair at Genesee Speedway and an opening night win last Friday at Freedom Motorsports Park.
Several drivers have won two races thus far in this very early portion of the season. Patrick Emerling has won a ROC Modified race at Oswego Speedway as well as a Sportsman victory at Lancaster. Other 2016 two-time winners include: Kevin Bainbridge, Lancaster stock car 4-Cylinders; Dale Eckert, Lancaster drag racing Mod ET; Billy Bleich Jr., Ransomville Street Stocks; Phil Vigneri III, Genesee Sportsman; Doug Ricotta, Genesee Crate Late Models; Dave DuBois, Genesee 360 Late Models; and Mike Bowman, Merrittville DIRT.car 358 Modifieds.
Adjust your clocks
With the fact that the ROC Modified Queen City Clash 75 and the weekly Sportsman will both be part of the expanded race card this coming Saturday, Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway has moved up the start time of their weekly stock car program to 5:30 p.m.
Meet and greet
Fans attending the opening day race program at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Wyoming County International Speedway will have the opportunity during intermission to enter the front stretch area to meet the drivers and obtain autographs and take pictures. “Meet the Drivers Night” has become an annual opening day tradition at WCIS for the last several seasons.