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Tuesday January 19, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

As of this Friday, January 22 it will be two weeks before 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. Central Florida has rebounded from the recent forecast as daytime temps are now in the low 70’s.

It was announced on the January 12 Speed 51 Radio show that ten NASCAR Modified races, split between the Whelen Modified and Southern Modified Tours, will be televised on a tape-delayed basis in 2010. The races will air as one-hour packages on the Versus network and will be produced by the NASCAR Media Group. Events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bowman-Gray Stadium and both races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be among the races televised. Hopefully the four un-named tracks will include the Stafford Motor Speedway and the Thompson International Speedway. Both Stafford and Thompson have supported the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series since its inception in 1985. The Whelen Modified Tour will compete eight times in 2010 in Connecticut with four events scheduled at Stafford Motor Speedway, three at Thompson International Speedway and one at Lime Rock Park.

What wasn’t mentioned was the fact that the tracks at Lowes (Charlotte) and Atlanta are ¼ mile flat tracks formerly used by Legend Cars. Not really a good venue for Modifieds.

The Waterford Speedbowl honored their 2009 Champions from the NASCAR Whelen All American Series program this past Saturday, January 16th at Groton Inn & Suites located in Groton, CT. The top drivers in the track’s Saturday night Legends Cars and N.E.A.T.V Truck Series were also crowned.

Groton, CT residents Ron Yuhas Jr. and Bruce Thomas Jr. were crowned Champions earning the SK Modified® and Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model titles respectively. The other race teams receiving championship honors included Uncasville, CT resident Brandon Plemons (Street Stocks), Danny Field of Deep River (Norwich Bulletin Mini Stocks), Allen Coates of Ledyard (N.E.A.T.V. Truck Series), and Jason Palmer of Berlin (Legends Cars).

In all, nearly 80 drivers and teams were recognized for their achievements during the 2009 season among family, friends and fans. In addition to the Championship presentations, other awards distributed included Rookie, Sportsman and Pit Crew of the Year Awards as well as Most Improved Drivers across each of the six divisions of racing.

Picking up hardware for Top Rookies were Joe Perry (SK Modifieds), Brian Andronaco Jr. (Late Models), Steve Barrett (Street Stocks) and Greg Moran Sr. (Mini Stocks). For the Legends the Rookie of the Year honors went to 15-year-old Anthony Flannery and in the Trucks it was Brad Caddick.

The Sportsman of the Year Award winners were Jeff Paul (SK Modifieds), Rich Staskowski (Late Models), Al Stone III (Street Stocks), Nick Pappacoda (Mini Stocks), Giovanni Giarratana (Legends Cars) and Scott Gregory (Trucks).

Taking home the Most Improved Driver honors were Tom Abele Jr. (SK Modifieds), Jeff Smith (Late Models), Chris Meyer (Street Stocks), Kyle James (Mini Stocks), Ryan Morgan (Legends Cars) and Greg Butler Jr. (Trucks).

Pit Crew of the Year went to the teams of Ron Yuhas Jr. (SK Modifieds), Vin Esposito (Late Models), Ed Puleo (Street Stocks), Ian Brew (Mini Stocks), Jason Palmer (Legends Cars) and Howard Payne (Trucks).
The Speedbowl will open for the 2010 season on March 28.

The Main event for this weekend is the Motorsports 2010 show which opens its doors at 3 p.m. on Friday, January 22nd at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA and the show continues until 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 24th.

Just about everything imaginable in Motorsports will be featured in the show that fills 220,000 square feet of the Expo Center. More than 200 racing vehicles will be on display.

Attendees will be able to meet and collect autographs from many national, regional and local auto racing stars and personalities. NASCAR Sprint Cup stars Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose will be there along with NASCAR legend Bobby Allison and drag racing start Morgan Lucas. Another top motorsports TV personality at the show will be former NASCAR crew chief Jeff Hammond.

Among the highlights of the weekend will be the Langhorne Speedway reunion. The speedway closed at the end of the 1972 season with the running of the Race of Champions Modified event.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at noon with the June 5th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400 that was run at the Texas Motor Speedway. On Wednesday at noon Speed replays the June 28th NASCAR Sprint Cup Lenox Industrial Tools 301 that was run at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Thursday at noon Speed replays the July 4 NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 that was run at the Daytona International Speedway. On Saturday, the action moves to ESPN Classic for last February’s Daytona 500. The season opening Sprint Cup event will be repeated on Saturday morning at 8:00am. Televised action switches to the snow in Lake Placid, NY on Sunday at noon for part #1 of the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge on the Speed Channel. At 6:00pm Speed presents Countdown to the Daytona 500. The Speed Report will wrap up the week at 7:00pm on Sunday night.

In other television racing news, the Associated Press reported last week that ESPN is shifting the bulk of its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship coverage to its cable network this season, taking 14 of the 17 NASCAR races it shares with partner ABC.

ESPN executive vice president John Skipper says the decision is based on the cable network's higher ratings. ESPN has aired six races a year the past three seasons, while ABC has had 11 each year. ESPN's portion of the NASCAR schedule will begin with the July 25 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will air Saturday night races at Bristol, Richmond and Charlotte.

A new racing series program on the History Channel made its debut on Sunday night, Jan 10th at 10:00pm. Titled “Madhouse”, the program follows the racing and rivalries at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. While some feel that it is a slam against Modified Racing the program depicts what really takes place at many local speedways in the country. Granted, Junior Miller and the Myers family get carried away at times but that’s what puts fans in the seats. To keep interests up and put fans in the seats auto racing needs rivalries and controversy. On average, the History Channel draws about 1.5 million viewers on Sunday nights.

When Geoff Bodine came to New England to drive for Dick Armstrong fans by the thousands packed the grandstands at Stafford, Seekonk and Thompson on a weekly basis. Some came to see him win while others came to see him get wrecked. How about the time Eddie Flemke Sr. put Ray Hendrick on his roof at Thompson or the night they gave Bobby Santos a standing ovation at Stafford after he parked Geoff Bodine in the fence for wrecking Bugsy Stevens! Another exciting moment was the night Leo Cleary pulled Don Flynn, a semi-pro boxer, out of his car and beat the crap out of him in the first turn. Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher go at it on a weekly basis and provide excitement. Likewise for Jimmy Blewett and those he runs against. Too much “Kissy Face” in racing causes fans to lose interest. The recent downturn in attendance at Sprint Cup and Nationwide racing is living proof. Madhouse at Bowman Gray is the real thing. The racing is rough and tumble, survival of the fittest!

The Stafford Motor Speedway showcases their weekly racing program on NESN. Their in-house production company does a real good job of showing the actual racing including instant replays. They do, however, shy away from any fighting or abuse from fans.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had positive results for the week. Leading the way was Speedway Motorsports which went up 0.40 to 17.29. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.29 to 29.13 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.04 to 2.27. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.13 to 3.82 as fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.51 to 27.35 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.92 to 15.02. Domestic car makers Ford and General Motors were down for the week. Ford dropped 0.09 to 11.60 and GM dropped 0.06 to 0.77. On the other side of the street, Toyota jumped 5.38 to 91.14. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 0.41 to 28.57 and Lowes dropped 0.46 to 22.13. The NASCAR team sponsors, with the exception of Coca-Cola showed positive results. Coca-Cola dropped 0.51 to 50.99. Dupont went up 0.07 to 34.01, Target Department Stores went up 0.10 to 50.17 and Aaron’s Rentals went up 0.83 to 28.97.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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