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Tuesday April 8, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Thompson Speedway officially opened the 2008 racing season in the northeast and began the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. In what was supposed to be a fun filled and competitive weekend ended in tragedy and ultimately a wet note. A racing accident claimed the life of race driver Shane Hammond of Halifax , MA . The accident occurred on the third lap of a scheduled 25-lap Northeast Midget Association (NEMA) feature event race. Hammond was traveling down the backstretch of the 5/8 mile oval when he cart wheeled over the third turn wall and hit an advertisement sign. “Everyone at the Thompson Speedway is saddened by this tragic loss,” said track Owner, Donald Hoenig. “Words can not express how we at Thompson and the entire racing community feel at this time. We extend our deepest sympathies to Shane’s family, friends and to his many fans. Shane Hammond was a very talented young driver who had impressed many with his natural ability.” The 27 year old Mr. Hammond was transported to the Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, CT where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Connecticut State Police are investigating the accident. Connecticut State Police has indicated that the investigation remains open and active.

For a good part of the day it was misting and threatening rain. Eddie Flemke Jr brought back fond remembrances of his father’s Thompson 300 win in 1978 as he elected not to pit when the leaders did and it paid off handsomely, $7,920, to the second generation driver. Flemke, who started eighth, was running third and he inherited the lead on lap 71 when leader Todd Szegedy and second-place Reggie Ruggiero pitted. Flemke led until lap 92 when the race was finally red flagged because of extremely heavy mist that coated the track and made it unsafe. It was also the first win for Gary Teto, Flemke’s car owner.

A similar situation occurred 30 years ago and involved Flemke’s father and Bugsy Stevens. Stevens was clearly the fastest car during the running of the Thompson 300. When rain began falling Stevens was instructed to pit and handed the lead to Flemke. Flemke gambled that the rain would prevail and that it did!

Chuck Hossfeld, in Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile finished second and was followed by Bob Grigas, Long Islander Joe Hartmann and rookie Tom Abele. Sixth through tenth were James Civali who was the Coors Light Pole sitter and clearly the fastest on the track, Todd Szegedy, Reggie Ruggiero, Rowan Pennick and Ted Christopher.

There were five caution periods for 53 laps. NASCAR Tour director Chad Little needs to get a better grip on this situation as it took way too long to get restart lineups correct.

Prior to the race, former champions Frankie Schneider (1952) and Donny Lia (2007), and the late Richie Evans (nine-time champion) were honored by NASCAR and series sponsor Whelen Engineering.

In other weekend racing at Thompson Bert Marvin was the Sunoco Modified (SK type) winner on Saturday night in the first of two events scheduled for the weekend. The Sunday event was rained out and will be rescheduled at a later date. Jimmy Blewett finished second and was followed by Doug Coby, Danny Cates and Josh Sylvester. Jeff Zuidema was the Late Model winner, Mike O’Sullivan was the Pro Stock winner, Jessie Gleason, the Limited Sportsman winner, Glenn Boss was victorious in the Thompson Modifieds and Danny Fields was the Mini Stock winner. The NEMA Midget feature was halted after the lap 3 accident and was not resumed. Erica Santos was the leader at that time.

As of this Friday, two days remain until the Waterford Speedbowl opens on Sunday on April 13. The True Value Modified Series begins on Sunday, April 20 at the Lee USA Speedway in Lee , NH . The Stafford Motor Speedway hosts the Annual Spring Sizzler on April 26-27.

The $5,000-to-win Waterford SK Modified “150” is the centerpiece of the 10-division Modified Nationals including extra-distance events for the Speedbowl’s Late Model, Sportsman and Mini Stock divisions. The Northeastern Midget Association, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Race Trucks, Allison Legacy Cars and NEMA Lites are also on the agenda. A huge field of SK Modifieds including outsiders Jimmy Blewett, Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman, Frank Ruocco, Kenny Horton, Rob Summers, Jeff Malave and Woody Pitkat will be on hand to take on local runners Jeff Pearl, Dennis Gada, Jeff Paul and Ron Yuhas JR. A bad call by Track Steward Steve Harracka ruined what could have been one of the greatest races ever run at the shoreline oval last year. Lets hope he observes the event objectively this year. The Waterford Nationals will mark the beginning of the 58th consecutive season of auto racing at the shoreline oval. The SK-150 is the first of two-scheduled time trial qualifying events. Last year, Jimmy Blewett set the quickest time with a 14.233 effort, a SK-150 record. Kenny Horton holds the overall SK Modified track record at 14.061, set during last season’s Pepsi 300.

In TV land this week viewing starts off on Thursday at noon on the Speed Channel with a re-play of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Samsung 500 that was run at the Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starts early at 5:30pm . At 7:00pm Speed goes live in the West with Sprint Cup qualifying at the Phoenix Intl. Raceway in Phoenix , AZ. Nationwide Series practice follows at 8:30pm . Friday’s viewing starts at 4:00pm with Trackside at from Phoenix on Speed and NASCAR Now on ESPN2. Nationwide Series qualifying gets the green at 5:00pm . Sprint Cup practice follows at 6:30pm . Final practice for Cup cars will be at 8:00pm . At 9:30 the action moves to ESPN2 to prep for a 9:45 start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix . NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will have a one hour time slot on Saturday morning at 10:00am . At 6:00pm Speed will have a two hour RaceDay from Phoenix . At 8:00pm FOX goes live with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 from Phoenix . 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 had a positive ending. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.62 to 42.54. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.57 while Dover Downs dropped 0.14 to 6.01. For the third week in a row Sprint/Nextel, the NASCAR Cup Series sponsor, had a positive ending as they went up 0.11 to 6.52. NASCAR’s second division sponsor Nationwide also had a good week as they went up 0.69 to 47.77. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil showed a no-change for the week as they finished where they started, at 52.26. Goodyear bounced back from a losing week to close at 26.58, up 1.78 from the previous week. Coca-Cola dropped 1.69 to 58.77 while Dupont went up 3.06 to 49.50. Target Department stores were also positive as they went up 2.98 to 52.67. Aarons Rentals followed suit as they went up 0.91 to 22.17. In the home improvement sector Lowes led the way as they went up 1.59 to 24.26. Home Depot also had a positive week as they went up 1.41 to 28.79. The parcel carriers had an extremely good week. Fedex went up 5.60 to 96.87 and UPS went up 2.15 to 74.41.

Graphic Courtesy of nemaracing.com

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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