Tuesday March 3, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The mighty Modifieds of NASCAR completed their tire test and shakedown runs at the Bristol Motor Speedway last week in preparation for the August 19 combination North-South 150 lapper. LW Miller and Brian Loftin from the southern tour joined Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy, Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk for the historic day. Using restrictor plates used at Loudon in the morning session In addition to Miller and Szegedy, four other drivers also tested Bristol on Tuesday. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veterans Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk turned laps as well as Brian Loftin from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

To start the day, all six cars employed the same restrictor plate that is used annually at the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s two events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In the cool morning session, Szegedy paced the field with a fast lap of 15.022 seconds (127.733 mph). The afternoon session proved to be significantly faster for all involved as the temperature warmed. As of mid-afternoon, Miller topped the charts at 14.742 seconds (130.159 mph.), well under the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track qualifying record of 14.908 seconds (128.709) set by Ryan Newman in 2003. In fact, Christopher (14.805), Silk (14.818), Szegedy (14.869) and Hirschman (14.894) had all exceeded Newman’s mark. According to Ted Christopher the Modifieds are extremely fast due to the fact that it is wide open throttle all the way around. One of the main issues that competitors will have to deal with is frame height and shock travel. It is Christopher’s opinion that it will be a better race if restrictor plates are not used as there will be better throttle response when exiting the turns. Two things are for sure as he alluded to the fact that competitors will have to be on their game and they will have to be mentally focused. The 150-lap combination Modified race at Bristol is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Aug. 19.

After much speculation it is now official, Donnie Lia is back in the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile for the full season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. It has also been released that Woody Pitkat will be the full time driver of the Don King No.28 on the tour. Doug Coby, who shared the ride with Pitkat in 2008 will drive the mount formerly driven by Jimmy Blewett. Blewett will drive exclusively for Long Island car owner Eddie Partridge in 2009.

Speedway Expo took center stage in New England this past weekend. The brainchild of Speedway Illustrated Editor Dick Berggren opened on Friday and ran through Sunday at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds in West Springfield, MA.

Among the highlights was the Riverside Park Speedway reunion held on Friday night. The track was torn down ten years ago to make way for a roller coaster. Among those who were on hand for the gathering were former track and amusement park owner Edward Carroll and former announcer, now anchor for FOX Sprint Cup telecasts Mike Joy.

Former Riverside Park drivers included were Bob Polverari, Moon Burgess, George Lombardo, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero, Steve Park, Renee Dupuis, Billy Greco, Dan Avery, Ted Chalmers, Bobby Seymour and Ted Christopher.

In addition EXPO was loaded with displays from tracks, racing divisions, sanctioning bodies, vendors and collectible sellers.

The highlight of the weekend was the awarding of the Speedy Awards to those who have gone above and beyond for the sport of auto racing. Congratulations to Richie Grodski and the gang at the web site Chrome Horn for the award for Best Series or Track Coverage, 2009 Speedy Award. This award is given to the publication, broadcast or web medium that provides outstanding coverage of auto racing.

The Waterford Speedbowl will be under the sanction of NASCAR in 2009. According to the Hartford Courant web site property owner and track operator Terry Eames made the announcement at the Speedway Expo last weekend.

NASCAR has given their local weekly competitors a shot in the arm. New rewards and recognition are available to first-time Whelen All-American Series featured division license holders this year. A new Rookie of the Year Award program will determine top rookie performers in each state and province. From those winners, a North American Rookie of the Year will be named. To be eligible to compete for the award, drivers must be a first-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series featured division license holder. This award will be made to a competitor in the SK Modified division at the Stafford Motor Speedway and a competitor in the Sunoco Modified division at the Thompson Speedway. If, in fact the Waterford Speedbowl secures a sanction, competitors in the SK Modified division they will also be eligible.

The sound of racing engines will finally be heard in the state of Rhode Island as the small, but powerful Three-Quarter Midget Cars will take to Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence , R.I. , this coming weekend on March 6-7. The two-day event, which will include Senior Champ Kart racing both nights, has received much hype and attention throughout the state and entire northeast corridor.

The Rhode Island Auditorium hosted the last sanctioned race in the Ocean State on April 18, 1959. The race was won by Jerry Wall of Wallenburg, N.J. Wall’s victory came at the final race of a three-event series at RIA. Other winners were Joe Lacy and Tony Bonadies.

Rhode Island fans can cheer for their own as Mike Stefanik, 50, of Coventry , R.I. , will compete indoors for the first time in his career. Stefanik was named the second greatest NASCAR Modified driver of all-time in 2003. He has nine overall NASCAR-sanctioned championships (seven Modified and two Busch North. Ted Christopher is the defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and he’s already off to a top season. If Christopher can win in Providence , it’ll mark the third different state he’s won a race in this year. In January, Christopher won the Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget race at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City , N.J. In early February, Christopher won four Tour-Type Modified races at New Smyrna Speedway in Samsula , Fla.

The sounds of the open-wheel Modifieds will return to the Orange County Speedway in North Carolina this coming weekend. According to their web site “Orange County Speedway is located in Northeastern Orange County on the site of the original Trico Motor Speedway, which was built in the early 1960s. What originally opened as a dirt facility was paved and is currently 3/8ths mile (.375) asphalt, high- banked oval track. The oval has 16 degree banking in the straightaway and 19 degree banking in the turns. The banking and wide-sweeping turns make this facility the fastest 3/8 mile track in the country. The track averages 50 feet wide, which offers plenty of room for side by side racing among competitors."

In some sad news, H. Lewis Compton, 80, who was known as the “Mouth of the South” for announcing every race at Martinsville Speedway for 44 years, died last Friday at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. Since 1962 he had been known as “The Mouth of the South,” a moniker bestowed upon him by Elmo Langley, one of NASCAR’s early drivers, car owner and longtime pace car driver. Compton announced every race at Martinsville Speedway from 1955 until 1999, worked in radio for 52 years until he retired from WHEE Radio and was a licensed auctioneer for 36 years.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on ESPN2 Tuesday through Friday at 5:00pm. On Thursday at noon the Speed Channel replays last Sundays Shelby 427 that was run at the Las Vegas Speedway. Speed goes live on Friday at 11:00am with NASCAR Live at Atlanta. Live coverage continues at 11:30 with a 90 minute session of Camping World Truck Series practice. After a half hour break with NASCAR Live there will be another 90 minute round of practice for the trucks. At 3:00 the Sprint Cup cars take over for a 90 minute practice. Live coverage of Sprint Cup qualifying begins at 6:30. At 8:30 Speed will provide taped delayed coverage of Daytona Bike Week: AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike Daytona 200. Rounding out the day will be Trackside at Atlanta at 11:00pm. Saturday’s action begins at 9:30am with Camping World Truck Series qualifying from Atlanta. NASCAR Live at Atlanta follows at 10:30. The Sprint Cup cars will practice from 11:00 to 1:30pm. At 1:30 Speed has the pre-race show that will lead in to a 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta. At 8:00pm Speed will provide tape delayed coverage of the AMA Supercross that was held earlier in the day at the Daytona International Speedway. Sunday’s viewing starts at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on ESPN2. At 11:30 a two hour Raceday preview begins on Speed. At 1:30 the action switches to FOX for live coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Speed Channel has the Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks had a negative ending. Taking the big hit for the second week in a row was the International Speedway Corporation which went down 1.18 to 19.33. Dover Downs dropped 0.99 to 1.40 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.06 to 11.87. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint showed a modest gain as they went up 0.07 to 3.29. Fuel supplier Sun Oil was also up as they gained 0.35 as they closed out the week at 33.45. Tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.53 to 4.44 while two of the three publicly traded auto makers had a positive week. General Motors went up 0.48 to 2.35 and Ford Motor Company went up 0.42 to 2.00. On the negative side was Toyota which dropped 1.60 to 63.14. NASCAR race team sponsors were also off for the week. Dupont dropped 1.62 to 18.76 while Coca-Cola dropped 2.63 to 43.75. Target Department Stores dropped 1.44 to 28.31 as Aaron’s Rentals gained 0.01 as they closed at 24.03 at week’s end.

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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