Tuesday December 20, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

While some race fans are settling into the Christmas mode almost all are looking foreword to 2012 when racing begins again. As of this Friday, Dec23, eight weeks remain before the start of the annual World Series at New Smyrna and Speedweek at the Daytona International Speedway. Racing at New Smyrna begins on Friday night, Feb 17 and the 34th annual season-opening Sprint Cup Shootout event launches Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18. Criteria's for the Shootout are based upon the following qualifications, with eligibility based on a driver having been active in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during the 2011 season: The highest ranked 25 competitors in 2011 NSCS driver points and previous winners at Daytona, including the Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola, and Shootout events.

NASCAR has released a 14-race schedule for the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The Daytona Beach Fl sanctioning body also released a 12-race schedule for the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The northern WMT for 2012 gets the green at the Thompson Speedway with the running of the annual IceBreaker on Sunday, April 15. After a week off the Tour moves to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler on Sunday, April 29. Following the Stafford event the tour takes two weeks off before heading "Up Country" to the ultra fast Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire on Saturday night, May 12. Two weeks later on Friday night, May 25 the WMT returns to the Stafford Speedway for the Connecticut Classic 125. Following the Stafford event the tour goes on a four week "Spring Break" before heading to the Waterford Speedbowl on June 23. Following the tour's return to the Connecticut shoreline oval the tour embarks on another "Spring Break", this time three weeks before heading to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the New England 100 on Saturday, July 14. After a week to re-group the tour heads to Long Island for their annual event at the Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night, July 28. Five days later on August 3 the WMT returns to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the 22nd Annual STAFFORD 150. Six days later on Thursday night, August 9, the tour returns to Thompson for their annual Thursday Night Thunder event. Fourteen days later the Boys of Summer head south to the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee for the August 22 UNOH Perfect Storm 150. Two and a half weeks later on Sunday, Sept 9, the WMT takes part in the second annual North-South Tour Showdown at the Thompson Speedway. The WMT begins their stretch run on Saturday, Sept 22 with the New Hampshire 100 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Eight days later it's back to the Stafford Motor Speedway for their season ending CARQUEST Fall Final on Sunday, Sept 30. The WMT season wraps up two weeks later on Sunday, October 14 at the Thompson International Speedway with the running of the annual World Series.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series gets the green on Sunday, March 25 with the Spring Classic 150 at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. The WSMT returns to Caraway on April 7 for the Caraway 150 before heading to South Boston, VA on April 14 for the South Boston 150. The southern tour returns to Caraway on Saturday, April 21 before going on an eleven week "Spring Break" before returning to action at Caraway on Friday, July 6. The southern tour goes quiet again, this time until August 4 when they take on the tough quarter mile Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC for the running of the Bowman Gray 199. On August 22 the Southern Tour joins the Northern Tour at Bristol for the UNOH Perfect Storm 150. Following the Bristol event the Southern Tour heads to the Langley Speedway in Virginia on Saturday, Sept 1 for the Langley 150. On Sept 9 the Southern Tour makes its second annual visit to the Thompson Speedway for the North-South Tour Showdown. After a two week break the WSMT returns to the Caraway Speedway on Saturday, Sept 29 for the Caraway 150. A week and a half later the WSMT has their only mid-week event as they travel to the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, Oct 11, for the Charlotte 150 on the Speedway's front stretch quarter mile flat track. The Southern series winds up it's season on Saturday, Nov 3 at the one-mile Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina.

On the local front, the Thompson Speedway has released their 2012 schedule of events. It came as no surprise that the Super Late Models, formerly Pro Stocks have been dropped from the weekly venue. Consistently low car counts were the main reason. Thompson has not totally ignored the division as they will be in competition at the historic oval for six events including the season opening IceBreaker on April 15 and the season ending World Series on October 14. The speedway has added Lite Mods (SK Lites) to their family of divisions for 2012. The Lite Mods will debut on Sunday, May 20 which has been set aside for the ever popular Modified Racing Series. The MRS will also run on Thursday, July 26. The Lite Mods will run the remainder of the season. Thursday Night Thunder gets the green on May 31 and will continue through September 23.

As of now there are no Open Competition Modified events scheduled. A PASS SUPER LATE MODEL event may be added to the schedule.

On the Management side, Ben Dodge is still listed as "Special Advisor" and Russ Dowd is the Director of Operations. Dodge and Dowd are pretty much in charge of the day to day business at the speedway. Michael Kun has replaced Richard Brooks as the NASCAR Chief Steward. Brooks remains with the speedway as Infield Coordinator. Mike Chapman will continue as the Competition Director.

Second generation New York driver Mike Leaty will run a partial NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series in 2012. Leaty stated on his web site that he will compete in events at Stafford and Thompson, as well as at New Hampshire International Speedway. Bob Bruneau Engine Research will provide the power plant for the Tour mod.

By a vote of the Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA)membership, NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and World of Outlaws Late Model Series titlist Rick Eckert have been elected Drivers of the Year. The awards will be presented at the groupís annual Convention set for January 6-8, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Valley Forge in King of Prussia , Pennsylvania . Stewart, who won the Sprint Cup title in dramatic fashion, will receive the EMPA/Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year award, while Eckert, a winner in both sanctioned and independent 2011 races, has earned the EMPA/Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year accolades.

In other announced awards, IZOD IndyCar head Randy Bernard was chosen T. Wayne Robertson Newsmaker of the Year; NASCAR Modified sensation Jason Bonsignore will receive the John Blewett III Young Guns Award presented by New England Race Fuels; and longtime midget racing supporter Stan Lobitz will be presented with the Junie Donlavey Spirit of the Sport award. New this year, race track promoter Alan Kreitzer has been named the recipient of the inaugural Jerry Reigle Outstanding Contribution to Sprint Car Racing Award presented by the World of Outlaws.

New inductees into the EMPA Hall of Fame include previously announced NASCAR executive Jim Hunter, sportswriter Frank Blunk, and retired Modified driver Jack Johnson. Also elected to the EMPA Hall of Fame are driver Merv Treicher, the late Stafford Motor Speedway owner Jack Arute Sr., and racing announcer Bill Singer.

In TV land Race viewing for the week on the Speed Channel begins on Thursday, Dec 22 at noon with a replay of the fall Sprint Cup event that was run at New Hampshire. On Monday, Dec 26, Speed will reshow the NASCAR Hall of Fame Biographies of Cale Yarborough, Dale Inman and Richie Evans beginning at 8:00am. The Speed Channel has also announced that they will begin coverage of Winter Testing at Daytona on Thursday, Jan 12 at 1:00pm.

The Speed Channel production of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Biography of Richie Evans made its debut last week and was nothing short of being fabulous. It is definitely a "Must See" for anyone who loves Modifieds and those who drive them. A tip of the hat to the Speed Channel for their great work.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.97 to 24.41 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.05 to 1.13 while Speedway Motorsports went up 0.24 to 13.97. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.22 to 2.25 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.97 to 13.58 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.23 to 39.12. The car makers were in the red. Toyota dropped 4.50 to 63.70 while Ford dropped 0.78 to 10.25 and General Motors dropped 1.00 to 20.15. In the home improvement sector Lowes went up 0.05 to 25.02 while Home Depot went up 0.19 to 40.42. In the sponsorship area, Coca-Cola went up 1.07 to 54.11 and Fedex went up 1.65 to 84.89 while Dupont dropped 1.06 to 43.98, Target Department Stores dropped 1.30 to 52.20 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.97 to 26.20.

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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