Tuesday March 13, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

Now that Florida Speedweeks are history its time to look foreword to racing in the Northeast. As of this Friday, March 16, four weeks remain before the start of the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series IceBreaker at the Thompson Speedway on April 15.

The New England based Valenti Modified Racing Series has its opening event in two weeks at the Waterford Speedbowl on April 1. The Friday practice time for the 2012 season opener at Waterford Speedbowl will be from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM on Friday, March 30th. Pit gates that day will open at 10:00 AM.

The VMRS announced the appointment of Rich Keator, age 24, of Terryville, CT as Chief Flagman for the 2012 season. The announcement comes on the heels of the recent resignation of John Spence JR, who held the position for the last seven years.

Indoor racing came to Providence RI. in the form of The Coffee Cup INDOOR RACE at the Providence Civic Center on Saturday and Sunday of last weekend. TQ Midgets & Sr. Champ Karts were on the bill of fare.
Canadian Stewart Friesen passed Erick Rudolph for the lead on lap 38 of the 40-lap Coffee Cup Classic Indoor Three Quarter Midget race at Dunkiní Donuts Center Saturday to earn his first Coffee Cup Classic victory. The win came after a thrilling side-by-side battle in an event that Rudolph dominated.

Mike Lichty led the early laps of the TQ race until Rudolph took over. A succession of incidents and double-file restarts kept the pack tight. Lichty fell back and Friesen moved forward to challenge for the lead. As the race progressed, Friesen began to close on Rudolph in lapped traffic, eventually passing him with two laps remaining. Rudolph finished second with Jon Gambuti passing Ryan Smith for third place on the final lap. Ted Christopher was in the field and didn't disapoint those who came to watch him compete. Christopher, who started 25th and last in the field after fixing mechanical problems with his car just in time to make the call for the green flag, finished fifth.

The companion Champ Kart 25-lap main event was won by Glen Meisenhelder, who originally crossed the finish line in second place. When apparent winner Chris Daley was disqualified by technical inspectors for an out-of-compliance engine, Meisenhelder was elevated, albeit belatedly, to victory.

Stewart Friesen backed up his Saturday night three-quarter midget feature win in the Dunkin Donuts Center with a rousing win the Sunday afternoon. The race was halted three times before the 100th lap was put in the books and each time Friesen had to outrun Erick Rudolph and Joe Payne Jr. to preserve his winning drive.

Friesen was also the leader of the 50th lap of the race when the field was stopped as designed by race officials to allow for refueling and minor adjustments. Drivers were able to restart in the second segment regardless of number of laps completed in the first half of the race.

Ted Christopher, who had been a contender in the first half of the event, pressured Friesen after working by Rudolph and Payne but dropped out of the event late in the going with mechanical problems.

Rudolph and Payne challenged Friesen over the final circuits but fell short. Ryan Smith was fourth at the checkered flag and Jon Gambuti was fifth.

After enduring the indignity of a disqualification the night before, Champ Kart driver Chris Daley was a man on a mission Sunday afternoon.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, at 6:00pm with NASCAR Race Hub. Race Hub will also be shown on Wednesday and Thursday at the same time. NASCAR Now will be on espn2 at 3:00pm on Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday.

Race viewing begins on Tuesday at noon on the Speed Channel with last weeks Sprint Cup event that was held in Las Vegas. On Thursday at noon the Speed Channel will replay last Saturday's Nationwide Series race that was held in Las Vegas. Also on Thursday afternoon is "The 10" at 2:30pm.

Speed goes live on Friday morning at 10:00 from Bristol with Nationwide Series practice. Sprint Cup practice at Bristol follows at noon. At 1:30pm NASCAR Live on Speed breaks up the afternoon. Final Nationwide Series practice on Speed follows at 2:00pm. At 3:30pm the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars qualify. Dave Despain goes on assignment at Bristol at 6:00pm and Trackside at Bristol wraps it up at 7:00pm.

Saturday's viewing gets an early start with Sprint Cup practice on Speed at 9:30am. Pole qualifying for the Nationwide Series follows at 10:30am and Sprint Cup final practice follows at noon. At 1:00pm the action shifts to ESPN for Countdown to Bristol which will lead to the 2:00pm start of the Nationwide Series St. Patrick's Day 300 at Bristol.

Sunday's viewing begins at 9:00am with NASCAR Now on ESPN2. The action moves to the Speed Channel at 9:30am with NASCAR Performance followed by Speed Center at 10:00am. At 10:30 the Speed Channel hosts a two hour segment of RaceDay which will preview the Bristol Cup race. At 12:30 FOX goes live with their pre-race show that will lead to the 1:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500 at Bristol.

NASCAR Victory Lane on Speed at 4:30pm followed by Speed Center at 7:00pm sum up the days racing. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain goes at 8:pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week, all three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. Leading the pack was Speedway Motorsports which went up 1.20 to 15.76. The International Speedway Corporation followed as they went up 0.50 to 25.73 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.04 to 1.40. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.28 to 2.78 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.00 to 40.04 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.74 to 12.38. In the auto industry, Toyota went up 2.24

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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