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Tuesday July 17, 2006   

By Phil Smith
 

A few years ago Terry Eames called a press conference at the Groton Inn and Suites. Members of the media and NASCAR Officials were in attendance. He announced that he was taking control of the Waterford Speedbowl. Many who knew him in the local business community felt that he would drain the business dry, then drop it like a hot potato. He proclaimed, “I’m in it for the long haul, I’m not going anywhere”.

It seems that “Long Haul Eames” has hit a bump in the road and has landed face down in a ditch. All the talk of the demise of the shoreline oval has had a profound effect on the competitors. Fields of cars are down to the point where consolation events are no longer needed. No one is building cars because of the uncertainty of the future of the track

Eames announced on Monday, July 10, 2006 that he had reached an agreement with a developer to sell a portion of the track’s excess property in an effort to alleviate financial issues that have plagued the track. According to lawyers for the Washington Mutual Bank, which is owed $1.6 million, nothing is signed. Speedbowl owner Terry Eames may have a verbal agreement but nothing is cast in stone at this point in time.

Speaking of speedways, the Boston Globe reported that 79 year old Bob Bahre, owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway stated that his speedway is definitely not for sale. He did allude to the fact that if and when he dies, his son Gary will sell the track before he is in the ground!

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the New Hampshire International Speedway forty five cars strong. Practice and qualifying were held on Thursday despite rain that blanketed the area and flooded the tunnel leading into the track. The Modifieds got on the track shortly after noon. Zach Sylvester, who was the 45th car to time trial took the pole for the 100 mile event with a speed of 125.595 mph. Second fastest and taking the outside pole was Jimmy Blewett. Danny Sammons who had a problem during the practice session and Tom Cloce who crashed and caught fire did not take time. Reggie Ruggiero, Tony Hirschman and Eric Beers rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Doug Coby in the Mansfield, CT based entry of Curt Chase, Ted Christopher, Donny Lia and Kevin Goodale.

In what should have been the most exciting race of the weekend that had 28 lead changes among 9 drivers the 100 lap Whelen Modified Tour Series turned out to be a display of confusion and indecision by NASCAR scoring. James Civali was originally declared the winner. Forty five minutes later the win was given to John Blewett III. Upon completion of the event Blewett exited the speedway to catch a plane that would take him to the Wall Township Speedway located on the New Jersey shore. Blewett ended up winning the Garden State Classic at the New Jersey oval. While Civali sat in victory lane NASCAR reviewed some pictures and decided that Blewett did in fact have the lead when the final caution of the event was waved on the final lap. Civali was leading at the conclusion of the last green flag lap, lap 99. NASCAR rules dictate that who ever is leading when the caution comes out is the race leader. A picture taken at the time of the final caution clearly showed Blewett in the lead. Blewett was well on his way to New Jersey when he got the news. Civali ended up settling for the second spot. Almost half the event was run under caution. There were seven caution periods for 47 laps.

With an estimated 44,000 fans on hand the Modifieds provided some great racing when the green flag was out. Reggie Ruggerio ended up third with Ed Flemke and Mike Stefanik rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Ted Christopher, Jerry Marquis, Tony Stewart and Ronnie Silk. Stewart had some unkind words for Jerry Marquis during a post race encounter on pit road. Stewart, who has been arrogant at times has the attitude that anybody in his way should just move over and let him by. With the money lap in sight, Marquis wasn’t about to roll over for Tony Stewart or anyone else. It was the 9th career win for Blewett and his third at NHIS. He led a total of 17 laps in the Blewett Motorsports Chevrolet.

Twenty-nine of the original 42 starters were running at the finish. Twenty-six of them were on the lead lap. Outside pole sitter and early leader Jimmy Blewett was the first out after a tangle with Ken Barry which resulted in his Eddie Partridge owned mount getting consumed in a ball of fire. Blewett emerged unhurt but his car was severely trashed. Nevin George crashed on lap 23. Nextel Cup star Carl Edwards retired on lap 43 with severe front-end damage after a confrontation with the retaining wall. Donny Lia was hoping for a good showing after qualifying ninth but ended up 38th after losing an engine. Doug Coby, in the Mansfield, CT based No.77 of Curt Chase retired from the event after a hard hit on lap 66. He finished 33rd.

The Next event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is this coming Saturday, July 22 at the Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Conn.

The Thompson Speedway fell victim to severe weather and was forced to postpone Wednesday’s Nextel Fan Appreciation Night for 24 hours. The Pro All Star Series (PASS) made their annual visit to Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night. Their regularly star-studded cast was made brighter with Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer joining the field. The crowd was treated to commentating by John Roberts of SPEED TV. Cassius Clark of Farmington, ME was dialed in to take the PASS victory on Nextel Fan Appreciation Night presented by Charter Communications. In addition, five divisions of NASCAR Weekly Racing Series were also part of the festivities. Claiming victories were Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco Modifieds, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, and Shelly Perry in the Mini Stocks. The Limited Sportsman and TIS Modifieds found new winners in victory lane with Larry Barnett of Ledyard, CT and Kurt Vigeant of Oxford, MA capturing victories respectively.

The 75-lapper for the Pro All Star Series was a day later then originally planned but the event was worth the wait. Cassius Clark continued his domination of the Touring Series with his fourth victory. Johnny Clark took the lead in the opening laps before relinquishing the lead to Wallace. Ben Rowe then took his turn at the head of the field taking over the point from Wallace on lap 25. C. Clark made his way into the runner-up spot before hunting down Wallace. Rowe and C. Clark waged a tremendous battle for the lead at the halfway marker. Rowe had the spot but was dogged lap after lap by C. Clark while Wallace and Spencer ran third and fourth. While battling for the lead Rowe and C. Clark made contact. Rowe cut down a tire ending with impact in the wall. Once out front, Clark set sail. In the late stages of the event, Spencer took the runner-up spot from Wallace. The dominating performance was made even special by beating the likes of Wallace and Spencer. J. Clark and Travis Benjamin rounded out the top five.

Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT turned in a dominating performance to win his second Sunoco Modified feature event of the 2006 season at Thompson. Buddy Charette, who continues to get stronger week after week, led the field to the green over Joe Lemay and Pitkat. Action was halted on lap two when the caution flew when point leader Jeff Malave and Keith Rocco spun on the backstretch. On the restart, Lemay was able to get alongside Charette before the second caution flew almost immediately when Tommy Cravenho spun in turn two while running in fifth. Henry Stampfl had nowhere to go making hard contact with Cravenho’s Falmouth Ready Mix #31. Under the caution, Lemay brought his race car down pit road with a flat right rear tire. Charette relinquished his lead to Pitkat on the lap two restart. One lap later, Marvin moved into second. By lap 10, the front two had checked out on the rest of the field. Pitkat held a half straightway lead on Marvin, who in turn had half straight on Charette. By lap four, Jimmy Blewett, who had started scratch on the field after arriving at Thompson late after qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour event at NHIS, had moved into sixth. Malave had worked his way back up to the seventh position by lap seven. On lap 12, Blewett caught Ceravolo. With the duo of Pitkat and Marvin out front, the likes of Charette, Ricky Shawn, Ceravolo and Blewett ran in a tight pack. Ceravolo had the crowd on their feet on lap 14 when went around Shawn in turn two and under Charette between turns three and four. A caution on lap 19 bunched up the field for a restart. Back under green Pitkat led the freight train that included Marvin, Ceravolo, Charette, Blewett, Shawn, Malave, and Rocco. The first car to step out of line was Blewett. He made the pass stick to take away the fourth position from Charette. Over the closing laps, Pitkat stretched his lead, leaving Marvin and Ceravolo to fight for second. Ceravolo closed but could not make any serious challenge to Marvin. Pitkat soared to the victory over Marvin, Ceravolo, Blewett and Charette. Ricky Shawn held on for sixth over Malave, Rocco, Lemay, and Dan LaJeunesse.

The Stafford Motor Speedway ran on Tuesday night, July 11th. On tap was the 3rd annual CARQUEST Extreme Wednesday program at Stafford Motor Speedway. 1989 Nextel Cup Champion Rusty Wallace bested an all-star field of drivers to win the 15-lap CARQUEST Clash, Chris Perley continued his dominant season in the ISMA Supermodified division by winning the 50-lap feature, Bobby Santos, III was the winner of the 25-lap NEMA Midget feature, and Jeff Zuidema was the winner of the 20-lap Pro-4 Modified feature event.
Stafford’s week continued on Friday night when Bo Gunning ended a long dry spell as he recorded his 45th career win. Gunning, who started on the outside pole, jumped out to an early lead and in the closing stages held off Frank Ruocco to take the win in the SK Modified 40 lapper. Willie Hardie finished third followed by Zach Sylvester and Jeff Malave. Woody Pitkat, who finished sixth in the SK event, won the 30 lap Late Model event, his fourth of the year.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, some new sticky stuff was applied to the asphalt in order to make the cars handle better and hopefully eliminate many of the wrecks that have plagued the shoreline oval this year. They also bounced Jay Stewart for the rest of the year. The sticky stuff did its job and no one missed Stewart. The entire six feature race program was run in two hours and 10 minutes.

Bruce Thomas Jr. and Tim Jordan were the twin Late Model winners while Dennis Gada recorded his 48th career victory in the SK Modifieds. Dexter Dorr took his eighth victory in the Sportsman division and Phil Evans beat out Dave Silvia for top honors in the Mini Stocks. Mark Bakaj was the 20-lap Legends feature winner.

In TV land, this weeks viewing will begin on Wednesday, July 18 at 7:00am on the Speed Channel with Inside Nextel Cup which will recap the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 that was run at the New Hampshire Intl. Speedway this past weekend. At 3:00p.m. Speed presents the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Daytona Dodge Chrysler/MOPAR Speed Shop/Valvoline 50 from Barberville, FL. On Wednesday, July 19 at 4:00 it’s the USAR Hooters Pro Cup from the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, VA. The action switches to the Outdoor Channel at 8:00p.m. for the World of Outlaws from Dodge City, KS. Thursday’s action gets the green at noon with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Replay of the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 that was run at Loudon. The NASCAR Grand National Busch East Series ‘150', Lake Erie Speedway gets the green at 5:30p.m. Speed goes live on Friday at 2:30p.m. from the Pocono Raceway. At 3:30 it’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying for the Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway. Saturday’s viewing will begin at 10:00am with final Nextel Cup practice for the Pocono 500. At 1:00p.m. Speed presents the ARCA RE/MAX Series Pennsylvania 200 from Pocono. At 3:30 the action switches to NBC for the NASCAR Busch Series Goody’s 250 from Martinsville, VA. SPEED News Saturday wraps up the days racing at 7:30. Sunday’s action begins at 11:30am with NASCAR RaceDay. The NASCAR Nextel Cup, Pennsylvania 500 gets the green on TNT at 2:00p.m. At 4:00p.m. on NESN its NASCAR New England, weekly racing from Jack Arute’s Stafford Motor Speedway. NASCAR New England also airs at 5:00p.m. on Sunday. Speed News Sunday at 7:00 and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 wrap up the days racing. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on Speed finishes up the day at 9:00p.m.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene, the price of oil had a ripple effect as it drove many stocks into the negative side for the week. All three-speedway stocks were down as a result. The big loser was Speedway Motorsports, which dropped 1.61 to 35.41. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.73 to 44.37 and Dover Downs dropped 0.16 to 5.64. Nextel dropped 0.45 to 19.15 and the Sun Oil Company dropped 0.64 to 67.87. Featherlite Trailers dropped 0.12 to 4.47 and DIRT dropped 0.05 to 3.45. The drug sector got hammered as Pfizer dropped 1.24 to 22.41 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 0.77 to 24.56. The home improvement sector was also a victim. Home Depot dropped 1.53 to 33.84 and Lowes dropped 1.09 to 27.88. The parcel carriers took the biggest hit. Fedex dropped 5.36 to 109.01 and UPS dropped 2.56 to 78.57.


That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com  


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