Tuesday March 27, 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 30, two weeks remain before the start of the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series IceBreaker at the Thompson Speedway on April 15.

The Waterford Speedbowl, one of the nations oldest and most historic racing venues, opens its gates for the 62nd consecutive season-opener with the annual Budweiser Blastoff Weekend starting this coming Friday, March 30 through Sunday, April 1. The three-day racing spectacle offers race fans plenty of variety with 14 divisions slated to chase the first checkered flags of the season at the Connecticut shoreline oval.

Highlighting the attractions at Blastoff is the season opening event for the Valenti Modified Racing Series, which will compete in a 100-lap main event. Modified racing has been synonymous with the shoreline oval every year since its opening in April of 1951. The NEMA Midgets begin their 60th anniversary season at Blastoff. Like the Modifieds, NEMA and its legacy in the northeast has been firmly rooted with the Speedbowl. The Speedbowl's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions also start their championship chase at Blastoff including the SK Modifieds®, which will compete in a special 62-lap event in honor of the track's 62nd season, the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and SK Light Modifieds. Other touring divisions beginning their season with Blastoff include the NEMA Lites, New England Truck Series and New England Four Cylinder Pro Stocks. Additional Speedbowl divisions including the Legends Cars, Bandoleros, Super X Car and X Car divisions round out the weekend's racing card chasing points in their Saturday Showdown Series.

Area Auto Racing News scribe Kevin Rice reported that the Bristol Motor Speedway hosted a test session for the NASCAR Modifieds. Participants were Champions Ron Silk and George Brunnhoelzl III along with Frank Flemming and Eric Goodale. The primary reason for the test was to experiment with rear end gears and quick change rear ends. NASCAR hopes to reduce the number of blown engines that persisted last year. Preliminary results showed no big change in lap times when higher gears were used.

Speedway Motorsports, Inc., CEO Bruton Smith said that he is moving ahead with plans to return Bristol Motor Speedway to its previous configuration. Speaking on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's The Late Shift with Buddy Baker and Jim Noble, Smith said feedback from fans has been overwhelmingly in favor of changing the legendary speedway's layout. "I'd say it's about 75% from the race fans that they'd like to see us put it back the way it was five years ago," he said. Smith said he has already consulted with engineers about making the necessary changes. "It will absolutely still be concrete," he said, "but we will (redo) the profiling. We have on paper exactly the way the track was before we came in and redid it. We're going to have all the elevations, the ingress and egress as it was before we completely redid it. We will here again offer race fans (the track) the way it was. It's not a major change that we did," insisted Smith. "We took up all the old concrete that was breaking up and causing a lot of problems. We completely redid the speedway, and fans got the idea that it's not the same. I guess it's not the same, since they told us that, and the race fan is always right. When the race fans speak, you listen. And that's what we're doing now." The SMI owner said the changes will be made before the Aug. 25 Sprint Cup Series night race. Smith's change will take a multi groove track back to single consistently banked track. track.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series was slated to begin last weekend at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Caraway is a .455 mile semi-banked oval. Due to persistent rain showers and a forecast calling for possible severe thunderstorms throughout the weekend, NASCAR and Caraway Speedway postponed the Spring Classic 150 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race originally scheduled for Sunday, March 25. The Spring Classic 150 is now rescheduled to be held next Saturday, March 31. Twenty six cars are entered for the event.

The Thompson Speedway will kick off the 2012 season with two open practice sessions. These pre-season practices will be held this Saturday, March 31st and again on Saturday, April 7th. Thompson’s Icebreaker is the most anticipated race of the year and will be held the weekend of April 14th and 15th.

Ron Silk, the 2011 WMT champion, is expected to kick off his title defense on Icebreaker weekend. Keith Rocco, the reigning champ, will return to the Sunoco Modified division in search of his fourth title. He will be behind the wheel of Andrew Johnson’s # 4 which was driven last year by former WMT champion, Rick Fuller. Rocco will once again face stiff competition from Ted Christopher, Woody Pitkat, Danny Cates and many more. Super Late Model title holder, Larry Gelinas, will lead that division’s competitors and Tommy O’Sullivan will defend his 2012 crown. Last year’s Limited Sportsman champion, “Moose” Douton will move up to the Sunoco Modified division while Cam McDermott will defend his Thompson Modified title as will the Monster Mini Stock champ, Danny Field.

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.

Race viewing begins on Wednesday when the Speed Channel reruns last weeks Sprint Cup event that was run at the Auto Club Speedway in California. "The 10" on Speed follows at 2:30pm.

Thursday's viewing on Speed begins at noon with a replay of last weeks Nationwide Series event that was held in California.

Speed goes live at Martinsville at noon on Friday at noon with NASCAR Live. Live coverage of Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville follows at 12:30pm. NASCAR Truck Series has a practice from 2:00-3:30. Sprint Cup practice follows at 3:30 with NASCAR Live winding up the day at 5:00pm.

The truck Series qualifies on Speed on Saturday morning at 10:00am. At 11:00am NASCAR Live at Martinsville breaks it up. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at 11:30am. Speed has the truck series pre-race show at 1:00pm which will ead to the 1:30pm start of the NASCAR Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville. Speed Center Saturday at 7:00pm on Speed wraps up the day.

On Sunday, Speed starts it off at 10:00am with Speed Center followed by NASCAR RaceDay at 10:30am. The Sprint Cup event gets the green shortly after 1:00pm on FOX. Speed wraps it up with NASCAR Victory Lane at 5:00pm followed by Speed Center at 7:00pm sum up the days racing. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain goes at 8:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week, all three speedway stocks ended the week on the positive side. Leading the way was Speedway Motorsports which went up 0.45 to 16.65. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.18 to 26.00 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.01 to 1.50. On the other side of the coin, NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.15 to 2.74, NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.22 to 39.09 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.25 to 11.91. The car builders were also on the negative side. Ford dropped 0.19 to 12.32 while General Motors dropped 0.40 to 25.17 and Toyota dropped 1.66 to 83.76. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.49 to 49.54 and Lowes went up 0.73 to 30.74. The major team sponsors had an off week. Dupont dropped 0.75 to 52.63 while Coca-Cola dropped 1.04 to 67.00, Target Department Stores dropped 0.22 to 58.19, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.55 to 25.65 and Fedex dropped 1.96 to 92.38.

The Dallas Business Journal reported that Bruton Smith, chief executive of Speedway Motorsports Inc., received $1.97 million in total compensation in 2011, according to a company filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Smith was paid a salary of $600,000 and received nonequity incentives of $1.37 million last year. The speedway CEO’s compensation totaled $1.78 million in 2010.

Also included the filing: proposals to elect Marcus Smith and Tom Smith to the company’s board; to approve of a revised stock plan; to reapprove the company’s incentive compensation plan; and to finalize selection of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers as principal accounting firm for 2012.

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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