It was a personal accomplishment for sure but Stefanie Palmai wrote her own page in the history books when she picked up the win in the twenty lap Hilborn Injection Tri State Race Saver 305 Sprint Car feature event at the Bridgeport Speedway on Saturday night.
While there have been several races won by women on the Bridgeport quarter mile, Stefanie Palmai becomes only the third women to win a feature event on Bridgeport’s 5/8 mile speedway. Susan Kennedy was the first when she captured a Sportsman feature event in May of 1996. Mares Stellfox, who is now a key figure in the TSRS organization, has several Bridgeport feature wins from the days of the Jasper Sprints. Stefanie Palmai can now add her name to that short list.
But, in reality, the celebration is not in the fact that she is a woman who has won a race but in the win itself. It is a big win for racer who had nearly twenty-three years of age, already has many years of racing under her belt.
Thanks to her father, Nandi, and her grandfather, “Super Nandi”, Stefanie Palmai, along with her sister and brother, were raised in racing. There was a dirt track in their back yard where they could learn the basics. They raced Champ Karts at Wall Stadium thanks to a family friend by the name of Don Farreny. They moved into 250cc and then 270cc Micro Sprints at Bridgeport, Airport and Lanco. Stefanie feels that racing on different tracks then has paid dividends in her racing today.
While Stefanie admits that it was “quite a jump” from the Micros to a Sprint Car, she feels that her background prepared her well for the job at hand.
While there is certainly a difference in weight and speed, racing with a wing and the general dynamics were all things that could be applied to the Sprint Car. Racing a 305 Sprint Car is more about momentum than the types of racing that Stefanie has done in the past, but it is second nature to her now.
When it came to the feature on Saturday night, Stefanie was not about to let history repeat itself.
“I’ve led so many races up until the 18th or 19th laps,” Palmai related. “Then there’s a caution and the restart and I end up failing in some sort of way.”
Just two weeks earlier, Stefanie was leading the TSRS feature at Bridgeport during a Friday night show. Again, there was a restart with just a lap or two to go. “I failed to pick up speed on the restart,” Stefanie explains. The win went to her brother-in-law, Eddie Wagner while Stefanie ended up third behind Mike Haggenbottom. “I saw the 24 was second on about lap ten,” Stefanie continues about Saturday night’s race, “but tonight is my night,” she thought. “I just had to keep going and make sure that I didn’t mess up on the start.”
Saturday night’s win meant a lot to a lot of people. Certainly, Stefanie and her family and her boy friend, Tommy Carberry who have provided the support and a lot of hard work along the way.
There are also her sponsors who have supported her racing efforts – AFD Performance, A Cut Above the Rest Excavating, Erb’s Garage, Malik Racing, Lawrence Collision, Mike Calla and Hamill Flooring.
They say the first one is the hardest. Well, Stefanie Palmai has overcome that hurdle and is already looking forward to the next one!