Tuesday April 11, 2006

By Phil Smith

The Thompson Speedway opened for the season last weekend with IceBreaker ’06. This year’s IceBreaker carried a race purse of. $89,573, an $11,600 increase over last year.

Heavy rain forced NASCAR Officials to reschedule qualifying for Icebreaker 2006 at Thompson International Speedway last Saturday. Qualifying for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener re-scheduled for high noon on Sunday. A total of 46 Whelen Modified Tour teams were on hand at Thompson including a bumper crop of 13 rookie drivers.

After playing the waiting game all day Saturday for inclement weather that included everything from rain to sleet to snow, Woody Pitkat and Pat Trudeau of Mansfield, CT found victory lane in the Sunoco Mods and Late Model. 1. Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, CT; 2. Tommy Cravenho, Raynham, MA; 3. Jeff Malave, S. Windsor, CT; 4. Todd Ceravolo, Gales Ferry, CT; 5. Dan LaJeunesse, Norwich. Ceravolo and Pitkat switched spots on Sunday.Ceravolo took the lead in the Sunoco Modified feature shortly before the half way mark. Bert Marvin finished a close second with Tom Cravenho, third. Corey Hutchings of Salem, CT was victorious in the Late Models. Todd Owen of Somers, CT was tops in Pro Stocks ranks. Checkers also fell for Danny Cates of Chaplin, CT in the Limited Sportsman; Brian Vincent of W. Warwick, RI in the Mini Stocks and Roger Larson, Jr. of Milford, MA in the TIS Modifieds.

Mike Stefanik served notice that he intends to dethrone Tony Hirschman for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Championship. Stefanik won the opening round 150 lap IceBreaker. The former champion started ninth and after making a pit stop for tires at the half way mark made a determined march to the front and took the lead from Chuck Hossfeld on lap 127. It was the 67th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory for the six-time champion who leads the series in all time victories. It was also the second career Icebreaker win for Stefanik who won this event in 1998.Ted Christopher moved to second and applied the pressure before Hossfeld regained second on lap 140. Hossfeld then chased Stefanik to the finish line with the pair both sideways coming off of Turn 4 on the final lap.Hossfeld ended up second with Reggie Ruggiero, third. Ted Christopher and Tony Hirschman rounded out the top five. Don Lia was running sixth until the closing moments when he ran out of gas. Jerry Marquis started on the pole and led the first 47 laps when his throttle stuck causing him to crash violently between turns one and two. Marquis emerged unhurt but his car, the Mystic Missile was damaged beyond repair.

Prior to the start of the Whelen Modified Feature event the Thompson Speedway management, competitors and fans paid tribute to the late Jack Arute with a moment of silence in his honor. The American flag in the infield was flown at half-mast.

In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, Long Islander Ed Whelen and his JS Motorsports # 36Team is loaded for bear as he has 4 new Troyer Modifieds in his race shop plus Mike Andrews' Riverhead car. The team will pursue the full Whelen Modified Tour Series Schedule plus a few select Race of Champions Tour and True Value Modified Racing Series events as well as Riverhead Raceway time trial shows as scheduling permits. If Mike Ewanitsko, who suffered foot injuries at New Smyrna, becomes available to drive again this year, the team will field a second Modified, but for 2006 Andrews is slated as the full time driver

At a pre-race news conference held by Don Hawk it was stated that NASCAR is extremly happy with the Modified division. Two more dates, Jennerstown, PA and Holland, NY have been added to the tour schedule. Safety wise, the NASCAR drivers are now the safest they have ever been. The new design of chassis is doing its job absorbing energy. As far as TV coverage goes Hawk feels confident that Speed Vision coverage in 2007 will improve quite a bit. ..

Jack Arute Sr. passed away on Monday, April 3 at the age of 79. Arute owned and operated the Stafford Motor Speedway since 1970 and is credited with saving the Modifieds from extinction. He pushed for class within the Modified ranks. The Stafford Speedway was about to go under when he bought the track in 1970. In a time when tracks were dumpy Arute dressed up Stafford with picnic tables and shrubs. He was responsible for the first ever owners point fund and the legalization of the Pinto body for use on Modifieds. He also is credited with the original idea of the SK Modified, a low cost version of what is now a tour type Modified. Arute was a dedicated businessman and family man. Hardnosed at times, he was always fair. Arute paid attention to his patrons and to the press, He wasn’t afraid of constructive criticism, in fact he used it to his advantage. He traded e-mails with many of us including yours truly. I will greatly miss that. He was laid to rest this past Friday, April 7, in the Bedford Center Cemetery in Bedford, New Hampshire.

In TV land, this week’s viewing begins on Wednesday, April 12 with the Crown Royal IROC Series, Round #2, run on April 7, at the Texas Motor Speedway. At 5:00pm it’s the USAR Hooters Pro Cup event run at the Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, GA, on Apr 8. At 8:00pm the action switches to the Outdoor Channel for the World of Outlaws weekly event as the open wheeled sprinters travel to the I-55 Raceway in Pevely, MO. Thursday’s action gets the green at noon on Speed with the NASCAR Busch Series, O’Reilly 300, that was run last Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway. At 4:00pm last Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Samsung/Radio Shack 500 run at the Texas Motor Speedway gets rerun. Good Friday, April 14 will be quiet except for the re-showing of a Hooters Cup event at noon. If you are up late on Friday night check out "Around the Track Race Review" on Fox Sports New England. Speed goes live on Saturday at 11:00am with NASCAR Busch Series Qualifying for the Pepsi 300 in Nashville, TN. The ARCA RE/MAX Series PFG Lester 150from Nashville follows at 1:30pm. The action switches to FX for the Busch Series pre-race show followed by live coverage of the Busch Series, Pepsi 300 from Nashville. Speed News Saturday wraps it up at 7:30pm. The NASCAR Nextel Cup is off in observance to Easter Sunday. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel presents Whisky Roads: The history of moonshine runners in the foothills of North Carolina over fifty years ago, and how men like Junior Johnson turned the moonshine culture towards the growing interest in stock car racing. Johnson, racetrack owner and promotor Humpy Wheeler and a former Federal agent tell this colorful American story. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain goes at 9:00p.m.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Dover Downs went up 0.66 to 6.09 while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.29 to 50.61 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.75 to 37.35. Nextel went up 0.35 to 26.38and Sun Oil went up 1.95 to 79.55. Featherlite Trailers showed a no change as they remained at 5.00 while DIRT Motorsports dropped 0.20 to 3.65. In the drug sector Pfizer dropped 0.17 to 24.68 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 0.09 to 24.51. In the home improvement arena Lowes went up 0.92 to 65.32 while Home Depot dropped 0.12 to 42.12. The parcel carriers had a big week as Fedex went up 4.08 to 116.98 and UPS went up 2.39 to 81.77.

That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail  

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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