Tuesday January 27, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

It will be here before you know it. As of this Friday, January 30 only 7 days remain before the start of Speedweeks in Florida. The New Smyrna Speedway World Series of Auto Racing begins on Friday night, Feb 6. 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.

Now you see him, now you donít. Shawn Monahan in bed with Terry Eames in running the Waterford Speedbowl, that is. Evidently Monahanís lawyer is smarter than he is as he advised his client to walk away before he gets cleaned out. Monahan had some good ideas and probably would have been good for the shoreline oval but Eamesí financial reputation won out in the end. Itís going to take someone with a lot of money to get the Speedbowl out of trouble. Fact of the matter is there are people out there who would step up to help out. The only problem is that Eames comes with the deal. The Speedbowl property is scheduled to be foreclosed on by mortgage holder Rocco Arbitell on March 2.

NASCAR made the official announcement last Friday, January 23 when they stated that six teams from NASCARís Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours would be heading to Tennessee to participate in a tire test session at Bristol Motor Speedway on 19on Tuesday, Feb. 24 in preparation for an event at the famed .533-mile concrete short track later this summer in August. The primary purpose for bringing teams in next month will be to test Hoosier tires, the seriesí official tire supplier. The August Bristol date marks the first time that either the NASCAR Whelen Modified or NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tours have raced on a completely concrete surface.

Bristol features significantly more banking, between 24 and 30 degrees in the turns, than the venues in which the Modified series regularly compete. The test session will also serve to evaluate the performance of the race car as a whole. NASCAR and Hoosier have invited three teams from each series for the test. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers invited include: defending series champion Ted Christopher, past champion Todd Szegedy, and Ronnie Silk. Reigning champion Brian Loftin, past titlist L.W. Miller, and Bobby Hutchens were selected to represent the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. While specific teams were selected to test on the track, the session will be open for all teams from both series to attend and observe.

NASCARís suspension on 2009 testing for the three national series and the NASCAR Camping World Regional Series, announced last November, does not apply to either the NASCAR Whelen Modified or NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tours.

In a somewhat related matter, Ted Baxter who operates Hampton Jitney on Long Island is seriously considering putting together a bus trip to Bristol for the Modified event. According to Baxter it would probably have to be a 3 day trip, as they would have to leave way to early in the day to get there in time on Wednesday. The trip would probably be about around $250-270 per person for double occupancy for the 3 day trip including the 2 nights hotel and race tickets. There would also be an option to stay for the entire weekend. Boarding locations would be the regular stops on Long Island, a soon to be chosen NJ stop off of I 78 and a PA pick up off of I 78. The Bus would Leave Tuesday Morning August 18th, and return home on Thursday August 20th. Sounds like a pretty good deal!

Even though NASCAR hasnít asked the US Government for any bail-out money yet NASCAR chairman Brian France has ordered a company wide hiring freeze and suspended executive bonuses as the sanctioning body adjusts to the economic crisis. As everyone could plainly see at the end of last season many tracks that hosted the sanctioning bodyís top three divisions were having problems filling their grandstand seats. Although many teams went through off-season layoffs, it's estimated at least 600 people from various organizations have lost their jobs since November's season-ending race; NASCAR itself has been immune to staff reductions so far.

But France said last week that open positions will not immediately be filled as NASCAR tightens its belt the same way most of corporate America has done since the economy began to falter last fall. Based on what has been happening of late it looks like NASCAR will lose some of their weekly tracks and some tracks will cut down on the special events they hold. At some point in time the revenue coming in to NASCARís coffers will drop somewhat.

The Thompson International Speedway paid tribute to its six NASCAR Whelen All American Series champions this past weekend. With the number of racers who attend the awards ceremonies, it took two evenings to honor the 2008 champions along with those race teams that finished in the top ten in track points during the year just completed.

Pro Stock champion, Fred Astle, Jr took center stage during the Friday festivities and second generation driver Kerry Malone was honored as the Sunoco Modified champ on Saturday. Winners of division titles who were also be honored on Friday were Limited Sportsman champ, Scott Sundeen and Mini Stock title holder, Danny Field. Saturday nightís festivities not only paid tribute to Malone, but also featured Late Model champion, Jeff Zuidema and the winner of the Thompson Modified title, Kurt Vigeant.

In addition to the drivers and race teams that reached the top in their 2008 racing efforts, Thompson International Speedway honored drivers and race teams that finished in the top ten in each of the six NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions that made up the Thursday Night Thompson Thunder schedule.

The New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Induction Banquet took center stage this past weekend on Sunday Jan. 25 at LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT.

Three drivers, two owner/builders and three from the promotional side made up the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Class of 2009. Drivers John Fitch, Bobby Dragon and Paul Richardson, promoters Bob Bahre, Jim McConnell and Tom Curley and car owner/ builders Rollie Lindblad and Art Barry were inducted at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT.

Itís 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. SpeedwayEXPO 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.

Quinn Wazorko, a special-needs teacher from Plainville, Connecticut, has been named Grand Marshal of SpeedwayEXPO '09. She will appear at the show from Friday, February 27, through Sunday, March 1. As the official 'hostess' of the show, Ms Wazorko will participate in many of XPO's events and seminars and will present the prestigious SPEEDY Awards, which recognize special achievement in racing in the year just past. She will be accompanied by her husband, the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion, Ted Christopher--who also happens to be the Tour's 2008 Most Popular Driver and Stafford Speedway's 2008 Most Popular Driver as well as winner of more events at that track than any other driver in history.

Christopher, by the way, was the first to file an entry for the upcoming indoor Three-Quarter Midget race at the Dunkiní Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., which will be held on March 6 and 7. Christopher had previously planned on competing in an ASA/S.M.A.R.T. Series asphalt Modified event at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont , N.C. but since winning his first Ė ever indoor TQ Midget feature win on January 17 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City , N.J. has changed his mind and will not go south on that date.

Tickets for the Providence event go on sale this coming Saturday and can by purchased at the Dunkiní 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).

In TV land this week, the action in Florida at the Daytona International Speedway continues to heat up and the Speed Channel is there for most of the action. Viewing this week begins on Tuesday, Jan 27 with a recap of the days testing at Daytona. The Speed Channel continues their review of NASCARís 60th season with a recap of events that took place in August 2008 at noon on Wednesday. At 7:00pm the Speed Channel will recap the dayís testing at Daytona. Speed reviews Septemberís events at noon on Thursday and at 7:00pm they recap the days activities at Daytona. Testing wraps up on Friday and Speed will have the recap at 7:00pm. Also at 7:00, ESPN Classic will reshow the 1995 Brickyard 400 that was run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Saturdayís racing coverage will be limited to a half hour recap of a July 12 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event. 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 all three speedway stocks had negative results for the week. Taking the biggest dip was the International Speedway Corporation which went down 1.64 to 26.12. Speedway Motorsports dropped 1.50 to 14.57 and Dover Downs dropped 0.17 to 1.17. A somewhat surprise was that Sprint had a positive week as they went up 0.25 to 2.46. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.42 to 41.89. Tire supplier Goodyear followed suit as they dropped 0.22 to 6.49. The auto makers had another bad week. Toyota displaced General Motors as No. 1 but that didnít help as the Japanese auto makerís stock dropped 3.99 to 62.58. GM dropped 0.44 to 3.49 and Ford dropped 0.39 to 1.80. NASCAR team sponsors Dupont and Coca-Cola also had down weeks. Dupont dropped 0.81 to 24.16 and Coca-Cola dropped 0.70 to 44.07. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 1.48 to 21.72 and Lowes dropped 0.99 to 20.05. Target Department Stores dropped
1.62 to 33.40 and Aarons Rentals dropped 1.22 to 25.76. Still on the bottom of the heap is World Racing at 0.04.

Thatís 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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