Tuesday November 4, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series has settled into a long winter’s sleep with the exception of the upcoming Banquet of Champions which will be held at the Mohegan Sun Casino on Saturday, September 13.

The weekly stars of NASCAR head for Las Vegas this coming weekend for the 27th annual NASCAR Whelen All-American Series awards banquet at the Rio Hotel. NASCAR, series sponsor Whelen Engineering and track operators will gather to honor nationals champion Philip Morris, plus U.S. state, Canadian provincial, and track champions from throughout North America.

Morris, of Ruckersville, Va., has made history this year, becoming only the second driver to win the title more than once. Morris, the champion also in 2006, joins five-time champion Larry Phillips in the series’ very elite category. The celebration opens on Wed., Nov. 5 with the Jim Hunter Invitational Golf Classic at Las Vegas’ Desert Pines Golf Club. Hunter, NASCAR’s Vice President for Corporate Communications and long-time devotee of NASCAR short tracks, will host the event at what Golf Digest has recognized as one of the best new upscale courses in the country.
Thurs., Nov. 6 features a state champion’s dinner for drivers and their spouses, and plenty of free time to enjoy the fabulous Las Vegas strip. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track operators will compete in go-karts at Pole Position Raceway, Las Vegas’ famous quarter-mile road course, enclosed in a massive 60,000 square-foot facility. Later, the track operators will enjoy the dinner comedy show “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” at the Rio.

The week’s main event, the Fri., Nov. 7 awards show, will have “NASCAR on FOX” television broadcasters Mike Joy and Dick Berggren as co-emcees.

Morris, who raced at the Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia entered 28 events and scored 14 victories. Including the wins he had 23 top fives. Finishing second was Brian Harris who raced at the West Liberty Raceway in Iowa. Harris had 35 top fives in 38 starts including 20 wins. Third is Marty Ward who raced at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Ward recorded 22 top fives in 24 starts including 13 wins. Fourth was New England’s own, Keith Rocco who raced at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson. Rocco entered 49 events and scored 32 top fives including 11 wins. Rocco drove for three different car owners. Rounding out the top five was Jeff Strunk who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania. Strunk ran in only 20 events but made the best of it as he had 19 top fives which included four wins.

NASCAR also will also honor their state champions. Rocco, who made his Whelen Modified Tour debut at the recent World Series at Thompson took top honors as the Connecticut State Champion. Rocco is also the 2008 SK Modified Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Woody Pitkat, who, like Rocco raced at all three tracks, finished second. Pitkat entered 29 events and recorded 13 top fives which included six wins. Jimmy Blewett, with 12 top fives in 25 starts, finished third. Blewett raced at Thompson and Stafford. Doug Coby, who also raced at all three tracks, finished fourth. Dennis Gada who won a record seventh Modified Track Championship at the Waterford Speedbowl, rounded out the top five. Gada, who raced only at Waterford, scored 13 top fives in 21 starts which included three wins. Sixth through tenth in the final NASCAR State standings are Rob Janovic from the Waterford Speedbowl, Todd Ceravolo from the Thompson Speedway, Jeffrey Paul from Waterford, Ted Christopher from the Stafford Motor Speedway and Tyler Chadwick from the Waterford Speedbowl.

Keith Rocco will be honored in Las Vegas as the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Connecticut State Champion.
 (Keith Cyr Photo)

At the Waterford Speedbowl the word had it that Jerry Robinson’s lease of the shoreline oval was up as of November 1. According to reports Mr. Robinson has removed himself and his belongings from the facility. In the mean time competitors who raced in the season ending Fall Finale have not been paid. An announcement concerning who will operate the track in 2009 is expected within a few weeks.

The 6th Annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout takes place this coming weekend at the Concord Motorsports Park in North Carolina. The mighty Modifieds take center stage for 100 laps. They will be joined by SK Modifieds, Vintage Modifieds, Rolling Thunder cars, Vintage Sportsman and EastWest Supermodifieds. Just about every top Modified drivers and SuperModified drivers are expected to be on hand.

In TV land this week viewing begins on Thursday at noon with the Speed Channel replay of last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Dickies 500 that was run at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. NASCAR Now on espn2 airs at 5:00pm. Speed goes live at Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona at 11:00am on Friday followed by 90 minutes of Nationwide Series practice. The action moves to espn2 at 2:00pm for 90 minutes of Sprint Cup practice. At 3:30 its back to the Speed Channel for another hour of Nationwide Series practice. At 4:30 coverage on Speed continues with Craftsman Truck Series qualifying from Phoenix. At 5:30 its back to espn2 for Sprint Cup qualifying. At 7:30 its back to the Speed Channel for the Craftsman Truck pre-race show that leads to the 8:00pm start of the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix. Trackside at Phoenix follows at 10:30pm. Saturday’s viewing gets the green at 11:00am with Trackside at Phoenix on Speed. Nationwide Series qualifying follows at noon. At 1:30 Sprint Cup practice follows. NASCAR Live from Phoenix follows at 2:30. At 3:00 the action switches to espn2 for Sprint Cup final practice. At 4:00pm espn2 coverage continues with the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead in to the 4:30pm start of the Hefty Odor Block 200 at Phoenix. At 9:00pm Speed goes to Charlotte NC for the World of Outlaws sprint cars on the dirt track at the Lowes Motor Speedway. Sunday’s coverage begins with a three hour session of NASCAR RaceDay on Speed. At 3:00 the action moves to ABC for the pre-race show that will lead in to the 3:45 start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix. 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. If you can stay awake ESPN2 has a one-hour NASCAR Now at 10:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on the plus side for a change. Leading the was Speedway Motorsports which went up 3.59 to 15.95. The International Speedway Corporation went up 3.15 to 31.39 while Dover Downs went up 0.09 to 2.14. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.03 to 3.13 while NASCAR second division sponsor Nationwide dropped 1.25 to 47.31. Fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 6.31 to 30.50 while Goodyear went up 0.03 to 8.92. Team sponsors had a rebounding week. Dupont went up 2.71 to 32.04 while Coca-Cola jumped 5.90 to 44.18. Target Department Stores went up 7.20 to 40.12 while Aaron’s Rentals went up 5.51 to 24.79. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 5.08 to 23.59 while Lowes went up 4.50 to 21.70. The parcel carriers also had a good week. Fedex jumped 8.56 to 65.37 while UPS rose 6.23 to 52.78. It will be interesting to see what the Stock Market does after the election.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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