Tuesday October,11 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

In NASCAR weekly racing action at Thompson, the regular season finally was wrapped up with championships settled in all racing divisions. Earning championships for the 2011 season were Keith Rocco in the Sunoco Modifieds, Larry Gelinas Super Late Models and Tommy O’Sullivan in the Late Models. Chris “Moose” Douton was crowned the Limited Sportsman champ for 2011; Cam McDermott reigned in the TIS Modifieds; and Danny Field, Deep River, CT, earned top-honors in the Mini Stock division.

For Rocco, it was a matter of survival as Ryan Preece was breathing down his neck going into the final event. If Preece were to win, Rocco needed to finish 12th or better to become champ. Rocco started fifth in the 30 lap feature. Preece started seventh. Rocco took the lead in turn four on lap two from Rick Fuller. By lap seven, Preece had the lead and Rocco was fading fast, almost to the point where he almost got the black flag for not running at a competitive speed. In the end, Rocco finished 12th, four laps down. Preece did his best but in the end he fell short by six points in his quest for the title. Preece had taken the lead from Rocco on lap seven and was headed for the win until Woody Pitkat got him in traffic in the fourth turn of the final lap. Pitkat took the win, his fourth in the car since taking the seat vacated by Ted Christopher. Preece beat out Danny Cates for the runner-up spot. Todd Ceravolo, in a team car to Preece, finished fourth. Rounding out the top five was Ricky Shawn.

Other winners were Derek Ramstrom (Super Late Models), Marc Palmisano (Late Models), Larry Barnett (Limited Sportsman) and Travis Jurcik, (Mini Stocks) scoring feature victories.

A bit of excitement developed during the running of the Limited Sportsman feature. On the opening laps Joe Coates and Jason Chicolas tangled on the backstretch going into turn three. Coats lost his temper and commenced to proceed to continually ram the Chicolas machine. Both competitors were parked for the night. Coats parked his car on the infield pit road and as Chicolas drove by on his way to the pit area Coats threw his helmet at him. Speedway officials attempted to calm the situation but Coats would have nothing of that as he gave the officials the single finger salute, then from atop pit wall, proceeded to drop his pants and Moon the officials and the crowd. The Speedway management and NASCAR are expected to take action on this incident.

Coming up this coming weekend for the Thompson International Speedway is the annual World Series Of Speedway Racing, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, October 14-15-16, 2011. The final point race for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (150 Laps) will highlight a weekend that will feature 15 divisions. The schedule includes a 50-lap main for the ISMA Super Modifieds and a 25-lapper for the NEMA Midgets. Also on tap are the Sunoco Modifieds (30 Laps), Sunoco Lite Modifieds (20 Laps), Super Late Models (30 Laps), Late Models (25 Laps), TIS Modifieds (20 Laps), Ltd. Sportsman (20 Laps), Mini Stocks (20 Laps), Pro 4 Modifieds (25 Laps), and the N. E. Truck Series (25 Laps). The ever-popular Outlaw divisions will see the Outlaw Late Models (25 Laps), Outlaw Street Stocks (20 Laps), and Outlaw Mini Stocks (20 Laps) in competition.

It was noticed that many campers had already staked their claims in the Speedway parking lot. Many have gotten out of control and have used up so much space that it hinders the vehicle parking on race day. Hopefully the speedway management will police this practice.

At the Waterford Speedbowl the two day Fall Finale wrapped up the 2011 racing season. Over 200 cars brought some serious revenue to the shoreline oval on Saturday. Keith Rocco added another victory to his yearly total as he took the fin in the 50 lap SK Modified portion of the Finale. Rocco, who now has 27 victories to his credit took the lead on lap 10 after starting in the 12th position. Rocco also won the Late Model 50 lapper at the shoreline oval. Rocco passed Bruce Thomas Jr. with six laps remaining and led the rest of the way to win the 50-lap Late Model feature. In the Modified event, Tyler Chadwick was second and Rob Janovic Jr, third. Rounding out the top five was Ryan Preece and Nicole Morgillo.

A bit of controversy erupted before the start of racing at the Speedbowl on Sunday. Race Director Scott Tapley threw out Todd Ceravolo after he was allegedly threatened with physical violence. To back up a bit, Ceravolo missed the pit party and was told he would have to start in the rear instead of starting 15th. When told this, Ceravolo tried to explain that he had been home sick with the flu and had just got out of bed before noon. Tapley's response to Ceravolo's explanation was, "Too Bad". With this sarcasam, Ceravolo became rightfully irate, especially when a double standard existed. Bubby Brouwer also missed the pit party but he was allowed to start on the pole of the event in which he competed and also the track treated Ceravolo unfairly when they black flagged him for not having a transponder in a practice session but looked the other way when one of their top regular runners ran all day without a transponder. Ceravolo stated that Tapley never had a drivers meeting on Saturday and never announced that there would be a penalty if one missed the pit party. It just seems that every time a non-regular shows up to race at Waterford, officials go out of their way to make their lives miserable.

Other Sunday winners at the Speedbowl were Al Stone in the Street Stocks and Glenn Colvin in the Mini Stocks. Paul French won the 25-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified feature and Dave Garbo Jr. won the day’s 25-lap Legends Cars feature.

Race winners on Saturday included Shawn Thibeault who recorded his first career Speedbowl victory in the Outlaw Stock feature, John Kelly who scored his first career win in the Northeast

Mini Stock Tour race and Andy Lindemann who nailed the win in the New England Truck Series feature. Rounding out the winners were Emily Packard in the Allison Legacy North Racing Series, Frank Alessio in the Super X-Cars, Brad Voglesong in X-Car action and Cory Dimatteo in the Bandoleros race.

For the most part, fan counts have been relatively good in 2011. Weekly car counts at Stafford and Waterford have been real good. Thompson's car counts for weekly shows have been light. Those who chose to race at Thompson were very competitive and made up for a slim field. Thompson has done quite well in drawing cars for special events. Overall, things are pretty good in southern New England. A recent observer at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida stated that it is all but a ghost town when their weekly events are run. Very slim crowds plus very low car counts are the norm. One night recently there were 9 Limited Late Models, six economy Modifieds, five Sportsman and seven Super Stocks. The only division to have over ten cars was the Strictly Stocks which had 11. In comparison, things are really not that bad in the northeast.

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 6:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen on Tuesday and Wednesday at 3:00pm, 8:30pm on Thursday and at 5:30pm on Friday. Race viewing for the week begins on Wednesday at noon on the Speed Channel with a re-run of last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 that was run at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. At 5:00pm, Versus has the Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour. The action switches to espn2 on Thursday at 2:00pm for live coverage of Nationwide Series practice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sprint Cup practice at Charlotte follows at 3:30pm. Coverage by espn2 continues at 6:00pm with Nationwide Series practice and at 7:00pm with Sprint Cup qualifying. Friday at noon the Speed Channel replays last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 that was run at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. At 3:00pm the viewing shifts back to espn2 for Nationwide Series qualifying from Charlotte. Sprint Cup practice follows at 4:30pm. At 7:00pm espn2 has a pre-race show that will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at the Charlotte, Motor Speedway. Trackside on the Speed Channel at 11:00pm wraps up the day's racing. Saturday's viewing begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. At 2:00pm Speed has a NASCAR RaceDay preview from Charlotte. At 3:00pm Speed goes west to Las Vegas for the Truck Series pre-race that will lead to the 3:30pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Smith’s 350 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. Following the Las Vegas Truck race, Speed heads to Charlotte at 6:00 for NASCAR RaceDay. At 7:00pm the viewing moves to ABC for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Countdown which will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Sunday's viewing features the ARCA Racing Series ARCA 200 at Toledo, OH at 2:00pm on Speed. Speed Center at 7:00pm and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm on Speed wrap up the weekend. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain follows at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks had negative results. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.95 to 21.89 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.56 to 11.52 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.10 to 1.15. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.63 to 2.41 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.46 to 32.44. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear also had a positive week as they went up 0.23 to 10.30. Two of the three car makers had positive results for the week. Ford went up 1.02 to 10.69 and General Motors went up 1.83 to 22.01 while Toyota dropped 2.13 to 66.13. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 1.08 to 33.92 and Lowes went up 1.00 to 20.34. The big team sponsors had a fairly good week with the exception of Coca-Cola which dropped 3.29 to 52.17. Dupont went up 1.93 to 41.90 while Target Department Stores went up 2.52 to 51.56, Aaron's Rentals went up 0.30 to 25.56 and Fedex went up3.38 to 71.06.

NASCAR and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company jointly announced they have signed an extended agreement for Goodyear to continue as the exclusive tire used in NASCAR’s top three racing series for the next five years. The agreement, which extends through the 2017 season, renews Goodyear as the “Exclusive Tire Supplier” of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Goodyear has had an uninterrupted commitment to NASCAR since becoming a race tire supplier in the 1950s, making it one of the longest-running supply programs in any sport. Firestone and Hoosier have also had extensive involvements in NASCAR Racing in prior years. In addition, Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for all three of the circuit’s top series since 1997.

The Concord (NH) Monitor reported that The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is vowing to appeal a jury verdict that ordered it to pay almost $1 million to the sports radio network that used to broadcast its major NASCAR events. At the heart of the lawsuit, whose trial lasted five days in Merrimack County NH Superior Court last week, is who had the right to broadcast NASCAR events at the Loudon-based speedway.

The report, which was printed in the Monitor on Oct 4 stated that in Sept. 2000, the speedway, under the management of then-President Gary Bahre, entered into a perpetual contract agreement that gave Motor Racing Network Inc., a Florida-based company, exclusive rights to broadcast all NASCAR events, including time trials, practice runs and races.

In exchange, the track received 25 percent of all the gross advertising revenue Motor Racing Network received from the broadcasts and rebroadcasts of NASCAR events at the speedway. The parties were each required to give three years notice to terminate the contract.

But in January 2008, shortly after former owner Bob Bahre agreed to sell the track, his son Gary Bahre sent a letter to Motor Racing Network saying his company wished to end the contract immediately, calling the three-year termination notice "unconscionable."

After Motor Racing Network refused, New Hampshire Motor Speedway sued, claiming the contract was void and unenforceable because it was "illusory, lacks mutuality of obligation, and is not supported by consideration," according to the suit. Motor Racing Network, which paid about $750,000 to the speedway over the eight year relationship, countersued, saying the breach of contract would cause, among other things, damage to the network's reputation.

Over the three years of legal maneuvering, a judge found the agreement to be unenforceable. However, the court allowed Motor Radio Network to take their case to a jury and argue that the speedway had broken underlying promises made to them - promises which the network reasonably believed would be honored and therefore made business decisions around, said David Cole, one of several attorneys representing the network.

The Monitor stated that on Friday, Oct 7, 12 jurors agreed and awarded the network $993,724 - the amount of money the network said it would have made had it been allowed to broadcast seven races over three more years. While the speedway does not have to pay attorney fees, it does have to pay for costs such as depositions. Once those are added in, the judgment is likely to exceed $1 million. Once Motor Racing Network was out, Performance Radio Network, which is owned by the speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports, began broadcasting the track's NASCAR events. It was a move Cole said showed the speedway broke the contract purely for financial gain, not because Motor Racing Network had done its job poorly.

Motor Racing Network, which claims to be the largest independent sports radio network in the country with almost 650 stations, is owned by International Speedway Corp., a Florida-based company that owns a dozen racetracks around the country.

Molly A.K. Connors was the reporter of record that covered the proceedings for the Monitor.

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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