Tuesday December 18, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Thompson International Speedway celebrated the 2012 season this past weekend with two ceremonies honoring seven division champions in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series. Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn. took center stage and was honored as the Sunoco Modified Champion on Saturday night while Late Model Champion Tommy O'Sullivan of Wilbraham, Mass. took top honors on Friday night.

Other champions honored Friday night included Limited Sportsman Champion Scott Sundeen of Douglas, Mass. and Mini Stock Champion Chad Baxter of Pascoag, RI. On Saturday night, Super Late Model Champion Derek Ramstrom of Worcester, Mass., Lite Modified Champion Cam McDermott of Scituate, RI, and Thompson Modified Champion John Lowinski-Loh, Jr. of Milford, Mass joined in celebrating their division titles.

Preece led a talented pool of drivers in one of the most competitive divisions in New England racing to win the Sunoco Modified championship. Preece's season included an astonishing 10 victories, a record that is only matched by Ted Christopher in 2010, and he finished in the top-five in all 19 starts. The effort was headed by car owners Al and Cathy Moniz of North Falmouth, Mass. Preece accomplished the championship while running weekly at two other tracks and full-time on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Preece bested runner-up Kerry Malone for championship honors with Dennis Perry, Ted Christopher, and Woody Pitkat rounding out the top-five in points.

Special awards were presented to Sunoco Modified Most Improved driver, Eric LeClair, and Rookie-of-the-Year, Dennis Perry. Preece was also the recipient of the Chief Starter's Award, presented by Tim Bennett, for sportsmanship to a driver or drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions. Bennett also presented the award to Jesse Gleason of Lisbon, CT in the Limited Sportsman division.

The John Hoenig Memorial Award, which recognizes one individual for their hard work and dedication to the Speedway, was presented to Dick Brooks. Brooks has served in many capacities in the auto racing industry and with the track since the 1970's. He was the Chief Starter at Thompson for many years, before stepping up as the NASCAR Chief Steward, a position he was familiar with after serving in that capacity at Riverside Park Speedway. In 2009, Brooks assumed full responsibility for enforcing NASCAR and track rules in the infield. All of his positions at Thompson have put him in direct and close contact with the competitors on a week-to-week basis. In addition to his responsibilities at Thompson, Brooks also serves as an official for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and as the race director at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) during Speedweeks and with the North-South Shootout.

All indications seem to point to the fact that there will be weekly racing at Thompson in 2013. It hasnít been announced yet but itís a good bet that their day of choice will remain as Thursday with a few special events thrown in on Sundays.

With the winter about to settle in and all racing in the northeast at a standstill there is action in the southland as NASCAR attempts to re-create interest in its top division with the introduction of a new more competitive car. In recent years the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been nothing more than a boring mileage marathon. Thousands of empty seats stick out like sore thumbs at tracks that once boasted they were sold out. NASCAR is attempting to fix that with the introduction of what they have labeled the sixth generation car.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sportís 10-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver, ran his first laps in the new sixth-generation racecar. His review of the 2013 Chevrolet SS? Itís a must see. ďThe car has really awesome potential,Ē Earnhardt said during testing last week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. ďThe cars that you see in the garage; youíll stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets driving by. Itís great because everything looks different, everything is instantly recognizable.Ē During recent years the only difference in the cars were the numbers and colors.

At Charlotte 16 cars participated in the last open test session of the year. Fans and media were treated to all three manufacturers on the race track at once, including the fully unveiled Chevrolet SS which was debuted in Las Vegas during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championís Week. There was an air of excitement from the drivers and teams in the garage surrounding the looks and performance of the sixth generation car.

In eight short weeks the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida comes alive with the sounds of Modifieds in competition at the 47th annual World Series on the Ĺ mile high banked oval. Because of the fact that the Modifieds will be in competition at the Daytona International Speedway an abbreviated schedule has been set. The World Series opens on Friday night, Feb 15 and closes on Saturday night, Feb 23. The Modifieds will run 25 lap features on Fri, the 15th, Saturday, the 16th, Thursday, the 21st and Sat, the 23rd. Special events for the Modifieds are the fifth Annual John Blewett Memorial 50 lapper on Wednesday, the 20th and the 28th Annual Richie Evans Memorial on Friday night, the 22nd.

In action on the tube this week, more re-runs are in store. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will show the Sprint Cup event that was run at Michigan and on Thursday Speed will show the Sonoma Sprint Cup event at noon. On Friday at noon Speed has the Kentucky Sprint Cup event. A little change of pace on Saturday as Speed shows the Swamp Buggy races from Naples, Fl.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were up for the week. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.17 to 26.19 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.45 to 17.12 while Dover Motorsports dropped 0.04 to 1.65. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.14 to 5.55 and NASCAR fuel supplier Energy Transfer (Sunoco) dropped 0.44 to 42.87 while NADCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.17 to 12.95. All three car makers were down for the week. Toyota dropped 0.18 to 85.92, General Motors dropped 0.58 to 24.61 and Ford dropped 0.38 to 11.10. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 2.39 to 62.06 and Lowes dropped 0.65 to 34.46. The big team sponsors were once again all over the lot.

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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