Tuesday January 17, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

While some race fans are settling into the New Year almost all are looking foreword to 2012 when racing begins again. As of this Friday, Jan 20, four weeks remain before the start of the annual World Series at New Smyrna and Speedweek at the Daytona International Speedway. Racing at New Smyrna begins on Friday night, Feb 17 and the 34th annual season-opening Sprint Cup Shootout event launches Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18. Speedweek is actually one week later than usual this year.

Now that the green flag at New Smyrna is growing nearer entries have begun to arrive from Modified Tour type and SK type competitors. Leading the list of Tour type entries is Ted Christopher who will be driving the Brady Bunch entry. Also filing entries were Chuck Hossfeldt, Ryan Preece, Kevin Goodale, Cole Powell. Hillbilly Racing has entered three cars for drivers Daniel Hemric, Donnie Nall and for 17 year old Derick Hill. SK type entries have been received from Dave Cranmer and Jeremy Gertner.
At the Daytona Int. Speedway NASCAR conducted a three day test session for their headline Sprint Cup division. The three days of Preseason Thunder kept racing officials and drivers on their toes. It was the first time that fuel injection was used instead of carburetors. Unlike preseason testing in years past, NASCAR and Cup teams were working hand-in-hand during the three-day session to eliminate tandem racing, or two cars racing as one entity. Top speed of final day of testing was 200.562 mph, posted by Jeff Gordon.

The Waterford Speedbowl crowned it’s track champions from its 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and Saturday series’ this past Saturday evening at Groton Inn & Suites, located in Groton, CT. More than seventy race teams and approximately 500 guests were on hand to be recognized for their achievements and celebrate the track’s 61st consecutive season of operation.
Keith Rocco added a second Speedbowl SK Modified® championship to his growing resume, collecting his championship hardware. Jeff Smith (Late Model) and Ed Puleo (Street Stock) were first time champions at the Speedbowl, while Glenn Colvin (Mini Stock) and Paul French (SK Light) each picked up their second championships to round out the champions in the Speedbowl’s five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions. Dana Dimatteo (Legends) led the Speedbowl’s other Saturday division champions which also included Taylor Martin (Bandoleros), Frank Alessio (Super X) and Patrick Williams (X-Cars).

Rocco, of Meriden (CT), set a Speedbowl division record with 13 wins out of 23 starts to claim his second straight SK Modified® title. He improved upon a 10-win season in 2010. He started 2011 off with a win in the season opening event, showing no signs of letting up his pace from the previous year. Mike and Mark Pane were recognized as the SK Modified® championship car owners, their second in a row with Rocco at the wheel. Rocco, who began his racing career at Speedbowl, also won the track’s 2004 Street Stock division championship.

Special awards for the Top Rookie Driver, Sportsman of the Year, Most Improved Driver and Pit Crew of the Year in the six primary divisions were also announced. Picking up hardware for Top Rookies were Randy Churchill Jr. (SK Modifieds®), who also won NASCAR’s 2011 Connecticut State Rookie of the Year, Anthony Flannery (Late Models), Mike Caprio (Street Stocks), Garrett Denton (Mini Stocks) and Chris Correll (SK Light Modifieds). For the Legends, Rookie of the Year honors went to Martin, who competed in her first season in the Legends Cars.

Sportsman of the Year Award winners included Tom Abele Jr. (SK Modifieds®), Rich Duranti (Late Models), Steve Barrett (Street Stocks), Charles Canfield (Mini Stocks), Paul French (SK Light Modifieds) and Paul Kusheba (Legends Cars).

Taking home the Most Improved Driver honors were Kyle James (SK Modifieds®), Joe Curioso (Late Models), Chris Meyer (Street Stocks), Jeffrey Cembruch (Mini Stocks), Corey Larson (SK Light Modifieds) and Troy Talman (Legends Cars).

Pit Crew of the Year went to the teams of Tyler Chadwick (SK Modifieds®), Smith (Late Models), Puleo (Street Stocks), Ken Cassidy Jr. (Mini Stocks), Correll (SK Light Modifieds) and Dimatteo (Legends Cars).

Big news came out of Long Island late last week. It was announced that Ted Christopher will drive the Wayne Anderson No. 15 on a weekly basis at the Riverhead Raceway. Riverhead, located on the east end of Long Island is the last operating race track on the Island. The announcement was made by Anderson Racing Crew Chief Kenny Lechner. Anderson Racing has been a fixture in Long Island racing circles for over 60 years. Wayne Anderson is a former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion. Now in his late 60’s, Anderson has decided to step back from driving on a weekly basis but has not ruled out occasional drives during the 2012 season. Christopher’s status in the Ed Whelen Whelen Modified Tour No. 36 is unconfirmed at this time.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Thursday at noon with a replay of the fall Sprint Cup race at Charlotte. From then, its quiet until Sunday at 9:00am when Speed repeats biography’s of Dale Inman, Richie Evans, Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip. On Sunday evening at 6:00pm the Speed Channel will provide live coverage of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. This program repeats at 9:00pm.

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 0.11 to 25.49 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.38 to 15.07 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.38 to 15.07. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.12 to 2.31 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.59 to 42.17 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.65 to 13.50. Two of the three car makers had positive results for the week. Ford went up 0.33 to 12.04 and General Motors went up 1.37 to 24.29 while Toyota dropped 0.25 to 68.26. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.31 to 43.51 while Lowes dropped 0.02 to 26.32. The major sponsors showed some life as the Cup cars returned to Daytona for their winter test sessions. Jeff Gordon was the fastest first day competitor. His sponsor, Dupont, went up 2.36 to 48.40. Coca-Cola went up 1.27 to 58.00. Target Department Stores went up 0.87 to 49.82 while Aaron’s Rentals dropped 1.14 to 24.96 and Fedex went up 4.88 to 90.37.

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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