DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 1998)

Pete Silva, of Leicester, N.C., didn't think he would be able to win the NASCAR Winston Racing Series Blue Ridge Region championship. Silva, 50, surprised himself and will be honored as one of the top weekly short track competitors in the country at the NASCAR Winston Racing Series Champions' Banquet in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 6.

"I didn't really think we were going to get here," said Silva. "Dwight (Huffman, car owner) and I have talked over the years and we've raced together two or three times and we've always had success. We kept saying we were going to team up again and we never did. This year we did it."

Teaming up with Huffman has paid impressive dividends for Silva. The team won eight times in 20 starts at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., a track renowned for full fields of tough competition. The most memorable dividend will come when Silva is honored at the champions banquet and collects $39,500 for the team's accomplishment.

"I've been around the good and the bad and the easy and the hard part of racing," said Silva. "I know how hard Dwight has worked and how many let downs, how many times he's been close to winning the national championship and wind up losing both the national and the regional championships. So when you sit back and look at it (winning the regional championship), it makes you real happy."

Silva, a native of central Maine, made his way south to North Carolina 20 years ago. Silva had an opportunity to race at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway with legendary NASCAR drivers including Jack Ingram, Geoff and Brett Bodine, Harry Gant and Morgan Shepherd. He finished well into the top-10.

"It was a big deal for a Yankee to do so well," said Silva. "Someone came out of the grandstands and offered me tires, $400 a week and a room at the Quality Inn. I called home and said 'boys, I believe I just found race car heaven and I'm not coming home.'"

Today, Silva remains a hard charging competitor. Reflecting on the changes in racing since he started, Silva offers some advice for the up-and-coming competitors.

"This NASCAR Winston Racing Series deal is a great opportunity for these young guys coming up to showcase their talent," said Silva. "It's not a touring series, but once again, they can gain a lot of notoriety in winning the track championship and then the region. Before, a touring series would just overshadow these people who raced just Saturday nights. Now, the NASCAR Winston Racing Series has come out of the closet, and I think it's wonderful for everybody." The up-and-coming drivers still, however, should plan to contend with Pete Silva when trying to win track and regional championships. Fueled by a passion for racing, the crafty veteran still plans on competing, and winning.

Source: NASCAR Online