Tuesday February 7, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

As of this Friday, Feb 10, one week remains before the start of the annual World Series at New Smyrna and Speedweek at the Daytona International Speedway. Racing at New Smyrna begins on Friday night, Feb 17 and the 34th annual season-opening Sprint Cup Shootout event launches Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18. Speedweek is actually one week later than usual this year.

When it comes to decisions made by NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation its all about money, period! The move of the Daytona 500 to the final weekend of this month was done at the recommendation of Fox Sports, the broadcaster of the first group of races before TNT picks up the baton. With NASCAR hoping to better or at least equal the TV rights money when the contract comes up for renewal shortly, they deferred to the company that writes the big check to the sanction as well as to the tracks that host the Sprint Cup events as well as to the team owners. The change was done not so much as to sidestep the ever-expanding NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, but to prevent the one weekend gap in March, which the Fox Network felt, that stopped the NASCAR TV ratings momentum!

This year there will be NASCAR races every weekend through mid-November, with the exception of the Easter weekend. Though, on Mother's Day weekend the Southern 500 will go off on Saturday at Darlington Raceway in SC. That leaves the competitors and fans an opportunity to spend Mother's Day with the family. It also left many scrambling for a place to stay in the Daytona, especially those who were locked into a time-share agreement.

There was indoor racing in Atlantic City, NJ last weekend. Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph were the winners of the Friday Atlantic City Indoor Race features before an enthusiastic crowd at Boardwalk Hall. Winning in the legendary venue for the third time, Christopher is tied with Joe Payne and Lou Cicconi as two- time Gamblers Classic winners and will have the opportunity Saturday to sweep the 2012 Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall Three Quarter Midget events and become the only three-time Gamblers Classic winner.

In the Three Quarter Midget 30-lap main event, Christopher out dueled Payne in a classic nose-to-tail fight to the finish. Payne had led the early laps of the race before ‘TC’ out muscled Payne on one of the numerous early race, side-by-side restarts.

Rudolph ran away with the 600cc Micro Sprint feature when he took the race lead at the one-third distance and survived several caution flag situations that negated big leads. The win was the first indoors for Rudolph.

In front of one of the largest crowds in Boardwalk Hall’s Gamblers Classic 10-year history, Erick Rudolph dominated the weekend events. After winning the Micro Sprint features Friday and Saturday, Rudolph saved his best effort for last when he overpowered the competition, winning the Gamblers Classic for Three Quarter Midgets.

The Speed Channel has reported that a New Hampshire Superior Court judge has thrown out a verdict that would have required New Hampshire Motor Speedway to pay Motor Racing Network $993,724 as a contract termination fee.

When Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought the New Hampshire track in January 2008, it wanted its Sprint Cup and Nationwide races on its own radio network, Performance Racing Network. But NHIS had a contract with MRN, which is owned by International Speedway Corp., that required a three-year notice of termination. MRN ended up broadcasting the June 2008 Nationwide and Cup races from the newly named New Hampshire Motor Speedway and then PRN got the Cup race in September 2008 and all Nationwide and Cup events beginning in 2009.
SMI and ISC never could agree on a termination fee, and the case went to trial in September in Merrimack County, N.H. The jury awarded the $993,724 to MRN. But SMI won’t have to pay as Judge Richard McNamara, who presided over the trial, threw out the verdict in a ruling he issued.

In his opinion, McNamara wrote that the jury’s award was based on MRN’s projected lost profits from not being able to broadcast the New Hampshire races through 2010. McNamara, who had earlier in the lawsuit ruled that the contract was invalid but MRN could sue based on the general promises made by the track, wrote that in this type of case, expected profits cannot be the basis for damages – the damages are limited to the money actually spent to fulfill the promise.

ISC will appeal the decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, at 6:00pm with NASCAR Race Hub. Race Hub will also be shown on Wednesday and Thursday at the same time. Speed replays last year’s Sprint Cup event that was held at Phoenix at noon on Thursday. Starting at noon on Friday, Speed will show the one hour biographies of Dale Earnhardt Sr, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. At 6:00pm “The 10” takes center stage on Speed. On Saturday it will be Dave Despain on Assignment at Talladega at 6:30pm and On Assignment at Bristol at 7:30pm. On Sunday at 8:00pm Speed remembers Dale Earnhardt Sr.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks had a positive finish. Leading the pack was Speedway Motorsports which went up 1.01 to 16.96. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.84 to 27.25 while Dover Motorsports went up 0.01 to 1.25. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.15 to 2.32 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 1.34 to 13.84 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.30 to 38.47. The car makers had a positive week. Toyota went up 2.90 to 76.47 while Ford went up 0.58 to 12.79 and General Motors went up 1.81 to 26.18. In the Home Improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.30 to 45.17 and Lowes went up 0.29 to 27.20. The big team sponsors also had productive weeks. Dupont went up 1.29 to 52.01, Coca-Cola went up 2.10 to 63.48, Target Department Stores went up 2.09 to 52.14, Aarons Rentals went up 0.62 to 28.62 and Fedex went up 1.59 to 94.54.

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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