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Tuesday November 6, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                            

The post season North-South Shootout was supposed to be the big newsmaker last week but that all changes at high noon on Friday when it was announced that Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE:TRK) had agreed to purchase the New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre for $340 million in cash. O. Bruton Smith, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc, announced the agreement. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008. To align with other SMI-owned speedway brands, the track will be renamed New Hampshire Motor Speedway following completion of the acquisition. The speedway, which opened in 1990 and hosts two Nextel Cup Series events each year, is located about one hour north of Boston in Loudon, N.H. According to the latest census numbers, the population within 200 miles of the speedway is more than 18 million people. The venue is easily accessible via Interstate highways from all metro areas in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Located on approximately 1,100 acres, the multi-use complex is the largest sports facility in New England and features a 1.058-mile oval speedway, with chair-back seating for 92,000 spectators, and a 1.6-mile road course. The speedway hosts the only Nextel Cup Series, Busch Series, and Craftsman Truck Series events held in the six-state New England region. Smith alluded that he had offered Bob Bahre the opportunity to remain associated as a consultant with the track that he built.

Once the announcement went public the rumors of events leaving New Hampshire for other venues were rampant. According to an announcement made by NASCAR there will be no changes in scheduled Nextel Cup dates for 2008. Since itís beginning Loudon has included the Whelen Modified Tour and the Busch East Series in their race weekends. It is sincerely hoped that the Whelen Mods and the Busch East will be included in all future plans of the speedway. Since the track opened in 1990, the 1.058-mile oval has hosted 48 Busch East Series events and 46 Whelen Modified Tour races.

In a somewhat related statement by Phil Kurze, Vice President-Motorsports, Whelen Engineering Company, ď2008 is NOT the last year that the Whelen Modifieds are part of the NASCAR family of racing divisions. Whelen has many years remaining on our contract for this division, the oldest NASCAR division, and it is going to continue to be part of NASCAR in the coming years and a very important part of Whelen Motorsports. Statements relative to its demise are based on unsubstantiated opinions or attempts to promote other seriesĒ. Kurze is a loyal and dedicated fan of the Modifieds plus is a man of his word. Hot on the heels of the Kurze announcement comes word from John White of the Spencer Speedway in New York State that his track will host a Whelen Modified Tour Series event.

Many of the top Modified and Supermodified competitors headed south to the Concord Motorsports Park in Concord , NC for the 5th Annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout. Twenty-eight SK type Modifieds and 46 Tour type Modifieds were on hand. The top three SK type qualifiers were Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and Keith Rocco. Jimmy "Showtime" Blewett won the pole for the 5th Annual John Blewett Memorial North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park. Blewett clocked in a blistering lap of 15.161seconds to best the 46-car field. Blewett was flying the family colors and number with the red-white-and blue #76 in honor of his brother, John Blewett III. John, a two-time North-South Shootout winner, died in a crash at Thompson International Speedway this past August. Matt Hirschman was second fastest and was followed by southerner Burt Meyers, Erik Rudolph and True Value Modified competitor Les Hinkley.

Jimmy Blewett took the SK type win over Ted Christopher, Tom Farrell, Jeff Malave and Rob Janovic. After a late race tangle with Blewett, Christopher knifed his way to the front after restarting at the rear, catching Blewett on the final lap. Pole sitter Woody Pitkat was sent to the rear of the field after making contact with Keith Rocco in the early going. Pitkat, who led the early stages of the SK-type race, was later taken out when he was collected in a restart jam-up. Sixth through tenth were Joe Lemay, Steven Reed, Don Fowler, Glen Griswold and Rick Kluth.
Just prior to the start of the Modified portion of the North-South Shootout John Blewett IV, the son of fallen driver John Blewett III gave the command to start the engines. As the race was about to get underway C & C Racing Promotions presented a check to the Blewett family for $10-thousand that they raised for the family since John's death in August.

Matt Hirschman made it two in a row in N/S Shootout competition as he out raced and out foxed some of the best in Modified racing. Hirschman jumped out to an early lead with young Eric Rudolph on his tail. Hirschman led until lap 32 when, under caution, he pitted for his mandatory pit stop. Ryan Preece, of the True Value Series didnít and assumed the lead. Preece led until shortly after the Ĺ way mark of the 100 lap feature when he pitted for his mandatory stop and handed the lead back to Hirschman. From there on it was Hirschman all the way to the checker. Eric Beers finished second and was followed by Bobby Santos III, southerner Burt Myers and Don Lia. Lia had recovered from an early confrontation with James Civali. Sixth through tenth were Eric Rudolph, Les Hinkley, Dale Quarterly, Woody Pitkat and Ryan Preece. Pre race favorite Ted Christopher retired after 58 laps with an overheated engine. Jimmy Blewett who was the sentimental favorite finished 15th on the lead lap.

In TV land this week, Speed Channel viewing will begin on Tuesday at noon with the World of Outlaws sprint cars and late models, season finale which was run at the Dirt Track at Lowes Motor Speedway, Charlotte , NC on Nov 3. On Thursday at noon Speed reruns last Saturdayís NASCAR Busch Series OíReilly Challenge, which was run at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Dickies 500, also run in Texas, follows at 3:00pm. At 8:00pm itís a live preview of the upcoming Nextel Cup event at Phoenix AZ. Speed goes live at noon on Friday with 90 minutes of NASCAR Busch Series practice from Phoenix. At 1:30 a 60-minute segment of NASCAR Live followed at 3:30 by another hour of Busch Series practice. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifies at Phoenix at 4:30. The action switches to ESPN2 at 6:00pm for NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying. At 8:00pm itís back to the Speed Channel for live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Casino Arizona 150 at Phoenix. Speed wraps up the day at 10:30pm with Trackside at Phoenix. Saturdayís programming starts at 11:00am with NASCAR Live from Phoenix. NASCAR Busch Series qualifying follows at noon. At 3:00pm the action switches to ESPN2 for NASCAR Nextel Cup final practice. The NASCAR Busch Series Arizona Travel 200 gets the green at 4:30pm. Sundayís viewing begins at 1:30 with a two-hour segment of NASCAR RaceDay. At 3:30 the action switches to ABC for live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Checker Auto Parts 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report at 7:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Speedway Motorsports, which surprised many when they announced the purchase of the New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob Bahre, went up 0.36 to 26.58. Dover Downs dropped 0.02 to 6.55 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.63 to 43.99. Nextel/Sprint continued to drop as they fell 0.21 to 17.15. Despite rising oil and gas prices the Sun Oil Company dropped 3.93 to 71.41. On the other hand Goodyear went up 2.96 to 30.48. DIRT Motorsports, which showed some signs of life last week dropped, back 0.14 to 0.51. In the drug sector Pfizer went up 2.40 to 26.67 while Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 0.80 to 28.88. In the home improvement sector Lowes dropped 1.15 to 26.00 and Home Depot dropped 0.94 to 30.40. The parcel carriers were also down for the week. Fedex dropped 1.41 to 102.43 and UPS dropped 0.88 to 74.03.

Sprint Nextel Corp's (NYSE:S - News) quarterly profit fell 77 percent as the No. 3 U.S. mobile service lost subscribers and withdrew its 2008 profit growth forecast, sending shares down 2 percent last Thursday. Sprint, which is searching for a new chief executive, also said customer growth would stay under pressure in the current quarter after a net loss of 60,000 subscribers in the third quarter, dampening any hopes for a near-term recovery. Sprint has lost more than a third of its value since it bought Nextel in August 2005.

Thatís it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


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

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