Tuesday January 26, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

As of this Friday, January 29 it will be seven days 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.

One of the highlights of the upcoming week at New Smyrna will be the third annual Modified Reunion that will start at noon on Friday, Feb 12. The event will be held in the speedway’s parking lot. Admission is free!

Among the 19 Modified entries received so far are Ted Christopher, JR Bertuccio, Ronnie Silk, Eddie Brunnhoelzl III, Bob Grigas, David Roys, Ryan Preece, Rob Fuller, Rowan Pennick, Chuck Hossfeld, Kevin and Eric Goodale, Tom Cloce, James Civali and John Jensen. A total of 19 entries were posted as of this past weekend. Usually a good amount of entries come in by the first of the month.

The SK types are lagging a bit as there are only seven so far. Among the entries are Bertuccio, Silk, Russell Savoy, Chris Jensen and Keith Rocco. Rocco is expected to be driving one of the former Mystic Missiles.

Bob Grigas III will have a new edge in 2010 in the form of a new crew chief. Brad Lafontaine, former crew chief for the Whelen #36 that is driven by Ted Christopher will team up with Grigas starting at New Smyrna. Lafontaine has a reputation of being a brilliant strategist and tactician. His efforts have resulted in wins for the late Tom Baldwin along with Christopher and Jeff Fuller. Lafontaine knows his stuff and usually those who listen to him win races!

Christopher told Area Auto Racing News editor Lenny Sammons that Richie Niemic, a 20 year friend of Christophers, will be his new crew chief. He also stated that NASCAR’s Chad Little told him that Donnie Lia was unsure of his plans to defend his Whelan Modified Tour title.

In a somewhat related matter Wade Cole stated that Jake Marosz is retiring and has offered his car to Cole as a back-up.

The highlight of this weekend will be the 13th annual induction of the New England Auto Racer’s Hall of Fame on Sunday at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Hundreds of victories and dozens of championships are represented in the “Class of 2010.”

Among those to be inducted are drivers Geoff Bodine, Mike Murphy, George Savory and Pete Fiandaca, Car owners Billy Simons, Bob Garbarino and Vic Miller, contributor Frank Ferrara will be inducted. NEAR Veterans Committee inductees are the late race official Archie Blackadar, open-c0ckpit star, the late Chuck Arnold, and pioneering car-builder Marty Harty. Longtime New England racing photographers Howie & Mary Hodge will accept the prestigious Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award.

As in past-years, the list of presenters reads like a veritable “Who’s-Who” of well-known New England Racing personalities from both past and present.

The New England Antique Racers club is a non-profit organization that supports the history of New England auto racing. NEAR has been in existence since 1981 and has inducted over 100 individuals into its New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame since 1998.

NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide events in the last couple of years have become “over-ruled and quite Vanilla”. Its gotten to the point to where events have become boring with empty seats the rule at just about every event. Races on TV tend to put those who watch, to sleep. In plain English, the Sprint Cup races, since the days of Dale Earnhardt Sr banging and shoving his way to the front, have been lacking. Now that the France family that controls NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation have seen attendance dropping and evidently affecting their wallets the countless rules are changing. The Bump and Run is now ok plus it looks like its open war on the final laps of events in order to create exciting finishes. You got to have excitement and create a couple of bad guys to keep the interest up. NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races have become too “Kissy Face” as drivers and crews are afraid to express themselves fearing retaliation from the sanctioning body and sponsors. Real race fans are looking for good competition mixed with a little violence to keep their interest.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at noon with the June 13th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Michigan 200 that was run at the Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR Race Hub will be on at 7:30pm. Wednesday’s action starts at noon with the July 11 Sprint Cup 400 that was run at the Chicagoland Speedway. NASCAR Race Hub goes at 7:30pm. Thursday’s programming also starts at noon with a replay of the July 26 Sprint Cup Allstate 400 at the Brickyard that was run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR Race Hub is again on at 7:30pm. Friday’s action starts at noon with a replay of the Aug 3 Sprint Cup Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 that was run at the Pocono Raceway. From 8:00pm to 10:00pm the Speed Channel will host four half hour programs consisting of: NASCAR Best Moments on SPEED ’09, NASCAR Best Surprises ’09, NASCAR Best Dramatic Moments ’09 and NASCAR Best Performances ’09. At 10:00pm, Speed goes live at the Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, CA for NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown qualifying. On Saturday, Speed goes live at the Daytona Int Speedway for the start and the first seven hours of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, 24 Hours of Daytona. Live coverage continues at 10:00pm as Speed goes back to California for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown for the top teams in NASCAR's Grand National and Elite divisions. At 2:00am on Sunday, Speed will show a five hour summary of the Nov 7 World of Outlaws, sprint cars + late model events that were held on the dirt track at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. At 7:00am Speed returns to Daytona for the final nine hours and finish of the 24 Hours of Daytona. At 5:00pm Speed hosts Part #2 of the recent Bodine Bobsled Challenge that was held at Lake Placid, NY. The Speed Report will wrap up the week at 7:00pm on Sunday night.

The first event of the televised series of the NASCAR Modifieds will be a Southern Modified Tour event on Friday night, March 5 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. The event will be 150 laps and run on the front stretch ¼ mile flat track called the 'Thunder Ring. The event will be taped-delayed and condensed into a one hour presentation on the Versus network. The actual airtime has not been announced yet.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had negative results for the week. The only winner was the International Speedway Corporation, which went up 0.05 to 29.18. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.29 to 17.02 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.02 to 2.25. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went down 0.45 to 3.37 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.19 to 26.16 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.78 to 13.24. The car makers also had a down week. Toyota dropped 2.97 to 88.17 while Ford dropped 1.08 to 10.52 and General Motors dropped 0.14 to 0.63. With the exception of Target Department Stores which went up 0.21 to 50.38, the major team stocks were down for the week. Dupont dropped 1.51 to 32.50, Coca-Cola dropped 1.40 to 49.59 and Aaron’s Rentals dropped 0.94 to 28.03. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 0.85 to 27.72 and Lowes dropped 0.82 to 22.31.

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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