Tuesday March 1, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

With winter giving us a last gasp of snow and cold in the northeast its time to look foreword to the 2011 season in New England. As of this coming weekend, March 5 and 6, four short weeks remain before the Waterford Speedbowl opens for its 61st season. One week later the 2011 season for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series begins at the Thompson Speedway. The Stafford Motor Speedway will open one week following Easter on May 1 with the Spring Sizzler.

With fuel prices going through the roof, race fans will be staying close to home this year. A recent trip from Florida to Rhode Island saw gas prices ranging from $3.09 per gallon to over $4.00. New Jersey had the best deal at $3.09 per gallon on the Turnpike. Local promoters who present a quality produce at a reasonable price will reap the benefits of the race fan sticking close to home. It will be interesting to see how the cost of travel affects the car counts for the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Car counts at the recent World Series at New Smyrna were down drastically. Hopefully that won't carry over to the regular season.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Drivers and Owners are anxiously awaiting word from NASCAR concerning Television coverage of the upcoming season. The Speed Channel and the Versus Channel did an outstanding job with their coverage last year and hopefully it will continue.

The NASCAR Home Tracks web site says that Bryon Chew, a former competitor in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will trade fenders for nerf bars and compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starting in 2011.

Chew, from Mattituck on New Yorkís Long Island, made 129 starts in the K&N Pro Series East from 1999-2008. His stint in the series was highlighted by a win at Holland (N.Y.) NASCAR Motorsports Complex in 2006 and a pair of poles, the first at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway in 2004, and the second at Adirondack International Speedway in Lowville, N.Y., during the 2008 campaign.

Chew has been a longtime admirer of open-wheel Modified racing. After sitting out the 2009 racing season, Chew got behind the wheel of a Modified for the first time in 2010 and ran approximately 10 races in different divisions in upstate New York and in New England including the open shows at Thompson. .
Chew serves as general manager of the family business, Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac on Long Island. The dealership has a storied history with Modified racing in the northeast as a former sponsor for drivers Tom Baldwin, Charlie Jarzombek, and Greg Sacks.

Chew will pilot the No. 88 GT Vodka/Buzz Chew Chevrolet - with a Troyer chassis - on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2011 with his father, Buzz, the car owner and Ron Ste-Marie the crew chief.

In some sad news it was learned last weekend that Gene Bergin had passed away. Bergin had driven just about every kind of race car from Midgets to Indy Cars and from Modifieds to NASCAR Cup cars. He was also an inducted member of the NEAR Hall of Fame. He was one of the chosen few to record wins at Stafford both on the dirt and on the asphalt.

Berginís career included a couple of significant milestones as his 1967 Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway title came in the trackís first year with an asphalt surface, and his wire-to-wire triumph in the 1971 Stafford 200 also marked the first checkered flag for a Modified with a Pinto-style body. He is credited with 15 feature wins at Stafford from 1964-74, the first two of which came on the old dirt surface.

Gene Bergin at the 2010 Modified Drivers Reunion at New Symrna Speedway. Larry Larivee Photo

In TV land NASCAR Now on espn2 can be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Race viewing begins on Wednesday at noon when Speed replays last Sundayís NASCAR Sprint Cup SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 that was run at the Phoenix Intl. Raceway. Later in the day at 8:00pm the Speed Channel will highlight the Most Outrageous NASCAR Moments. On Thursday at noon Speed will replay last weekendís NASCAR Nationwide Series Bashasí Supermarkets 200 that was run at the Phoenix Intl. Raceway. The 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup 2007 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 that was run at Las Vegas, NV follows at 3:00pm. Speed goes live on Friday at noon with a three hour practice session for the Nationwide Series cars at the Las Vegas Speedway. A 90 minute practice for the Cup cars follows at 3:00pm. Live coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying from Las Vegas begins on Speed at 6:30pm. Trackside (NASCAR) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway follows at 8:30pm. SPEED Center, Motor Racing News rounds out the day at 9:30pm. Saturday's action begins at 2:30pm on ABC with the NASCAR Nationwide Series Samís Town 300 at the Las Vegas Speedway. During this time period the Speed Channel will show the recent Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, DART Winternationals that was held at the East Bay Raceway in Gibsonton, FL. Later in the day, the Speed Channel will televise Sprint Cup practice at 6:00pm. At 8:00pm Speed goes to Daytona for live coverage of the AMA Supercross. Sunday's viewing begins at noon with SPEED Center, Motor Racing News on Speed. At 12:30 NASCAR RaceDay has a two hour preview of the Las Vegas race. At 2:20pm the action switches to FOX for live coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kobalt Tools 400 from Las Vegas. At 6:00pm on Sunday the action switches to Versus for "Dirt Knights". At 7:00pm the Speed Channel presents Speed Center. At 8:00 itís the NASCAR Victory Lane. At 9:00pm the Speed Channel has Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.22 to 14.52 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 1.64 to 28.11. Dover Motorsports ended the week on the positive side as they went up 0.06 to 2.00. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.19 to 4.31 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.57 to 42.18. Tire supplier Goodyear was also down as they dropped 0.99 to 13.90. The car builders were also down for the week. General Motors dropped 3.26 to 33.25, Toyota dropped 1.45 to 91.75 and Ford dropped 0.70 to 15.07. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 1.40 to 37.08 and Lowes dropped 1.03 to 25.27. The major team sponsors were all over the lot. Dupont dropped 1.91 to 54.07 while Coca-Cola went up 0.55 to 55.68. Target Department Stores went up 0.46 to 52.36 while Aaron's Rentals dropped 0.06 to 23.85 and Fedex dropped 8.44 to 89.88.

Thatís 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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