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Tuesday February 19, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

At New Smyrna it was back to business for the Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds on Monday night. The new week brought in some new competition including the Tom Baldwin Sr Tribute car that would be driven by Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch. Other new arrivals included James Civali, Buck Catalano, Ronnie Silk and Barry Callavini.

First out for qualifying on Monday night were the SK type Modifieds that now numbered 19. Jimmy Blewett was the fastest qualifier followed by Josh Sylvester and Eric Goodale. The Tour type Modifieds were 21 strong. Chuck Hossfeld continued to be the top qualifier as he inched out Ted Christopher for the top spot. Hossfeld toured the half mile oval on 16.858 seconds while Ted Christopher’s time was 16.875 seconds. Jimmy Blewett was third fastest. During Tour typeModified qualifying Kyle Busch slide-swiped the wall coming off turn four on his first lap of qualifying. Busch pulled the car with moderate damage into the pits after completing the first lap.

In the Tour type Modified 25 lap feature Ryan Preese, who is the grandson of legendary car owner Bob Judkins, took advantage of the eight-car qualifying inversion by starting on the Pole Position of the Tour-Type Modified race and led pole to pole to score his first Tour-Type Modified victory. Kevin Goodale finished second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Grigas and Ted Christopher.

The SK type Modified feature saw a surprise winner in the form of Eric Goodale. Goodale, who had been running in third spot, took advantage of a tangle between leaders Kenny Horton and Jimmy Blewett. Both drivers went into turn four nose to tail with Horton leading Blewett on the final lap. Blewett attempted to rattle Horton with a blast from his chrome horn. The blast was a little too much as Horton spun and Blewett hit the wall. Horton attempted to roll across the track to the finish line as Goodale spun to avoid being collected in the wreck. Goodale’s car suffered slight damage as he hit the wall after taking the win. Blewett took full blame for the incident. Horton managed to finish second with Josh Sylvester, third. Billy Anderson and Brad VanHouton rounded out the top five. Blewett ended up 11th in the final rundown.

Heavy rain and a bad forecast forced the New Smyrna Speedway to cancel Tuesday night’s racing program.

On Wednesday night at New Smyrna Kenny Horton redeemed himself from earlier misfortunes and defeats as he won the SK Type Modified feature over Josh Sylvester. It was a great victory for Horton but the night belonged to Jimmy Blewett who won the 50 lap feature that was run in memory of his late brother John Blewett III. In the 50 lap John Blewett III Memorial Jimmy Blewett started on the pole and led every lap to score the win over Ted Christopher. Christopher recovered from a spin with Chuck Hossfeld on lap 8 and passed Ron Silk for the second spot on a lap 20 restart. At the finish Silk faded to fourth as Bob Grigas took over the third finishing spot. Hossfeld rounded out the top five.

Horton stated that he was taking the rest of the week off in order to spend some quality time with his family. Jimmy Blewett finished third in the SK type event and was followed by Glen Griswold, Eric Goodale and Billy Anderson. Nineteen cars started the SK type race and 23 started the Tour type Modified race.

For the second time within a week Jimmy Blewett scored a clean sweep at New Smyrna as he won both the Tour type and SK type Modified features. In the Tour type feature Blewett took the lead from Chuck Hossfeld on lap four and pulled away from the field, running uncontested for the rest of the 25 lap distance. Hossfeld finished second with Ted Christopher, third. Eric Beers and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. In the SK type feature Blewett took a lot of heat from Josh Sylvester but in the end was able to prevail. Sylvester finished second and was followed by Glen Griswold Brad Vanhouten and Butch Perry.

In Thursday action at the Daytona Int. Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the first 150 mile qualifier for his second victory of Speedweeks, and Denny Hamlin captured the second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, passing teammate Tony Stewart on the first overtime lap, giving the manufacturer its first victory in Sprint Cup racing. Earnhardt’s Thursday's victory came after he moved to the rear of the starting field after changing an engine. Reed Sorenson was second in his Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, Ryan Newman third in his Penske Racing Dodge, Casey Mears fourth in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and Carl Edwards fifth in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Stewart was second in the second race, Earnhardt's teammate Jeff Gordon third, Kasey Kahne fourth in his Gillett Evernham Dodge and Mark Martin fifth in Earnhardt's former Chevy ride at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

At New Smyrna on Friday night it was the Richie Evans Memorial for the Tour type Modifieds taking center stage. Eric Beers used a lightning fast pit stop to put him in position to win the prestigious event. A caution on lap 65 of the 100 lap event shuffled the field with most of the front runners pitting including then race leader Ted Christopher. Kevin Goodale elected not to pit and inherited the lead when the field restarted. Goodale’s strategy almost paid off when, with eight laps left, he spun, handing the lead to Beers. Beers then held off Jimmy Blewett to take the win. Goodale recovered to finish 13th. Bob Grigas III finished third and was followed by Ronnie Silk, JR Bertuccio and Chuck Hossfeld. Rounding out the top ten were James Civali, Jon McKennedy, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennick. There were 19 cars in the field.

In SK type Modified action the field was trimmed to 15 cars. Jimmy Blewett in his Eddie Partridge owned mount has been the class of the field and on Friday night made it four out of six in World Series competition. Josh Sylvester, for the third time, finished second. Glen Griswold, Billy Anderson and Shelly Perry followed.

Todd Bodine held off a late push from Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson to win the season-opening NASCAR Craftsman truck race at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday night and picked up his first victory at the Florida Super Speedway. The 2006 Craftsman Truck Series champion passed Erik Darnell coming off pit road with about 13 laps to go, then stayed out front the rest of the way to claim the Chevy Silverado 250.

Jimmy Blewett finished out his tour of duty at the New Smyrna Speedway World Series with dual championships, the Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds. For his week under the stars in Florida Blewett scored 3 Tour type wins and 5 SK type wins. Congratulations are in order for the New Jersey driver as well as his owners, Eddie Partridge Racing and Grasso Bros. Racing.

In the final night of racing, Saturday, there were sparse fields of cars in both divisions. Ten Tour type Modifieds and 13 SK type Modifieds were on hand. Ted Christopher, who had been shut out of victory lane at New Smyrna since 2006 somewhat redeemed himself as he took the checkered flag in the series ending 25 lapper for the Tour Type Modifieds. Jon McKennedy drew the pole starting position and led the event for the first 17 laps before being passed by Christopher. Christopher no sooner had gotten by when McKennedy and Andy Seuss tangled and wrecked hard! Christopher, although winless up to that point was in contention for the series championship. Blewett finished a conservative fifth and was able to sew up the title despite Christopher’s win. Eric Beers finished second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld and Bob GrigasIII.

The SK type Modifieds were supposed to go 50 laps but because of a short field had their distance shortened to 30. Jimmy Blewett started on the outside pole and before one lap was completed blew away pole sitter Shelly Perry for the lead and eventual win. Glen Griswold ended up second and was followed by Eric Goodale, Butch Perry and Jim Zacharrias. Shelly Perry faded to finish in 11th spot.

Ryan Newman snapped an 81-race winless streak Sunday, using a huge push from teammate Kurt Busch to give car owner Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 victory. Penske, the most successful owner in open-wheel history with 14 wins in the prestigious Indianapolis 500, now has a victory in NASCAR's showcase event. In a green-white-checker finish Newman pulled away for his first win since New Hampshire in September 2005, while pre race favorite Tony Stewart had to settle for third. Kurt Busch finished second.

The Sprint Cup, the Nationwise Series and the Craftsman Truck Series head for Fontana CA this weekend. Don Lia, the 2007 Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion will make his maiden voyage in the TRG Motorsports Chevy Truck this Saturday.

Next weekend, from Friday Feb 29 to Sunday, Mar 2 the second annual Speedway Expo takes center stage. The brainchild of Dick Berggren, Speedway Expo has something for everyone who is involved in auto racing. The show serves as a preview of the upcoming season.

The Hartford Courant reported on Tuesday, Feb 12 that Griswold, CT commercial developer Gregory Mackin had signed an agreement with Terry Eames to buy the Waterford Speedbowl property. Evidently the Courant jumped the gun as property owner Eames stated there have been discussions with several parties interested in buying the Speedbowl and one of them is associated with Jerry Robinson. In Eames’ own words. “ There has been no agreement signed with anyone regarding the track changing hands. Nor have any deposits been taken toward such a sale”.

The property is a go as far as being a race track in 2008 but beyond that is still in question.

In TV land this week viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with the Jan 12 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For those of you who missed the Daytona 500 it will be re-shown on Speed at noon on Thursday. Speed goes live on Friday at 12:30pm with NASCAR Nationwide Series practice at the California Speedway in Fontana , CA. Sprint Cup Series practice follows at 3:00pm . Live coverage continues at 4:30 with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying from the California Speedway. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at 6:30 . Nationwide Series final practice goes at 8:30 . NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice starts Saturday on Speed at 11:30am . At 12:30 the action switches to ESPN2 for NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying. At 3:00pm FOX goes live with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series San Bernadino County 200. The action switches back to Speed at 5:00pm for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice. At 7:00pm the action returns to ESPN2 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Stater Brothers 300 at the California Speedway. The green is scheduled to drop at 7:30 . Sunday’s TV coverage by the Speed Channel begins at 1:30pm with a two hour session of NASCAR RaceDay. At 3:30 FOX goes live for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500 at the California Speedway which is slated to get the green at 4:00pm . 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 two of the three speedway stocks finished up in the green. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.44 to 31.03 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.27 to 42.07. On the negative side, Dover Downs dropped 0.01 to 6.91. Sprint/Nextel went up 0.13 to 9.57 while Sun Oil dropped 1.09 to 61.31. Goodyear took a big jump as they went up 3.17 to 26.86. Nationwide, who had their first sponsored race last Saturday in Daytona went up 0.83 to 42.83. The World Racing Group (DIRT) dropped 0.02 to 0.33. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.45 to 27.52 and Lowes dropped 0.28 to 23.33. The parcel carriers were mixed. UPS went up 6.92 to 77.42 while Fedex dropped 0.08 to 87.92. Coca-Cola dropped 1.33 to 57.87 while Dupont jumped up 0.05 to 45.49. Target Stores went up 0.57 to 53.07 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.03 to 18.96.

Barron’s, a financial investment newspaper says that the International Speedway Corporation has spun out of control on Wall Street. Its shares have plunged more than 22% since last summer, as investors feel that the weak economy will keep the sport's blue-collar fan base at home. Truth be known, ISC is in much better shape for a downturn than one might expect. It's putting some problems behind it, and a big chunk of its earnings for this year are already locked in, thanks in part to long-term broadcasting contracts with the likes of ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports. Result: The 10%-plus growth in earnings that some bulls are forecasting may be entirely doable.

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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