Tuesday March 8, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The count down continues. As of this coming Sunday, March 13, three weeks remain before the New England Modified Racing season begins at the Waterford Speedbowl on April 3. Leading the charge at the drop of the green will be defending track and NASCAR National Champion Keith Rocco. The Thompson Speedway will open one week later on April 10. 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.

At the Speedbowl, the SK Modifieds®, Late Models, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks will again be at the core of Saturday night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action. New in 2011, the Speedbowl will introduce a limited schedule of X-Modified and SK Light combination races on the Saturday night schedule.

The snow is just about gone from the Waterford Speedbowl but the Thompson and Stafford Speedways still have ample supplies of the white stuff on the ground. At the New Hampshire International Speedway over 50 inches of the white stuff was on the ground. As we head toward mid March the sun gets higher and warmer each day. With a little luck the mountains of snow will be just memories by April 1.

NASCAR has announced updates for the 2011 NASCAR regional touring series, highlighted by changes to simplify the rookie of the year award. Also announced were two changes to race procedures, the elimination of the post-qualifying redraw for starting position in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and a cost-saving spec-fuel program for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Drivers will be eligible to compete for Sunoco-sponsored rookie awards for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and rookie awards for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series if they meet the following criteria, as of the first race of their respective season:
· The driver has not competed in more than seven career races in the respective series
· The driver has not competed in more than three separate seasons in the respective series
· A driver has not competed in more than three career races in NASCAR’s national series
“The changes simplify the process for determining rookie eligibility and brings the program in line with how our Competition department evaluates competitors,,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “This makes it easier for our fans, competitors and media to follow, and maintains the competition for the awards among drivers who can truly be classified as rookies in their series.” Rookies will continue to be scored in each race against other rookies, and the rookie of the year will be awarded to the driver who accumulates the most rookie points in their respective series during the season.

In addition, Sunoco’s sponsorship of the four U.S.-based touring series was extended through 2019, in conjunction with its sponsorship of the national series rookie programs. "We are thrilled to sponsor NASCAR's Rookie of the Year. It supports rising young talent, promotes the future of a great sport, and makes for exciting racing as drivers compete for the title," said Bob Owens, Sunoco's senior vice president of marketing.

Also, in an effort to help teams contain costs, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and long-time fuel provider New England Race Fuels will utilize a spec fuel – Sunoco Blue 112 leaded – for 13 of its 16 races. Competitors are not required to purchase the fuel at the track, but are required to use the spec fuel. For the three events held in conjunction with NASCAR national-series events (New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July and September, and Bristol Motor Speedway in August), Sunoco GTX Unleaded will continue to be used.

For the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the Sunoco award will be paid out to the top three drivers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings at the year-end awards banquet. Top finishing rookies will be recognized for the accomplishments at the following race.

Also announced are a pair of race procedures rules changes that bring the touring series in line with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
If a green-white-checkered finish is necessary, a maximum three attempts will be made and on all restarts, passing will not be permitted until the car reaches the start-finish line.

Noted auto racing writer Bones Bourcier had some interesting observations on the short track racing that was held in Florida recently. Bourcier, who is the Editor-At-Large for Dick Berggren's Speedway Illustrated feels that the low car counts were unique only to New Smyrna as rival Volusia Speedway Park drew banner fields of cars including 70 Dirt Late Models, 80 UMP/IMCA (similar to Florida or Thompson Modifieds), forty plus Sprint Cars and consistently full fields of DIRT Modifieds. Said Bourcier, " I believe there are a lot of factors that have dragged the New Smyrna Modified situation into the toilet. Every year there is bickering about the rules, and the purses suck ... but above all, the level of driving and behavior that has become acceptable there in recent years is a joke. Every conversation about the World Series ends up being about all the cars that get wrecked there, and the fights in the pits. Some of that is due to the fact that the officials let drivers and crews get away with all kinds of childish behavior, but most of the blame has to go to the racers themselves". He added, " The officials AND the racers have let New Smyrna turn into a circus, and they're paying the price. Meanwhile, at Volusia the management has kept up with the times (decent purses, sponsored points funds, solid rules enforcement) and has also kept a lid on stupid behavior, and as a result the pits were loaded all week long with nationally-known talent, the crowds were solid, and there were cars and haulers pulling in from all over the country, regardless of the high travel costs".

Richard Brooks, the Modified Race Director says that his officials try their best but when you are dealing with competitors from all over its difficult. When the fields of cars are small its hard to suspend cars or drivers.

It looks like Ryan Preece will be busy this year as he has indicated that he will race at Thompson and Stafford on a weekly basis plus the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Preece has replaced Rowan Pennink as the driver of the SK 31 at Thompson and will be in the Paquette, Bob Hitchcock, Kelly Iverson and Jean Guy Poulin SK at Stafford.
While Preece is chasing the NASCAR title one of the northeast's long standing race teams will be sticking close to home. Pasteryak Racing, home ported in Lisbon, CT and for many years a fixture on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series will be racing on the Valenti Modified Racing Series plus at selected open competition events at Thompson and Seekonk in 2011. The Pasteryak team is made up of Carl and Charlie Pasteryak as well as Charlie's son Chris.

Louies Bar And Grille in New London, Ct will be hosting their 2011 Area NASCAR Speedways Kickoff Party on Saturday night, March 19. Louies will have a free buffet from 7-8pm. DJ Ron Donovan will be spinning the tunes from 8-1AM. Food, Friends, Music, and Raffles will mark the start of the 2011 Whelen All American Series season. New Owners John Russell and Andrea welcome everyone! Louies is located at119 Broad St, New London. Directly across the street from the court house.

In some sad news, Steve May who owned winning Modifieds at the Seekonk Speedway during the mid 70s passed away on Monday, Feb 28. May, who was 63, developed and built the "Mayco Chassis" that carried Fred Astle Sr and Leo Cleary to many wins. May was also a crew chief for the Falconi Brothers when they ran Modifieds.

In TV land NASCAR Now on espn2 can be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday and on Wednesday. at 5:30pm. NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Race viewing begins on Tuesday at 1:00pm on ESPN Classic with the 1985 Busch 500 Sprint Cup event that was run in August. At 9:00pm the Speed Channel Highlights the 10 Most Outrageous NASCAR Moments. Wednesday's viewing begins at noon when the Speed Channel replays last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 400 that was run in Las Vegas. At 8:00pm Speed shows NASCAR's Closest Calls. At 9:00pm ShowTime has Inside NASCAR. Thursday's viewing also begins at noon as the Speed Channel replays last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 that was run in Las Vegas. The 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup, Food City 500 that was run at Bristol, TN follows at 3:00pm. With NASCAR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series having the weekend off the race viewing will be limited. On Friday night at 7:00pm ESPN Classic will replay the 2008 Allstate 400 Sprint Cup At The Brickyard. While the Brickyard event is on, the Speed Channel will have SPEED Center, Motor Racing News at 7:30pm. At 10:30pm Speed has Mobil 1 The Grid, Highlights of motorsports action worldwide in a fast paced magazine format. Speed heads to Daytona on Saturday at 1:00pm for coverage of Daytona Bike Week, AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike The Daytona 200. At 3:30 the action moves to Darlington, SC for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying. The pre-race show follows at 4:30 which will lead to the 5:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Too Tough to Tame 200 at Darlington. Speed Center follows at 10:30pm. SUNDAY. MARCH 13 (DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME BEGINS AT 2:00A). Sunday's racing on Speed at 3:00pm consists of AMA Grand National Motorcycle Racing that was held at the Daytona Intl. Speedway flat track on Thursday and Friday. 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.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the negative side. Dover Motorsports went up 0.03 to 2.03 at weeks end while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.32 to 27.79 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.20 to 14.32. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.03 to 4.34 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.20 to 42.38. Tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.22 to 32.68. The car makers had a down week. General Motors took the big dip as they dropped 0.86 to 32.39. Toyota dropped 0.76 to 90.99 and Ford dropped 0.65 to 14.42. In the home improvement sector Lowes went up 0.97 to 26.24 and Home Depot went up 0.14 to 37.22. With the exception of Coca-Cola which went up 3.41 to 59.09, the major team sponsors were down. Dupont dropped 0.20 to 53.87, Target Department Stores dropped 0.71 to 51.65, Aaron's Rentals dropped 0.81 to 23.04 and Fedex dropped 1.19 to 88.69.

Your tax dollars at work. The New England Sports Network (NESN) recently reported that the National Guard spends about $20 million to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver. The U.S. Army pays $7.4 million to sponsor Ryan Newman. The U.S. Air Force doles out $1.6 million to sponsor AJ Allmendinger.

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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