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Tuesday April 29, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Stafford Motor Speedway opened for the season under sunny skies with qualifying for the annual Spring Sizzler, an event that has run continuously since 1972 featuring the NASCAR Modifieds. Thirty five Modifieds were on hand for qualifying for the 200 lap event that carried a purse of $94,676. In the inaugural event the late Eddie Flemke, driving the Bobby Judkins No.2x Pinto led until the closing stages when his engine suffered water pump failure, forcing him out of the event. Waiting in the wings on Flemke’s bumper was the late Fred DeSarro who was driving the car they call “Ole Blu” which was owned by the late Len Boehler. DeSarro inherited the lead and went on to take the win. Now, some thirty five years later the same names re-appear, well almost. Seventeen year old Ryan Preece, who is the grandson of Bobby Judkins drove the 2008 version of “Ole Blu” which is now owned by Michael Boehler, Len Boehler’s son, and his mother Janice. Preece, who failed to qualify for the 2007 Sizzler, toured the Stafford half mile in 18.057 seconds, 99.684mph, and earned the Coors Light Pole Award for the Sizzler. Second fastest was Eric Beers with a time of 18.084 sec. Chuck Hossfeld, Ted Christopher and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five in qualifying. Following a redraw, Rob Summers and Frank Ruocco picked front row for Sunday’s race, with Jimmy Blewett and Eric Beers in the second row.

Ted Christopher got a little closer to the 100 feature win mark as he won his 98th career win at the nutmeg oval, the 200 lap Spring Sizzler. Christopher pitted after Wade Cole spun on lap 141. Restarting in 12th spot, Christopher made a determined march to the front. He broke into the top five by lap 156 after Kevin Goodale spun. By lap 167 Christopher had moved into second spot, turning up the heat on leader Eric Beers. Christopher put Beers away on lap 172 and never looked back. Beers ended up in second spot and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, Mike Stefanik and James Civali. Sixth through tenth were Rowan Pennick, Richard Savory, Jamie Tomaino, Todd Szegedy and Glen Tyler.

Ryan Preece, who became the youngest Coors Light Pole Award winner on Saturday, led 64 laps in the event but exited the race on lap 91 while in the lead with engine failure.

Numerous cautions, 13 for 71 laps, slowed the event and at one point the event had to be red flagged. It was on lap180 after Jimmy Blewett made a hard impact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 1. He climbed out of the vehicle then expressed displeasure at Matt Hirschman before taking his mandatory ambulance ride. Blewett's 19 car was briefly airborne and needed the double hook to be removed from the track.

In SK Modified action Rob Summers took the 40 lap feature over Woody Pitkat and Chris Jones Jones had previously been banned for life because of his violent temper but some how the Arute family gave him a “Get Out of Jail” card. Keith Rocco, Doug Coby and Jimmy Blewett followed. Among those in the field was Steve Reed who was one of the top runners at the now closed Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey. Reed finished eighth.
The Stafford Motor Speedway moves to its regular Friday night schedule beginning this Friday, May 2.

The Waterford Speedbowl continued its regular Saturday night schedule. Dennis Gada charged from a 20th-place starting spot to pass Jeff Pearl with 10-laps remaining to win the 35-lap SK Modified at the shoreline oval It was the second victory of the season for the 6-time champion. Following Gada across the line was Ron Yuhas Jr, Keith Rocco, Pearl , and, Frank Ruocco.

SK Modified driver Ron Yuhas Jr. took the first Late Model win of his career. Starting deep in the field, he passed early leader Ed Reed Jr. following a late-race caution. Defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr. slipped past Reed for second. Completing the top-5 were Marc Curtis, and, Tim Jordan.
Other feature winners were Chuck Rodgers (Sportsman), Ben Bargnesi (Mini Stocks), and, Michael Gervais Jr. (Legends).

The True Value Modified Series moved to the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester , NH for an event on Saturday night. Point leader and defending series champion Kirk Alexander returned to his home race track, started last in a 26 car field, passed cross town rival Rob Goodenough on lap 86, to win the” Bond Auto Parts 100” in front of a near capacity crowd at the fast high banked quarter mile oval. The True Value Modified Racing Series event was Alexander’s 28th career victory and his third season opening win at the track known as “Mad Dog.”.

Pole sitter Chris Pasteryak set a torrid pace holding off the constant challenges of 2007 Rookie of the Year, Peter Jarvis, Jarvis stayed within striking distance of Pasteryak with Bryan Shumway last years winner, Les Hinckley and 2006 champion Dwight Jarvis in hot pursuit. By lap 20, Danbury CT ’s Ed Dachenhausen worked his way into fifth and ran strong until a late race mishap would force him to the sidelines. The race pace was fast early on with the first of six caution flags not displayed until lap 38 for a Chris Wenzel spin. The Holyoke , MA . veteran was able to rejoin the race which stayed under green until lap 54 when a David Pinkhamand Jon McKennedy spin drew the caution. On the restart, Peter Jarvis vaulted into the top spot and held it until lap 66 when Goodnough powered by. At this point, Alexander was fast making his move to the front and by lap 70, the three-time champion was in third and quickly closing in on Jarvis. Lap 73 saw Alexander pass Jarvis setting up a great battle with Goodnough for the top spot. A caution period slowed the pace on lap 85 resulting in Alexander motoring by Goodenough on the restart lap. The two former Monadnock pro-stock standouts raced hard and clean often side by side bringing the crowd to it’s feet several times. When the checkers dropped on the 100th circuit, Alexander’s margin of victory was a car length and a half over Goodenough. Goodenough, Pinkham, Dwight Jarvis, Peter Jarvis, Hinckley , Mike Holdridge, Pasteryak, Dale Evonsion, and Rookie of the Year contender Kenny White.Jr, rounded out the top ten.

The next stop for the TVMRS will be this coming Saturday May 3, at the Waterford CT Speedbowl with heat races starting at 4:30 PM .

With gasoline prices closing in on the $4.00 per gallon mark it’s sure to affect the travel plans fans have for attending races. Years ago many fans would attend races three to four times a week. Today that is almost impossible. Connecticut is lucky to have three oval tracks that host weekly racing, The Thompson Speedway on Thursday night, The Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday and The Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. For the race fan that has the means and desire to attend races three times a week the best place in Connecticut to live is in the Willimantic – Windam County area. From Willimantic to Stafford its 21 miles, from Willimantic to Waterford its 25 miles and from Willimantic to Thompson its 34 miles.

In TV land this week viewing will begin on Thursday at noon when the Speed Channel presents a replay of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Aaron’s 499 that was run at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega , AL . On Friday the action moves east to Virginia for NASCAR Live at the Richmond Intl. Raceway at 1:00pm . Live coverage by Speed continues at 1:30 with a two hour practice session for the Sprint Cup cars at Richmond . At 3:30 it’s the Go or Go Home time trial session for those outside of the top 35 in Sprint Cup points. At 4:00pm NASCAR’s Nationwide Series has their qualifying session. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at 5:30 . At 7:00pm the action moves to ESPN2 for live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lipton Tea 250 from the Richmond Intl. Raceway. The Speed Channel finishes out the day with Trackside at Richmond at 10:00pm . The Speed Channel will host a two hour pre-race program, beginning at 5:00 at Richmond before handing off coverage to FOX at 7:00pm for live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 at the Richmond Intl. Raceway.
The Rockingham Motor Speedway was shut down and stripped of its NASCAR sanction a few years ago. The North Carolina Speedway gets a rebirth on Sunday with the ARCA RE/MAX Series Carolina 500. The Speed Channel will provide live flag to flag coverage of the event beginning at noon . On Sunday night the Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report at 7:00 and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 . Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain follows at 9:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Speedway Motorsports showed a modest gain of 0.26 as they closed out the week at 25.26. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.99 to 42.08 and Dover Downs dropped 0.06 to 6.50. NASCAR Cup Series sponsor Sprint/Nextel enjoyed its biggest gain in quite a while as they went up 1.30 to 7.91. Nationwide, which sponsors NASCAR’s second division, dropped 0.13 to 48.89. Fuel supplier Sun Oil took a big dip as they dropped 4.81 to 50.87. Goodyear had a fairly good week as they went up 1.48 to 28.91. Coca-Cola dropped 0.41 to 59.29 while Dupont dropped 2.14 to 49.88. Target Department Stores also had a negative week as they went down 0.62 to 53.98. Aarons Rentals which sponsored the events at the Talledega Speedway last weekend went up 2.79 to 25.48. In the home improvement sector it was a positive week. Lowes went up 1.16 to 26.02 and Home Depot went up 1.09 to 29.78. The parcel carriers saw their week end on a negative note. Fedex dropped 2.19 to 94.46 and UPS dropped 0.43 to 72.72. The World Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) continues to spin their wheels at 0.29.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal Bruton Smith, chief executive of Speedway Motorsports Inc., saw a drop in compensation last year to $1.83 million from $2.05 million in 2006. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Smith received a salary of $600,000 and nonequity incentives of $1.23 million in 2007. In 2006, he received a salary of $600,000 and a bonus of $1.45 million.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891 . Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


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

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