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Tuesday March 18, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

As of this Friday, March 21, sixteen days remain until the Whelen Modified Tour Series opening Thompson Speedway IceBreaker gets the green flag on Sunday, April 6. Waterford opens one week later on April 13. The True Value Modified Series begins on Saturday night, April 12 at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester , NH . Two weeks after that the Stafford Motor Speedway hosts the Annual Spring Sizzler on April 26-27.

In the mean time, the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series will begin this coming Saturday, March 22, at the high banked Caraway Speedway in Ashboro , NC . Among those from the northern contingent that will be there to take on the southerners are Ted Christopher, James Civali and Ronnie Silk. Silk will be driving for Roger and Sandra Hill of Westfield, NC while Christopher will be in the Brady Bunch entry from Brockton , MA . This weekend’s event marks the first of six visits by the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour to Caraway Speedway in 2008.

For a preview of things to come in the northeast the Thompson Speedway has scheduled a test session for Saturday, March 22nd. Any legal and safe race car is welcome to participate in this first of two open practice dates. Another scheduled date is Saturday, March 29th. The track will be open for practice from Noon until 6 PM on both days. The grandstands will not be open on either open practice day. However, anyone who is at least sixteen years of age may watch the day’s activities from the pit area.

Frank Ruocco and Kenny Horton have added their names to the entry list for the 12th annual Waterford Nationals that opens the 2008 season at the Waterford Speedbowl on April 12-13th. Ruocco is the 2006 winner of the $5,000 to win Spring Classic. Local favorite Jeff Pearl took the big money last year.

In the latest Whelen Modified Tour Series news ace photographer Howie Hodge passes on word that Ryan Preece will be in the Boehler #3 on the Tour this year. Preece is the grandson of legendary car owner Bobby Judkins who owned the famous 2x Modifieds. Hodge also alluded to the fact that Rick Fuller will be driving the Mansfield CT based Curt Chase #77 for the full tour this year.

The big news last week was the announcement of the end of racing at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey . Timothy H. Shinn, Managing Member For The four partners that own the Jersey shore facility made the official announcement. According to Shinn the partners did everything in their power the past six years since 2002, to provide top quality short-track racing and keep the doors to the Speedway open. “We have made numerous attempts to create a scenario which would enable us to continue with the Speedway operation, all to no avail”, he said. Unless someone comes along to buy the facility the 1/3 mile oval that was fashioned after the famed Lonsdale Sports Arena in Rhode Island will fade away to oblivion. The speedway has provided continuous auto racing for 57 years.
Wall Township Speedway is to New Jersey a lot like what the Waterford Speedbowl is to southeastern Connecticut , an institution and a Saturday night venue of entertainment.

In TV land this week NASCAR Now continues on Monday through Friday on ESPN2 at 6:00pm . With Easter weekend coming up it means that Sunday, March 23 will be devoid of racing. This weeks viewing begins on Thursday at noon with a rerun of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Replay of the Food City 500 from the Bristol Motor Speedway. On Friday, ESPN2 will provide live coverage of Nationwide Series practice from the Nashville Speedway in Tennessee from 2:30 to 4:00pm . Saturday’s viewing will begin at 11:00am with NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying from Nashville . At 2:30 ESPN has their pre-race show for the scheduled start at 3:00 of the Nationwide Series Pepsi 300. On Sunday night the Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report at 7:00 and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 . Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain follows at 9:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks were in the negative at weeks end. Taking the big hit was Speedway Motorsports which dropped 4.22 to 24.28 after they reported a loss for their fourth quarter. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.71 to 38.95 and Dover Downs dropped 0.19 to 6.64. Sprint Cup sponsor Sprint/Nextel took another dive as they dropped 0.99 to 6.02. On the other hand NASCAR’s second division sponsor Nationwide jumped up 9.22 to 47.15. Sun oil took a dip of 3.83 to 52.27 while Goodyear showed a no change of 25.61 despite the bad publicity they received from Tony Stewart. Coca-Cola dropped 0.38 to 56.68 while Dupont jumped 1.98 to 46.98. Target Stores dropped 2.17 to 49.53 while Aarons Rentals rose 0.26 to 19.96. In the home improvement sector Lowes dropped 1.28 to 21.12 and Home Depot dropped 0.13 to 25.75. The parcel carriers also had an off week. Fedex dropped 1.90 to 84.80 and UPS dropped2.35 to 69.61. The World Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) continued to drop as they went down 0.02 to 0.28.

The Charlotte (NC) Business Journal stated that Speedway Motorsports reported a net loss for its fourth quarter and greatly reduced earnings for 2007 on March 12. The Concord , North Carolina based promoter of motorsports entertainment posted a net loss of $20.2 million, or 46 cents per diluted share, in the last quarter. In the same period in 2006, Speedway earned $28.8 million, or 65 cents per diluted share. Revenue in the latest quarter fell to $141.1 million from $148.2 million a year earlier. For the year, Speedway earned $38.4 million, or 87 cents per diluted share, down from $111.2 million, or $2.53 per diluted share, in 2006. Revenue declined to $561.6 million from $567.4 million. The company stated that losses at Motorsports Authentics, a merchandising joint venture with Florida-based International Speedway Corp, lower revenue from NASCAR's new broadcasting-rights agreement and higher-than-expected income taxes were to blame for the net loss.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891 . Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


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

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