The conversation between several New England Region members and myself began as a brainstorming session to see how we could recognize the passing of longtime SCCA member and Formula Vee racer Paul Faford who died in 2018. Chats via e-mail and phone wound hither and yon covering various initiatives in the Northeast, but, at every turn, the talk was not necessarily of Paul Faford; rather, it was of a legacy he inspired.
Soon, another story revealed itself — a story larger than one person, which, in reality, is probably most fitting to Faford’s memory. So, in the strangest of twists, the story you’re about to read is not about Paul Faford at all.
“I started working on oval cars around the time I was 14. I had a very dismal career driving a stock car, and a year later was in go-karts. Then, in 2001, I retired from any racing at all,” Jeff Adams explains, beginning the story of how he came to fully develop an idea that Paul Faford had come up with in the early 2000s. “Then, in 2014, they were putting the road course back into Thompson Speedway and a friend of mine decided to stop beating himself up in enduro motorcycle racing and get a Formula Vee.
“I was giving my friend a hand as crew, and that was the first year these guys were putting on the Open Wheel Driving Experience, so I jumped in a car with that program.”
The Open Wheel Driving Experience, or OWDE as it’s locally known, was a relatively new program and was, in part, the brainchild of Paul Faford. The idea was simple: Adapt SCCA’s Club Racing Experience (CRE) through the SCCA Time Trials program in order to allow Formula Vees, placing non-competition licensed drivers safely behind the wheel of a Vee in order to hook them on racing.
For Jeff, it worked like a charm.
“I fell in love with driving the car and with the group of guys racing these Vees,” Jeff admits. “Then, in October 2014, I bought my own.”
Jeff competed in New England Region’s 2015 SCCA Road Racing season, but he noticed that while there were regularly six to 12 Vee drivers per event, they were frequently different drivers.
“So, in the winter of 2015, Mike Hinkle and I went to Paul Faford, John Petillo, and Nick Galuardi with the idea of starting a Formula Vee series, which over the last four seasons has exploded,” Jeff says.
The Northeast Formula Vee Racing series (check it out at nefv.org), didn’t happen overnight, as John, Nick, and Jeff are quick to point out. The concept came to life due to groundwork set in place many years earlier.
“If you step back to about 2003 or 2004, Paul Faford had come up with the idea of creating “Vee Fest” – all (area) Formula Vee racers coming to one event,” Nick explains. “For several years, we would have 20-some Vees coming to that one event. In a way, this was the start of the championship series from more than 10 years earlier – but Jeff took it a step further with the series.”
Following the creation of Vee Fest, a group of Formula Vee drivers had begun promoting New England Region racing. “Paul Faford had been racing for 30 years or more in New England,” John explains. “He’d really become the face of Formula Vee in the area — he was the lead open-wheel instructor at SCCA Driver’s Schools, and he would sometimes call me up with ideas.”
One such idea was to check out local racing shows. “He and I would go to the local shows like Racing Expo,” says John. “Then we wondered if we could bring a racecar to one of the shows.”
They did, plus a website was made, business cards and pamphlets were printed, and the Vee racers went to work promoting their local SCCA race weekends.
“We did that for a few years and, by 2013 or 2014, we managed to get our Formula Vee race participation up from six to about 10 cars,” John explains.
“This was right around the time SCCA came up with the Club Racing Experience. But that’s not for open-wheel cars, so Paul said, ‘Do you think we could get the Region to go for an open-wheel version of that?’” says John.
“We knew that we needed to be careful if we were going to do this,” John laughs of their creation of the OWDE. “We were going to be putting people in our Vees, and we weren’t going to be charging them for using our cars for the event.”
“Ultimately, we had to trust the people we were putting in our cars for the OWDE because we were going to be racing our cars that weekend, too,” Nick explains of the event that takes place one weekend per year. “They also had to trust in us, too,” he adds.