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Tuesday November 25, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. With 2008 winding down there is one little bit of unfinished business to tend to. Down on the New Jersey shore the Wall Township Speedway will reopen for the annual Turkey Derby. Wall Township, modeled after the famed Lonsdale Arena Speedway in Rhode Island was silent throughout the 2008 season. Hopefully the historic speedway will receive a good shot in the arm and have a successful event as well as reopening in 2009.

In some sad news, John "Butch" Farone, Jr. better known to the racing community as Seymour The Clown passed away at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, November 21, after a battle with cancer. Jackie Arute brought Seymour to Stafford shortly after his dad Jack and uncle Chuck bought the Speedway. Seymour took up the slack during some of the down time at the track as he entertained the crowd with his antics. Just about all the competitors played along with him and considered him a friend. Seymour’s popularity spread far and wide as he would be seen at many tracks up and down the east coast including the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

One of Seymour's funniest and greatest moments occurred at the Waterford Speedbowl. One of Seymour's tricks was to pick on the track starters. One night at the shoreline oval shortly after a rain storm Seymour climbed up to the starters stand and threw the flags onto the track. Bob Gelinas, who was the assistant starter at the time became incensed and began chasing the clown on foot into the first turn. Anyone who was ever at the Bowl before it was repaved knows that the turn one area was a mud hole after every rain. Seymour ran through the mud with Gelinas in hot pursuit. Half way between turns one and two, Gelinas dressed in his whites, tripped and went face down in the mud as the crowd cheered on. Seymour did his job, he entertained the crowd, two bad it was at Gelinas’ expense. That incident was one of a thousand different Seymour stories. Butch was a great guy and he will be missed. RIP!


Richie Evans gets a big kiss from Seymour after one of his many Stafford Speedway wins.

Butch Farone minus his Seymour The Clown personna.

The Waterford Speedbowl will host a meet and greet this coming Monday, December 1 at the Groton Motor Inn in Groton, CT. Property owner Terry Eames and Modified Competitor Shawn Monahan have partnered up for a new corporation that will operate the shoreline oval in 2009. The new management team is starting out with a brand new look and exciting new atmosphere surrounding the best short track racing action in New England!! In order to provide competitors the most time to prepare for the upcoming season, the tracks new Board of Directors is working feverishly to put the critical pieces to the 2009 season together. It also appears that the new management will host an awards banquet for the 2008 Track Champions. Hopefully former track operator Jerry Robinson will pay the competitors what he owes them.

The Stafford Motor Speedway has released its 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event schedule which will showcase the track's SK Modified® and Late Model divisions in two extra distance events as well as four Whelen Modified Tour events. SMS will host a total of 24 racing events, with the 2009 NASCAR season kicking off with the 38th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST April 24-26, and concluding with the 37th annual CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend on October 2-4.

Stafford's Friday night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series programs will once again consist of five divisions, the SK Modifieds®, Late Models, SK Lights, Limited Late Models, and DARE Stocks. Headlining the weekly divisions are the four extra distance events. The 6th Annual CARQUEST SK 150 will be run on Friday night, July 25th, and the 36th Annual Coors Light SK Modified® 100 will be run on Friday, June 5th. Stafford's Late Model division will also have two 100-lap extra distance events on the 2009 calendar with the 15th Annual Late Model 100 run on Friday, May 8th, and the 2nd Annual Late Model 100 run on Friday, August 21st.

Stafford Motor Speedway will once again play host to four Whelen Modified Tour events, the 38th annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler on April 26, the 19th Connecticut Classic on May 22nd, the 19th Annual Stafford 150 on August 7th, and the CARQUEST Fall Final 150 on October 4th. The ISMA Supermodifeds will return to Stafford for a 50-lap feature event on Tuesday, July 7th as part of the 6th annual CARQUEST Extreme Tuesday program along with the NEMA Midgets and the Pro-4 Modifieds.

Tom Curley is jumping for joy as his American-Canadian Tour announced that they will sanction an event at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first time as part of the Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup Series weekend Sept. 17-20 next year. The ACT event will be by invitation only and will carry a purse of more than $65,000. It will be a 50 lap contest and will consist of the top drivers on the ACT tour but also some of the top Late Model talent from short tracks around New England.

Each 2009 race winner on the U.S.-based ACT Late Model Tour and the Québec/Ontario-based Série ACT-Castrol as of Sept. 18, 2009 will be awarded a guaranteed starting spot at New Hampshire in addition to the standings leaders in each division as of that date.

There will also be guaranteed starting spots offered to the winners of three non-ACT events: The CarQuest Vermont Governor's Cup 100 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, the TD Banknorth Oxford 250 at and the Coors Light 200 "Showdown at Chaudière" All-Star race at Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée-Jonction, Quebec. Also earning guaranteed starting spots will be the points leaders as of Sept. 18, 2009 at nine tracks where ACT legal Late Models are run. The list includes: Thunder Road (Barre, Vt), Oxford Plains (Oxford, Me.), Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway, Twin State Speedway (Claremont N.H.), White Mountain Motorsports Park )North Woodstock, N.H., Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway, Capital City Speedway (Ottawa, Ontario), Kawartha Speedway (Peterborough, Ontario) and the Waterford Speedbowl.

In TV land this week viewing will be sparse with mostly re-runs from years past presented on the tube. the top drivers on the ACT tour but also some of the top Late Model talent from short tracks around New England. Viewing begins on Friday at 7:00pm when ESPN Classic presents the 1998 Daytona 500 that was won by Jeff Gordon. On Sunday at 10:00am the action moves to espn2 for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup review. The Nationwide Series review follows at 10:30. At noon espn2 provided coverage of the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Awards Banquet which was held at the Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, FL on Nov 22.

The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend on Sunday night with The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week Wall Street continues its downturn. All three speedway stocks ended the week on a negative note. Taking the big hit was the International Speedway Corporation which went down 4.31 to 21.93. Speedway Motorsports dropped 1.17 to 11.28 and Dover Downs dropped 0.56 to 1.16. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.59 to 1.71 while Nationwide, which sponsors NASCAR’s second tier dropped 1.13 to 48.87. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 4.10 to 33.87. Tire supplier Goodyear was also down as they dropped 0.41 to 5.01. Most of the team sponsors were also on the down side. Dupont dropped 4.40 to 23.03 while Coca-Cola went up 1.32 to 38.82. Target Department Stores dropped 4.95 to 28.08. On the positive side was Aaron’s Rentals which went up 0.37 to 23.10. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 1.25 to 19.29 while Lowes dropped 1.08 to 17.15. The parcel carriers were also on the down side. Fedex dropped 3.46 to 60.91 and UPS dropped 0.83 to 52.31. The World Racing Group budged a bit as they went up 0.01 to 0.03.

With the market in turmoil and prices of stock way down it’s a good time to buy if you dare! The current downturn has had a ripple effect on racing, especially in the Sprint Cup Series where numerous layoffs of employees have occurred and most notably the demise of Dale Earnhardt INC and the banning of testing at sanctioned tracks by NASCAR. On November 12 DEI announced that the race team was merging with Chip Ganassi Racing and Felix Sebates. The Lincoln Times in North Carolina reported that NASCAR team owner Ray Evernham announced in Lincolnton [NC] that he is in advanced negotiations to purchase the East Lincoln Speedway and plans to retire from NASCAR. Evernham and partner Bob Mack of Cornelius-based RPM Group Holdings said they had hoped to have the keys to the speedway in their hands when they appeared at the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After-Hours event to make the announcement, but were prevented from doing so as negotiations continued. Evernham said he has already sold off most of his interest in the Gillett-Evernham Motorsports race team and is ending his career with NASCAR. “I want to get back into grassroots racing,” he told the gathering of area community leaders and businesspeople. Contacted by the Times-News Friday morning, current track owner Ralph Nantz said he couldn’t “talk much about it right now,” but confirmed that “serious” negotiations with Evernham were under way. “You might say he is showing some interest,” Nantz said. The East Lincoln Speedway has been in operation since 1991 and is a 3/8 mile clay oval track. Everham, originally a Modified competitor at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey, was the original Sprint Cup crew chief for Jeff Gordon when he came to Hendrick Motorsports.

That’s 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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