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Tuesday October 23, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                            

When NEAR announced their choices for induction into the Hall of Fame, class of 2008, two unique individuals appeared on the list. Pete Zanardi and Dr. Dick Berggren are two New England natives who have dedicated their lives and careers to auto racing. Zanardi, a retired sports writer was one of the first to cover weekly racing and give recognition to competitors in the print media. He wrote about many in national publications and he mentored many including yours truly. He was responsible for setting up the original public relations department when Jack Arute bought the Stafford Speedway. His biggest accomplishment could very well be the effort he put in to save the Waterford Speedbowl from extinction. Berggren began his career as a race driver at Stafford. He also took a lot of pictures and after a short driving career the camera won out. During his early years his photos were published in the now defunct Cavalcade of Auto Racing that was owned by Jim Moffat. The photos led to printed stories. He received a doctorates degree which should have led to a teaching career but auto racing won out as Berggren expanded his racing and eventually became the editor of the now defunct Stock Car Racing Magazine. Along the way he teamed up with racing buddies Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd and conceived the original Spring Sizzler at Stafford. He also became a broadcaster as a pit reporter of televised NASCAR Busch Series and Nextel Cup Racing, a labor of love he continues to do. He also fulfilled a life long dream of owning his own magazine, Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated which is distributed nationally each month. Most of all, despite all the fame and notoriety both Zanardi and Berggren have been loyal to their roots in auto racing in New England.

Now that the leaves are falling auto racing moves to the back burner slowly but surely. The wheels are still turning at some tracks. Matt Hirschman won a special event staged at the All Star Speedway in Epping, NH last weekend. It was also the weekend for the annual Octoberfest at the Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH. Andy Seuss won the True Value Modified Series event there after Kirk Alexander suffered a flat tire while leading with three laps to go. Mike Douglas ended up in second spot with Chris Pasteryak, third. Down in the south land Bad Boy James Civali drove the Hills Enterprises No.79 to a convincing win at the Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, VA.

Ground-pounding, open-wheel Modified stock cars will return to Vermont in 2008, as the True Value Modified Racing Series makes its debut at Barre’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl during the 46th Annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, Sunday, May 25. TVMRS founder and competitor Jack Bateman of Canaan, NH tested his car at the high-banked ¼-mile oval recently, and made the agreement with Thunder Road Promoter Tom Curley to bring the touring series to “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” next season for a 100-lap event as part of a doubleheader with the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Thunder Road Late Models. The last official Modified race at Thunder Road was in June 1965, won by former National Champion Dick Nephew of Mooers Forks, NY. Canadian legend Jean-Paul Cabana won the Memorial Day Classic in 1965 at the wheel of a Modified car, as well.

With the 2007 Stafford Motor Speedway season concluded, the speedway will honor its 2007 track champions at its 38th annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 16, 2007 at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor. Headlining the night's festivities, Ted Christopher will be recognized as the 2007 SK Modified® Champion, which is his sixth overall Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified® track championship. Corey Hutchings will be honored as the 2007 Late Model Champion, which he achieved in his rookie campaign at Stafford. Chris Matthews, who missed out on racing for the inaugural SK Light championship last season because he was on his honeymoon, drove to the 2007 SK Light Championship in dominating fashion this season, clinching the championship with two races remaining. Sean Foster drove to four feature victories and eight top-4 finishes in the final 9 races this season and will be recognized as the 2007 Limited Late Model Champion, and Norm Sears put together an amazing stretch during the second half of the 2007 season with seven podium finishes in the final eight races to win his second consecutive DARE Stock Championship. Stafford Motor Speedway Most Popular Driver candidates include Woody Pitkat, Ted Christohper, and Frank Ruocco from the SK Modified® division, Woody Pitkat, Scott Foster, Jr., and Scott Cook from the Late Model division, Chris Matthews, Glen Reen, and Heather DesRochers from the SK Light division, Andrew Durand, Sean Foster, and Joey Ferrigno from the Limited Late Model division, and Dan Flannery, Bill Dunn, and Matt Chiarizio from the DARE Stock division. The Most Popular Driver winners were voted upon by the fans, who submitted Most Popular Driver Ballots from the PitStopper Magazine to the Speedway Office throughout the 2007 season. Reliable Welding and Speed Rookie of the Year honors will go to Wade Mattesen from the SK Modified® division, Corey Hutchings from the Late Model division, Josh Sylvester from the SK Light division, and David Capriati from the Limited Late Model division.
Tickets for the 38th annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony are priced at $45.00. All participants and fans who wish to attend the ceremony can order tickets by calling the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783, or by downloading and mailing a ticket order form to Stafford Motor Speedway, P.O. Box 105, Stafford Springs, CT 06076. Ticket order forms can be downloaded from Stafford Speedway's internet site, www.staffordspeedway.com.

The Waterford Speedbowl will hold their awards banquet on January 12, 2008 at the Groton Motor Inn and Suites and the Thompson Speedway will honor their champions on January 25-26, 2008 at the Speedway Clubhouse.

In TV land this week, Speed Channel viewing will begin on Thursday at noon with a three hour re-cap of last Saturday nights NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown when NASCAR's Grand National division drivers were in competition for national recognition at Irvindale, CA. At 3:00pm Speed replays last Sundays NASCAR Nextel Cup Subway 500 that was run in Martinsville , VA. At 8:00 it will be the Atlanta preview. On Friday at 5:30 Speed goes live with NASCAR Busch Series practice from Memphis , TN. At 7:00pm the action moves to ESPN2 for NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton , GA. Saturday’s action begins at 11:00am when Speed goes live in Memphis for Busch Series qualifying. Shortly after noon at 12:30 the action switches back to the Speed Channel for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Easycare 200 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. At 3:00pm ESPN2 has a pre-race show for the NASCAR Busch Series Sam’s Town 250 at Memphis , TN , which gets the green at 3:30pm . On Sunday the action starts at 1:00pm on ABC with a pre-race show for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Pep Boys Auto 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway which gets live flag to flag coverage beginning at 2:00pm . Also at 1:00 on Speed are the World of Outlaws sprint cars from Perris , CA . 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 a majority of the racing related stocks fell victim to the red tide as they mostly had negative results for the week. All three speedway stocks were down with Speedway Motorsports taking the biggest hit as they dropped 2.32 to 35.23. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 1.78 to 45.72 and Dover Downs dropped 0.25 to 6.35. Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.56 to 27.48 while Sun Oil took a big dip as they dropped 6.25 to 71.08. Goodyear dropped 2.25 to 28.51 while DIRT Motorsports dropped another 0.08 to bottom out at 0.33. In the drug sector Pfizer dropped 1.19 to 24.07. Bristol Meyers-Squib was also down as they dropped 0.48 to 29.29. The home improvement sector also took a hit as Lowes dropped 2.80 to 26.13 and Home Depot dropped 2.68 to 30.76. The parcel carriers didn’t escape as Fedex dropped 4.19 to 103.32 and UPS dropped 1.59 to 75.03.

The France family, which owns the International Speedway Corporation and Pennsylvania International Raceway, Inc. (PIR), an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, terminated its agreement with NZSW, LLC for the sale of 158 acres on which Nazareth Speedway is located. The land was to be sold to NZSW, LLC for approximately $19 million. PIR intends to retain the approximately $2 million in non-refundable deposits as the agreement was terminated in accordance with its terms as a result of a default by NZSW, LLC. Nazareth Speedway suspended major motorsports event operations after the completion of the track's 2004 events and its results of operations are presented as discontinued operations in the Registrant's consolidated financial statements. The property continues to be marketed and a sale is expected to occur in fiscal 2008.

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


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

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