Story By: DAN KAPUSCINSKI / DESTEVENS RACING – OSWEGO, NY – In a bit of a throwback to days gone by, Joey DeStevens knew by the age of 12 that he wanted to work on vehicles. Now at the age of 19, he is spearheading the conversion of a former Joe Gosek Big Block Supermodified to a 350-Supermodified, which will be piloted by his younger brother, Tony DeStevens, at Oswego Speedway.
After starting in the quarter midget ranks in 2017, the DeStevens Racing family found their way to Oswego’s SBS division in 2021 with both Joey and Tony DeStevens spending time at the wheel.
Since the speedway reopened in 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic, the ‘Steel Palace’ has no doubt seen a surge of next generation drivers. From the likes of Chase and Ryan Locke, to Noah Ratcliff, Griffin Miller and Robbie Wirth; the focus has been on track. However, in the course of the last two years Joey DeStevens has found that his passion rests outside of the speedway’s steel walls and inside of a welding helmet.
“I’ve always had an interest in the mechanical side of vehicles,” said DeStevens. “I started working on my parent’s ATVs when I was 12. By high school I was then spending time in the CiTi BOCES Auto Tech class, which would afford me the opportunity to eventually intern at A&P Automotive in Oswego.”
The opportunity at A&P would see DeStevens mentored by none other than 2016 International Classic champion, Jeff Abold.
“Joey started working with me as a raw, yet skilled and ambitious apprentice,” said Abold. “It has been fun to watch him grow as a fabricator and a person. He has become a good friend and I hope I have helped him along the path he is on in some way.”
While getting started at A&P, DeStevens also found himself as a crew member on the Losurdo Racing SBS team, another former quarter midget family. This melding of opportunities was the catalyst to getting the DeStevens family on track in the SBS division.
With Joey eventually focusing solely on the wrenches for his family team as well as any of its fabrication needs along the way, brother Tony found success by the end of 2022 with a podium feature run and a fifth place finish in the SBS Classic.
Riding a late wave of success, combined with DeStevens’ dedicated craftsmanship, an opportunity arose to start planning toward an eventual move to the speedway’s 350-Supermodified division following the family purchase of Joe Gosek’s former Extreme chassis Supermodified.
“The car I am working on is a 2006 Extreme Supermodified, formerly owned and driven by Joe Gosek,” said DeStevens. “We have gone through the whole car, top to bottom, with all new components. The independent front suspension has been removed and replaced with the straight front axle needed for the 350 division. I already fabricated all new bumpers and nerf bars and converted everything to fit the 15×10 wheels. We have a top wing ready, reworked a new fuel cell and updated the engine mounts for our 604 engine, which has been installed. We are excited to debut the car in 2023.”
Abold says that DeStevens’ skillset has grown immensely since starting work under his wing.
“He has expanded his talents well beyond his years,” said Abold. “His work ethic is nothing short of amazing for his age.”
DeStevens, who says his focus moving forward is the fabrication and setup of his brother’s cars, is quick to thank many veterans of the sport for his growth to this point.
“Over the last few years I have been guided by numerous people,” said DeStevens. “Jim Losurdo, Rob Pullen, Dan Dennie, Pat & Jeff Abold, Mike Silliman and Joey Hawksby. They have always been available to answer questions. My welding is primarily self-taught, but I have been able to learn from both Rob (Pullen) and my dad, who has taught me all he knows. I have met a lot of people that are very knowledgeable and always look forward to hearing new ways to improve things.”
While the conversion of their Extreme Supermodified to a 350-Supermodified has been the primary goal of the offseason, DeStevens says that his brother will still contend full time in the speedway’s SBS division this coming season.
“Tony will run the SBS full time at Oswego and we will start gaining some laps in the 350,” said DeStevens. “We have discussed the possibility of racing with the SMAC series as well as the Small Block Super Championship series, but have no official plans. Mainly, I am excited to get back to Oswego with our cars. The fabrication side of racing keeps me busy and I look forward to taking on more work as a fabricator, as well as helping others.”
In a day and age when racing purists will tell you the next generation lacks gearheads, 19-year old Joey DeStevens stands out as a much needed breath of fresh air.