Tuesday April 14, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is on a two week break before heading to Stafford Springs Connecticut for the annual Spring Sizzler. Considered the greatest race in the history of spring, the Sizzler was conceived by Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd. The original event, run in 1972 and won by the late Fred DeSarro who drove Len Boehlerís Ďole Blu, was so successful that the rites to the race were bought by the late Jack Arute. Thirty eight years later the event is still going strong. It was originally an open competition 80 lapper. It is now a 200 lapper and part of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and is sponsored by CARQUEST Auto Parts Stores.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to action with the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on April 26.

Dick Berggren, who along with Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd
conceived the original Spring Sizzler in 1972. Dick is
pictured here during his racing days on the dirt at
Lakeville Speedway before his broadcasting days.

Congratulations to the Arute family as the Stafford Motor Speedway was recently inducted into the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame. Stafford joined Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Alcoa Howmet, Gloria McAdam, president & CEO, Foodshare, and Jim Barnes, president & CEO, OAKLEAF Waste & Recycling in the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame Class of 2008 at a ceremony held on April 3, 2009. The Connecticut Business Hall Of Fame showcases successful companies and business leaders through business networking and industry events that are held throughout the state. Over 80 nominations were received for consideration into the class of 2008. Some past inductees into the CT Business Hall of Fame include SUBWAY, CRN International, Chris Campbell of Palace Production Center, and Herb Barker of Barker Specialty Company. "Stafford Motor Speedway is honored to be recognized by the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame for our community service involvement with
surrounding towns and being a leader in the motorsports industry in Connecticut," said Lisa Arute, administrative vice president, Stafford Motor Speedway.

Stafford Motor Speedway was presented with an Official Citation from the General Assembly as well as an Official Statement from Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, an Official Citation from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a congratulatory letter from Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, and a Public Service Award from Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. . The 2009 season will also mark the 40th consecutive year that the track has operated under Arute family ownership.

While it was quiet in the Northeast the Whelen Southern Modified Tour had two events scheduled. The first, at the Ace Speedway in North Carolina was rained out after practice. Ron Silk topped the speed charts in practice at Ace Speedway, but rains right before qualifying have put everything on hold. Ronnie Silk in the No. 79 Hill Enterprises/Coors Light/Sunoco Pontiac put up a fast lap of 14.472 seconds (99.502 mph) around the .400-mile oval. Teenager Erick Rudolph who drove the No. 59 Ed Bennett Properties, Inc. Chevrolet, was second at 14.606 (98.590), just ahead of defending race winner L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities Pontiac) at 14.660 (98.226). Ted Christopher and Burt Myers rounded out the top five in practice.

On the Saturday night the Southern Modified Tour was at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC Ted Christopher and car owner Joe Brady made their trip south a worth while effort. Christopher didnít think he had enough car left at the end but he was able to hold off a hard-charging Andy Seuss Saturday in the Caraway Speedway 150 to get his second win of the year in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Christopher's No. 00 Shermís Towing Ė Brady Bunch Chevrolet was able to pass leader George Brunnhoelzl III on lap 106 after Brunnhoelzl spun his tires on the restart after a caution enabling Christopher to get out front in the lead. Christopher was able to keep Seuss' No. 47 Advance AutoParts/Q Racing Oil/Stuart Automotive Dodge behind him to remain perfect at 3-for-3 in Modified Tour races in 2009. The Plainville, Conn., driver won the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour opener at Concord (N.C.) Speedway March 21, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway last week.

Defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Brian Loftin following in third at Caraway, with Ron Silk and Frank Fleming completing the top five. Brunnhoelzl was racing Christopher for the lead when he spun coming out of Turn 2 on lap 136 to bring out the sixth and final caution flag of the race. Brunnhoelzl finished 11th but retained his points lead by six over Burt Myers. Brunnhoelzl won his second consecutive Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying and started second after the post-qualifying redraw.

For his efforts, Christopher received $2,000. Sixteen of the original 25 starters completed the 150 lap distance.

For the past few years NASCAR held their awards banquets for the Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Camping World East (formerly Busch North Series) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT.

Word comes now that competitors and fans will be forced to travel to the Charlotte, NC area as NASCAR announced that they will host a special week of activities culminating in the 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) Awards Banquet on Friday, November 13, and the new NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Saturday, November 14. The Whelen All American Series Banquet was previously held in Las Vegas. The NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Gala will feature the champions and top drivers from all of NASCARís North American regional touring series including invitees from the NASCAR Camping World Series East, the NASCAR Camping World Series West, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Because of the fact that all the touring divisionís banquets are grouped together it will be more like the town dump of banquets. Itís just another lame move by NASCAR to save them some money and increase the costs of the fan and competitor.

For the third week in a row, racing was rained out at the Waterford Speedbowl. The shoreline oval will try again this coming Saturday night.

The Speedbowl has announced the make-up date for the 13th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals as Saturday night, May 30. The event is highlighted by the $5,000 to win SK-150 and will also feature extra distance events for the Mini Stocks, Street Stocks, and Late Models. The popular pre-race Pit Party will also be a part of the eveningís festivities. The event, originally scheduled as the Speedbowl season opener on March 28-29, was cut short due to rain. It takes the places of the regular Saturday night event that was scheduled for May 30.

Qualifying for the event was completed on March 28 via time trials for the SK Modifieds and Late Models, and heat races for the Street Stocks and Mini Stocks. Keith Rocco set fast time for the SK-150 with a 14.138 second lap around the three-eighths mile shoreline oval. He bested Frank Ruocco and Diego Monahan. A redraw of the top ten time trailers was held and Frank Ruocco will lead the field to green. Bruce Thomas set a Late Model track-record in time trials with a 15.240 lap and will start from the pole.

The SK-150 carries more than $20,000 in purse. Additional teams not on hand for qualifying in March are welcomed to attend on May 30 and a consolation race will be held to round out the starting fields if necessary.

Joey Logano is all smiles as he qualifyed second for the Nashville 300. Joey went on for the victory.
(Photo Credit: John Sommers II/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Connecticut native Joey Logano who has been a big disappointment on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, won his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in the Pepsi 300 on Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway. The 18-year-old Logano and Busch ran in the top two and traded the lead for most of the race, with Logano leading the final 10 laps and finishing 0.487 seconds in front. Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kelly Bires and series leader Carl Edwards who rounded out the top five.

Despite the fact that the track promoted pre-race access to the garage, front stretch and driver's meeting, the crowd was thin. The promotion also aggravated many of the competitors as fans brought diecast models by the suitcase for them to sign.

The Associated Press reported that Jurors began deliberating on Friday, April 10, on tax evasion charges against race car driver Helio Castroneves and two advisers after prosecutors said in closing arguments that the driver enjoyed ample wealth but defrauded the government to get more. Prosecutors allege that Castroneves and the others tried to conceal his control of a Panamanian shell company, called Seven Promotions, and lied to tax lawyers and accountants about his true income. They say documents and witnesses back up claims that Castroneves knowingly dodged millions in U.S. taxes over a five-year period.

In TV land this week, viewing begins at 5:00pm on Tuesday with NASCAR Now on ESPN2. NASCAR Now will be seen at the same time through Friday. Race viewing on the Speed Channel begins at noon on Thursday with the 2007 Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 that was run at Phoenix, AZ. At 3:00pm last Saturdayís NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East, Greenville Pickens 150, will be shown. Fridayís viewing begins at 11:00 on the Speed Channel with NASCAR Nationwide Series two hour practice from Phoenix. Two hours of Sprint Cup practice follows at 1:00. NASCAR Live at Phoenix breaks up the action at 3:00 followed by final practice for the Sprint Cup cars at 3:30. After another 30 minute session of NASCAR Live at Phoenix at 5:00 the Nationwide Series cars qualify beginning at 5:30. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at 7:00. The action moves to ESPN2 for the Nationwide Pre-race show at 9:00 which will lead to a 9:45pm start of the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix. This event will be replayed at 11:00am on Saturday on espn2 following NASCAR Now which comes on at 10:00am. Saturday programming on Speed includes Trackside at Phoenix at 11:00am and NASCAR RaceDay which will be the first of two pre-race shows for the Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 for the Sprint Cup cars. The second pre-race show will be on at 8:00pm on FOX. The Sprint Cup event is scheduled to take the green flag at 8:45pm on FOX. Speed goes live on Sunday at Rockingham, NC for the ARCA RE/MAX Series Carolina 200. The Speed Channel has the Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm on Sunday night

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two out of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the plus side. On the negative was the International Speedway Corporation which went down 4.73 after reporting they had a weak quarter. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.16 to 13.05 and Dover Downs went up 0.03 to 2.10. NASCAR Cup sponsor, Sprint, went up 0.10 to 4.29 as NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil jumped up 0.49 to 29.03. Tire supplier Goodyear also had a good week as they went up 1.10 to 8.50. Two of the three auto makers involved in racing had positive weeks. Toyota went up 4.08 to 79.19 and Ford went up 0.99 to 4.24. On the down side was General Motors which dropped 0.06 to 2.04. It was also a good week for the team sponsors. Dupont went up 0.51 to 26.48 while Coca-Cola jumped up 0.74 to 52.55. Target Department Stores jumped up 3.11 to 39.89 as Aarons Rentals went up 1.17 to 29.11. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.90 to 25.90 and
Lowes went up 1.20 to 20.32.

Thatís it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is

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

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