Tuesday January 31, 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, Feb 3, two 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 15th annual New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Banquet took place this past Sunday Jan. 29 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Driver Reggie Ruggiero and car owner Mario Fiore, at one time a powerful force on the modified scene, headed 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 were also members of the class. A trio of modified racing pioneers, Moe Gherzi, Jerry Humiston and Roland Lapierre, Sr. were the 2012 Veterans Committee inductees.

Though not present due to prior commitments, longtime Northern media personality Dave Moody was the recipient of the prestigious “Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award.” Veteran auto racing journalist and Hall of Fame Member Pete Zanardi received the Danny Pardi Memorial Award for his many contributions to NEAR over the years.

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.

Doug Coby, by way of his facebook account has verified his racing venue for 2012. Coby will run the entire Whelen Modified Tour schedule in the Wayne Darling No. 52. In addition, Coby and the Darling entry will compete in Open Competition events at the Seekonk Speedway in Mass and at the Star Speedway in Epping, NH. To round out his almost full plate Coby will drive the Rick Czarnecki No. 20 in Valenti Modified Racing Series events at the Waterford Series opener, both series events at Stafford and the season ending Turkey Derby at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey.

Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) has expanded their NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) program with the addition of Ryan Truex and Bobby Santos, who will split driving duties with Ryan Blaney. Truex will compete in the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) February 25. Santos will race in the Subway Jalapeno 250 at DIS July 6. Blaney will run six NNS events with TBR, debuting April 27 at Richmond International Raceway.

Santos has competed under the TBR Development banner since 2010. He competed in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) in 2010 and 2011 and won the championship in his first season in the series. The 26-year-old won the inaugural USAC National Pavement Sprint Car Series championship last season in a family-owned car. Santos made five starts in the NNS since 2007. His last start was at DIS February 2011 where he finished 17th in a JR Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet.

Santos’ Whelen Modified Tour Series plans are still up in the air. Car owner Bob Garbarino is currently in Florida and has not made any racing commitments for 2012 as yet.

John Catania, a regular participant in Sunoco Modified Thursday night Thunder at Thompson has announced that V One Vodka will be back as the primary sponsor for the 52 Sunoco mod team in 2012, along with Villa Napoletana as an associate sponsor.

In some sad news, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Pocono Raceway Founder and Chairman of the Board, died last Thursday at the Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, surrounded by his loving family, following a lengthy illness. He was 86.

“Doc” as he was known to friends and associates, was one of the most respected and admired men in automobile racing. He founded Pocono Raceway in the early 1960s and has been at the helm of Pocono ever since. Under his leadership, the track grew in stature and has hosted 68 very successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Events. His passion and drive helped Pocono Raceway succeed when other tracks fell by the wayside. Pocono Raceway is the only remaining family owned and run track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, Jan 31 at 6:00pm with NASCAR Race Hub. Race Hub can also be seen on Wednesday and Thursday at 6:00pm. On Thursday, February 2 Speed will replay last years Sprint Cup event that was run at the Texas Speedway. On Friday, Feb 3, Dave Despain goes on Assignment as he gives an in-depth look at the building of the Daytona 500. At noon on Saturday Speed provides coverage of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at the Daytona Speedway.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three-speedway stocks had a positive week. Leading the pack was the International Speedway Corporation, which went up 0.25 to 26.41. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.20 to 15.95 while Dover Motorsports went up 0.10 to 1.24. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint went down 0.10 to 2.17 and tire supplier Goodyear went down 1.15 to 12.50 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.38 to 38.37. Despite the fact that Ford introduced their 2013 Fusion, they went down 0.38 to 12.21 for the week. General Motors was also down as they dropped 0.63 to 24.37. On the up side was Toyota who went up 2.17 to 73.57. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 0.38 to 26.91 and Home Depot went up 0.36 to 44.87. The major team sponsors looked good with the exception of Target Department Stores which dropped 0.12 to 50.05. Dupont went up 1.30 to 50.72 while Coca-Cola went up 2.38 to 61.38, Arrons Rentals went up 2.58 to 28.00 and Fedex went up 1.38 to 92.95.

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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