Tuesday February 10, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

After a long snowy winter in the northeast many race fans and competitors packed their bags and headed to Florida for the annual Speedweeks. The New Smyrna Speedway World Series of Auto Racing began on Friday night. Temperatures were in the 50’s most of the day but once the sun went down it got quite chilly. When the Modifieds took the green for their feature at 20 minutes to 11 it was 30 degrees.

Jimmy Blewett was the opening night Modified winner of what ended up being a rolling 25 lap demolition derby. Starting in ninth spot, Blewett took the lead after a lap 17 confrontation with Matt Hirschman. Hirschman and Blewett were racing quite hard for the lead when they came together on the backstretch. Hirschman rode the backstretch wall into turn three and suffered significant damage to his car which had to be double hooked off the track. Race Director Richard Brooks felt the incident was the result of hard racing and took no action against Blewett. He did, however take action against Ted Christopher following an incident on lap 21. Christopher dove under Jon McKennedy going into turn four. McKennedy hit turn four wall a ton. Christopher was penalized and sent to the back of the pack for over aggression on the track. After almost an hour the checkered flag flew on lap 25. Blewett won and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, JR Bertuccio, Bobby Grigas, Eric Goodale and Christopher.

Because of the lateness of the hour, 12:30am, officials shortened the SK type feature to 15 laps. Jimmy Blewett went pole to pole to record his second feature win of the night. Grigas and Kenny Horton followed.

Matt Hirschman and his crew completely rebuilt their damaged racer, finishing it just in time for night #2 at New Smyrna. Their efforts paid off as Hirschman put his car in victory lane after going pole to pole in the 25 lap Tour type Modified feature. Opening night winner Jimmy Blewett lost control of his mount on the first lap and hit the wall. With minimal damage Blewett restarted in the rear of the 22 car field and was able to salvage a ninth place finish. Ted Christopher ended up in second spot after trading positions with Chuck Hossfeld with eight laps to go. Hossfeld settled for third and was followed by Kevin Goodale, Jon McKennedy and Bob Grigas. The Modified feature was completed shortly after 8:00pm, a sharp improvement from the opening night. Temperatures were a little more tolerable as the thermometer stayed around the 50 degree mark.

Jimmy Blewett went from an eight starting spot to take the lead in the third lap as he cleaned house for the second night in a row in SK type Modified competition. Bob Grigas finished second with Kenny Horton, third.

The Tour type and SK type Modifieds did not race on Sunday night.

One of the big issues so far at the Florida Speedweeks has been the fans, or the lack of them to be exact. The economy of this country is not good and many people have been laid off from their jobs. Last weeks Budweiser Shootout saw a lot of empty seats at the Daytona International Speedway. During Sunday’s Daytona 500 qualifying the grandstands were virtually empty. In past years these events drew considerably better crowds.

Among the rumors circulating at New Smyrna is that quite possibly Modified competitors who race at the same tracks on the same weekends as the NASCAR Cup cars may be forced to shod their cars with Goodyear rubber. According to reports, Goodyear is working on a wider tire for the Cup cars in order to put a little more excitement back in the division. It’s not fair to Hoosier Tire which has stepped up to supply the Modifieds and have never had a major problem with their tires. If in fact NASCAR mandates this it will only apply to events scheduled for Loudon and Bristol. In the past Cup competitors have wined that Modified rubber has messed up their set-ups.

The Waterford Speedbowl property is still scheduled to be foreclosed on by mortgage holder Rocco Arbitell on March 2. Despite all that, property owner Terry Eames continues to make plans for the upcoming season. With Arbitell foreclosing on the track things will be slightly different then if a bank were to foreclose on a property. A bank would accept the highest bid no matter what their future plans were. Arbitell does not have to accept any bids he just legally has to advertise an auction and hold it. He could refuse any amount of money which in turn would ultimately give him ownership and control of the facility.

It appears that former track operator Jerry Robinson may be setting himself up for future problems with the Internal Revenue Service as he has not complied with federal law in sending out accurate 1099's to competitors. The law says that all tax forms are supposed to be postmarked by Feb. 2 (technically Jan. 31st, but since that was a Saturday, it was Feb. 2). In the case of 1099’s, if the amount indicated includes money that was never paid they are bogus. If Mr. Robinson fails to provide the necessary accurate forms he could end up paying a hefty fine to the IRS and could find himself in jail!

An insider in the know at NASCAR has hinted that the Waterford Speedbowl may not get a sanction unless the purse is paid from last years Fall Finale. NASCAR was founded by Bill France, Sr. to protect competitors from promoters who ran off with gate receipts when they should have paid competitors. Evidently it doesn’t make any difference who will be running the track in 2009. The competitors need to be paid before the NASCAR banner goes up!

Despite all the uncertainty the Waterford Speedbowl released its 2009 schedule with more than 50 events planned. Leading the way is 29 Saturday division points events, while the popular Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesday Series will return with 18 shows of their own. Several special events are planned throughout the season, featuring touring series’ including the ACT Tour, ISMA Supermodifieds, NEMA Midgets, True Value Modified Series and more. Rounding out the schedule will be no less than 4 family fun thrill shows.

The shoreline oval will open its gates for the 59th consecutive year when it hosts the 13th annual $20,000 Budweiser Modified Nationals March 28-29, the region’s premier SK Modified® event. Saturday division racing concludes with The Finale, slated for October 10-11. The ‘Bowl will be in action each and every Saturday night in between. The SK Modified®, Late Model, Street Stock and Mini Stock divisions continue to be the core of the Saturday night schedule. The prestigious Speedbowl ‘Triple Crown’ returns, consisting of 3 extra distance events - the Budweiser Modified Nationals, Finale, and annual mid-season championship event - the latter boasting 300 laps of feature racing in an Independence Day spectacular on July 4. Each division will receive 2 scheduled weeks off totaling 27 championship point events. Legends Cars will often frequent Saturday nights as well along with other guest divisions throughout the season.

In TV land this week, the action in Florida at the Daytona International Speedway is at a fever pitch. Tuesday’s viewing begins at 3:00 on ESPN2 with a preview of the 2009 Sprint Cup season. A preview of the Nationwide Series 2009 season follows at 3:30. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 goes at 5:00pm. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel has The SPEED Report, Special Edition. Speed goes live at 10:00am on Wednesday with NASCAR Live from the Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR Sprint Cup PRACTICE follows at 11:00am. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has a two hour practice session on Speed beginning at noon. Sprint Cup practice follows at 2:00. The Camping World Truck Series has their second practice of the day on Speed at 5:00pm. At 6:00 Speed goes with NASCAR Live from Daytona on Speed. At the same time is NASCAR Now on ESPN2. Viewing on Speed continues at 7:00 with the Third Annual SPEED Performance Awards. The Speed Report follows at 8:00. The Speed Channel closes out the day at 11:00pm with Daytona 500 Memories, Great moments in the history of the Daytona 500. Television coverage at Daytona shifts into high gear on Thursday with live coverage. ESPN2 starts it off at 9:30am with NASCAR Nationwide Series practice for 90 minutes. At 11:00am the action switches to the Speed Channel for the final practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series which will run for two hours. Live coverage continues at 1:00 with a one hour NASCAR RaceDay. The first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Gatorade Duels is scheduled to take the green at shortly after 2:00pm. Live coverage will run through 7:00 with NASCAR Victory Lane on the Speed Channel. ESPN2 will also have a special one hour edition of NASCAR Now from 6-7:00pm. The Speed Channel will also provide live coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying session. At 9:00pm the Speed Channel will repeat the NASCAR Sprint Cup Gatorade Duels 1 & 2 that were run at the Daytona International Speedway in the afternoon. Live coverage from Daytona on Friday begins at 1:00pm on Speed with a 30 minute segment of NASCAR Live from Daytona. At 1:30 Speed covers Sprint Cup practice for 90 minutes. At 3:00pm the action switches to ESPN2 for NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying for Saturdays Camping World 300 at Daytona. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 follows at 6:00pm. At 6:30 the Speed Channel begins a one hour segment of Trackside (NASCAR) at Daytona before moving into pre-race mode at 7:30 for the scheduled 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona under the lights. Saturday’s coverage begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Live at Daytona. Coverage continues at 11:00 with the final 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars. While that is going on ESPN2 starts their pre-race show at noon for the 1:15 start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Camping World 300. At 4:00 ESPN 2 has a special SportsCenter at Daytona scheduled which will recap the Nationwide race. Speed will have their own recap as part of NASCAR Live at Five, pm, that is. The Speed Channel will also have a special edition of the SPEED Report at 7:00pm. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel will show the Jan 13 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals that were held at the Tulsa Expo Raceway in Tulsa, OK. Daytona Speedweeks conclude on Sunday with the running of the annual Daytona 500. Coverage begins at 19:00am on ESPN2 with NASCAR Now. The Speed Channels coverage begins at 10:30 with NASCAR in a Hurry at Daytona. The Speed Channel goes into a three hour pre-race warm-up at 11:00am. At 2:00pm the action switches to FOX for live flag to flag coverage of the Daytona 500. New England’s own Mike Joy will anchor the telecast with Dick Berggren leading the pit reporters. Joy and Berggren are by far the best there is! The Speed Channel rounds out the weekend with the Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks showed substantial gains for the week. Leading the pack was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.12 to 24.90. Dover Downs went up 1.04 to 2.59 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.49 to 14.93. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.04 to 2.47 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil took a dive as they dropped 6.50 to 39.82. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 1.00 to 7.17. Two of the three publicly traded auto makers had positive results for the week. Toyota went up 5.87 to 69.38 and Ford went up 0.07 to 1.94. On the negative side was General Motors which dropped 0.17 to 2.84. Race team sponsors did quite well for the week. Dupont went up 1.61 to 24.57 while Coca-Cola went up 1.02 to 45.97. Michael Waltrip confirmed last Thursday that Aaron’s Rentals has agreed to sponsor the #00 MWR Toyota of David Reutimann for the entire season. Aarons jumped 2.80 to 24.66 at weeks end.

Also having a good showing was Target Department Stores which went up 1.82 to 33.02. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 2.00 to 23.53 and Lowes went up 0.97 to 19.24. The World Racing Group continues to be stagnant at 0.04.

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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