Tuesday January 24, 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 27, three 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.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted its third class comprised of the late Richie Evans, Dale Inman, Glen Wood, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough on Friday night, Jan. 20 at the Crown Ballroom in the Charlotte Convention Center.

Richie Evans, the recognized "King" of Modified racing, won nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-85. In the first year of the current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour format in 1985, Evans won 12 races, including a sweep of all four events at Thompson, Conn. Evans ranked No. 1 in the 2003 voting of the NASCAR All-Time Modified Top 10 Drivers, and he was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

Former Waterford Speedbowl Championship car owner Al Gaudreau who was a close friend of Evans pretty much summed it up for everybody who has supported Richie’s induction. He said, “It was one of the best 10 things that happened during my life”. “I know you’re here in spirit as the number 61 [Evans’ racing number] appears often in my life, even as I checked into the hotel the number 61 came up,” said Lynn Evans, who accepted on her departed husband’s behalf. “I’d especially like to thank the Hall of Fame voting panel for stepping outside the box and making Rich the first driver inductee not to have raced in NASCAR’s top series full time. You have now given hope to thousands of NASCAR competitors throughout the country to maybe someday reach their dream. ”

Dale Inman, NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty's crew chief at Petty Enterprises for nearly three decades, set records for most wins (193) and championships (eight) by a crew chief. Inman won seven of those championships with Petty (1964, '67, '71, '72, '74, '75 and '79), and a final one in 1984 with Terry Labonte.

Glen Wood laid the foundation for the famed Wood Brothers racing team as a driver in NASCAR's premier series. Competing on a semi-regular basis, mostly at tracks close to his southern Virginia home, Wood won four times all at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. Wood, of course, is best known for his collaboration with brothers Leonard and Delano in Wood Brothers Racing. The Stuart, Va.-based team, which dates to 1950 and remains active, has amassed 98 victories.

Darrell Waltrip, a three-time NASCAR Cup series champion (1981-82, '85), won all three with legendary driver/owner Junior Johnson. Waltrip is tied with Bobby Allison and Jeff Gordon for third all-time in series victories with 84. His 59 poles rank fifth all-time in NASCAR premier series history. He competed from 1972-2000, which included a 1989 Daytona 500 victory in a Rick Hendrick-owned Chevrolet. He currently is a commentator on FOX's NASCAR broadcasts. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

Cale Yarborough was the first driver to win three consecutive NASCAR Cup series championships, from 1976-78. During his three-year dominance, Yarborough won 28 races nine in 1976, nine in '77 and 10 in '78. His final championship points margin in those three years was never fewer than 195 points and was as much as 474 in 1978. Yarborough totaled 83 victories in his 31-year career, which ranks sixth all-time. His 69 poles rank fourth all-time. He also won the Daytona 500 four times (1968, '77, '83-84), a mark that ranks second only to Richard Petty's seven. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

In the Northeast, Val LeSieur, past publisher of the now-defunct weekly newspaper, Speedway Scene, of North Easton Mass was elected president of the New England Auto Racing Antique Race Car Tour at the club's recent meeting. His vision for the NEAR club was made known recently. "For short term goals, I've got a lot of ideas on how to make the club grow” he said.
“We need to get more members into the club because it's been flat for the past five years." He went on to say, "I'm also concerned that some of the nine members of the NEAR Board of Directors have not been at our meetings. It's going to be my top priority to get them to attend every meeting. They need to get some direction in order for us to move forward. Also, the NEAR mobile Hall of Fame is another one of my priorities which will give our club a lot of visibility. I'm looking to improve the publicity for the NEAR HOF, which has improved somewhat recently. All of those things are on my To Do List." The Antique Race Car Tour also has the prestigious NEAR Hall of Fame under its umbrella.

The 15th annual New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Banquet takes place this coming Sunday Jan. 29 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Traditionally a sold-out affair, more information on this year’s event including details on ticket purchase, can be found at Driver Reggie Ruggiero and car owner Mario Fiore, at one time a powerful force on the modified scene, head up the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame class of 2012. Drivers Joey Kourafas, car owner/mechanic Jim Jorgensen and track owner Irene Venditti are also members of the class. A trio of modified racing pioneers – Moe Gherzi, Jerry Humiston and Roland Lapierre, Sr. are the 2012 Veterans Committee inductees.

Since 1998, NEAR has inducted over 100 individuals into the New England Auto Racers Hall Of Fame, which is administered by the New England Antique Racers. Some very notable inductees include Wild Bill Slater, Gene Bergin, Bob Santos, Richie Evans, Ron Bouchard, Bugs Stevens, Rene Charland, Pete Hamilton, Fred DeSarro, Ed Flemke, Sr. and Billy Greco.

Now that the green flag at New Smyrna is growing nearer entries have begun to arrive from Modified Tour type and SK type competitors. The entry fee is $125 which includes entry for all races, transponder rental, pit vehicle permit and the postings of times and speeds. Pit passes are $35 per day.

Good news for those who race and support the Waterford Speedbowl came via the Hartford Courant when the Connecticut based newspaper reported last weekend that the shoreline oval will be emerging from bankruptcy in March. The debt reorganization plan submitted by Waterford Speedbowl management was approved. The debt reorganization plan submitted by Waterford Speedbowl management was approved in court.

Hopefully the announcement will give more stability to the track, which has had more than its share of ups and downs in recent years.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Thursday at noon with a replay of the fall Sprint Cup event at Talladega. Speed replays the fall Martinsville Sprint Cup event at noon on Friday. Speed goes live at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday at 3:00pm for the start of the Rolex Sports Car Series: 24 Hours at Daytona. Coverage will be non-stop through 11:00pm. Speed picks it up again at 8:00am on Sunday. Coverage will continue to the finish at 4:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on the positive side. Leading the way was Speedway Motorsports, which went up 0.68 to 15.75. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.67 to 26.16 while Dover Motorsports went up 0.12 to 1.14. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.04 to 2.27. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 5.18 to 36.99 while tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.15 to 13.65. The carmakers had a positive week. Toyota led the way as they went up 2.74 to 71.40. General Motors went up 0.71 to 25.00 and Ford went up 0.55 to 12.59. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 1.00 to 44.51 while Lowes went up 0.21 to 26.53. The team sponsors followed suit as they too, had a good week. Dupont went up 1.02 to 49.42 while Coca-Cola went up 1.00 to 59.00. Target Department Stores went up 0.25 to 50.17 while Aarons Rentals went up 0.46 to 25.42 and Fedex went up 1.20 to 91.57.

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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