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Tuesday December 18, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                            

In NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour news the series hosted its banquet of champions at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville , CT on Friday night. Taking center stage was 2007 Champion Don Lia and his car owner, Bob Garbarino. Lia’s first career NASCAR title made him the 60th NASCAR Modified champion dating back to the division’s first champion, Red Byron, in 1948. For Garbarino it was the culmination of 4-1/2 decades of dedication of building and owning Modifieds. Former NASCAR National Modified Champion Jerry Cook presented Garbarino a special Car Owners Championship trophy. In accepting, Garbarino stated, “Modified Car Owners are a special group of people, I’m proud to be one of them”. He added, “Since August 11, 1961 , Modified Racing has been part of my family”. Garbarino and his wife, Joan, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. “She has supported me every step of the way”, he said.

Garbarino had the luxury of having two race crews in his quest for the championship. In addition to his own race crew, headed by Greg Schroder which included Jimmy Savage, Richard Brustolon Skip Garbarino and Skip Heffernann, Garbarino had the Lia Motorsports crew headed by Race Day Crew Chief Bob Mueller.

Lia earned $104,225 as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, collecting $40,000 in point fund money, as well as $8,000 as the season-long Budweiser Pole Award and Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award winner. He was also presented with the prestigious NASCAR championship ring by NASCAR Managing Director of Racing Operations George Silbermann. In addition, Lia was awarded the new NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour trophy. The trophy, introduced this season by NASCAR and series sponsor Whelen Engineering, features the name of every NASCAR Modified champion dating back to Byron’s championship season. The list of past champions, many of those on hand, includes such racing legends as Bobby Allison, the late Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, the late Fred DeSarro, Mike Stefanik, Ernie Gahan Jamie Tomaino, Jeff Fuller, Wayne Anderson, Mike Mclaughlin, Rick Fuller, Jerry Marquis, Tony Hirschman, Todd Szegedy Jack Chiquette and Bugs Stevens. Lia dedicated his championship to the memory of Tom Baldwin Sr. and John Blewett III.

Numerous special awards were also handed out. Todd Szegedy was named the Most Popular Driver; the Boehler Family was honored with the Dedication Award; Eric Sanderson received the Len Boehler Car Owner Award; Joe and Linda Brady were presented with the Whelen Modified Tour Women’s Auxiliary Award; Engine builder Bob Bruneau was honored with the Sportsmanship Award; and Ronnie Silk was honored with the Driver Achievement Award. Mike Stefanik, a six-time Modified champion, collected $6,000 Friday as the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award, while Ted Christopher earned $5,035 as the Featherlite Driver Improvement Award. Richard Savary was honored with a $2,000 check for winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Todd Szegedy picked up the trophy for finishing second in the championship standings, and Matt Hirschman received the third-place driver’s trophy.

In addition to announcing the 2008 schedule Phil Kurze announced that Whelen Engineering has signed an extension with NASCAR that extends the company’s series entitlement of the Modified Tour and the Southern Modified Tour for an additional five years to the current agreement, through 2016. It was also announced that NASCAR has plans to implement an optional spec engine for the 2008 season as a cost-saving initiative for Modified teams. The spec engine has had solid success in the Grand National Division during the 2007 season.

This year’s awards ceremony featured NASCAR race broadcaster Mike Joy of Fox Sports as master of ceremonies. A former track announcer at Stafford, Thompson and at Riverside Park, Joy has never forgotten where he came from as he often speaks of his roots in the Modifieds.

The pieces of the puzzle for the 2008 season are now in place. The 16-race, eight-track NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule will begin and end at the Thompson International Speedway. The Tour will take the green flag April 5-6 with the traditional season-opening Icebreaker, and conclude Oct. 17-18 as part of the track’s World Series. In addition to the Icebreaker and World Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will run at Thompson July 19, Aug. 14, and Sept. 6. The July race will be run under a unique format, where for the first time it will be run as a 75-lap event where only green flag laps are counted. The Tour will also feature four races at the Stafford Motor Speedway. The first race will be April 27 as the main event of Stafford’s Spring Sizzler weekend. The Tour will return to Stafford May 23 and Aug. 8. The final race of the season at Stafford will be Sept. 28 as part of the track’s Fall Final weekend and will run in conjunction with the NASCAR Grand National Division, East Series.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule features three stops to the state of New York. The Tour will run on Long Island Aug. 2 at Riverhead Raceway. The Tour will make two trips to upstate New York with races at Spencer Speedway in Williamson July 12 and Chemung Speedrome Oct. 4. The Tour will make two stops at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, those being on July 28 and Sept. 13 as part of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends. The Tour will also make a return trip to Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park in conjunction with the NASCAR Grand National Division, East Series. The Tour schedule also includes the fourth annual Made In America Whelen 300 Sept. 21 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a combination event with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series.

Joey Logano returned to his home state to be honored as the 2007 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series at the series’ awards ceremony at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Conn.on Saturday night. The 17-year-old rookie driver from Middletown, Conn., was presented the championship trophy and postseason team awards. Logano’s winnings, bonus awards, and point fund earnings pushed his season total to $233,978. The championship celebration culminated with NASCAR Managing Director of Racing Operations George Silbermann presenting Logano with the prestigious NASCAR championship ring. In addition to the series title Logano won six races and the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.

Saturday night’s awards ceremony also included two major announcements by NASCAR. Starting in 2008, the long-standing Grand National Division will become the Camping World Series. The Busch East will be known as the Camping World Series East. In addition, the 2008 schedule was announced, featuring a 13-race calendar that will take the Camping World Series East to 12 tracks in nine states. Events of local interest include two races on cup weekends at Loudon, a July 12 race at Thompson and the season ending event which will run in conjunction with the Modifieds at the Fall Final on September 28.

In TV land this week, viewing doesn’t begin until Friday at 7:00pm when ESPN Classic presents the 1995 Classic Champ Car Miller Genuine Draft 200 that was run at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin . On Saturday at 1:00pm the Speed Channel hosts the Australian V8 Supercars. The August 10th World Series of Off-Road Racing from Bark River , MI follows at 3:00pm . At 7:30 it’s the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series from the Talladega Short Track in Talladega , AL . The only racing on Sunday is the July 3 Legends Car, Bandolero and Thunder Roadster racing Summer Shootout from the Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord , NC at noon . The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report at 7:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week a general blood bath occurred. All three speedway stocks had a negative ending. Taking the big hit was Speedway Motorsports which went down 2.39 to 31.60. The International Speedway Corporation went down 1.55 to 41.65 and Dover Downs went down 0.12 to 6.61. NASCAR Cup series sponsor Sprint/Nextel dropped 2.47 to 14.17 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 2.60 to 67.80. Goodyear dropped 1.98 to 26.46 and DIRT Motorsports dropped o.09 to 0.36. In the drug sector Pfizer dropped 1.30 to 23.10 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 1.15 to 28.08. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 2.86 to 26.63 and Lowes dropped 2.36 to 22.72. The parcel carriers didn’t escape despite the Christmas rush. Fedex dropped 4.30 to 95.92 and UPS dropped 1.56 to 73.61.

The International Speedway Corp. announced that they will take a steep fourth quarter charge related to its Motorsports Authentics joint venture. Motorsports Authentics, which markets and distributes motorsports-related merchandise licensed by certain competitors in NASCAR racing, is a 50-50 partnership between International Speedway and Speedway Motorsports. The venture is expected to lose between $45 million-$50 million in 2007. ISC says it will record a write-off of $25 million-$50 million in the fourth quarter because of the losses.
Motorsports Authentics blames part of the losses on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement in May that he was leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. International Speedway expects Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers to sell more products next year when they move to new teams.

In other International Speedway news, the company named Daniel Houser its new chief financial officer. Houser currently is the company's chief accounting officer. He will begin his new duties Feb. 1, when current Chief Financial Officer Susan Schandel leaves the company.

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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