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Tuesday February 12, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

After a long winter’s wait the 2008 racing season began last Friday night with the 42nd Annual version of the World Series of auto racing at the New Smyrna Speedway. It was also the beginning of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 pole qualifying started their season at the Daytona International Speedway.

At New Smyrna for the Friday night opener there were 17 SK type Modifieds and 17 Tour type Modifieds on hand. Jimmy Blewett scored a one-two punch as he was the top qualifier in both divisions. The only casualty during qualifying was Long Islander JR Bertuccio hitting the wall and doing extensive damage to the Connecticut based Bear Motorsports Tour type entry.

In the Tour type Modified 25 lapper Blewett started on the pole and held off Chuck Hossfeld for the first 18 laps when it appeared that Blewett’s motor developed a skip and began losing power. Hossfeld, in a move on the low side, took the lead and never looked back. As Blewett continued to fade Bob Grigas III moved into the second spot. The top two ran nose to tail the balance of the event. Ted Christopher, Andy Seuss and Eric Beers rounded out the top five. Blewett managed to hang on and finish eighth. Immediately following the Modified feature Blewett’s crew discovered that the fuel pump had malfunctioned.

In the Friday night SK type Modified feature there was no touching Jimmy Blewett as romped to a convincing win over Kenny Horton. It was more of a race for second place as Horton and Josh Sylvester slugged it out for the runner-up spot. The two ended up getting together with Sylvester coming up short as he spun out of contention. He was able to rebound as he ended up 11th in the final rundown. David Cranmer finished third and was followed by Billy Anderson and Glen Griswold.

At the Daytona Int. Speedway on Friday night emotions ran high after an on track practice wreck which involved Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Actually there were two wrecks that seriously damaged four race cars which resulted in the teams of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch going to back-up cars for the Bud Shootout. The team of 2007 winner Tony Stewart elected to repair his damaged mount.

The first wreck was triggered by Clint Bowyer, who wrecked the Dodge of Ryan Newman, also collected the Chevys of Johnson and Gordon plus others. While that wreck was much more dramatic on track, the two-car incident involving Stewart and Busch triggered on-track retaliation from Busch and landed both combatants in the NASCAR office for a reprimand.

Busch hit Stewart's Toyota three times while both were en route to the pits following the accident on the backstretch. Once both cars got to the garage, NASCAR ordered Busch and Stewart to the Sprint Cup office for a discussion. Neither driver would comment as to what transpired inside the meeting with NASCAR officials.
Jimmy Blewett went two for two on Saturday night at New Smyrna as he won both Tour type and SK type Modified events. In Tour type Modified action Chuck Hossfeld turned the first sub-17 second lap during qualifying. For comparison purposes the New Smyrna Speedway is a half mile oval as is the Stafford Motor Speedway. New Smyrna is high banked, Stafford is semi-banked. Fast time for a Modified at Stafford is in the mid to low 18’s. Bob Grigas III was the second fastest with Ted Christopher, third. In the draw for starting positions Blewett, who was fifth fastest, drew the pole. In SK type qualifying Blewett was the fastest. Kenny Horton and Glen Griswold rounded out the top three.

Blewett went pole to pole, putting his fuel pump problems behind him, to take the Tour type 25 lap Modified win. Ted Christopher finished second after a spirited battle with Charlie Pasteryak. Pasteryak later faded and finished 14th. Chuck Hossfeld ended up third. Eric Beers and Kevin Goodale rounded out the top five. There were 18 Tour type Modifieds on hand. In SK type action Kevin Goodale started on the pole but Blewett was on a mission as he put him away in short order as he recorded his second feature win of the night. Blewett’s only pressure came in the early stages of the 20 lapper from Josh Sylvester. Glen Griswold moved into second in the late stages as Sylvester slipped to third. Billy Anderson and Goodale rounded out the top five. There were 18 SK type Modifieds on hand.
The Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds were off on Sunday night.
In Bud Shootout action at the Daytona Int Speedway Dale Earnhardt took the win with a dominating run Saturday night in his new Hendrick Motorsports ride, powering past Tony Stewart with two laps to go and holding on for his first win against Cup drivers since early 2006.

Fifty three NASCAR Sprint Cup cars lined up last Sunday for Daytona 500 pole and outside pole position qualifying. When all was said and done defending series champion Jimmy Johnson was the fastest of the fast as he locked himself into a front row starting spot for what is known as the Great American Race. Michael Waltrip who sat on the sidelines and watched last years event locked up the outside pole starting spot in his Toyota powered car.

Last Friday NASCAR announced that former driver Chad Little has been named the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour director. Little has been an official with NASCAR since 2005, most recently as advisor to the NASCAR Mexico Series. Former tour director Ed Cox will handle special projects with the NASCAR competition division. Little, who also has a law degree, will hopefully provide a needed shot in the arm for the division. NASCAR also announced that Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Don Lia had secured a ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for 2008 with TRG Motorsports. Lia will drive the No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Buckler and TRG Motorsports. Lia is not eligible to drive in the season-opening Chevy Silverado 250 in Daytona since required rookie testing at the track has already passed. Mike Bliss will be in the truck at Daytona. Lia will make his debut for TRG Motorsports at California Speedway in the San Bernardino 200 on Feb. 23, and is scheduled to run the remainder of the season. With that being said it looks like Bob Garbarino will retire as a Whelen Modified Tour Series car owner. Garbarino had previously stated that his plans for 2008 would be based on those of his driver.

Congratulations to Colechester CT native Phil Moran who has taken over as Car Chief of the No.22 Caterpiller Bill Davis Racing Toyota driven by Dave Blaney on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit. Moran cut his racing teeth and honed his skills as a race car mechanic and fabricator as he worked with Spearpoint Auto, Pasteryak Racing, Jerry Pearl Racing and Todd Szegedy Racing. Moran follows a long line of New England drivers, mechanics and fabricators who have made it to NASCAR’s senior circuit. Tom Baldwin JR is the Crew Chief. Baldwin is a product of the Modified circuit on Long Island .

In TV land this week.action in Daytona Beach hits a fever pitch with the Speed Channel along with ESPN 2 and FOX providing extended coverage of racing at the world center of speed. NASCAR Now will be shown every day at 6:00pm in HD on ESPN2. In addition, MustSeeRacing.com will provide live video coverage during The 2008 World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at the New Smyrna Speedway. MustSeeRacing.com in partnership with FASCAR and New Smyrna Speedway will broadcast six of the nights of the 42nd Annual event on Internet TV. Coverage began on Sunday, Feb 10, with coverage of the Winged Sprint and Super Late Model features. On Monday, Feb 11, the Tour type Modifieds and the Winged Sprint features get shown. Scheduled for showings on Wed, Feb 13 is the John Blewett III Tour type modified 50 lapper and the Florida Modifieds. Thursday night it’s the Super Late Model 50 and Friday night the Tour Type Richie Evans Memorial 100 will be shown. Rounding out the weeks coverage at New Smyrna will be the Pete Orr Memorial Super Late Model 100 and the SK type Modified 50.
This weeks viewing begins on Tuesday, Feb 12 with the Speed Channel’s SPEED Report, – Special Edition, Daytona Preview at 8:00pm . At 9:00 the Humpy Show debuts on Speed. The Humpy Show features H. A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and GM of Lowe's Motor Speedway. His guests will include Buddy Baker and Kurt Busch. At 10:00pm Speed presents the Jan 12 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals tat took place in Tulsa , OK . Speed goes live with NASCAR Live from Daytona on Wednesday, Feb 18 at 11:00am . NASCAR Sprint Cup practice follows at noon and will go on and off until 4:30pm . At 4:00pm ESPN2 will host a one hour preview of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. While this is going on Speed will host a practice session for the Craftsman Truck Series beginning at 4:30 . At 5:30 Speed goes with a 30 minute segment of NASCAR Live from Daytona. Thursday’s action starts off at 11:00am on Speed with a two hour practice for the Craftsman Truck Series. At 1:00 Speed previews the soon to follow Gatorade Duel at Daytona for the Sprint Cup cars. The NASCAR Sprint Cup, Gatorade Duel (twin 150-mile races) get the green on Speed at 2:00pm . A 90 minute NASCAR Victory Lane follows at 5:30 . Coverage continues at 7:00pm with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying. For those who missed it Speed will replay the twin 150-mile races at 9:00pm . Friday’s coverage starts at 1:00pm with NASCAR Live from Daytona followed by a 90 minute practice for the cup cars. Speed goes live again at 6:00 with NASCAR Live followed by the Truck series preview at 7:30 . The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Chevy Silverado 250 gets the green on Speed at 8:00pm . Saturday coverage gets an early start with NASCAR Live at 9:00am . Final practice for Cup cars follow at 10:00 . ESPN2 hosts a 75 minute preview to the Nationwide 300 at noon . ESPN2 will provide live flag to flag coverage of the Camping World 300, starting at 1:15 . Three hours of post race coverage by Speed will follow. Sunday’s coverage will consist of NASCAR Live at 9:00am followed by a three hour preview to the Daytona 500 that gets the green on FOX at 2:00 . The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report at 7:00 and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 . Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain follows at 9:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week it was another loser as just about everything that went up the previous week ended up going back down. All three speedway stocks had a negative ending. Taking the biggest hit was Speedway Motorsports which went down 0.87 to 30.59. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.56 to 41.80 and Dover Downs dropped 0.09 to 6.92. Sprint/Nextel dropped 1.00 to 9.94 while Sun Oil dropped 1.19 to 62.40. Goodyear dropped 2.38 to 23.69 while the World Racing Group (DIRT MOTORSPORTS) dropped 0.01 to 0.35. In the home improvement sector the results there were negative too! Home Depot dropped 2.66 to 27.97 and Lowes dropped 1.94 to 23.61. The parcel carriers got hit real hard. Fedex dropped 5.42 to 88.00 and UPS dropped 3.28 to 70.50. Even blue chips Coca-Cola and Dupont didn’t escape. Coke dropped 1.80 to 59.20 and Dupont dropped 0.51 to 45.44. Target Stores dropped 1.55 to 52.50 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.45 to 18.99. New NASCAR series sponsor Nationwide also took a hit as the insurance giant dropped 2.38 to 42.00.

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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