Tuesday March 9, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The 2010 New England racing season will be here in short order. As of this Friday, March 12 its only two weeks before the Waterford Speedbowl opens with Blast Off 2010 on the 28th. In four weeks, on April 11, the Thompson Speedway opens with their annual Ice Breaker.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series held their season opening event at the Atlanta Motor Speedway ¼ mile flat track on Friday night. Twenty three Modifieds were on hand for what is supposed to be the first of ten taped delayed televised events.

Third generation Corey LaJoie, in a car owned by Roger and Sandra Hill, drove like a veteran in his first career NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour start. Using lapped traffic to get by Tim Brown, the 18-year-old driver then held off a furious challenge from Brown over the closing laps to capture the Atlanta 150.

The race was the first for the Tour held on the track's flat, quarter-mile front stretch oval. The setup is similar to Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Brown is an eight-time champion in the track's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified division.

He battled back from an early mistake that put him in the back of the field. While battling for the fifth-place position on the backstretch of the tight oval, LaJoie wound up driving into the infield. He was able to keep his momentum, cutting through the grass, and re-enter the track in Turn 4. But the miscue put him near the back of the running order. He slowly picked his way back through, moving past Fleming for the No. 2 spot with 30 to go. LaJoie used lapped traffic to take the lead from Brown on Lap 131. Brown took the top spot back with eight to go with a move inside going into Turn 2, but LaJoie again took advantage of lapped traffic a lap later to reclaim the lead. Over the final five laps, Brown was all over LaJoie's bumper but was unable to rattle the rookie. Brown bumped Lajoie coming out of turn 4 and dove inside to try to make a pass. He got halfway up Lajoie's door as they ran wheel to wheel across the line.

LaJoie's father, Randy, was a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and he got his start running Modifieds in the Northeast. His grandfather, Don LaJoie is a multi time champion at the Danbury Speedway. It was a popular win for LaJoie, who was congratulated by Kevin Harvick, Todd Bodine, and Joey Logano among others in Victory Lane.
Frank Fleming finished third, followed by David Brigati and Brandon Hire. James Civali, Jason Myers, Zach Brewer, John Smith and Buddy Emory rounded out the top 10. Pre-race favorite Burt Myers finished 17th, six laps down. Andy Seuss was the only northerner in the field. He finished 12th, one lap down.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will race this coming Sunday, March 14 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.

There is still no word from NASCAR as far as taped delayed coverage of Whelen Modified Tour Series is concerned. Hopefully it was not another smoke show from the sanctioning body.

Congratulations to Stafford Motor Speedway Late Model competitor Dillon Moltz who was selected to be part of the Richard Petty developmental driver program. The program will select a total of 12 drivers from across the United States to compete in a combine where the winner will receive a one-off race deal to drive an ARCA car in the ARCA Pocono 200 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, June 5th.

NASCAR has announced that its Modified touring divisions will now award bonus points for its races, starting last weekend with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In order to reward drivers for running up front and to provide a further incentive to race for the lead, NASCAR has instituted lap-leader bonus points for the first time to the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours.

“This will bring the two Modified divisions in line with NASCAR’s three national series, and all other touring series, which already award lap-leader bonus points,” NASCAR Director of Touring Series Richard Buck said. “With one scoring system across the board, this is a positive move for the competitors and fans.”

Five bonus points will be awarded to each driver and car owner whose car officially leads a lap during a race and five additional bonus points will be awarded to the driver and car owner leading the most official laps in an event. This will bring the maximum number of points a driver can earn in a race to 190, with 180 awarded for first place.

The Waterford Speedbowl management announced that work on a construction project to upgrade the track’s retaining wall has begun. The Speedbowl was one of ten facilities selected this season to receive funds through NASCAR’s Capital Improvement Grant program. The grant, coupled with a matching investment from the Speedbowl, will allow for installation of concrete walls lining the front and back chutes of the track. It replaces the armco barrier retaining wall currently in place in those areas. This is the first major change to the wall structure since the armco was installed prior to the start of the 1988 season. That replaced an antiquated wooden beam wall system.
“We’re entering our 60th season understanding that facility updates such as this help preserve the future of racing in southeastern Connecticut” stated Speedbowl owner Terry Eames. “Financial assistance from NASCAR’s grant program was key in helping to make this happen. It’s a much needed update and the Speedbowl community is appreciative that NASCAR thought so as well.”

Construction is scheduled to be completed and the walls ready for the track’s 60th season opener, March 26-28’s Budweiser Blastoff event.

In some sad news, it was the announced recently that the Adirondack International Speedway regrets there will not be competition at the track during the 2010 season. The speedway is located in New Bremen, NY which is near Watertown. The speedway was built in 2000. The closure was based on financial difficulties arising from unresolved property tax issues, operational losses, health department requirements, and other pressures facing the local racing industry.
In other sad news items National Speed-Sport News scribe Gary London sends along word that retired Islip (Long Island) Speedway driver Artie Tappen passed away and Pete Zanardi sends word that Gene Angelillo, a 14-time Northeastern Midget Association owners champion, died after a short illness at l. Angelillo, 74, also had an ARDC championship on a 30-year plus resume that included over 112 victories, 107 of them in NEMA. .

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at 9:30am with Sounds of NASCAR. NASCAR in a Hurry follows at 10:00am and NASCAR: What’s the Deal? with Jimmy Spencer at 10:30. Speed shows Daytona Bike Week racing at 12:30pm featuring the Daytona Sportbike Daytona 200 that was held at the Daytona Intl. Speedway on Mar 5. NASCAR Now on espn2 goes at 6:00pm. Back to the Speed Channel, NASCAR Race Hub goes at 7:30 followed at 8:00pm by a sixty-minute wrap-up of last weeks NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500 that was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will show a complete replay of the Atlanta Sprint Cup race. At 5:00pm espn2 has NASCAR Now and at 7:30, Speed has NASCAR Hub. NASCAR Hub is also on at 7:30pm on Thursday. With NASCAR’s top divisions enjoying a weekend off, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will see sparse race viewing On Friday night, starting at 7:00pm, the Speed Channel will present 60 minute reviews of Sprint Cup events run at Daytona, Fontana, Las Vegas and Atlanta. 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.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.74 to 27.45 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.73 to 16.75 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.01 to 2.19. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.05 to 3.28. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil jumped 2.84 to 29.21 while tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.71 to 13.70. The car makers had a good week. Leading the way was Toyota which went up 2.11 to 76.94. Ford jumped 1.26 to 13.00 and General Motors went up 0.05 to 0.58. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.60 to 3.80 and Lowes went up 0.34 to 24.05. The team sponsors had a positive week. Dupont went up 1.25 to 34.97 while Coca-Cola went up 2.99 to 58.64, Target Department Stores went up 1.97 to 53.49 and Aarons Rentals went up 1.49 to 31.16.

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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