Tuesday May 20, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Stafford Motor Speedway suffered their third successive rain out last Friday, May 16. The speedway returns to racing action next Friday night, May 23rd with the 18th Annual TSI Harley-Davidson 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event. As part of a season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions, seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titlist Mike Stefanik will be honored. A resident of Coventry, R.I. , Stefanik is the winningest driver in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and he was also named to the “NASCAR All-Time Modified Top 10 Drivers” list in 2003. Since the tour’s inception in 1985, Stefanik has experienced unparalleled success. His seven championships are two more than Tony Hirschman’s total and his record 68 wins are 24 more than second-place Reggie Ruggiero’s 44.

Stafford's SK Modifieds®, Late Models, SK Light Modifieds, Limited Late Models, and DARE Stocks will also all be in action. For next Friday night's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature events, the top-18 in points will be pre-qualified for their events.
Tickets for next Friday night's TSI Harley-Davidson race program are priced at $30.00 for Adult General Admission, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge. Reserved seating is available and is priced at $32.00 for all ages.

The Waterford Speedbowl continues to benefit from Stafford ’s rain outs as their car counts in the SK Modified division have become quite healthy. Six-time champion Dennis Gada came from deep in the pack Saturday evening to win his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK feature of the season on Little League Night at the Waterford Speedbowl. The 35 lap SK Modified feature got off to a rough start as a pile of cars got drop kicked into the first turn wall after outside pole sitter Frank Mucciacciaro Jr failed to come up to racing speed. Jeff Pearl and Ron Yuhas Jr got the worst of it and were towed from the scene. On the restart, Wendell Dailey led momentarily before passed by Mucciacciaro and several others. Justin Gadosh then moved to the front pressed by Rob Janovic and a fast-moving Dennis Gada. Passing Gaydosh, Gada pulled alongside leader Janovic, executing an outside-pass to take the lead with only three circuits remaining when the caution waved for the final time. In one of the closest SK finishes of 2008, he was able to get the advantage on defending champion. Following was Gaydosh, Ronnie Silk, and Rocco.
In the Late Models, Ed Reed took his second feature of the season. Moving into the lead following an altercation between leader Tim Jordon and defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr., Reed distanced himself from a furious battle between Vin Esposito and Ron Yuhas Jr. Having his best run of the season, a surprisingly-fast Esposito was able to nip Yuhas for second. After restarting from the back of the field, Jordan and Thomas Jr. recovered to complete the top-five. Both of these drivers deserve the “Meatball Flag” Jordan for blocking and Thomas for the lack of patience. Ed Lamb Jr. became the sixth different Sportsman feature winner of the season in scoring his first-ever main event. Lamb was dogged in the closing laps by veteran Jim Proccaccini, but managed to pull ahead by several car-lengths at the finish. Walt Hovey, Jr., Al Stone III, and Jonathon Avery followed.

In the caution-free Mini Stock feature, teenage rookie Raymond Christian III put on a dominating performance to win the first of his career. Christian is the son of defending "Women On Wheels" champion Kathy Civardi, and the step-son of popular Speedbowl veteran Jeff "Soup" Civardi. Lou Belisle finished second, and rounding-out the top-five was Randy Churchill Jr., Ken Cassidy Jr., and Bill Leonard.

Winning the Little League Night "Home Run Derby" sponsored by was the team of Little Leaguer Justin Marceau age-10 of Southington , and popular SK & Late Model driver Ron Yuhas Jr. Several "home runs" were scored, including a power-hit slammed by defending Late Model champ Bruce Thomas Jr. that cleared the bleachers. A favorite event at the Speedbowl, special thanks goes out to Ted "Sid" DiMaggio for tirelessly organizing the show, now in its third year. DiMaggio also produces "The Vault Report" the official weekly program of the Waterford Speedbowl, as well as running a website featuring the comprehensive statistical history of the track.

According to the State of Connecticut Judicial website the Waterford Speedbowl is once again the center of foreclosure action. Rocco Arbitell, along with Peter Borelli, filed suit in state court in New London to foreclose on the Speedbowl property. The case was filed against 1080 Hartford Road , the group that owns the Speedbowl, and Terry Eames. In the mean time, the Speedbowl continues to run every week bacically drawing fans on a word of mouth situation.

The Thompson Speedway begins their series of Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) racing program Thursday night, May 22nd. A pre-season test session was held this past Thursday which also served as a test session for the track’s newly installed MUSCO Lighting project. According to reports the new lighting intensity is three times greater than what it was.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the True Value Modified Series are nearing the end of their “Spring Break”. Both series will resume their schedule this coming Friday on May 23-24. The Whelen Modifieds make their second stop of the season at Stafford and the True Value Modifieds travel to the Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre , VT. The Thunder Road event will encompass two days, Saturday and Sunday.
In a combined session on May 12 a total of 23 teams from the NASCAR Camping World Series East and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour tested at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Recent increases in fuel prices kept the combined car count to 18 including just five Modifieds. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams participating in the test session included 2003 champion Todd Szegedy and defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour titlist L.W. Miller. Also in attendance from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour were James Civali, Rowan Pennink and Glen Reen.
The test session was held in advance of races for both series in June at the New Hampshire . The NASCAR Camping World Series East will run at the 1.058-mile track in the Heluva Good! Summer 125 on Friday, June 27 while the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will take to the track for the New England 100 on Saturday, June 28.

Just around the corner is the 4th Annual Norwood Arena Reunion which is scheduled for Sunday, June 1 at Bezema Buick, Pontiac, GMC on Rt. 1 in Norwood , MA . Norwood was a high banked quarter mile oval that hosted some of the best racing in New England with some of the best drivers New England had to offer. The fast quarter-mile, banked oval was shut down to make way for an industrial park. Among those who will be on hand to swap stories of years gone by will be legendary Modified race drivers such as Bill Slater of W. Hartford , Conn. who ruled the roost at Norwood Arena for many years. Multiple NASCAR Modified Champions such as Ernie Gahan of Dover , NH and Bugs Stevens of Rehoboth will join Slater. Also Leo Cleary of Hanover who was able to find and run the upper groove of Norwood Arena first, just inches from the wheel fence. Leo was the first to try it and successfully win races where others feared to tread. Pawtucket , Rhode Island standout Fred Luchesi, one of the Pawtucket , RI racing standouts, is expected to make his first appearance as will noted car owner Joe Brady of Brockton who is still fielding front line Modified cars for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour after five decades. All of those mentioned drivers and owners are members of the New England Antique Races Hall Of Fame. NEAR, will be out in force with several restored race cars. Host Marty Bezema, Sr., who raced in various divisions at the Norwood Arena, will be there to welcome his former adversaries during the glory days of that high-banked quarter-mile oval. It all gets underway at 11 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m. , Rain or Shine. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be served free in the on-site Marty's Cafe for attendees.

Congratulations to Howie and Mary Hodge, two very special people who celebrated 45 years of wedded bliss this past Sunday, May 18. Thanks to the efforts of Howie and Mary the Whelen Modified Tour Series gets recorded in pictures..

In TV land this week on the Speed Channel it will be a busy one. Starting at Wednesday at noon will be a replay of the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race that was held at the Lowes Motor Speedway this past Saturday night. Thursday at noon will se the start of the busy weekend at the Lowes Motor Speedway. NASCAR Live is on from 12:00 to 1:00pm followed by Nationwide Series practice at 1:00 followed by Sprint Cup practice at 3:00pm . Nationwide Series final practice goes at 6:00pm . NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying starts at 7:00pm and finishes up at 9:30pm . The action switches to ESPN2 on Friday afternoon for Indianapolis 500 Carburetion Day and Pit Stop Challenge from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speed goes live at 7:00pm with Trackside at Lowes Motor Speedway. Same day, taped delayed coverage of the World of Outlaws Sprints from the Dirt Track at Lowes Motor Speedway follows at 8:00pm . Saturday’s viewing starts at 11:00am with a one hour segment of Trackside at Lowes Motor Speedway. At 12:30 Speed travels west to Mansfield , Ohio for the pre-race show for the Craftsman Truck Series which will run the Ohio 250 at the Mansfield Motorsports Park starting at 1:00pm . Speed heads back to Charlotte at 3:30 for Nationwide Series qualifying. At 5:30 it’s NASCAR Live followed by Sprint Cup final practice at 6:00pm . The action shifts to ESPN2 at 7:00pm for live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Carquest Auto Parts 300 at the Lowes Motor Speedway. Sunday will be the busiest day of the year for Motorsports coverage. NASCAR Now starts it off at 11:00am . At noon coverage shifts to ABC for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis , IN. ABC expects the event to last until 4:30pm . While the Indy 500 is running Speed will host a two hour preview of the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte . The 600 is scheduled to go green at 5:00pm.on FOX. If you need a break, The Speed Report will be on the Speed Channel at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain will be on at 9:00pm . The Speed Channel will wrap up the weekend at 11:00pm with NASCAR Victory Lane .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks had a positive ending. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.18 to 43.58. Dover Downs went up 0.46 to 6.35 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.01 to 26.97. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.21 to 9.17 while second division Nationwide went up 0.87 to 50.74. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.83 to 44.53while Tire supplier Goodyear went up 1.10 to 28.98. Coca-Cola dropped 1.16 to 55.84 as Dupont jumped up 1.19 to 49.63. Target Department Stores which sponsors entries at both Indianapolis and at Lowes in Charlotte this week took a huge jump as they went up 2.64 to 54.88. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 1.12 to 29.10 and Lowes went up 0.69 to 24.89. The parcel carriers also had a positive week. Fedex went up 0.58 to 90.95 and UPS went up 0.48 to 70.77. World Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) dropped 0.05 to 0.25.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891 . Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is

Photo Credit: Keith Cyr, RaceDogPhotography

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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