Utica-Rome champ Belden Heading heading to Charlotte

WEST EDMESTON, NY -- Defending Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Pro Stock track champion Bret Belden will begin his 2002 race season by heading south to compete deep in the heart of NASCAR country at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte,...

WEST EDMESTON, NY -- Defending Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Pro Stock track champion Bret Belden will begin his 2002 race season by heading south to compete deep in the heart of NASCAR country at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 5-6.

"This is a great opportunity for our race team," said Belden of the 20-lap $1,000 to win event that is expected to draw the top DIRT Pro Stock teams in the Northeast. "We've worked real hard to prepare for this and the upcoming season at Utica-Rome where we will try for our fourth track title."

Belden, a long-time veteran of the Pro Stock ranks in Central New York, hopes to be one of the top contenders in the inaugural event at the world class, multi million dollar facility. The 42-year old will face stiff competition from the likes of last year's Super DIRT Series champion Jason Boyle, as well as top drivers Kenny Gates, Tom Barron, T.J. Fitzgibbons, Phlan Hart, Rob Noviczski Tom Kuck, and many more.

Belden began his racing career in 1977 at the now defunct Brookfield Speedway, and his dedication and love of the sport has been a huge part of his life. He has ventured to nearly twenty tracks and accumulated many feature wins at his home track of Utica-Rome, along with Brewerton, Fulton, Afton, Evans Mills, and Brookfield. Ironically, one of his feature wins at Fulton Speedway came behind the wheel of an alcohol powered Outlaw Modified back in 1992.

Not only has Belden won feature races, he is also a three time track champion at Brewerton and Utica-Rome in addition to winning the Super DIRT Series trail race at Utica-Rome the last two seasons by leading all 25-laps. To honor his performance, the New York State Stock Car Association recently awarded him with Driver of the Year and Outstanding Performance for the Pro Stock ranks at Utica-Rome.

"We're not in this for the money," said Belden, who works full time as maintenance supervisor at Titan Homes in Sangerfield as well as being a part owner of two different small businesses. "We are in racing to win with a team effort, and meet a lot of great people. We really hope this trip to Charlotte tops the list as it is a real dream come true to race there."

Racing is a family sport with the Belden's, and it began with his uncle, Dick Schoonover, a legendary Late Model driver. The entire family is involved and behind him 100 percent, with his biggest supporters being his wife, Brenda, and daughter, Ashley. His brother Brian also competes in the Pro Stock division at Utica-Rome, making it a two-car Belden team.

Belden is not just dedicated to his family, he is also dedicated to his long list of sponsors: Enchanted Forest Water Safari, Steel Sales, Keeler in the Morning, WKTV Channel 2, John's Mobile Homes, Walton's Farm & Auto, Slosek's Sales & Service, Alan Steere Racing Engines, F.J. Pugleise, M.J. Keith Construction, Land Designs, and C&S Chassis.

Travelling with a group of over thirty people to Lowe's in Charlotte will be a major expense for the Belden team, but his sponsors, friends, and supporters have stepped up to the plate to help during this working vacation. Schoonover will tow the No. 81 in an enclosed hauler provided by Mini-Sprint racer Jeremy Vunk, and the team also has the support of colorful flagman Dick Sweet, whom Belden drove for in the late 1980's.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has been involved in my racing career from start to present, to help us get to where we are today," said an appreciative Belden, who noted he also wanted to thank Steve and Scott Weatherbee who got him back in racing in 1998 after a four year layoff from the sport.

During the 2002 race season at Utica-Rome, he plans to debut a brand new Chapman & Slosek chassis, which will be a copy of his current car. Without a doubt, Belden will be a favorite at Utica-Rome, as well as in the many other events he will enter during the upcoming year. Look for the white and purple No. 81 DIRT Pro Stock Belden Race Team at a DIRT track near you and at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway!

"Hopefully we will have a good year and start it off with a good run at Charlotte," he said.

-urs-

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