West Rutland drivers fight for rookie honors
By Tom Haley
STAFF WRITER | May 19,2014
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
Shaylynn Senecal, of West Rutland, makes her way around the track during the Mini Stock Series race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Sunday.
WEST HAVEN — You are likely to see more and more fans from West Rutland around Devil’s Bowl as the season progresses. Right now, West Rutland drivers in the entry level Mini-Stock division have their own little battle brewing for Rookie of the Year honor.
West Rutland father-daughter tandem of Shaylynn and Doug Senecal, along with West Rutland neighbor Andrew FitzGerald, are the only three drivers on the Mini-Stock roster eligible for the rookie accolade.
There might well be more eventually in the popular division, but these Westside competitors figure to be in the chase all summer.
Shaylynn’s crew chief is her father and FitzGerald’s crew chief is also his father, Scott FitzGerald.
Yes, it could be quite a cozy little club in this race for the rookie award and in West Rutland, where everyone knows everyone else and where the interest is certain to heighten.
Shaylynn’s grandfather is Lou Senecal, a stock car racer at Devil’s Bowl and at the old Fairmont Raceway back in the 1960s.
Therein lies the story behind the words “Tombstone Special” on her eye-catching purple car.
Lou was sponsored by Gawet Marble & Granite, which made gravestones so Lou’s car became known as the Tombstone Special.
Shaylynn asked her grandfather is she could put the same words on her car.
“My dad got all choked up and said that he would be honored,” Doug said.
Shaylynn had a tough start on Sunday, driving into the infield on a few occasions.
But she shows promise and she is doing the type of thing she had always wanted to do.
“She wanted to build an Enduro and then a mud truck,” Doug said. “Then she wanted to have a race car. I said, ‘I’ll help you with anything you want to do.’”
It’s no surprise to Doug that his daughter, who will graduate from West Rutland High School on June 6, would want to do this. She did not play any sports for the Golden Horde. This has always been her type of outlet.
“This is her thing,” Doug said. “Whether she is 4-wheeling, or horseback riding, in everything she did she has wanted to go fast.”
Shaylynn brought her car to Devil’s Bowl before the opener for practice sessions, and she said it helped.
“It was fun, but nerve-racking,” Shaylynn said. “I’m a lot more confident now.”
Doug is also listed as a driver for the car.
“We both have our NASCAR licence,” he said. “But I will only do it if there is something with the car she can’t figure out or of she is overshook.”
Shaylynn will not turn 18 until after graduation.
Andrew FitzGerald is the same age and is competing in the same division while also cutting his teeth on the Devil’s Bowl track.
His father Scott moved up from the Mini-Stock division to the Renegade class this year, leaving the car for his son.”
“We decided at the end of last year that since he was going up to the big car that I would race this one,” Andrew said.
Scott FitzGerald Plumbing & Heating in not only a sponsor on Andrew’s No. 55 Dodge but also on Shaylynn’s No. 2 Subarau.
“Scott said, ‘I’ll sponsor you guys,’” Doug said. “He helped us set up the car and it was a big help. I’m still learning it.”
There’s a lot going on in West Rutland right now. The West Rutland High School softball team boasts a 10-1 record and has its sights set on a state championship.
But once the high school season is over, there will be this tight-knit rookie stock car group chasing titles of its own.
Oh, and just in case anyone from West Rutland needs some extra incentive, there is a promotion one night at Devil’s Bowl this season where anyone from West Rutland will be admitted free by producing proper identification.