Tuesday March 15, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The count down continues. As of this coming Sunday, March 20, two weeks remain before the New England Modified Racing season begins at the Waterford Speedbowl on April 3. The Thompson Speedway will open one week later on April 10.

As the snow and ice begins to disappear; the anticipation of a brand new racing season at Thompson International Speedway has begun to build with track officials, competitors and fans alike. The warmer temperatures and the heavy rains have worked wonders on the deep snow left from the seemingly endless series of storms this past winter. With the first of two open practice session slated for Saturday, March 26th, and the second set for April 2nd, track officials and optimistic and are working very hard to get the facility ready for race action. There is much work to do since the fierce winter left the track buried under three to four feet of hard packed ice and snow. Yet the recent warm days and work by track personnel seems to be paying off very nicely. Everyone has high hopes that the opening events will be able to go off as scheduled. Open practice times for both days are scheduled from 11 AM until 6 PM.

The Stafford Motor Speedway will open its doors for business in 2011 with its traditional Spring Motorcycle and Ty-Rods Automotive Swap Meets. The Spring Motorcycle Swap Meet is the first event on the 2009 SMS Calendar of events, and is scheduled for Sunday, April 3rd. The 25th Annual Ty-Rods Automotive Swap Meet will be the following Sunday, April 10th. Racing at Stafford begins on May 1 with the 40th annual Spring Sizzler.

While we patiently wait for our favorite speedways to open for the season, modified racing action has begun in the south land. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour began their season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC this past Sunday.

George Brunnhoelzl III took advantage of the race leader's misfortune to inherit the lead and drove away in the closing laps to win the Spring Classic 150 at Caraway Speedway. Brunnhoelzl was running third on Lap 120 when Todd Szegedy spun behind the leaders in Turn 2. L.W. Miller and Brian Loftin, who were first and second respectively, got together in Turn 3 as the caution came out. Miller was able to make it to pit road and continue, but Loftin, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in Saturday's qualifying, had to be towed off the track.

That left Brunnhoelzl out front and he pulled away from runner-up Tim Brown to win by 1.903 seconds. It is the seventh career win and fourth at Caraway for Brunnhoelzl, the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion. Thomas Stinson finished a career-high third after qualifying 16th to earn the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award. Miller came back to finish fourth and James Civali was fifth.

John Smith finished sixth, followed by Jason Myers, Andy Seuss, Todd Szegedy and Austin Pack. Pack won the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award as the highest finisher among six rookies.

Loftin wound up 18th. Defending champion Burt Myers led the first 60 laps but finished 14th after a subsequent penalty for a pit-road tire violation. It was mandated that no tires were to be changed during the event but for some reason Myers' crew did make a tire change. An alert official spotted the infraction and had Myers return to the pit area in order to change back to the set that he started with.

Ted Christopher finished 19th after being eliminated on Lap 102. Christopher had just broken into the top five when he made contact with Andy Seuss.

There were 22 Modifieds on hand. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will return to the track in the Caraway 150 at Caraway Speedway on Saturday, March 26.

Kevin Rice advises that there will be numerous changes to race procedures and rules when the Valenti Modified Racing Series takes the green for the 2011 season on April 3 at the Waterford Speedbowl. Now in its eighth year, the VMRS boasts that 62 drivers have pre-registered for competition. Feature lineups will be set by how many positions a driver gains in his heat race. This change will eliminate a driver from starting on the pole of his heat and also starting on the pole of the main event. This system has been used by the American-Canadian Tour (ACT). The VMRS has also initiated some rule changes which hopefully improve the competition.

Since its inception the Valenti Modified Racing Series has become a legitimate alternative to both competitors and track operators who for whatever reason cannot participate in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.

In TV land NASCAR Now on espn2 can be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 5:00pm and on Friday at 6:00pm. NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This weeks race programming begins on Tuesday morning at 9:00am on the Speed Channel with The 10: NASCAR's Closest Calls. At 1:00pm ESPN Classic presents Classic NASCAR: 1985 Sprint Cup Valleyfield 500, Bristol, TN. Race viewing on ESPN Classic continues at 3:00pm with Classic NASCAR: 1986 Atlanta Journal 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway followed at 5:00pm with Classic NASCAR: 1996 Purolator 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Wednesday at niin the Speed Channel replays The Daytona 200 run on March 12 that was part of Daytona Bike Week. At 6:00pm the action switches to Versus for the Lucas Motorsports Hour. At 8:00pm the action returns to Speed for The 10: NASCAR Wildest Throw-Downs. Thursday's viewing begins at noon with the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series Scotts Turf Builder 300 that was run at the Bristol Motor Speedway. The 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Food City 500 that was run at Bristol follows at 3:00pm. Friday's action begins at 11:30am with NASCAR Live from Bristol on Speed followed at noon with Sprint Cup practice and at 1:30 with Nationwide Series practice. At 3:30 the Sprint Cup cars qualify on Speed followed by Nationwide practice at 5:00pm. At 7:00pm Speed goes Trackside at Bristol with Speed Center following at 8:00pm. At 8:30pm the Sprint Cup cars qualify on Speed. Nationwide Series practice follows at 10:00pm. Saturday's viewing begins at 7:00am with Mobil 1 The Grid, Highlights of motorsports action worldwide in a fast paced magazine format on Speed. At 8:00am ESPN Classic presents Classic NASCAR: 1994 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. At the Speed Channel at 9:30am will be Nationwide Series qualifying followed at 10:30 with Sprint Cup practice. At 11:30 Speed has NASCAR Live at Bristol followed by Sprint Cup final practice at noon. At 1:00pm the action shifts to ESPN for the Nationwide Series pre-race program that will lead in to the 2:00pm start of the Scott’s EZ Seed 300 at Bristol. At 6:00pm the action moves to the Versus Channel for the Lucas Oil Motorsport Hour. At 7:00pm its back to Speed for Speed Center followed by Sprint Cup final practice at Bristol. On Sunday, NASCAR Now on espn2 starts it off at 9:00am. At 11:30 Race Day will preview the upcoming Sprint Cup event at Bristol. At 12:30 the action moves to FOX for live coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Food City 500 at Bristol, TN. 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 it’s the NASCAR Victory Lane. At 9:00pm the Speed Channel has Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain.

As part of Bristol Motor Speedway’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Speedway extended invitations to several motorsports champions from wide-ranging motorsports disciplines to set class half-mile closed-course records, as well as break the 11-year-old track record.

Former NASCAR Cup driver Brad Noffsinger, Mike Lichty and Bryan Clauson will chase Sammy Swindell’s all-time Bristol track record of 138.442 mph (13.860 seconds), set during qualifying for a World Of Outlaws winged sprint car event at Bristol in June 2000.

Noffsinger and Lichty will be first to try out supermodifieds, the most exotic cars to hit Bristol’s high banks, while Clauson will run one of Tony Stewart’s pavement sprint cars.

Former AMA and World Superbike Champion Scott Russell will attempt to set a half-mile closed-course motorcycle speed record riding a Yamaha superbike. The five-time Daytona 200 winner brings substantial experience on high banked ovals, though never one as tight as Bristol’s half-mile.

Ford Racing enters its supercharged 2011 Mustang GT to Bristol to establish a half-mile closed course record for street legal cars. Ford NASCAR drivers David Ragan and Marcos Ambrose are expected to drive the ultimate "pony car" into the record books. The Mustang’s 5.0 liter engine is topped off by Ford Racing's twin-screw supercharger and cranks out 624 horsepower. To balance all that power with more driver control, the factory suspension comes equipped with a FR3 handling pack and Ford Racing/Brembo big brake kit.

Competitors will have one hour, from approximately 5 until 6 p.m., to make record runs following the Scotts EZ Seed 300. The “World’s Fastest Half-Mile Speed Trials” is a bonus event for the Nationwide Series race ticketholders.

The Speed Trials will begin after the conclusion of the Scotts EZ Seed 300. The driver and car line-ups are subject to change.

The SPEED Channel will air a 30-minute highlight show from “World’s Fastest Half-Mile Speed Trials” on April 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET, following its live broadcast of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks had positive results for the week. Leading the pack was Speedway Motorsports which went up 0.62 to 14.94. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.36 to 28.15 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.02 to 2.05. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.66 to 5.00 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.95 to 43.33 and tire supplier Goodyear went up 1.30 to 14.98. The car builders were down for the week. Toyota took a digger as they dropped 5.39 to 85.60. General Motors dropped 0.46 to 31.93 and Ford dropped 0.06 to 14.36. In the home improvement sector Lowes went up 0.70 to 26.94 while Home Depot dropped 0.08 to 37.14. The major team sponsors were down for the most part. Dupont dropped 0.97 to 52.90 while Coca-Cola dropped 0.04 to 59.05, Target Department Stores dropped 0.12 to 51.53 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.03 to 23.01. On the positive side, Fedex went up 2.02 to 90.71.

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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