Tuesday November 29, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The 2011 northeast racing wound up this past weekend with 37th annual Turkey Derby at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey which was run in mid 60 degree temperatures. Local favorite Jimmy Blewett found himself in the right place at the right time in front of a near capacity crowd as he won both the Tour Type Modified 150 and the SK type 100. The event drew 25 tour type Modifieds and 29 SK types.

In the Turkey Derby 150 Modified event Matt Hirschman appeared to have victory in sight until contact from Les Hinkley, with five laps to go, took him out of contention and opened the door for Blewett. Blewett was the first to admit he did not have the best car in the race. Still, he was able to lead and then stay in contention as Doug Coby, Matt Hirschman and Rowan Pennink took turns leading the field. Coby appeared to have the field covered as he opened up a sizable lead and was on cruise control when his mount overheated. Pennink was the victim of a mysterious caution that was thrown while he was leading. Pennink ended up 15th, the last car on the lead lap. Hirschman ended up 12th. Worn tires played a big part in the outcome. Anthony Sesley ended up in second spot and was followed by Steven Reed, Chuck Hossfeldt and Danny Bohn. Twenty four caution periods slowed the event.

The 100-lapper for the SK/Wall Modified cars saw Blewett’s second mount run flawlessly from pole to pole. Hirschman and Woody Pitkat were among his challengers in this one, but Blewett was never headed. Hirschman ended up second in this accident-plagued event, with Chas Okerson of Freehold, Pitkat and Howell’s Ken Woolley, Jr. rounding out the top five. Doug Coby's mount suffered transmission problems. Despite a relatively good day Pitkat's day turned sour as he broke down in Greenwich Ct on the way home. Kieth Rocco was never a factor as he finished 10th, eight laps down.

Following the event local competitors at the Jersey shore oval received some real good news as promoters Diane and Cliff Krause announced that they have secured a deal to lease Wall Stadium for at least the next three years.

Good news for Whelen Modified Teams comes via Kevin Rice and the Lowell (Mass) Sun. Rice reported that the 2012 New Hampshire Motor Speedway schedule will likely be changed, with the Truck Series out. The events at NHMS have been among the busiest weekends in all of racing. To help alleviate scheduling problems, the NASCAR K&N event in July will no longer be on the schedule either. This apparently brings an end to Thursday practice and qualifying, making the event much more appealing for Modified teams, who no longer will have to arrive on Wednesday for a Saturday race. With the truck series now off the September schedule, the Modifieds can practice and qualify on Friday for both weekends, saving them money.

One day after the NASCAR Truck Series 2012 schedule was announced without the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on it, Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Gappens informed The Sun of what other changes would be in store at the track next season, while vehemently denying that the loss of their September Sprint Cup date was even a possibility.

Gappens also explained to Rice how, "For July, we will have Sprint Cup practice/qualifying on Friday with NASCAR Whelen Modified qualifying," he revealed. "The Modifieds and Nationwide (will race) on Saturday and Sprint Cup on Sunday." "For September, Cup practice/qualifying will run on Friday with the Modifieds, and perhaps K&N qualifying," Gappens furthered. "Saturday we will host the 'Super Bowl of New England Regional Series' with a 'Super Saturday' card that features the K&N Pro Series, Modifieds and ACT Invitational--all getting done earlier, well before sunset."

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway has hosted a Sprint Cup "Chase" event since the inception of the new format in 2004, drawing sellout or near-sellout crowds each season. Gappens feels strongly that as long as fans continue to support the race, there would be no reason for Bruton Smith or NASCAR to consider a change of venue in the future.

In some sad news, Pat Savage sends word that her hubby, Jimmy "The Junkman" has suffered another stroke. Savage, a Korean War Vet, has been a hard working and dedicated crewman working on Bob Garbarino's Mystic Missile and the Art Barry No. 21 for over 50 years. Jim's left carotid artery clogged 90% and he had 2 strokes. He was transported to Yale New Haven Hospital from L&M in New London. Yale put a stent in the artery. The procedure went very well. As a result, he has garbled speech, a hanging right arm, and slight weakness in his right leg. The prognosis for all but the arm are very encouraging. Jim has been transferred to Avalon Health Center Rehab Unit in Mystic, Ct. His meals are at 8am, 12pm and at 5pm . Rehab is usually over by 3pm. Visitors are welcome any time, even after the supper time. Jim could use a card of cheer and a few prayers from his racing brothers to help in his long recovery. His address is : Avalon Health Center, 186 Jerry Brown Road, Mystic, CT 06355, Room 37 - B.

In some good news, belated Happy Birthday wishes to Ronnie Bouchard who officially became a Senior Citizen on November 23 when he turned his 62nd lap. One of the all-time greats in New England Modified Racing, Bouchard began racing career at the Brookline Speedway in Massachusetts as a substitute driver in 1963 by replacing the ill driver in his father's car. After high school he continued racing in his father's car, and he rapidly moved up the ranks to late models at Seekonk Speedway where he claimed five consecutive track championships from 1967 to 1971. In mid 1971 he began racing at other local tracks in his Camaro, and he was noticed by notable car owner Bob Johnson. Johnson put Bouchard in his Modified car at the Stafford Speedway, and he won his first of his 35 career victories in April 1972. He won the 1973 and 1979 track Modified championships. Bouchard also drove for Legendary car owners Bob Judkins (#2&#7)and also the Len Boehler (#3)where he won numerous races at Stafford Speedway, Thompson Speedway, Seekonk Speedway, Waterford Speedbowl and Westboro Speedway. One of Bouchard's biggest modified victories came at Thompson Speedway driving Dick Armstrong's #1 in the Thompson 300 in 1980. Beginning in 1981 Bouchard drove in 160 NASCAR Sprint Cup events. He won the 1981 NASCAR Rookie of the Year title even though he only raced in 22 of 31 events. He posted 12 Top 10 finishes in the 22 races, including his only career win in the Talladega 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. In 1998 he was inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in its inaugural class.

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 6:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Race viewing for the week on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at noon with the Sept 24 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Jackson 100 that was held at the Brownstown Speedway in Brownstown, IN. At 1:00pm the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series continues with the Oct 11 Lucas Oil Dixie Shootout that was held at the Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, GA. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel goes down under for the Nov 20 Australian V8 Supercars, Norton 360 Sandown Challenge that was held at the Sandown Raceway in Melbourne, AUS. At 5:00pm the Versus Channel presents the Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour. Thursday will be quiet. On Friday night at 7:00pm the Speed Channel will show two hours of highlights of the Nov 21 2011 NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Trucks Series Awards Ceremony that was held in Miami, FL Speed goes live in Las Vegas at 9:00pm with four hours of coverage of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony that will officially crown Tony Stewart the series champion. Also on Friday night, at 7:00pm, ESPN Classic will show the 1989 Heinz Southern 500 that was held at Darlington, SC

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 1.82 to 21.93 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.48 to 12.48. Dover Motorsports showed a no-change for the week at 1.10. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.24 to 2.38 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.83 to 11.93 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.15 to 36.26. The car builders had an off week. Ford dropped 0.35 to 9.75 while General Motors dropped 1.34 to 20.34 and Toyota dropped 1.45 to 62.11. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 1.41 to 36.47 and Lowes dropped 0.63 to 22.68. . The major team sponsors were also down for the week. Dupont dropped 2.55 to 43.86 while Coca-Cola dropped 4.00 to 51.58, Target Department Stores dropped 1.79 to 51.21, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.71 to 24.07 and Fedex dropped 5.14 to 76.08.

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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