Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Duane Provost is a 15-year veteran of Stafford Motor Speedway with 20 career feature wins and 2 championships to his credit. Provost began racing in the DARE Stock division in 2005 and found the division to be tough, scoring 2 wins in 5 seasons before moving to the Limited Late Model division where he won 18 races and 2 championships. Provost is set to make the move up to the Late Model division for the 2020 season and here we take a look back at how he has progressed through his racing career.
Provost caught the racing bug through his father and his uncle, who both raced at Riverside Park Speedway, while his father was also a mechanic.
“I grew up at Riverside Park,” said Provost. “My Uncle Leo raced when I was very young in the figure 8’s and my Dad also raced but he stopped racing right around the time I was born. I got to know a lot of people from going to the races every weekend so that’s where racing first got planted in my head. My uncle had a ’55 Chevy he ran in the figure 8’s and Street Stocks or whatever they were called and he raced until I was around 7 or 8 years old and my father was a mechanic so we were always working on cars at the house, just not necessarily race cars.”
Once Provost caught the racing bug, he got a car and began racing in DemDuro events at Riverside straight out of high school. Following the conclusion of his DemDuro career, Provost put racing on the back burner.
“I started in racing in what they called DemDuro shows on Sundays the year I graduated high school,” said Provost. “My parents had to sign a waiver for me to race and I had some fun. I remember we had about 60 cars on a quarter mile track and we’d run a 20 lap race around the oval and then whoever survived the 20 laps would be in a demo derby in the middle of the track afterwards. Needless to say I never survived the 20-laps to make it to the demo derby and that was my only time I got behind the wheel when I was younger. I ended up going off to college and did some other things while I was growing up and then finally in 2005 I got back into racing.”
DARE Stocks at Stafford (2005-2009)
While Provost always had an itch to go racing, for one reason or another he had yet to put a deal together for himself. The start of Provost’s Stafford career can be traced back to a fluke occurrence during the summer of 2004.
“Racing was something that I had always wanted to do but I needed money to go racing. I didn’t have a situation where I could go racing with either my father or grandfather’s stuff,” said Provost. “In 2004 I had bought a motorcycle and I sold it to a friend of mine from UPS, Bill Schaefer. We went out on a ride and he fell off the bike and broke his leg, which killed our plans of going out riding for the summer. Instead of riding our bikes, we made plans to go to Stafford and watch the races every week and after watching a bunch of races I said to myself that this was something that I had to look into. I definitely wasn’t on the path to go racing at that time, so I’m not sure what would have happened if Bill had never broken his leg like he did that summer.”
With the idea of going racing now firmly planted in his mind, it was a chance encounter with another Stafford competitor that led to Provost acquiring his first DARE Stock car.
“I was taking some classes at Western New England College and Joey Ferrigno happened to be in one of my classes,” said Provost. “We got talking about race cars and he eventually introduced me to Dave Secore and I ended up buying a car from Dave. It took about the first half of the 2005 season for me to get the car ready to race. A funny thing was the first time I actually got behind the wheel I was driving Dave’s car in a Sunday race. Norm Sears was driving for Dave at the time and he couldn’t make the Sunday show so Dave put me in his car. I remember I was really nervous because it’s one thing if I get into something and wreck my own car, it’s another thing when you’re driving someone else’s car. My thought process was I have to take care of this car. Going into turn 1 for the first time I had no idea of where I should be braking and getting back on the gas and I probably scared everyone behind me because I got on the brakes way earlier than I should have. We got through practice and qualifying and I managed to finish 10th while avoiding some accidents, so it wasn’t too bad and I remember those 15 laps seemed like 50 back then. Within a couple weeks of that race I finally got my car together and started racing that.”
Provost’s introduction to racing saw him struggle to get to grips with his DARE Stock car. Through his first season and a half in 2005-2006, Provost managed to finish in the top-5 once. Provost was still finding the DARE Stock division a tough road to travel when he locked down his first win in the 15th event of the 2007 season.
“Winning my first race felt really good, it felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders and I was able to prove something,” said Provost. “There were a couple of nights before that where we got close to a win but circumstances didn’t allow us to win. One night in particular in my second year, we were in second place and faster than the leader but it started to rain and the race was red/checkered, we finished second. For whatever reason I really struggled in the DARE Stock division.”
Provost followed up his first win with another win in 2008 before going winless in 2009. A blown engine at the end of the 2009 season left Provost with a decision to make.
“My last year in the DARE Stocks I had a new motor and we were running up front in the points race and I blew the motor at the Fall Final that year while leading the race,” said Provost. “They always say the engine runs the best right before it blows up and it was running really good that day. With the blown motor, I figured if I was going to put money into a new motor I would move up, so I started racing Limited Late Models in 2010.”
Limited Late Model (2010-2019)
Provost won Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 and picked up his first win in the new division in 2011. Most drivers will tell you that moving from one division to a higher division is usually a tall task, but Provost says that he found life in the Limited Late Model division much easier than in the DARE Stocks.
“I got a car from Scott Roy, who ran DARE Stocks and Limited Late Models for a couple of years and I put that car to good use,” said Provost. “The car was a little tough to handle but it felt a lot more natural with the extra power than the DARE Stocks had with the restrictor plate. It was much easier for me to be able to drive the car with your foot where with the DARE car you stepped on the gas and waited to turn the car.”
Provost’s best finishing position as a rookie was 5th place and his best finishing position in 2011 through the first 11 races was fourth. Provost was able to break through for his first win in the new division on August 5.
“It was better than the first DARE Stock win,” said Provost. “We had around 20 cars every night and it felt really good to be able to maintain a position out front and beat some really experienced drivers. And once you get a win with the handicapping system you start in the back so you have to come through the pack. When you can drive through the pack and get a win, those are the most satisfying wins rather than starting and finishing up front. The sad part about that first win was my older brother had passed away a few weeks earlier and he never got to see me in victory lane.”
The 2012 season was a bit of a mixed bag for Provost. Provost went through the first 13 races of the season with a pair of 2nd place finishes. A crash in a special event race prematurely ended Provost’s season and left him looking for a new car.
“In 2012 there was a PASS race and I brought my car out for that race and we took a really hard hit that destroyed the car and ended the season for me,” said Provost. “At that point I still had my DARE Stock so I ran a couple races at the end of that season in the DARE Stock division. It was a lot of fun because there was no pressure racing for points or anything like that. After the 2012 season was finished, I sold the DARE Stock and I bought a car from Devin Widger, which is the same car that I still have today.”
After securing his 2nd Limited Late Model win in 2013, Provost enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 where he won a career high 4 times and raced neck and neck with Andrew Hayes all season long for the championship, coming up just short.
“2014 was a good, clean year and we went back and forth with Andrew Hayes that season,” said Provost. “That was the first year I actually felt good about racing and I had a lot of fun that season. I was ok with finishing second because that was the best that I had ever finished and it was my goal after that to see if I could go one position better and win a championship.”
Provost fell down to fourth in the 2015 standings before he locked down his first of 2 consecutive championships in 2016. Provost was sitting in third place for most of the season but some late misfortune for his competitors opened the door wide enough for Provost to take full advantage.
“In 2015 I had a lot of things on my plate and on track performance suffered a little,” said Provost. “In 2016 I never thought it was going to be possible to win anything. I remember Paul [Arute] was the dominant car that season but he missed a race which took him out of the points and it came down to me and Al Saunders. Al was 12 points ahead of me going into the Fall Final and I knew making up that deficit in one race was kind of unlikely but it ended up happening. The field got backed up on one of the starts and I think Al broke something on his car and we ended up finishing that race in third place. I had no idea where I needed to be to be in front of Al. I figured I had second locked up and when they told me over the radio that I had won the championship, I was very surprised. Looking back, in 2005 winning a championship was the furthest thing from my mind.”
The 2017 season once again saw the championship race come down to Al Saunders and Provost with Jeremy Lavoie close behind them in third. Provost was able to outlast Saunders once again and make it back to back championships.
“The 2017 championship felt much better because I had the point lead going into the Fall Final,” said Provost. “I felt like the 2017 season was a better year and things worked out for me and it was pretty cool to be able to go back to back.”
Provost would again find himself in championship contention in 2018 and 2019 but an engine issue and go kart crash eliminated his chances in 2018 and then Provost missed 3 races in 2019 while on a family vacation.
“2018 was a rough year because my motor blew in the second race and that kind of set me back a little,” said Provost. “Mid-summer I hit a good groove and I had also won a Jiu-Jitsu tournament so things were going well. But towards the end of the summer, I was racing go karts on Monday nights with my daughter and I ended up breaking my back. I finished the season but I probably should have quit for the season right then and there. In 2019 my wife Gypsy, who is from the Philippines, had been wanting to go back there because we hadn’t been there in years. I made the decision that since I had such a rough year in 2018 that it was time to take a step back from racing and eliminate any pressures that racing was giving me while at the same time making my wife happy and giving her the vacation that she wanted.”
Moving Up to Late Model (2020)
With 2 championships and 20 wins at Stafford, Provost figured the time was right to move up to the premier full fender division at Stafford in the Late Models. While Provost’s Late Model debut has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he is ready to go racing.
“I had always wanted to race Late Models but it’s a big jump financially to make that move,” said Provost. “I felt like this was the right time to make the move after winning some races and championships in the Limited Late Model division. I always like to go faster around the track and now it’s a matter of how fast can I make my Late Model for Stafford. Being a rookie I know I’m going to be starting races in the back so I’m shooting for the top-15 and then the top-10. A lot of the stuff on the car is the same but I’ve converted a lot of the parts and pieces and I’m comfortable with knowing the chassis. We’ll see how legitimate the car is as a Late Model once we get back out there. With the delay we’ve had it’s given me more time to go through the car and have it ready to race. I’m certainly ready to get back on the track, hopefully it’s soon. I have to thank R.J. Surdell for helping me with converting my Limited into a Late Model and hanging a new body, Rob Russell Chassis for putting the setup in the car, Michael Facchini Law Firm, Team Link in Ludlow, and Jolly Joe Koziol Pop Hits, JollyJoeK.com, and my brother Derek for helping me out.”
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