Tuesday February 3, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

After a long snowy winter in the northeast many race fans and competitors are packing their bags and heading to Florida for the annual Speedweeks that will shift into high gear starting this Friday at the New Smyrna Speedway. The New Smyrna Speedway World Series of Auto Racing begins on Friday night, Feb 6 and runs every night through Feb14. Tour type Modifieds and SK type Modifieds will be part of the program. Racing at the Daytona International Speedway begins on Feb 7 and 8. DIRT Modifieds will be running at the Volusia Speedway Park from Feb 11 through 14.

As of last weekend 19 Modified Tour type and 8 SK type Modified entries had been received.

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. It was announced late last week that The Waterford Speedbowl has added a new Truck Series for the historic shoreline oval in 2009. The new Series is based upon the same template as the current “G” chassis race trucks found throughout the Northeast. The Series will run 8 events at the ‘Bowl throughout the 2009 season. Another item of interest is the fact that the True Value Modified Series will compete at the shoreline oval on May 9th and again on August 15 pairing with the ISMA supermodfied tour, a hugely popular event in 2008.

In the never ending soap opera at the shoreline oval it has been announced that Tom 'Sid' DiMaggio has resigned from the role of Multimedia Relations director. DiMaggio was also part of the track’s Board of Directors. Track owner Terry Eames stated that Mark Caise has been added to the Board of Directors. Caise holds a degree in Marketing Communication and Advertising from Western New England College. With experience in promotions and graphic design, as well as competing at the historic shoreline oval.

Interest continues to build for the upcoming indoor races scheduled to be run in Providence, RI. Seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Mike Stefanik will try to add another win to his illustrious resume when high-powered three-quarter size race cars (TQ-Midgets) come to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on March 6-7. Stefanik, 50, of Coventry, R.I., is scheduled to drive a Colin Martin-owned No. 26 Spitfire Chassis entry in the first indoor race to happen in Rhode Island since 1959.

Tickets can be purchased at the Dunkin’ Donuts Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or online at:  Friday tickets are $20 (front row for adults and children), $15 (adult seats) and $10 (children age 12 and under). Saturday tickets are $25 (front row for adults and children), $20 (adults) and $10 (children age 12 and under). Show information is available at Len Sammons Productions by calling 609-888-3618 or online:  Special room rates are now available on the web-site at the Hilton for just $79 per night. The Hilton is located within walking distance of the Dunkin Donuts Center.

It’s only a month a way and big plans are in the works for the upcoming SpeedwayEXPO. Produced by Speedway Illustrated Magazine and sponsored by Sunoco, SpeedwayEXPO will be at the Big E, in West Springfield, MA, Feb. 27 - March 1, 2009. It is the largest event for drivers, teams, tracks, and racing vendors in the Northeast. Speedway EXPO will launch the 2009 racing season with more than 200 new race cars and old favorites, and hundreds of exhibits for drivers, crews, and fans from a dozen states and Canada. Every year the show has been in existence thousands of enthusiasts have packed more than 130,000 square feet of exhibit space to take part in seminars and demonstrations; see retailers of racing gear and memorabilia; and meet today's and yesterday's racing celebrities.

In TV land this week, the action in Florida at the Daytona International Speedway comes alive with a generous portion of live coverage from the World’s Center of Speed. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starts it off on Tuesday at 5:00pm. The action shifts to the Speed Channel at 7:00pm for coverage of the day’s test sessions at Daytona. Wednesday’s viewing begins at noon when the Speed Channel presents: REVIEWING THE 60TH SEASON, September 2008. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 goes at 5:30pm. The day’s testing gets reviewed on Speed at 7:00pm. The Speed Channel continues their review of the 60th season starting at noon for six hours which will recap October and November. NASCAR Now airs on ESPN2 at 5:00pm. At 6:00pm the Speed Channel will present a two hour recap of the NASCAR Media Day, 2009 Season Preview of races at Daytona. Coverage by the Speed Channel continues at 8:00pm with the 2009 Budweiser Shootout Selection Show from Daytona. At 10:00pm Speed presents their Third Annual Performance Awards. Friday’s coverage begins at 3:00 with a one hour segment of NASCAR Live at Daytona. Live coverage of Bud Shootout practice at Daytona follows at 4:00. NASCAR Live from Daytona on Speed kicks in at 5:00pm for 90 minutes. At 6:30, Speed covers the final one hour practice for the Bud Shootout. NASCAR Live and other associated programming will be on the Speed Channel from 7:30 to 10:00. The Speed Channel starts off Saturday with NASCAR Live at 10:00am. At 10:30 its Sprint Cup practice No. 1 which will last until 12:30. One hour of NASCAR Live follows. Sprint Cup Practice No. 2 runs from 1:30 to 3:00pm. Another hour of NASCAR Live follows. At 4:00 finally some racing as the Speed Channel provides live flag to flag coverage of the ARCA RE/MAX Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 from the Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR RaceDay will preview the Budweiser Shootout at the conclusion of the ARCA Race. The action moves to FOX at 8:00pm for live coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout at the Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR Victory Lane on the Speed Channel follows. The Daytona ARCA race will be re-run at 11:00pm on the Speed Channel. The Speed Channel starts Sunday off with a 90 minute segment of NASCAR Live beginning at 11:30am. At 1:00pm FOX picks up the action for three hours as they cover Daytona 500 pole qualifying. At 4:30 the Speed Channel will host another 90 minutes of NASCAR Live. The Speed Channel rounds out the weekend with the Speed Report at 7:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the negative side. Dover Downs was the only winner as they gained 0.38 to close at 1.55. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.13 to 14.44 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 2.84 to 23.28. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.03 to 2.43 while fuel supplier Sun Oil jumped 4.43 to 46.32. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.39 to 6.17. Two of the top three auto makers had positive endings. Toyota went up 0.93 to 63.51 and Ford went up 0.07 to 1.87. General Motors dropped 0.48 to 3.01. As for the team sponsors, Dupont dropped 1.20 to 22.96, Coca-Cola went up 0.88 to 44.95, Target Department Stores dropped 2.20 to 31.20, Aarons Rentals dropped 3.90 to 21.86 and in the home improvement sector, Lowes dropped 1.78 to 18.27 and Home Depot dropped 0.19 to 21.53. Still on the bottom is the World Racing Group at 0.04.

The Associated Press reported that National Transportation Safety Board Investigators blamed NASCAR for a "tragic, unnecessary" plane crash in 2007, saying the racing organization let one of its aircraft take off without checking an electrical problem reported the day before. The NTSB stated that NASCAR violated federal aviation rules when it allowed the small corporate plane back in the air on July 10, 2007.
The Cessna 310 was en route from Daytona Beach to Lakeland in Florida when it crashed outside Orlando. The plane hit two homes, killing a 24-year-old law student and her 6-month-old son as well as a 4-year-old neighbor. Also killed was the NASCAR pilot and the husband of NASCAR executive Lisa France Kennedy. The safety board also said the crash resulted partly from sloppy maintenance record-keeping at NASCAR's aviation unit. A NASCAR spokesman stated that the sanctioning body has worked with aviation industry experts "to improve our safety management systems so as to prevent an accident like this from occurring in the future."

Investigators said the pilot who flew that Cessna the day before the crash turned off the radar system and pulled its circuit breaker in mid-flight after he began smelling a burning odor. After flying safely for another hour or so, the pilot submitted an incident report to NASCAR's maintenance division. But NASCAR did not inspect the problem before the plane was allowed back in the air on July 10.

The pilot in charge that day was told of the incident before he took off and should have investigated further, investigators said. But he may have believed the radar system was simply broken and could have reset the circuit breaker. About one-third of the way into the 100-mile trip, an electrical problem recurred. The pilot reported smoke in the cockpit minutes before going down. Investigators later found extensive evidence of an electrical fire on board.

NTSB investigators said NASCAR kept poor records of maintenance problems with its planes and had no system for ensuring that reports were addressed or tracked. NASCAR couldn't provide a copy of the incident report submitted the day before the crash, for example.

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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