Tuesday April 3, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

Now that Florida Speedweeks are history its time to look foreword to racing in the Northeast. As of this Friday, April 6, one week remains before the start of the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series IceBreaker at the Thompson Speedway on April 15. Snow, rain and a dismal forecast forced the Thompson International Speedway management to postpone last Saturday's open practice session for 24 hours.

Among those taking advantage of the early season practice session were Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors Todd Szegedy, Ryan Preece, Ron Yuhas, Bryon Chew, Eric Beers, Donny Lia, Patrick Emerling, Richie Pallai, Jr, Rob Fuller and Eric Berndt.

The Waterford Speedbowl, one of the nations oldest and most historic racing venues in the country, opened its gates for the 62nd consecutive season-opener with the annual Budweiser Blastoff Weekend. In addition to the shoreline ovals usual bill of fare the NEMA Midgets and the Valenti Modified Racing Series on the racing card. Competitors waited out the rain finally getting on the track to practice shortly after three PM. There were 25 SK Modifieds and 28 Valenti Modified Racing Series Modifieds on hand.

First on tap for Sunday's main events were the SK Modifieds who ran a 62 lap feature. Tom Abele, Jr brought the field down for the green. His lead was short lived as Todd Ceravolo stormed to the lead after a restart. Ceravolo, with his future son-in-law Keith Rocco hot on his tail, led until lap 14 when he gave way to the defending track champion. Rocco ran the rest of the 62 lap distance without faltering as he captured his first win of 2012. It was his 37th career win at the Connecticut shoreline oval.

Ceravolo had a lock on the runner-up spot until less than five laps to go when he was passed by Rob Janovic. Janovic ended up in second and was followed by Ceravolo, Jeff Pearl and Doug Coby.

Jon McKennedy jumped out from his outside pole starting spot and led all 100 laps to record the win in the season opener for the Valenti Modified Racing Series. McKennedy drove a car owned by Preston CTs Art Barry. Rowan Pennink finished second with Norm Wrenn, third. Even though McKennedy went pole to pole the event was far from boring. Pennink came from deep in the field twice in the event and Wrenn, who came from a 26th starting spot, overcame going a lap down at one point.

Rounding out the top five were Mike Holdredge and Dave Etheridge. Sixth through tenth were Charlie Pasteryak, Tommy Barrett, Doug Coby, Les Hinkley and Chris Pasteryak.

In other opening weekend action at Waterford, Keith Rocco doubled up, taking down the win in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division event. Charles Beal of Ledyard was a first time Street Stock winner and Ken Cassidy Jr. of Lisbon won the Mini Stock feature. Another first time winner found victory lane in the NEMA Midget feature, as Louisville, KY driver John Zych was victorious.

The Speedbowl also ran numerous feature races on Saturday. Picking up wins included Paul French of Andover, who won the evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified race, Ryan Bigelow of East Hampton who found Victory Lane in the NEMA Light touring series race, and Corey Coates of Ledyard who won in the visiting New England Truck Series. In INEX racing, Dave Garbo Jr. of Stonington claimed the win in the opening day Legends Cars feature and Jacob Urch in the afternoon’s Bandolero race. Other winners included Jon Porter of Canterbury in Super X-Cars, Chris Garside of Waterford in X-Cars and James Logan of Dighton, MA in the New England Four Cylinder Pro Stock tour event.

The Waterford Speedbowl shifts to Saturday nights beginning this coming weekend.

Lou Modestino, who has been the Brockton, MA Enterprise's Motorsports Writer for over four decades, announced that Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools and Spas of Chicopee, Mass., has agreed to become an associate sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at the Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night, May 12.
Following an idea created by Modified race fan Jim Schaefer at his home track, the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, the Monadnock NASCAR WMT event purse will be bolstered $5,000 by Teddy Bear Pools, the #1 Dealer of Pools and Spas in all of Massachusetts. All competing drivers who sport a provided Teddy Bear Pools sticker on their cars will be eligible to compete for the added bonus money.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series started their season with a lot of heat both on and off the track, the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. A restart shortly after the halfway break set up a battle at the front of the field, one that left Andy Seuss' car both out of contention and destroyed. Contact with L.W. Miller's machine as the two tried to make advances on eventual winner George Brunnhoelzl III, left both crews fuming with one another and plenty of hot tempers on a warm spring night. Seuss drove all the way from 12th on the starting grid to challenge for the lead before Lap 100.

Brunnhoelzl was on the inside of the front row, with Seuss to his outside and Miller behind them in third as the field raced through Turns 1 and 2 on the Lap 95 restart. Contact sent sparks flying, and Seuss' car hit the outside wall hard with the right front.

Brunnhoelzl went on to take the win. Jason Myers eased by Miller with two laps to go and ended up second. Miller finished third. Rounding out the top five were Brandon Ward and John Smith.

Congratulations to Tom Fox, a 30 plus year veteran of weekly short track racing, who has joined the Stafford Motor Speedway staff as Director of Racing Operations and Competition. Fox’s duties during the season will entail working alongside Frank Sgambato Jr in the Race Control booth during races and oversee post-race technical inspection in the CBYD Inspection Zone. Fox joined the SMS staff for the final 4 races of the 2011 season as an observer to better prepare him for his 2012 duties.

As a former racer Fox knows quite well some of the frustrations and hard work that a competitor must go through in order to get his car to the track and in the competition with others on the track. It should be a good fit.

Fox has previously served as Race Director/GM at the Waterford Speedbowl, and Race Director for the NEMA Midget Tour. Fox has 31 years of both Modified and Late Model experience as a driver and he has two Late Model championships to his credit while racing at the Waterford Speedbowl.

NASCAR has announced the 2012 race season programming for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on the SPEED Channel. As in the past, the Whelen Modifieds once again got what the cow left behind after jumping over the fence. The only WMT event to be televised will be the fourth annual combination race between the NASCAR Whelen Modified and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tours at Bristol which will air live on Aug. 22. Twenty five NASCAR K&N Pro Series events will be televised.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, at 6:00pm with NASCAR Race Hub. Race Hub will also be shown on Wednesday at the same time. NASCAR Now will be on espn2 at 3:00pm on Tuesday and on Friday.

Race viewing begins on Wednesday, April 4 at noon with a replay of last weeks Sprint Cup race that was held at Martinsville. Because of the fact that NASCAR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are off this week the Speed Channel will be consumed by countless hours of coverage of the Barrett Jackson Car Auction in Palm Beach, FL.
On Sunday night, the Speed Channel will have Speed Center at 7:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 8:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week, two of the three speedway stocks ended the week in the green. Speedway Motorsports went up 2.03 to 18.68 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 1.75 to 27.75 while Dover Motorsports dropped 0.02 to 1.48. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprintwent up 0.11 to 2.85 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.94 to 38.15 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.69 to 11.22. The car makers were all positive. Ford went up 0.16 to 12.48 while General Motors went up 0.48 to 25.65 and Toyota went up 3.06 to 86.82. The home improvement sector got spring fever. Home Depot went up 0.77 to 50.31 and Lowes went up 0.64 to 31.38. The team sponsors were once again varied. Dupont went up 0.27 to 52.90 while Coca-Cola dropped 0.26 to 62.74. Target Department Stores went up 0.08 to 58.27 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.25 to 25.90 while Fedex dropped 0.42 to 91.96.

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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