Tuesday December 1, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

All eyes were on the annual Wall Stadium Turkey Derby XXXVI this past weekend. The Turkey Derby officially closed out the 2009 outdoor racing season in the northeast. Despite the fact that a bad storm left high winds to buffet the New Jersey speedway the entire two day program was completed.

Rowan Pennick capped off a breakout year with a win in the Modified Tour type portion of the Turkey Derby. Pennick started third, took the lead from Matt Hirschman on a lap40 restart only to lose it after being roughed up by Jimmy Blewett. Blewett led until lap 91 when he reluctantly left the speedway after being black flagged for leaking fluid. Following the race Jamie Tomaino and Pete Brittain said they saw no fluid coming from the #66 car of Jimmy Blewett. Rowan Pennink said the officials stopped him and checked the fluid on his windshield that was why they black flagged Blewett.Pennick re-assumed the lead and went on to take the 100 lap win over Pete Brittain. Jamie Tomaino finished third with Jon McKennedy and Anthony Sesely rounding out the top five. Hirschman ended up 8th while Blewett finished in 18th spot. Ted Christopher, in a Pennick team, car finished 13th.

Jimmy Blewett won the SK type 100 after taking the lead from Anthony Sesely on lap 76. Rowan Pennink finished third with Chas Okerson and Tim Arre rounding out the top five. Numerous accidents slowed the 100 lapper including a mean one by local runner Robert Geibel who flew out of the ballpark on the backstretch.

In some sad news, Ernie Gahan, the 1966 NASCAR Modified national champion, passed away Thursday night, November 26, at his home in Berwick, Maine at the age of 83.

Gahan, originally from Dover, N.H., got his start in auto racing at his hometown track, Dover Speedway, in 1948 after serving more than two years as an Army military policeman in Germany following Word War II. After getting his start at Dover, Gahan competed in the NASCAR Sportsman division until 1965, when he moved over to Modifieds.

In his title year Gahan compiled 6,560 points during his 1966 run to the title to distance himself from runner-up Bugs Stevens and third place Ray Hendrick. Driving a 1936 Chevrolet coupe, Gahan won 15 of the 71 races he entered that season, but led Hendrick by just 48 points heading into the season finale in Atlanta, Ga. Hendrick was caught up in an early race accident and Gahan crossed the line 10th to earn the crown. Gahan made 11 starts in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 1960-66. He was bestowed the Buddy Shuman Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR following an incident in which he helped Tiny Lund rescue Marvin Panch from a fiery crash prior to the 1963 Daytona 500.

Winner of an estimated 300-plus races during his nearly three decades as a racer, Gahan was a member of the inaugural New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 1998 and was a 1990 New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame inductee. Additionally, he is a member of the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame and Beach Ridge Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.

Gahan was in attendance at the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Awards Banquet as many of the NASCAR Modified champions gathered to kick-off the celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions. He was honored for his 1966 title at the 2008 Spring Sizzler at Stafford.

Many of the leading race drivers in the Northeast will compete alongside nationally-known competitors when the high-powered, three-quarter-size Midget Cars return to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., this coming Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5.

They will race in two complete programs for the "Coffee Cup" on a concrete oval on the arena floor. Cars will be reaching speeds of close to 70 mph.

NASCAR Sprint Cup star David Reutimann and Indy 500 driver Davey Hamilton will race at Providence for the first time. Reutimann will be making a special appearance sponsored by Dunkin Donuts, on Friday, December 4 only. Reutimann, 39, will drive a No. 00 with the car having the logos of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Fans are encouraged to “Give Back This Holiday Season” by bringing a non-perishable food item to the races that can be donated to that cause. Hamilton, a nine-time Indianapolis 500 starter, will be driving a car fielded by the versatile Lou Cicconi Jr. Overall; Hamilton started 50 Indy Car events and was twice a runner-up in series points. He has also been a leading driver in the high-powered Supermodifieds, and in full-size Midgets, at tracks around the country. Now, he will race a TQ for the first time at Providence.

They will be joined by leading Modified division drivers in the Northeast. They include last March’s Providence winners, Ted Christopher of Plainville , Ct. and Mike Iles of Medford , N.J. ; dirt track specialist Billy Pauch of Frenchtown , N.J. , and pavement ace Mike Stefanik of Coventry , R.I. This will be the 78th event that Christopher has raced in 2009. Christopher has also become one of the chosen few to become a 12 month racer.

Other invaders entered include dirt Modified standouts Stewart and James Friesen from Ontario , Canada ; and N.J.’s Anthony Sesely, the winner of two major Northeast pavement Modified races this autumn. The 2009 ARDC Midget champion, Frank Polimeda; and Massachusetts resident Bobby Santos III, who recently won the prestigious Copper World USAC Midget feature at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, are considered pre-race favorites.

A special guest at the event will be retired New England race driving champion Dave Humphrey. Beginning his career in the stock cars at nearby Seekonk Speedway, he went on to become a six-time champion in the Northeast Midget Association (NEMA) and a 72 time feature winner with that organization. Mr. Humphrey will give the command to “start engines” and his looking forward to meeting the drivers of today and his legion of fans.

The TQs will be complimented by Champ Kart racing on the same oval.

The format will be similar to the one used in March. The Three-Quarter Midgets and Senior Champ Karts will headline the two-day program. Qualifying and feature events for both classes are scheduled each night.

Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations and the Dunkin’ Donut Center box office. Ticketmaster can be reached online at or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Information on the event will be available at or by calling 609-888-3618.

Ron Hedger, National Speed Sport Correspondent reports that asphalt repaving of the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY is complete. The banking at the top of the turns has been extended and the backstretch has been pushed out another lane. In addition to the New England based Modified Racing Series future plans call for the Race of Champions Modified Series along with the ISMA Supers and the ACT Late Models.

In TV land this week viewing begins on Tuesday at noon on the Speed Channel with a re-showing of the Feb 13 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 that was run at the Daytona International Speedway. Later in the day at 7:30pm NASCAR Race Hub will spotlight the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, Kyle Busch. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will re-show the Feb 15 Daytona 500. NASCAR Race Hub on Speed at 7:30pm will spotlight the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. On Thursday at noon Speed will replay the Feb 22 NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 that was run at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. At 7:30pm NASCAR Race Hub covers the top 12 victory parade and other events from Las Vegas Champion’s Week leading up to the Awards Ceremony on Friday night. Friday’s viewing begins at noon when the Speed Channel re-plays the NASCAR Sprint Cup Shelby 427 that was held at the Las Vegas Speedway on March 1. At 3:00pm Speed has a one hour special that details the building of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. At 4:00pm Speed sends Dave Despain on Assignment to Talladega. At 5:00 Speed has NASCAR Best Moments on SPEED in 2009 followed by NASCAR Best Surprises in 2009 at 5:30, NASCAR Best Dramatic Moments in 2009 at 6:00pm and NASCAR Best Performances in 2009 at 6:30pm. At 7:00pm the Speed Channel shows taped delayed coverage of the November 23 NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series awards ceremonies that was held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, FL. Speed goes live at 9:00pm with four hours coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet that will be held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. Saturday will be quiet. The Sprint Cup banquet will be replayed on Sun, Dec. 6 at 1:00pm. Rounding out the week is The Speed Report on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three-speedway stocks were down for the week. Speedway Motorsports went down 0.39 to 15.98 while Dover Motorsports dropped 0.01 to 1.80 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.41 to 26.27. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.01 to 3.75 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.50 to 25.93. Tire supplier Goodyear was also in the red as they dropped 0.42 to 13.69. Two of the three carmakers had positive results for the week. Ford went up 0.09 to 8.73 and Toyota went up 0.05 to 77.02. General Motors dropped 0.05 to 0.59. Team sponsors didn’t fare much better. Dupont dropped 0.11 to 34.40 and Aaron’s Rentals dropped 0.66 to 25.36. Coca-Cola showed a no change at 46.05 and Target Department Stores went up 0.24 to 47.70. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.43 to 27.61 and Lowes went up 0.61 to 21.96.

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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