Joe Gabrielson wasn't sure what the 2013 racing season would look like, or even if there would be one. Joe's father, Bill Gabrielson, was his mentor and patriarch of Gabrielson Motorsports. When Bill Gabrielson passed away suddenly on February 28 of this year, Gabrielson Motorsports also lost it's center.
Bill had approached legendary status in the area racing scene in a career that spanned over two decades. From his start on the quarter mile dirt of Canfield Speedway in 1971, to his record setting ways on the half-mile asphalt at Sharon in the late '70s, Bill was one of a few who could master both surfaces. He was the first driver to win features on both the half mile asphalt (1975) and half mile dirt (1981) at Sharon. He is the all-time leader in Semi-Late Model feature wins at Sharon with 35 victories, and has numerous track championships at Sharon, Hickory, Raceway 7 and Expo.
In November of 2012, Bill Gabrielson was inducted into the Youngstown, OH based Twin-State Auto Racing Club's Hall of Fame. And there was Bill, wife Debbie, and son Joe and girlfriend Rochelle Byers enjoying the night's festivities. And there they were again in January of 2013 at the Sharon Speedway banquet celebrating Joe's third place finish in the Modified point standings. No one could have known how different things would be, not two months later.
Fueled be a racing passion supplied by both his dad and mom, Joe, 25, knew his father wouldn't be happy if the car was on jack stands if there was a race going on. With crew members Smitty and Fred - who were with Bill all those years ago -, and Cody, Rochelle and mom Debbie, Gabrielson Motorsports geared up for the 2013 season.
Entering his 13th year of racing - 9th year in EMods/Modifieds, that included Rookie of the Year honors at Sharon in 2005, after four years with go-karts - Joe was off to one of his strongest starts at Sharon Speedway. It all came together Satuday evening as Joe won in the competitive division with a dominating performance, to take his first feature of the year, the fifth of his career. Joe was the sixth different Modified winner out of eight races this year at Sharon, and his win moved him up to second in the division's point standings.
Emotions were running high throughout the speedplant, as Joe took a "Polish Victory Lap" in honor of his father, looking out toward the old asphalt beyond turns three and four, where Bill had so many of his successes. A very special trackside interview followed by Sharon announcer Jim Pollock, a close friend of Bill's and a former crew member, and one cannot help but be impressed on what a fine young man Joe is. There weren't many dry eyes in victory lane, as family, crew, competitors, fans and well-wishers lingered long and lovingly.
|Joe Gabrielson and girlfriend Rochelle Byers bask in the victory lane celebration at Sharon Speedway June 1, 2013, as the rear spoiler of his Modified tells the entire story.|
|Joe Gabrielson celebrates after his dominate and emotional win at Sharon last Saturday.|
|The late Bill Gabrielson, in the early dirt days at Expo Speedway, celebrates one of his many wins.|
|Joe Gabrielson with mom Debbie share a quiet moment after his win on Saturday. Joe always thanks his mom and dad first in victory lane.|
|The celebration lingered long into the night.|
|Joe Gabrielson at the start of the 2013 season at Sharon Speedway.|