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Tuesday March 30, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Waterford Speedbowl began its 60th season last weekend with renewed vigor with Blast Off 2010. When fans and competitors arrived for practice on Friday many improvements were noted including new concrete barrier walls along the front and back straight-aways and an all new coat of paint in the grandstand area. The shoreline oval was one of 10 tracks nationwide to receive funds through NASCAR's Capital Improvement Grants program.

Speedbowl owner Terry Eames told the Norwich Bulletin that he is still working on a deal to get the Speedbowl on firmer financial footing, but that wonít affect the 2010 racing season. He also stated that any businessman whose company is in Chapter 11 canít say theyíre in great shape. But he feels confident that he and his creditors will agree on a plan in the next six to nine months, and that the plan will save the place forever.

The biggest challenge has been fending off the creditors, something owner/promoter Terry Eames, who bought the track in early 2009, successfully did shortly after the last yearís season ended, when the group he heads filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In addition to the regular venue of NASCAR Weekly Racing and the popular Wacky Wednesday races, Eames has added another night of entertainment as Friday nights will see the shoreline oval hosting 100 foot Drag Races on the race track and a Cruise Night on the midway behind the grandstands.

Qualifying for all divisions was held in blustery, winter like weather. With somewhere between 230-250 cars on hand, Race Director Tom Fox said the actual count was 244, the north and south pit areas were jammed to capacity.

The Bob Valenti Modified Racing Series portion of Blast Off drew 35 cars. Among the early casualties was Rob Goodenough who lost his left front tire and hit the wall. Chris Jensen and Ed Dachenhausen withdrew because of engine problems. Dave Etheridge, Jon McKennedy and Rowan Pennick were the qualifying heat winners. Todd Annarummo was the consolation winner.

It was almost 4:30pm when the SK Modifieds ran their qualifying heats. With the sun on the way down, the temp dropped below 40deg. Keith Rocco, Ron Yuhas jr. and Jeffrey Paul were the SK Modified heat winners. Conspicuous by his absence was Ted Christopher.

Feature winners Saturday were Allen Coates (25-lap All-American Series Truck), Anthony Mocella (25-lap NEMA Lites), Norm Wrenn (25-lap Pro4 Modifieds), Max Zachem (25-lap Legends Car) and Chris Lomartire (15-lap Bandoleros).

Sunday dawned a cloudy-windy day which kept many fans home as the grandstand was a little over half full. Not bad considering. Keith Rocco started the track season off right as he led pole to pole in the SK Modified 60 lapper. Ron Yuhas jr dogged the leader in the early going but it was Todd Ceravolo who gave the winner the biggest pressure. Ceravolo, who started 11th, moved into the second spot on lap 13 and despite eight restarts Ceravolo could not muster the extra needed speed to out gun the leader. It was later learned that the Rocco car had a Jericko Racing Transmission with a special restart gear while the Ceravolo car had a stock 4-speed. Rocco's transmission is legal by the rules. Jeff Pearl turned in a fine run as he finished third after starting near the rear. Yuhas faded to fourth while Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five.

The Bob Valente Auto Mall.com Modified Racing Series turned out to be quite competitive. Doug Coby was the eventual winner but the star of the show was Rowan Pennick who came from dead last to challenge for the lead. Pennick actually had Coby covered at one point but Coby ran him up on a couple of restarts and if he hadn't backed out of it he would have certainly found himself in the wall. In the end it was all for naught as Pennick appeared to run out of gas on a restart with 10 laps remaining. Matt Hirschman, who came from a 17th starting spot, seized the opportunity and took over the runner up spot to the finish. Jon McKennedy, who led the early going finished third. Andy Seuss and Jacob Dore rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Les Hinkley, Eric Goodale, Steve Masse, Dave Etheridge and Pennick. Pre-race favorite Mike Stefanik had mechanical problems right from the start as he completed only two laps, finishing 26th.

Other Sunday winners at the Speedbowl on Sunday were Chris Leonard in the NEMA Midgets, Tim Jordan in the Late Models, Ed Puleo in the Street Stocks and Danny Field in the Mini Stocks.
Racing continues at the shoreline oval this Saturday night. A tip of the hat to Race Director Tom Fox for running a fast-efficient program.

At Thompson, Test and Tune sessions were on Saturday from 11:00am to 6:00pm. Among those on hand was Bobby Santos III in the Mystic Missile. According to those on hand the young gun looked extremely sharp in the storied car.

Late last week MadHouse star Burt Myers confirmed to Russ Dowd that he would be in competition at the upcoming IceBreaker Whelen Modified Tour Series event. Myers is one of the featured drivers in the History Channel reality series which depicts the trials and tribulations of Modified competitors at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. MadHouse has done more and given more exposure to the Modifieds. The series sows how hard the competitors work and the dedication they have in order to race week in and week out. The show also shows rivalries that at times become violent. Then, again, that's the way it is. Myers also indicated that he would like to race at Loudon this summer.

Fans of the show can see the real deal at the IceBreaker! The Walnut Cove, North Carolina resident will be making his first trip into New Englandís Modified country as a competitor the weekend of April 10th and 11th. ďIíve always heard about what a great place Thompson is but have never been able to fit it into my schedule. This year, the Icebreaker comes on an open date for us, so Iím really looking forward to racing there. As long as we donít have a disaster in the race at South Boston, VA on April 3rd, weíll be at Thompson,Ē said Myers.

The TV show Madhouse has put Myers into the national racing spotlight. When asked about the television exposure, he said that the show had generated a lot of reaction from Modified fans all across the country. ďItís overwhelming how many people from all over the country have voiced opinions. Iíve also received inquiries from New England race fans asking if I was going to race the Icebreaker. If I have a weekend available, I try to book a race somewhere,Ē Myers concluded. Myers began his driving career in a four cylinder division in 1994 and a year later was behind the wheel of a Modified race car. His racing is centered on North Carolinaís Bowman Gray Stadium. He also competes on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Myers has a 16-race schedule at Bowman Gray, all of the Southern Modified Tour events and anything else he can fit into his schedule. He hopes his schedule will allow him to return to Thompson in August and again for the trackís October World Series event.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at 10:00am with NASCAR in a Hurry. NASCAR: Whatís the Deal? with Jimmy Spencer follows at 10:30. At 5:00pm espn2 goes with NASCAR Now and at 7:30 the Speed Channel goes with NASCAR Race Hub. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel has a 60 minute re-cap of last Sunday's Sprint Cup race that was run at Martinsville, VA. Wednesday's viewing begins at noon with a complete replay of last Sundays Sprint Cup Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 that was run at Martinsville, VA. At 5:00pm espn2 goes with NASCAR Now and at 7:30 the Speed Channel goes with NASCAR Race Hub. On Thursday at 6:00pm the Speed Channel presents the March 27 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event that was run at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, SC. At 7:30 the Speed Channel goes with NASCAR Race Hub. Friday morning at 10:30 Speed has MotorWeek. At 7:30pm Speed has a pre-race show that will lead in to an 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nashville 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway in Nashville, TN. Rounding out the evening is Mobil 1 The Grid at 10:30. On Saturday at 3:30pm the action shifts to ESPN for the pre-race show that will lead into the 4:00pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Nashville 300 at Nashville, TN. There will be no NASCAR Sprint Cup racing on Sunday as race teams have a weekend off to observe the Easter holiday. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday night is The SPEED Report at 7:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. Capping off the week is Madhouse on the History Channel on Sunday night at 11:00pm. MadHouse is also seen on Monday at 3:01am.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had a negative ending for the week. Finishing on the positive side was Speedway Motorsports which went up 0.12 to 15.91 while Dover Motorsports dropped 0.01 to 2.10 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.66 to 26.16. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.04 to 3.80 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.19 to 28.60. Tire supplier Goodyear didn't set the world on fire but the still went up 0.02 to 13.03 for the week. With the exception of General Motors which showed a no change at 0.56, the auto makers had a good week. Ford went up 0.57 to 13.86 and Toyota went up 1.19 to 80.75. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.39 to 32.75 while Lowes dropped 0.30 to 24.48. With the exception of Coca-Cola which dropped 0.31 to 58.78, the big team sponsors held their own. Dupont went up 0.83 to 37.69, Target Department Stores went up 1.07 to 54.37 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.84 to 33.19.

Thatís it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, 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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