Despite the fact that winter has descended upon us, race fans and competitors are thinking positive and are looking foreword to 2006. As of this Friday, January 27, two weeks remain until Speed Weeks start in Florida. The New Smyrna World Series will get the green flag on Friday night, February 10. DIRT Motorsports will also have a presence in Florida as the popular Advance Auto Parts Florida Modified Tour at Volusia Speedway begins Feb. 15 with a 30-lap feature headlining the program. Open-wheel action continues at the recently refurbished Barberville half-mile oval with 30-lap feature events on Thursday and Friday before a big $5,000-to-win 50-lapper brings the curtain down Sat., Feb. 18. An optional practice date of Tue., Feb. 14 has also been secured. Action at Daytona Beach for the Nextel Cup division shifts into high gear on Saturday, February 11. Nextel Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Trucks The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona gets the green flag this coming Saturday, January 28.
Even though winter has settled in there is still a lot going on. This coming weekend the Thompson Speedway will hold their annual awards banquets on Friday and Saturday, January 27-28. Friday night’s banquet will honor the Late Models, Thompson Modifieds, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks. Charles Bailey is the LATE MODEL CHAMPION with 5 Wins, 18 Top 5's and 19 Top 10's. Bailey beat 2nd Place Woody Pitkat by a scant eight points. Pitkat had 3 Wins, 18 Top 5's and19 Top 10's. Marc Palmisano finished third with Jeff Hartwell and John Falconi III rounding out the top five. Chad Gaudiosi is the first TIS MODIFIED CHAMPION with 5 Wins, 16 Top 5's and17 Top 10's. Roger Larson, with 6 Wins, 15 Top 5's and 17 Top 10's finished second. Shane Michalski, Mike Viens and Richie Ferreira rounded out the top five. Glenn Boss left little doubt that he was championship material in the Limited Sportsman ranks as he all but dominated the division with 7 Wins, 17 Top 5's and 18 Top 10's. 2nd Place Keith DeSanctis scored 2 Wins, 3rd Place Larry Barnett scored 6 Wins and 4th Place Scott Sundeen had 1 Win. Ed Puleo rounded out the top five. Ron Rixham is the MINI STOCK CHAMPION with 2 Wins, 11 Top 5's and 16 Top 10's. Rixham finished only four points ahead of 2nd Place, Scott Michalski. Steve Michalski, Shelly Perry and Randy Jurcik round out the top five.
Saturday night’s banquet will honor the Sunoco Modified and Pro Stock competitors. Jeff Malave is the SUNOCO MODIFIED CHAMPION. With 4 Wins, 16 Top 5's and 19 Top 10's, Malave beat out 2nd Place Bert Marvin. Marvin had 2 Wins, 12 Top 5's and 17 Top 10's. 3rd Place Todd Ceravolo had 3 Wins, 10 Top 5's, 16 Top 10's. Kerry Malone with 3 wins and Tom Cravenho with 1 win comprised the top five. Jeff Zuidema with 1 Win, 14 Top 5's and 16 Top 10's took the Pro Stock Championship. He beat 2nd Place Norm Wrenn by 8 points for the title. Wrenn had 2 Wins, 13 Top 5's and 14 Top 10's. Jeff Connors, Joe Lemay and Mike O’Sullivan round out the top five.
Scheduled for this Sunday, January 29 is the Ninth annual NEAR Hall of Fame inductions at the LeRenissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Four drivers, four car owners/mechanics and three promoter/officials make up the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Class of 2006. The class includes drivers Robbie Crouch, Phil Libby, the late Joe Rosenfield and Dick Wolstenhulme, owners/builders Gene Angelillo, the late Fred ‘Sharkey" Gaudiosi, Champ Car giant Jim McGee and the owners of the Modified V-8, Bob Vitari and Vic Bombacci and promoter/officials Bob Libby and the Ken Smith-Russ Conway combo. The Veterans Committee for selection into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame has selected three members of Midget racing’s "golden age," Johnny Kay, Red Cummings and the late Billy Randall. Journalists Charlie Mitchell and Lou Modestino will be added to the list of Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award winners.
The Boston Herald broke the news this past Saturday, January 21 that George Pyne, chief operating officer for NASCAR since 2002, will leave his post to become president of the International Management Group within a week, according to a high-ranking official in the racing organization. IMG, founded by the late Mark H. McCormack in 1960 on a handshake deal with golf legend Arnold Palmer, is considered one of the top sports marketing and representation firms in the world. Pyne was at the Thompson Speedway a few years ago when the Modified competitors were about to revolt. He made a lot of promises but never followed through with them. NASCAR was expected to announce Pyne’s resignation at a press conference on Monday.
Race wise, the only action was indoors at Atlantic City in New Jersey where Midget standout Lou Cicconi realized a longtime dream on Saturday night, capturing the 40-lap Atlantic City Indoor Race 'Gambler's Classic' A-Main for Three Quarter Midgets and 600cc Micro-Sprints at Boardwalk Hall.
Cicconi grabbed the lead on lap 27 when his good friend and rival, Joey Payne of Fairlawn, N.J., had an unfortunate scrape with the lapped car driven by Bobby Watkins of Levittown, Pa. The contact with Watkins was hard enough to partially break Payne's steering wheel, leaving him with an injury to his right hand. Payne, who had passed Mike Dicely of Lewisberry, Pa., for the top spot on lap 11, was never a factor again. He basically drove one-handed until a blown engine eliminated him as he was struggling to maintain a top-five spot on lap 38. Cicconi mastered the two restarts over the final circuits to cross the finish line ahead of Dicely, who finished as the 'Gambler's Classic" runner-up for the second straight year. Jack Spence of Bear, Del., finished third, followed by Mike Lichty of Innerkip, Ont., and B.J. MacDonald of Dublin, Pa.
Ryan Smith of Kunkletown, Pa., overtook Middletown, N.Y.'s Scott Goodrich for the lead late in the distance en route to winning the 20-lap Slingshot by Tobias division feature. Goodrich settled for second place, followed by Joel Smith of Palmerton, Pa., Jim Housworth of Riegelsville, Pa., and Pat Bealer of Walnutport, Pa. Slingshot national champion Steven Intravaia of Saylorsburg, Pa., upstaged a field of asphalt and dirt Modified stars to win the 15-lap Slingshot Celebrity Race. Asphalt Mod standout Tony Hirschman, finished second, ahead of Doug Hoffman (dirt Modifieds), Jimmy Blewett (asphalt Mods), Frank Cozze (dirt Mods) and Alan Johnson (dirt Mods).A large crowd entered the Boardwalk Hall stands for the mid-winter event, which for the first time in four years was run on a weekend that boasted ideal weather conditions. Last year's Saturday-night show was marred by a snowstorm that led to a state of emergency in New Jersey.
TQ Midget/600cc Micro-Sprint ‘Gambler’s Classic’ A-Main Finish (40 laps): 1. Lou Cicconi Jr., 2. Mike Dicely, 3. Jack Spence, 4. Mike Lichty, 5. B.J. MacDonald, 6. John Ivy, 7. Rick Eckert, 8. Heath Hehnly, 9. Mike Tidaback 10. Robbie Nixon, 11. Billy Pauch, 12. Mike Iles, 13. Cody Darrah, 14. Joey Payne, 15. Ted Christopher, 16. Bobby Watkins Jr., 17. Bill Unglert, 18. Frank Polimeda, 19. Curt Michael, 20. Stewart Friesen, 21. Danny Shirey, 22. Jon Gambuti, 23. Tim Adams, 24. Steve Buckwalter, 25. Curtis Friesen, 26. Matt Janisch. Special thanks to Gary Silverman’s Jersey Racing.com.
In Whelen Modified Tour Series news it was announced that Rob Summers will take over the driving chores of the TG Racing No.1 owned by Guy Ronzoni and Bill Frasco. Former driver Rick Fuller is exploring other options. When his schedule permits Summers will continue to race his SK Modified at the Waterford Speedbowl. Danny Sammons who has extensive experience in Quarter Midgets and Hooters Cup cars will be driving the Ralph Solhem No.0. Sammons is the son of Area Auto Racing News editor and publisher Lenny Sammons. True Value Modified Series Champion Kirk Alexander will drive the Czarnicki Racing 71 that was formerly driven by the now retired Bob Polverari.
One of NASCAR’s newest innovations passed its latest test on Tuesday, January 17. In an effort to reduce the cost of racing, NASCAR designed and built a new engine package for the NASCAR Grand National Division, which includes the AutoZone West Series and Busch East Series (formerly the Busch North Series). The new "spec" engine program – so called because NASCAR will determine the engine’s precise specifications to control the cost of components, was developed at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. The new engine package is still in its developmental stage and will be gradually phased into the AutoZone West Series and Busch East Series competition during the 2006-07 seasons. NASCAR has indicated that the "Spec" engine will be phased into the Modified division in 2007. The engine package underwent exhaustive testing this past week at the USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla. Once testing is completed and the final engine package is approved for competition, it is expected to reduce the engine costs for race teams by nearly 50 percent.
The Busch East Series received some good news when it was learned that their schedule had increased from eight events to 10. Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania has signed on for an event for July 8 and Lime Rock Park in Connecticut for September 30.
In TV land, this week’s viewing will consist of mostly Speed Channel programming. This weeks viewing begins on Tuesday, January 24 at 9:30am with NASCAR Beyond the Wheel from Atlanta. At 2:00pm last September’s Nextel Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series events run at Richmond gets rerun. NASCAR, Beyond the Wheel from Kansas City airs at 7:30pm. Last September’s Nextel Cup and Craftsman Truck events from Loudon get the rerun treatment on Wednesday at 2:00pm. On Thursday the September Nextel Cup and Busch Series events from Dover Downs plus the Craftsman Truck event from Las Vegas, run at night, get the air at 2:00pm. The action switches to ESPN Classic on Friday for the 1995Atlanta 500 at 8:00pm. Speed goes live at high noon on Saturday for coverage of the start and first six hours of the 24 Hours of Daytona. After a two hour break the action resumes at 8:00pm for another three hours. Sunday’s live coverage of the 24 Hours of Daytona begins at 8:00am and will continue to the finish at noon. Speed News Sunday wraps up the week’s racing at 7:00pm.
On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.44 to 48.89. Dover Downs dropped 0.07 to 6.26 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.05 to 35 52. Nextel dropped 0.36 to 22.98 while Sun Oil went up 1.44 to 89.70. Sun, through its Sunoco brand has developed a lead free racing gas for Nextel Cup, Busch Racing and Craftsman Trucks that still burn leaded gas that doesn’t contain MTBE. Featherlite Trailers went up 0.33 to 4.99 while DIRT Motorsports dropped 0.75 to 5.00. In the drug sector, Pfizer went up 0.06 to 24.71 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 0.10 to 22.33. The home improvement sector took a hit as Lowes dropped 3.08 to 63.13 and Home Depot dropped 1.73 to 40.17. UPS went up 0.73 to 75.24 while Fedex dropped 0.05 to 99.95.