Tuesday April 21, 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. In the mean time NASCAR has made a ruling that could very well be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Hartford Courant reported last week that competitors, drivers and owners, would be required to attend the season ending banquet in order to receive their point moneys and season ending awards. The vast majority of Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors have been fiercely loyal to NASCAR in the past but that could very well be changing. What really has the competitors riled up is the fact that they signed an agreement to comply with NASCAR’s banquet requirements without even knowing it. That’s what happens when you sign your name to something before you read it. Defending series Champion Ted Christopher says he is not happy with having to go to Charlotte but in the end, he will be there. The competitors were, as had happened many times before, hoodwinked by NASCAR. The agreement that the competitors signed stipulated that the competitors must attend the season ending banquet as they had in previous years, never stating that the venue had changed. It was a gutless move on NASCAR’s part to say the least!

Like the formerly loyal competitors to the Busch North Series before them, NASCAR is slowly but surely putting the screws to the competitors who race on the Whelen Modified Tour. Many of the former Busch North Series competitors now compete in the ACT Series or the PASS series. Slowly but surely the Modified competitors are leaning toward the True Value Modified Series.

Jason Christley, NASCAR manager of communications for the weekly and touring divisions has all but called the competitors, including defending WMT Champion Ted Christopher ignorant and stupid as he refers to those who compete and follow the Modifieds as the “"torch-and-pitchfork mob". Hopefully when some of them show up in Charlotte this fall they will be wearing their Sunday best bib over-alls and carrying pitchforks unless of course NASCAR has a hidden dress code clause that the competitors signed without knowing.

Rumor has it that NASCAR may hire Jerry Robinson to sit in a dunk tank just in case any Waterford competitors show up in Charlotte this fall!

Read the full story & comments on the Hartford Courant Auto Racing Blog: (Whelen Modified Tour Teams Could Face Forfeiture Of Prize Money For Skipping Out On Banquet)

The "torch & pitchfork mob" are headed to Stafford Speedway for the Spring Sizzler this weekend.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series heads to the Stafford Motor Speedway this coming weekend for the Annual Spring Sizzler. It will be interesting to see if NASCAR turns a deaf ear when competitors express their opinions concerning the relocation of the annual awards banquet

After three straight weeks of rainouts the Waterford Speedbowl finally got to open their doors for the 2009 season. Keith Rocco picked up where he left off in 2008 as he won the opener as he nipped Ron Yuhas Jr at the finish line in the 35 lap SK Modified feature. Yuhas, who started on the pole, was the only other leader of the event. Rob Janovic Jr. was third, followed by defending champion Dennis Gada. Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Diego Monahan, Jeff Pearl, Frank Mucciacciaro Jr., Don Fowler, and Justin Gaydosh.

Ryan Morgan took down the Legends checkers at the Speedbowl.
Keith Cyr Photo

Among those who ran into tough luck was Jeffrey Paul who dropped out with engine problems.

Bruce Thomas Jr picked up his 30th career win at the shoreline oval as he went pole to pole to take the victory. Vin Esposito finished second and Allen Coates was third. Flyin Ryan Morgan of Mystic made his grandfather Jack a happy guy as he scored his first win of the season Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl by winning the twenty lap Legend's feature. Morgan had to survive three caution flags with two laps to go, however, the 15 year old was able to pull away on the restarts to hold off second place finisher, Joe Cipriano and Tony Flanagan who finished third.

Other winners were Danny Field (Mini Stocks) and Josh Galvin (Street Stocks).

Ted Christopher and Joe Brady were a little off their game last week as they settled for a seventh place finish in a NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series event at the Lanier Speedway in Braselton, Ga. Andy Seuss took the lead in the 150 lap event on lap 43 from Christopher. George Brunnhoelzl III finished second. L.W. Miller and Burt Myers made contact in Turn 2 on the final lap while racing for third, and Myers went spinning. Miller went on to score his best finish of the year in third, with Brian Loftin and Jason Myers completing the top five. There were only 14 Modifieds in competition. Seuss received $2,000 for his efforts.

In TV land this week, viewing begins on Tuesday at 5:00pm with NASCAR Now on espn2. NASCAR Now will be seen at the same time through Friday. Wednesday at noon will see a replay of last week’s Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 that was run at the Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona.On Thursday at noon the Speed Channel will present NASCAR Classics: Talladega 2007. At 4:00 Speed will show a taped delayed NASCAR Camping World Touring Series West event that was run at the Phoenix International Raceway. Speed goes live on Friday at 11:30am with NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying from Talledega, AL. At 1:30 it’s a 30 minute NASCAR Live session followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at 2:00pm. More NASCAR Live at 3:00pm on Speed followed at 3:30 by 90 minutes of final practice for the Sprint Cup cars. Live coverage continues on Speed at 5:00 with the ARCA RE/MAX Series Talladega ARCA 250. The ARCA 250 will be repeated at 8:30pm on Speed. Rounding out the day will be Trackside at Talladega at 11:00pm. Saturday’s viewing starts at 10:30am with NASCAR Live at Talladega. Live coverage continues at 11:00am with Sprint Cup qualifying. At 2:30pm the action switches to ABC for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead to a 3:15pm start of the Aaron's 312 at Talladega. At 5:30 that action switches to Speed for the Camping World Truck Series pre-race show that will lead into a 6:15pm start of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. Sunday’s viewing begins at 10:00am with a one hour segment of NASCAR Now on espn2. At 11:30 NASCAR Race Day on Speed begins a two hour preview of the Sprint Cup event at Talladega. FOX goes live at 1:00pm with their own pre-race show that will lead to flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Aaron’s 499 which has an expected start time of 2:15pm at the Talladega Speedway. 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 of the three speedway stocks had positive endings. Speedway Motorsports went up 1.04 to 14.09 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.62 to 20.63. On the negative side, Dover Downs dropped 0.20 to 1.90. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.18 to 4.11 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.88 to 28.15. Tire supplier Goodyear jumped up 1.71 to 10.21. Two of the three auto makers involved in racing had negative results for the week. Ford dropped 0.24 to 4.00 while General Motors dropped 0.18 to 1.86. On the other side of the coin, Toyota went up 4.95 to 77.14. NASCAR team sponsors had a pretty good week. Dupont went up 1.94 to 28.42. Coca-Cola went up 1.11 to 53.66 while Target Department Stores went up 0.65 to 40.54. Aarons Rentals was also up as they closed out the week at 30.02, up 0.91. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.20 to 26.10 and Lowes went up 0.41 to 20.73.

The International Speedway Corporation announced that James C. France, 64, is stepping down from the role of Chief Executive Officer effective June 1, 2009. Mr. France will remain Chairman of the Board of Directors in a non-executive capacity. In addition, the Company's Board of Directors announced the promotions, also effective June 1, 2009, of several executives to positions of new responsibility.

•Lesa France Kennedy, 47, currently President, will become Chief Executive Officer and retain the title of Vice Chair.
•John R. Saunders, 52, currently Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, will become President;
•Roger R. VanDerSnick, 45, currently Senior Vice President - Marketing & Business Operations, will become Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer; and,
•Daniel W. Houser, 57, will move from Vice President to Senior Vice President, and remain Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer.

Separately, ISC declared an annual dividend of $0.14 per share, payable on June 30, 2009, to common stockholders of record on May 29, 2009, marking the 36th consecutive year that the Company has paid a dividend to its shareholders. ISC paid an annual dividend of $0.12 per share in 2008. Also, the following members of ISC's Board of Directors were re-elected to a three-year term: Lesa France Kennedy; Larry Aiello, Jr., 59; J. Hyatt Brown, 71; Edward H. Rensi, 64; and, Thomas W. Staed, 77.

Business First of Louisville reported that the likelihood that Kentucky Speedway will be awarded a 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup race has become even more remote because an antitrust lawsuit by the track founders against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. now likely won’t be resolved until July at the earliest. The case, which is in U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, is not included in the hearing calendar finalized Monday for a two-week session beginning April 20. Although the court could still add the case to the schedule, that would be rare in a case such as this one. The next two-week hearing session begins June 8 – the Monday prior to the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the track.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France has said that NASCAR will not consider a realignment request for a Sprint Cup date from current owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. until the case is resolved. NASCAR typically begins the sanctioning process in April or May, and France has said that the track is running out of time to begin the realignment process.

The appeal hearing would center on whether there is enough evidence for a trial, and a decision on whether to affirm or repeal a judge’s January 2008 ruling in favor of NASCAR and ISC likely would come anywhere from three weeks to six months after the hearing. If the Kentucky Speedway founders win the appeal, the case would then be scheduled for trial.
The founders of Kentucky Speedway, who sold the track to SMI in December, allege that sanctioning body NASCAR and track operator ISC illegally conspire to keep tracks such as Kentucky from obtaining Cup dates. NASCAR, a private company owned by the France family, and the publicly traded ISC, whose majority of voting stock is owned by the France family, deny those claims. SMI is listed as a co-conspirator in the case.

The Associated Press reported that Brazilian race car driver and "Dancing With The Stars" champ Helio Castroneves was acquitted on April 17 of most charges that he worked with his sister and lawyer to evade more than $2.3 million in U.S. income taxes.

A federal jury acquitted Castroneves on six counts of tax evasion but hung on one count of conspiracy. When the sentence was read, Castroneves broke into sobs and leaned against his attorneys for support. The jury also acquitted Katiucia Castroneves, 35, who is her 33-year-old brother's business manager, on the tax evasion counts but also hung on the conspiracy. Michigan motorsports attorney Alan Miller, 71, was acquitted on all three counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy. The jury deliberated six days after a six-week trial.

That’s 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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