Tuesday December 25, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

Despite the fact that racing is on hold for the winter months much is going on behind the scenes as sanctioning bodies, officials and race teams prepare for 2013. Early last week NASCAR announced that Chad Little would no longer be the Modified Tour Series director as he has been promoted to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series director. Little replaces Wayne Auton, who has served as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series director since 1995, will assume the role of NASCAR Nationwide Series director. Brad Moran, currently NASCAR Canadian Tire Series director, will serve in the role of director of Touring Series, NASCAR.

NASCAR has not indicated who will replace Little. Little seemed to be a decent guy but he kept his distance from competitors. Hopefully his replacement will be more interactive with the competitors.

It looks like Woody Pitkat will be busy next year. Pitkat recently told Area Auto Racing News Editor Lenny Sammons that he has designated as the full time driver of the Hillbilly Racing No.79, owned by the Hill Family and will compete in the full schedule of the Whelen Modified Tour Series along with many Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series events. Pitkat indicated that he will be driving the Gunsmoke Stables entry on the Valenti Modified Racing Series, the Hitchcock SK Modified at Stafford and the Jimmy Page #00 SK Modified at Thompson.

Speaking of Thompson, big news came out of the northeastern Connecticut oval last Friday with the announcement that Ben Dodge Jr. was leaving the employ of the speedway. A news release generated by the speedway stated that after 21 years of exemplary service, Ben Dodge Jr has left the Thompson International Speedway. Dodge, a long-time leader in race track innovation, first worked at Thompson in the 1970s and returned in the late 1990s after nearly thirty years of running Riverside Park Speedway. During his tenure, Dodge led the track in a new direction and is credited with much of the success of the historic speedway during the last decade.

Dodge worked as a Special Advisor to track owner, Don Hoenig. In making last Friday’s announcement, Hoenig said, “I personally want to thank Ben for his many years of dedicated service and for all of the positive contributions he made to this track. Ben and I have had a great working relationship for well over 30 years and I know that he will be missed by our staff, sponsors, competitors and the entire racing fraternity. I want to wish only the best for Ben in his future endeavors,” Hoenig concluded.

Grandson Jonathan Hoenig who is leading the next generation management at Thompson said .”We are looking to enhance and expand the facilities and over all motorsports operations here at Thompson Speedway. With these programs, we are all looking forward to many new changes, advancements in the operations and product offerings to the motorsports community.

The third generation Hoenig also said that the Thompson Speedway will be racing on a weekly basis in 2013 and that the complete schedule will be released in the next week to ten days. They will also be releasing their future plans for the expansion and operation of the facility in the very near future. The 2013 rules for racing competition are also just about ready for release.

It will be interesting to see if Dodge's departure from Thompson is related to the open Modified Tour Directors position at NASCAR. Time will tell, tick, tick, tick!

In a somewhat surprise announcement, 3-Time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Champion George Brunnhoelzl III announced his split from Ideal Racing and is currently exploring and entertaining options for the 2013 race season. George has been driving for Ideal Racing and Howard Harvey since the 2011 season and has been very successful with the team; however, Howard Harvey’s plans to retire following the 2012 season have lead to a change for Brunnhoelzl and a mutual decision by both parties to go their separate ways.

Special get well wishes go out to Mrs Irene Venditti who is under the weather and in the hospital.

In action on the tube this week, more re-runs are in store. On Wednesday, 12/26 at noon the Speed Channel will rerun one of the Sprint Cup events run in New Hampshire this past season. The Sprint Cup race run at Indianapolis will air on Thursday at noon and one of the Pocono Sprint Cup events will air on Speed at noon on Friday. Watkins Glen will be re-run on Monday, Jan 2 and Michigan will air on Tues, Jan 3.

There has been nothing said as yet as to what, if any, television coverage the Modifieds will get in 2013. NASCAR did indicate that events run at Daytona would be covered.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks finished on the plus side. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.84 to 28.03. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.68 to 17.80 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.05 to 1.70. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went down 0.09 to 5.46 while Energy Transfer (Sunoco) went up 0.95 to 43.82 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.13 to 13.08. The three carmakers had a resounding week. Toyota jumped 4.85 to 90.77 while Ford went up 0.76 to 11.86 and General Motors went up 2.71 to 27.32. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 0.74 to 61.32 and Lowes went up 0.58 to 35.04. With the exception of Target Department Stores which dropped 0.90 to 59.60 the team sponsors had a fairly good week. Dupont went up 0.84 to 44.93, Coca-Cola went up 1.23 to 68.35, Aarons Rentals went up 0.46 to 27.96 and Fedex jumped 2.65 to 92.74.

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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