Tuesday March 10, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

With Speedway Expo and the Indoor races at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence now history it’s time to look ahead to the 2009 season in the northeast in just over two weeks. The Waterford Speedbowl is scheduled to open for the season on April 28-29 with the SK Modified Nationals and the Thompson Speedway Ice Breaker, which will start the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series, on April 4-5. While there has been mention of a pre-season practice at Waterford on Friday, March 27, the Thompson Speedway will host practice sessions on March 21st and again on March 28th. The Stafford Motor Speedway will open the season with the Spring Sizzler on April 24-25-26. A pre-season practice at Stafford is scheduled for Saturday, April 18.

After a 50 year absence, auto racing returned to the state of Rhode Island last weekend. Mike Iles of Medford, N.J., pulled off a huge upset Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center by claiming the 20-lap TQ Midget feature race. TQ Midget star Joey Payne of Fairlawn, N.J., finished second, while Ryan Smith of Kunkletown, Pa., was third, Timex Morgan of Rochester, N.Y., was fourth and Matt Roselli of Broadheadsville, Pa., completed the top five spots. Lou Cicconi Jr., a top name on the indoor Midget Car racing circuit, was running in the second spot and pressuring Iles for the lead when a water line broke and sent his car and others into the wall in turn one. Cicconi’s car crashed and collected many other front runners including cars driven by Matt Janisch, multi-time NASCAR Modified champion Mike Stefanik, defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ted Christopher, Mike Lichty and Jeff Heotzler.

Christopher rebounded from his Friday night crash to take the win on Saturday night. Christopher is the only driver in the country to score wins in the first three months of the year. Christopher had a busy 24 hours in Rhode Island. After Friday’s race Christopher had to take his TQ Midget to Seekonk, Mass., where it was repaired at Wayne Darling’s race shop. In his qualifying heat race on Saturday, Christopher barely qualified after a rear radius mount broke. The team went to work and made the respective repair just in time for the main event. Mike Stefanik wasn’t as fortunate as he ended up 21st.

Promoter Len Sammons said he was happy with the racing and the turnout. About 3,500 people attended on Friday, which was about half the capacity. Sammons has been running TQ Midget indoor racing in January in Atlantic City since 2003 and this was his first move to expand out of the Garden State. He plans to make indoor racing in Rhode Island an annual event.

A sparse field of 20 Modifieds was on hand for the Frostbite Modified Nationals at the Orange County Speedway in North Carolina. Ronnie Silk in the Roger Hill No.79 was the top qualifier. Second fastest was Matt Hirschman. Charlie Pasteryak, George Brunnhoelzl III and Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Few details were available except for the fact that Hirschman passed Silk in the closing moments to take the win. Silk settled for the runner-up spot and was followed by Charlie Pasteryak, Brunnhoelzl III, JR Bertuccio and Jay Foley.

Spencer Speedway, a weekly racing venue in upstate New York has taken a bold step which should be followed by others. As we all know, the overall economy in this country is on a down slide which has put many out of work and many others being forced to take pay cuts in order to keep their jobs. That being said, Spencer promoter John White has reduced regular admission prices from $12 adult admission to $10. Senior citizen admission has been reduced to $8.00 from $10. It is White’s feeling that his move will attract families on limited entertainment budgets. Spencer Speedway is located west of Syracuse, near Rochester. Waterford Speedbowl Race Director Tom Fox has indicated that the shoreline oval will implement aggressive pricing strategies to make it easier for fans and families to take in the races. Former Stafford and Waterford promoter Ed Yerrington often said, “Every empty seat is lost money”. Even if you let fans in for free promoters will still make money as most will spend on food and drink. Fox also indicated that he will be driving a Late Model owned by Scott Gregory in Thursday Night Thunder competition at the Thompson Speedway.

The Wilkes Journal Patriot, a newspaper in North Carolina, reported that former NASCAR driver Dean Combs was charged with making moonshine. Charges were filed in connection with a large liquor still found near the North Wilkesboro Speedway on Speedway Road. The illegal distilling plant was so large it had to be blown up by authorities. Carl Dean Combs 57, of Speedway Road, North Wilkesboro [NC], was charged with manufacturing non-tax paid liquor, as well as one count each of possessing, possessing ingredients to manufacture and possessing equipment to manufacture non-tax paid liquor, said N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) Agent Shon Tally. Tally said Combs was at his nearby residence when he and other ALE agents found the still in the back of a gray shop building behind a go-cart track, near the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Combs made 24 Sprint Cup starts from 1981-1984 with a best finish of 8th at Atlanta in Nov 1983. He also was a five-time champion in NASCAR's now-defunct Goody's Dash Series and was a crew chief for car owner Junior Johnson

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be seen on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 12:00midnight. On Wednesday, at noon, the Speed Channel shows coverage of the March 6 AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike Daytona 200 that was run at the Daytona International Speedway. Thursday at noon Speed will replay last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500 that was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR’s top divisions take the weekend off which means no racing on TV for the weekend. The Speed Channel has the Speed Report at 7:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week another blood bath occurred. All three speedway stocks took a hit. Taking the steepest dive was the International Speedway Corporation which dropped 2.83 to 16.50. Speedway Motorsports dropped 1.10 to 10.77 and Dover Downs dropped 0.12 to 1.28. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.29 to 3.00 as NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 6.23 to 27.22. Tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.95 to 3.49. The auto makers didn’t escape the wrath of the bull market. Ford dropped 0.30 to 1.70, General Motors dropped 0.80 to 1.45 and Toyota took the big hit as they dropped 4.96 to 58.18. The team sponsors also took it on the chin. Dupont dropped 1.92 to 16.84 as Coca-Cola took a dive as they dropped 5.55 to 38.20. Target Department Stores dropped 2.64 to 25.67 and Aaron’s Rentals dropped 1.81 to 22.22. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 2.89 to 18.00 and Lowes dropped 2.45 to 13.39. These are scary times to say the least. For the gambler there are a lot of good buys out there and if one dares, now is the time to buy!

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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