Tuesday January 15, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Waterford Speedbowl held its annual banquet of champions this past Saturday night at the Groton Inn & Suites in Groton, CT. A large contingent of competitors and fans were on hand. In the evenings opening comments, former Director of Media Relations and presently a consultant to the Speedbowl, Pete Zanardi stated the following; “We are very close to announcing what the present operating team has been battling for over the past four months. We hope to announce in the very near future that the Waterford Speedbowl operating team will also be the owner of the facility. Perhaps it makes less than perfect sense to make this announcement at this time, but management believes it is very important tonight to justify the faith many of you have shown in us and to assure you that your efforts toward the 2008 season were and are not in vain.”

Champions Rob Janovic (SK Modified), Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Models), Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman), Ken Cassidy Jr. (Mini Stock) and Michael Gervais Jr. (Saturday Night Legends) were guests of honor. Janovic took the SK Modified title by a mere 10 points over Dennis Gada. Consistency was the key to Janovic’s title. In 24 events he scored 23 top tens including three wins. Gada was the divisions big winner with seven victories but in 24 events he had only 21 top tens. Former track champion Jeff Pearl finished the year third in points. In 24 events he recorded five wins included in 19 top tens. Tyler Chadwick and Jeffrey Paul rounded out the top five. If there is a comeback of the year award it should go to Don Fowler who fought back after suffering a stroke and finished seventh in the final rundown. With twelve victories, Thomas defeated Ernie Bertrand by a spread of 154 points to claim the Late Model title. Sportsman Champion Dwayne Dorr with a total of six feature wins, announced that plans for the new season may not include racing for a third title. “My son is racing now, and he did very well last year. We’re very proud of him, as he had a great season,” said Dorr. With racing at the Speedbowl, I’m not always able to spend the time I’d like to with his operation. I can’t say for sure what’s in store for us in 2008, but either way, I just want to say that I’m here this year because of the efforts of my family, crew, and sponsors.” Ken Cassidy Jr. recorded six feature victories on the way to his first Mini Stock championship.

Numerous special awards were handed out. “Sportsman Of The Year” awards were presented to Wendell Dailey (SK Modified), Rich Duranti (Late Model), Ed Giles (Sportsman), Louie Belisle (Mini Stock), and, Jason Palmer (Legends). “Best Pit Crew” awards went to the teams of Jeff Pearl (SK Modified), Mike Saligermano (Late Model), Jack Aquilina (Sportsman), Jeff Miller (Mini Stock), and, Justin Rau (Legends). In the “Most Improved Driver” category, it was Tyler Chadwick (SK Modified), Ernie Bertrand (Late Model), Josh Galvin (Sportsman), Randy Churchill (Mini Stock), and, Ed Field (Legends). In the Legends division, the “Jerry Robinson Young Lion Award” was presented to 14-year old Ryan Morgan. Morgan is the grandson of Jack Morgan who wrote of the late Fred DeSarro’s exploits in the Westerly (RI) Sun. A Speedbowl tradition, the “Race Directors Award” was given to Kyle James. Long-time Waterford staffer Eric Webster received the Distinguished Service Award, and it was Speedbowl veteran Tom Fox was presented a “Special Recognition Award”. Fox will serve as a technical inspector in 2008.

Rumors of the demise of the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey continue to surface. Andrew Harpell who owns and promotes the New York State based Race of Champions Modified Series recently stated that he was informed by the management of the Wall Township Speedway that the track would be closing. Wall is a 1/3 mile high banked asphalt speedway that has been in operation since the early 1950’s. The layout of the track was fashioned after the Lonsdale Arena that was located northwest of Providence, RI.

Late last week the Press of Atlantic City newspaper stated that the managing partners of the New Jersey speedway are currently discussing the status of the auto race track, and may announce a decision on the future of the 57-year-old track by the end of January. Tim Shinn, one of the partners, said he fully intends to open the Wall Township Speedway in 2008, but that he could not guarantee it. Shinn said rumors that a decision has already been made to close the speedway are "totally baseless." Shinn bought the track with a group of friends in February 2002 for a reported price of about $4.5 million.

Jim Morton, the operations manager of Wall Township Speedway, and his staff have been laid off. But Morton said he has been told he would return when the track re-opens in the spring. Morton, who was hired in June 2006, said he was employed through the previous off season. Also, the telephone line to the Wall Township Speedway has been temporarily disconnected, according to a voice recording.

There is speculation that one of the partners wants to buy out the others, close the track and commercially develop the property. Shinn declined to comment on that directly.

Shinn and Morton said it is imperative that a decision be reached soon in fairness to the teams and drivers who race at Wall, which opened in May 1950. Drivers and teams need to know if they must find another place to drive or close up completely before making any further financial commitments.

For the most part it’s pretty quiet on the auto racing front. As of this Friday, Jan 18, its only 21 days before the green flag drops at the Annual World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. In the mean time there will be plenty of racing related activity. The third weekend in Jan will see the annual indoor Auto Parts Swap 'n Sell at the Big E in West Springfield, MA plus the annual Seekonk Speedway Awards banquet at the Venus DiMilo in Swansea, MA. The Thompson Speedway holds their annual awards banquets on Jan 25-26. Rounding out the month will be the 11th Annual New England Antique Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Dinner at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in E. Windsor, CT.

In TV land this week NASCAR Pre-season Thunder, Sprint Cup testing from Daytona takes center stage. On Tuesday through Thursday Speed will review the previous days testing at 6:00pm and the current days testing at 6:30 . On Wednesday from 3:00 to 4:00pm there will be boat racing. Also on Wednesday will be the first of many marathon sessions that Speed will cover of the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction in in Scottsdale , Arizona . The first endless parade of high dollar automobiles runs from 7:00pm to midnight . Another five hour session follows at 7:00pm on Thursday. On Friday, Speed presents Round #7 of the Summer Shootout which includes Legends Car, Bandolero and Thunder Roadster racing from the Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord , NC . A ten hour session of the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction follows at 2:00pm . Saturday will see more of the same with auction coverage starting at 2:00pm and ending at midnight . Sunday’s viewing on Speed begins at noon with the Bodine Bobsled Challenge where famous drivers on the NASCAR circuit try out the speed sensation on Geoff Bodine's bobsleds at Lake Placid , NY on Jan 3-5. A four hour session of the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction follows at 2:00pm . The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report at 7:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. Leading the way was Dover Downs which went up 0.27 to 6.63. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.17 to 40.43 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.03 to 29.55. Sprint/Nextel continued to drop as they went down 0.58 to 12.25. Sun Oil took a huge dip as they went down 7.38 to 60.66. Goodyear was also down as they dropped 0.30 to 24.28. DIRT Motorsports was also down as they dropped 0.10 to 0.35. The home improvement sector was in the red at weeks end. Lowes dropped 0.77 to 20.31 and Home Depot dropped 0.25 to 24.71. The parcel carriers rebounded from their previous losses. UPS went up 1.58 to 69.59 while Fedex dropped 0.06 to 84.04. Coca-Cola, the official drink of NASCAR, ended the week on a positive note as they went up 0.85 to 56.65. Dupont was also on the rise as they went up 1.28 to 44.60. Retail giant Target also had a good week as they went up 1.87 to 49.95. Nationwide, which has replaced Busch as a title sponsor, went up 1.46 to 44.45. Aarons Rentals dropped 1.08 to 16.55.

The International Speedway Corporation announced that the United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, has dismissed, in its entirety, the civil anti-trust action brought by Kentucky Speedway, LLC against ISC and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing ("NASCAR").

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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