Tuesday February 2, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The official start of the 2010 Modified Racing season begins this Friday, February 5 with the drop of the green for opening night of the annual World Series of Speed at the New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and the official beginning of the NASCAR season at the Daytona International Speedway.

One of the highlights of the upcoming week at New Smyrna will be the third annual Modified Reunion that will start at noon on Friday, Feb 12. The event will be held in the speedway’s parking lot. Admission is free!

Ted Christopher got an early start to his 2010 season last weekend in Atlantic City, NJ. Christopher served notice on Friday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., as he claimed the 30-lap TQ-Midget preliminary main event. Christopher got the lead from Joey Payne on a lap 19 restart and he held off Billy Pauch to claim the victory.

Lou Cicconi Jr. won Saturday night’s Gambler’s Classic 40-lap TQ-Midget feature at Boardwalk Hall.

The Aston, Pa., veteran became only the second driver in the eight year history of the race to have won the Gambler’s Classic twice. Cicconi, who collected $5000 for the 40-lap victory, won the event in 2006. Joey Payne is the only other driver to have won twice (2004 and 2007). Cicconi defeated Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., while Stewart Friesen of Niagra-on-the-Lakes, Ontario, was third, Ryan Smith of Kunkletown, Pa. was fourth and Mike Lichty of Innerkip, Ontario, was fifth.Ted Christopher ended up ninth.

NASCAR Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart made an unannounced visit to Boardwalk Hall to watch both nights of racing action.

The highlight of last weekend was the 13th annual induction of the New England Auto Racer’s Hall of Fame on Sunday at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Hundreds of victories and dozens of championships were represented in the “Class of 2010.”

Among those inducted were drivers Geoff Bodine, Mike Murphy, George Savory and Pete Fiandaca, Car owners Billy Simons, Bob Garbarino and Vic Miller and contributor Frank Ferrara. NEAR Veterans Committee inductees were the late race official Archie Blackadar, open-c0ckpit star, the late Chuck Arnold, and pioneering car-builder Marty Harty. Longtime New England racing photographers Howie & Mary Hodge accepted the prestigious Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award.
The New England Antique Racers club is a non-profit organization that supports the history of New England auto racing. NEAR has been in existence since 1981 and has inducted over 100 individuals into its New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame since 1998.

The Modified Racing Series, formerly sponsored by True Value, has 58 race teams signed up to compete in 2010. Among those new to the series is Long Islander Bryon Chew. Chew is a former competitor on the Busch North Series. Car owner Art Barry has also indicated that he will field a car for Jon McKennedy. In 2010 the MRS will be running at some new venues including the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY and the Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs CT. The series, which has 19 dates so far, will also return to Waterford, Thompson and Seekonk.

It looks like lights may be in the future of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Speedway Motorsports officials are currently negotiating with local officials to get it done. With all the divisions that are now on the ticket at NHMS lights will make life a lot easier especially if rains dampen race weekends. The speedway, which seats 93,500, is one of the chosen few that still boasts that their Sprint Cup events are sold out. Among the improvements that fans and competitors will see in 2010 is a new scoreboard plus improved camper, shower and rest room facilities.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, Feb 2 at noon with a replay of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Copart 200 that was run at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, WI. NASCAR Now on espn2 highlights the days racing activities at 5:00pm. NASCAR Now will aso be in the same time slot on Wednesday and Thursday. NASCAR Race Hub on the Speed Channel hits the airwaves at 7:30pm. Wednesday’s viewing begins at noon with a replay of the Aug 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen that was run at Watkins Glen, NY. NASCAR Race Hub is again on at 7:30pm. Speed replays the NASCAR Sprint Cup CARFAX 400 that was run at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn MI last August. Viewing on the Speed Channel continues at 3:00pm when Dave Despain goes on Assignment as he features Building the Daytona 500. Speed goes Live from Daytona Beach at 4:00pm with NASCAR Live. Live coverage of Sprint Cup practice for the Budweiser Shootout follows at 5:00pm. At 6:00pm it’s a half hour segment of NASCAR Live before the second round of Sprint Cup practice begins at 6:30pm. At 7:30pm Speed presents a 90-minute review of the NASCAR Media Day where Sprint Cup drivers discuss the upcoming racing season. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout Selection Show follows at 9:00pm. At 10:30 a panel of racing experts awards the Mario Andretti Trophy to motorsport's top performer of 2009. Friday’s coverage begins at 2:00pm with live coverage of a 90 minute NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session for those prepping for the Budweisier Shootout. NASCAR Live from Daytona breaks it up at 3:30pm. Another 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars follows at 4:00pm. NASCAR Live takes center stage for 90 minutes, starting at 5:30pm. At 7:00pm Speed goes Trackside at Daytona for another hour. Saturday’s coverage of Speed Weeks starts at noon with NASCAR Live from Daytona International Speedway. At 1:00pm the action switches to FOX for Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying. At 4:00pm NASCAR Live serves as a pre-race show to the ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 that gets the green at the Daytona International Speedway at 4:30pm. At 6:30pm NASCAR RaceDay previews the Budweiser Shootout from Daytona International Speedway for 90 minutes. At 8:00pm, FOX goes live for the running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout from Daytona. One of New England’s favorite sons, Mike Joy, will anchor the telecast. Another favorite son, Dick Berggren will serve as the lead pit reporter. NASCAR Victory Lane from Budweiser Shootout finishes out the day at 10:00pm. Because of the fact that it is Super Bowl Sunday, NASCAR Racing takes a back seat. The only programming will be a rerun of the ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at 2:00pm and Countdown to the Daytona 500 at 4:00pm. The Speed Report will wrap up the week at 7:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on a negative note. Taking the biggest dip was the International Speedway Corporation, which dropped 3.97 to 25.21. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.40 to 16.62 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.01 to 2.24. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.09 to 3.28 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.07 to 25.09. On a positive note, tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.10 to 13.34. The car makers had a mixed bag for the week. Ford went up 0.32 to 10.84. General Motors finished where they started at 0.63 and Toyota took a digger as they dropped 11.17 to 77.00. Toyota suspended sales of many of their popular models because some had problems with accelerator pedals getting stuck on rugs and floor mats. With the exception of Aaron’s Rentals NASCAR team sponsors had a fairly good week. Aaron’s dropped 0.17 to 27.86 while Dupont went up 0.11 to 32.61, Coca-Cola went up 0.88 to 50.47 and Target Department Stores went up 0.89 to 51.27. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.29 to 28.01 and Lowes dropped 0.66 to 21.65.

Late last week it was reported by the Associated Press that NASCAR has backed off on some of the financial strain put on racetracks during the rough economic climate.

The sanctioning body lowered the fee it charges to hold NASCAR races, and the trickle down affects nearly every aspect of events. The reduction should allow track owners to reduce ticket prices and lower various fees associated with holding a race. For the most part this move will benefit tracks that host Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Series Truck events. It was not mentioned weather this new policy will affect NASCAR tracks that host Weekly Racing Series events or Touring Series events.

The lowering of fees will affect prize money, which is largely determined by track profit. High-profile tracks like Daytona, Texas and Indianapolis pay a much higher sanctioning fee to NASCAR than smaller venues like Dover, Darlington and Martinsville and the purses reflect that.

Tracks have suffered during the tough economy because of declining attendance and less money from sponsors, upon which the sport is heavily dependent.

Lenny Santiago, director of marketing for International Speedway Corp., which owns the Daytona, Talladega and Darlington tracks, among others, said the move reduces the financial stress on facilities, which should in turn lower cost for fans. "This will help everyone including fans, tracks, vendors and everyone in between to reduce cost," Santiago said. "We applaud NASCAR for this move."

Ticket prices were already set for this year and will likely be unchanged across ISC's tracks, Santiago said, but the move could help lower costs in the future. About 600,000 tickets were already lowered among the tracks this year before the announcement.

ESPN added in a report that NASCAR is cutting by about 10 percent the race winnings it will award teams in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series this season, officials confirmed on Friday. The reduction is part of cost-cutting measures that will alleviate some of the financial burdens on tracks that have suffered during a tough economic environment that has forced them to cut ticket prices with declining attendance. Bet that went over like a lead balloon!

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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