WEST HAVEN — Jimmy Ryan, Matt Bilodeau, Chris Murray, P.J. Bleau and Cody O’Brien grabbed the checkered flag and all the glory that goes with it after the feature races at Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Sunday night.
Outside of the limelight was an ex-racer who never basked in the spotlight of winning a feature race. There were no track championships or checkered flags for Mike Bordeleau.
Bordeleau was a stock car driver from 1989 through 1996, piloting his car at tracks like Devil’s Bowl, Albany-Saratoga, Airborne and Fonda Speedway.
One night, he was close to grabbing the checkered flag, but his car broke down.
“I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” Bordeleau said Sunday night in the VIP/Media box high above the West Haven track.
Drivers and racing promoters know that sponsors are the lifeblood of racing. People who pay money to attach the name of their business to a night at the races or are willing to have it splashed on a car are some of the most important contributors to the sport.
That is why Bordeleau is every bit as important to racing as drivers who spend their career collecting checkered flags and championships.
Vince Quenneville Sr. and Vince Quenneville Jr, or VQ2 as he is frequently called, have their names splashed all over record books in the Northeast.
The late Vince Quenneville Sr. won back-to-back track championships at Devil’s Bowl in 1968 and 1969, and his son VQ2 grabbed track titles at the Bowl in 2003, 2015 and 2017. They are both highly decorated at other tracks as well.
You will find Mike Bordeleau’s business of Mike’s Fuels in Bridport as one of those adorning VQ2’s No. 78 Sportsman Modified car.
“He’s my cousin,” VQ2 said of Bordeleau while standing near his car in the pits Sunday night. “He helps us a lot financially.”
Bordeleau, a Middlebury Union High graduate, got out of racing in 1996 when life took over — he and his wife Lynn were starting a family and the business was growing. A broken leg also contributed to his exit from racing.
He sold his race car to cousin Vince.
Bordeleau was also the title sponsor of Sunday’s night race at the Bowl. It was Mike’s Fuels Night.
It was the third stab at Mike’s Fuels Night. Rain intervened on the first two attempts.
“We want to thank them for sticking with us,” track announcer Justin St. Louis told the crowd.
Sticking with racing is a passion for Bordeleau. He believes in the sport just as fervidly as when he was racing.
Watching from the VIP box with his wife and Mike’s Fuels employees, he talked about racing being a great sport for families.
It was family that introduced him to the sport in the first place.
“It all started with Uncle Vince, the Flying Frenchman. He was the one who got us into it,” Bordeleau said.
Bordeleau has been impressed with what Mike and Alayne Bruno have done with Devil’s Bowl since taking over from the late C.J. Richards.
“Mike and his wife have done a super job,” Bordeleau said. “They had some big shoes to fill. I think C.J. would be really proud of what they have done here.”
Bordeleau mentioned the possibility of climbing in a race car someday and getting that feature win that eluded him.
It was difficult to tell just how serious he was about that prospect.
But Mike Bordeleau never has to get back in a race car to have a big impact on the sport he loves.