There is the Stanley Cup and the Calder Cup. The uninitiated would not know they are awarded in hockey.
There is the Winston Cup. That trophy, you might guess, as it deals with racing in Winston, in the Carolinas.
But leave it to coffee maven Dunkin’ Donuts to award the very appropriately-named Coffee Cup for some incredibly quick racing on the oval concrete at their very own Center.
Yes, fans, exciting indoor auto racing returns to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for a one-day event this year on Saturday, Feb. 5. The 2nd annual Coffee Cup will be held on the eve of the Super Bowl.
The TQ-Midgets, which average speeds in excess of 70 mph, will headline the program with a 50-lap feature event and an added payoff. To top it all off, Rhode Island’s own Mike Stefanik is the defending Coffee Cup champion. Stefanik, of Coventry, RI, won the thrilling event at the Dunk last March, after entering his first such event in this division only the year before.
Stefanik, 52, is happy to defend. “(Winning) that race was exciting for me. I’ve only run a few of those races. Colin Martin is the car owner. He’s from Pennsylvania, and he’s provided me with a pretty fast race car,” said Stefanik. “It’s pretty tight racing, very challenging. There are an array of drivers coming here that are very talented and that’s what is so enticing. It’s quick, six laps a minute. There’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s good family fun, I hope everybody comes out.”
Stefanik’s whole life is racing. By day, he runs a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which holds races from Loudon, N.H. to Bristol, Tenn.
“We race on a circuit, 15 races. Some of them are on Versus (channel) and some are on Speed Channel. NASCAR is always misunderstood. When someone thinks of NASCAR, they think of Jeff Gordon. It’s a sanctioned body. They have 10 divisions,” said Stefanik. “They have the Sprint Cup; that’s what people see on Sunday. There are series below that, and then the touring divisions. (What I run) is a regional Touring division.”
Dunkin’ Donuts of Coventry is Stefanik’s sponsor this year. “We are excited to have them on board,” he added. “It’s the only race that happens in Rhode Island. If you want to win a race, you have to do it at the Dunk.”
Jerry Reigle, Assistant New Editor of Area Auto Racing News, described the event as follows: “TQ-Midgets, the headline division, are a roadster style Midget-Car with a 750cc motorcycle engine. Indoors, they can reach speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour,” he said. “Some say the cars are miniature Super Modifieds or Indy Cars. Drivers sit upright, with the front legs elongated (to) the pedals, rather than the customary style automobile and/or stock car racing seat system.
“The cars can tour an indoor 1/8th mile track, which is constructed on an ice hockey rink, in less than 7.5 seconds,” added Reigle. “Although it varies with the drivers, some shift their TQ-Midgets in different gears; while others focus on remaining in one gear. It varies per driver.”
Stefanik knows the track will be like high-octane caffeine.
“Winning that event was pretty incredible and it meant a lot,” Stefanik said. “The caliber and variety of drivers who attend the indoor events makes it a unique feat to win. Last year, you had the best in the TQ-Midget business, but there was guys like dirt Modified driver Billy Pauch, Indy 500 veteran Davey Hamilton and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Reutimann.”
Stefanik, a regular competitor in the asphalt Modified division, is one of the favorites heading into the indoor race. “These cars are so quick and things happen so fast,” Stefanik said. “You have to be aggressive, while at the same time remain patient because you have to be around at the end of the race.”
Organizers are happy with the bottomless cup.
“We are extremely pleased to be returning to Providence and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center again,” said event organizer Len Sammons. “Our reception there from drivers, fans and staff at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in the past has been incredible, and we can’t wait to return for this action packed one-day show.”
The exciting Senior Champ Kart racing will be on the undercard. A full complement of practice, qualifying and A-Main action will fill the single-day card.
In addition to some lucrative cash awards at stake, the prestigious Coffee Cup trophy will go home with winner. “That was one of the more unique trophies I ever won in my auto racing career,” Stefanik said. “My daughter took it to work with her… at Dunkin’ Donuts!”
Tickets for the event can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets (www.ticketmaster.com ) or and at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center box office. Group rates are available. If you would like to see a video of a TQ-Midget event, go to www.aarn.com . If you would like to learn more about Mike Stefanik, go to www.Mikestefanik.com .