Tuesday March 20, 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 23, three 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 next weekend 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.

Between the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Valenti Modified Racing Series there are 29 special events for the Modifieds. With the exception of WMT events at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on July 28 and at the Bristol Speedway in Tennessee on August 22, all events will be run in New England.

While the amounts of events are fairly equal the car counts favor the MRS. In 2011 the Whelen Modified Tour Series drew 57 different competitors while the MRS drew 70.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series begins this weekend at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Caraway is a .455 mile semi-banked oval. Defending series champion Burt Myers will head up a list of competitors who will be on hand for the series opener. The Nascar Whelen Southern Modified Tour will open their season with a new format. The 150 lap event will be stopped at approximately lap 75 for a ten minute break. Teams will be allowed to make adjustments to the cars and if they choose to move the race tires that are currently on the car. This should put a lot of excitement into the 150 lap event.

Caraway Speedway will host the North-South Shootout On November 3-5.

The Thompson Speedway will kick off the 2012 season with two open practice sessions. These pre-season practices will be held on Saturday, March 31st and again on Saturday, April 7th. Virtually any safe race car is welcome to participate in these sessions that will run from 11 Am until 5 PM each day. Paddock area gates will open at 10 AM. The format for these sessions is a “round robin” style by division and runs virtually non-stop for six hours.

Many new race teams, driver changes, color schemes and more will be unveiled on Icebreaker weekend. Much attention has been paid to some of the driver changes in the Whelen Modified Tour. The 2007 and 2009 WMT Champion, Donnie Lia rejoins the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile # 4 while the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champ, Keith Rocco will fill the seat of the famous “old Blue” # 3 from the Boehler racing organization. John Lukosavage, owner of the potent # 11 Modified, has tapped the talented and popular Woody Pitkat as his driver.

Sponsorship dollars and verbal entries from drivers continue to flow in to Star Speedway, the site of what will surely be a race to remember in 2012. The Saturday night, June 16 Tour-Type Modified Open known as the 2nd annual SBM 125, is now guaranteed to have a purse in excess of $30,000, but that number is expected to climb even further. Numerous combined sponsorships, plus a new idea will likely boost the halfway lap 63 payout to more than $1,500. The race leader will pocket money from Star's season-long sponsors EKeys 4 Cars ($150) and Allen's Coffee Brandy ($125). Northeast Race Cars and Parts has added a $150 certificate to the halfway race leader, and Duraflex Race Car Bodies will offer a certificate as well.

The SBM 125 will also have event t-shirts donated at cost by Sanford SignGraphix of Sanford, Maine, with all profits from sales to be paid out as an additional halfway bonus. Three drivers running in positions 2-10 on lap 63 will split the cash generated from these sales.

Drivers planning to compete that were not able to attend the 2011 event are numerous. Todd Annarummo, Todd Szegedy, Rich Pallai, Mike Stefanik and Steve Masse are just a few of the Modified touring series drivers that have stated their intentions to compete in the June 16 event.

Just when you were thinking of taking in a lot of racing in the coming season, the AAA says the average price of regular gas has topped $4 a gallon in Connecticut, and a state lawmaker is calling for a cap on the state's gross receipts tax on wholesale gas.

The motor club says the average price hit $4.006 a gallon last Friday, up from $3.998 on Thursday. Connecticut is now tied with New York with the fifth-highest average price in the country. AAA says Hawaii tops the list at $4.46 a gallon, followed by California at $4.36, Alaska at $4.23 and Illinois at $4.11.

The national average price is $3.83 a gallon.

Get well wishes to Modified Car owner Joe Brady who recently underwent quadruple by-pass surgery. Cards of cheer can be sent to Joe Brady..62 Franklin St...Stoughton Ma 02072.

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 plus at 2:30pm on Friday.

Race viewing begins on Wednesday at noon on the Speed Channel with last weeks Sprint Cup event that was held in Bristol.

Speed replays last week's Nationwide Series event run at Bristol on Thursday at noon. At 2:30pm Speed has "The 10".

Friday's viewing begins at 3:00pm when Speed goes live at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California with Sprint Cup practice. Nationwide Series practice follows at 4:30pm. Sprint Cup qualifying begins at 7:00pm. Trackside at the Auto Club Speedway follows at 9:00pm.

Saturday's action starts at noon on the Speed Channel with NASCAR Live at the Auto Club Speedway. Sprint Cup practice follows at 12:30pm. Nationwide Series qualifying at the Auto Club Speedway will be carried by both Speed and ESPN2 at 1:30pm. The Sprint Cup cars have their final practice session at 3:30pm on Speed. At 5:00pm the action shifts to ESPN for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead to the5:30pm start of the Royal Purple 300 at the Auto Club Speedway.

Sunday's viewing gets the green at 11:00am with NASCAR Now on ESPN2. NASCAR Performance on Speed follows at 11:30am followed by Speed Center at noon. A two hour RaceDay preview begins at 12:30pm. Fox goes live with their pre-race show at 2:30 which will lead to the 3:15pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400.
NASCAR Victory Lane on Speed at 6:00pm 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 finished the week on the positive side. Leading the pack was Speedway Motorsports which went up 0.44 to 16.20. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.09 to 25.82 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.09 to 1.49. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.11 to 2.89 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.27 to 40.31. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.12 to 12.16. With the exception of Toyota which went up 1.61 to 85.42, the car makers had a negative week. Ford dropped 0.07 to 12.51 and General Motors dropped 0.05 to 25.57. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.95 to 49.05 and Lowes went up 0.64 to 30.41. The major team sponsors were all over the lot. Dupont went up 1.88 to 53.38 while Coca-Cola dropped 0.72 to 63.04. Target Department Stores went up 0.72 to 58.41 and Fedex went up 2.55 to 94.34 while Aarons Rentals dropped 0.09 to 26.20.

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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