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Tuesday September 19, 2006   

By Phil Smith                                                          
 

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the New Hampshire International Speedway last weekend for a 100-mile event that was run on Friday. Forty-one cars were on hand for time trials. Showers forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying and set the starting field based on car owner point standings. Mike Stefanik was given the pole starting position. Earlier before the rains came a practice session gave a preview of things to come. Todd Szegedy was the fastest as he toured the 1-mile oval to the tune of 128.398 MPH. Second fastest at 128.363 MPH was Tony Hirschman. Rounding out the top five by speed were Donny Lia, Eddie Flemke Jr. and Mike Stefanik.

Because of the fact that John Blewett III chose to run for the track championship at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey he was forced to start 21st as he has only run a partial schedule on the tour. When he does compete in tour races he is fast, very fast. He left little doubt last Friday as he completed a clean sweep of both Whelen Modified Tour Series events at Loudon. At least this time he could celebrate. When he won the July event, he was on his way to New Jersey when he got the word that NASCAR, in its haste to complete the event under caution, had made a mistake and declared James Civali the winner. When Blewett took the checkered flag the field had been under green since lap 68 and there was no question who the winner actually was. He was flat out running! Jerry Marquis finished a close second but in the end couldn’t a pass by Blewett. Civali, who was still licking his wounds from July, finished a solid third ahead of Mike Stefanik and Todd Szegedy who rounded out the top five.

The race was slowed by only two cautions for 11 laps. The first caution was for Doug Coby who came to a stop on the front stretch on lap 48. The second caution came on lap 61 when Reggie Ruggiero, Szegedy and Chuck Hossfeld were collected in a wreck in turn four. Ruggerio got the worst of it and was done for the day. Twenty-one of the original 21 starters finished on the lead lap. As always, the Whelen Modified Tour Series event at Loudon was the best of the weekend. There were 17 official lead changes among 7 drivers. Szegedy led the most laps, 33, but it was Blewett who got the big check, $13,000 after he led only the final eight laps. Sixth through tenth were Ted Christopher, Eddie Flemke Jr., Zach Sylvester, Eric Beers and Tony Hirschman. Blewett’s younger brother Jimmy finished 11th.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series now heads for the Waterford Speedbowl for an event scheduled for next Sunday, Sept. 24. With only three events remaining Mike Stefanik now holds a 104-point lead over Ted Christopher.

Blewett backed up his Loudon win with a convincing win at his home track, Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey, on Saturday night.

The Thompson Speedway was forced to cancel their regular Thursday Night Thunder program when rain blanketed the area. With the season rapidly winding down only two more Thursday dates remain to fill out the schedule. The intensity of the points battles is lead by the Sunoco Modified division with a mere six points separating Woody Pitkat and Jeff Malave. Not only is the Thompson championship the goal of both, but the NASCAR Division IV title is also a huge part of the equation. The final two races in this division are bound to be of high interest to both competitors and fans. Tom Cravenho, Todd Ceravolo and Bert Marvin round out the top five in the point standings.
 
Close points races exist in the remaining five NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series divisions. Jeff Zuidema leads Jeff Connors by fifty four points in the Pro Stock division and Steve Landry has a thirty point advantage over Corey Hutchings in the Late Models. Hutchings is under suspension for fighting and will not be allowed to race this week. Thirty six points is the advantage that Roger Larson, Jr. has over Tim Sullivan in the Thompson Modified division while Limited Sportsman driver Larry Barnett holds thirty eight point bulge over second place Scott Sundeen. The largest points spread is in the Mini Stocks. Shelly Perry maintains a sixty two-point advantage over Scott Michalski. Perry had the mis-fortune of breaking her wrist at the recent Modified Mania event. It is doubtful at this time as to weather she will be able to race for the balance of the season. If she can maintain her point lead she can become the first female driving champion at the northeast Connecticut oval.

The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway made the right call when they canceled last Friday’s NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series racing card. With the forecast calling for intermittent rain throughout the entire day and evening, the speedway pulled the plug shortly before 9:00am. Stafford will resume next Friday, September 22 with the Final Friday Night Shoot-Out. Stafford's SK Modifieds, Late Models, SK Lights, Limited Late Models, and DARE Stocks will be in action, with drivers getting one final chance to position themselves for a championship run at the season ending CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend. All five of Stafford's weekly divisions sport tight point races for the championship, so the drivers that will emerge at season's end as track champions is anyone’s guess. Frank Ruocco is the currant SK Modified point leader. Despite being winnless Ruocco holds a 14 point lead over Eric Berndt for the division title. Berndt, with three wins, holds a slim two point lead over Willie Hardie Jr. who sits in third spot. Todd Owen and Jeff Malave round out the top five. Jim Peterson, with three wins, holds a slim two-point lead over Woody Pitkat for top honors in the Late Model division. Pitkat has six wins. Kevin Gambacorta leads the Limited Late Models and Chris Mathews leads the SK Lights.

Tickets for next Friday night's Final Friday Night Shoot-Out are $14.00 for adult general admission, children ages 6-14 are $5.00, and children ages 5 & under are admitted free. Reserved seat tickets are available for $17.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers plenty of free parking with overnight parking available.

The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their regular Saturday night season this past week. Tom Fox and Diego Monahan topped a slate of 12 different winners. The Speedbowl crowned two champions as well.

Tim Jordan and Danny Field clinched the Late Model and Mini Stock championships respectively and Dennis Gada is all but assured of his sixth SK crown headed into this weekend’s Finale.

Rescheduled rainouts resulted in the marathon racing session. In addition to Fox and Monahan, the win list included Allen Coates and Larry Goss in the Late Models; Greg Butler Jr. and Al Stone III in the Sportsman and Joe Godbout III and Phil Evans in the Mini Stocks. It was the first-even win for Butler and the first of the season for Stone.Dan Valentine of the Faith Church Ministries of New Milford scored a convincing win in the Faster Pastor race. Curtis D’Addario Sr., a nine-time Wild n’ Wacky Wednesday winner, added another X-Car feature Saturday night, edging Mark Caise at the checkered.
 
Jordan, the first-ever rookie to win the Late Model title, did it the hard way with a couple of 15th place finishes, the second in Jay Lozyniak’s regular ride. The consistent Field scored a third and a second. Gada needs only to start Sunday’s 100-lap SK feature to capture his record-tying sixth crown following a fifth and second. Bob Potter currently holds the record.

A seventh and a third put Joe Curioso III back into the Sportsman point lead but by a scant four points over Dwayne Dorr heading into the Finale.

Fox grabbed the lead at the start and won the resumption of the SK-feature stopped after 12 laps on Sept.9. Gada made a determined outside bid following a restart with 16 laps left but drifted back to fifth at the checkered. Shawn Monahan ended up second and was followed by Chris Pasteryak and Rob Janovic. Diego Monahan held back Gada for most of the second half of the second SK race and claimed his third win of the season. Jeff Pearl, Chris Pasteryak and Mark Pane rounded out the top five.

It was announced that long time public relations director Pete Zanardi will retire from his post at the shoreline oval at seasons end. Considered one of the best in the business as both a PR Man and a writer Zanardi has been a mentor to many of us in the writing game including yours truly. Zanardi’s efforts as well as those of Bill Roth have kept the Speedbowl afloat during the last few difficult years.

NASCAR has a presence in Mexico, now they have moved into Canada as they have purchased the CASCAR Late Model Series. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) announced on September 12 the creation of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Scheduled to launch in May 2007, the series includes a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Canadian Tire - an iconic Canadian brand with strong national presence. The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will operate nationally in Canada with a schedule of 10-12 races (May-October). The series will provide new racing opportunities for teams and drivers from the former CASCAR series. The official NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule, point fund and tracks will be announced at a later date. The series will receive support from NASCAR's extensive resources, including competition, research and development, marketing, licensing and communications. A dedicated staff will operate the series, with NASCAR Canada providing additional support in sponsorship, licensing, marketing and media initiatives.

It will be interesting to see if any of the domestic touring series end up with a date north of the border in 2007.

DIRT MotorSports, Inc. and the World of Outlaws announced on Sept.12 that a multi-year partnership to broadcast the "World of Outlaws Summer of Money" exclusively on ESPN2 had been firmed up. The "World of Outlaws Summer of Money" on ESPN2 includes eight one-hour broadcasts, seven of which will feature events run only hours earlier. The eight broadcasts will air from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. (ET) Sundays beginning June 17, 2007 and continuing through August 5. ESPN2 is available in more than 90 million households in the United States with the "World of Outlaws Summer of Money" broadcasts available internationally, as well. “Securing ESPN as one of our national media partners is a vital component of our business model," said DIRT MotorSports President and CEO Tom Deery. "This platform will allow our current fans to have unprecedented access to the World of Outlaws while also introducing the incredible excitement of sprint car racing to millions of new potential fans. At the same time, the 'World of Outlaws Summer of Money' events on ESPN2 will provide the marquee exposure value to our corporate partners and team sponsors. We are working on additional media strategies with the World of Outlaws, and are confident that the ESPN 'Summer of Money' series is a strong foundation for the 2007 season and beyond.” Hopefully Deery and his staff can market the DIRT Modifieds to the TV media.

In TV land this week, viewing begins on Wednesday at 6:00am on the Outdoor Channel with USAC Thunder Midget racing. At noon the action switches to the Speed Channel for Cars at Carlisle, Parts 1 & 2, collector cars on display. At 4:00p.m. Speed presents the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship Series Event No. 1, The Soy Biodiesel 250, from the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA. The event was run on Sept 15. At 8:00p.m. the action moves to the Outdoor Channel for the World of Outlaws event that was run at the Calistoga Speedway in Calistoga, CA, on Sept 3. On Thursday at 2:30 the Speed Channel presents the NASCAR Nextel Cup Replay of the Sylvania 300 that was run at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon on Sept 19. Speed goes live at Dover Downs on Friday at 2:00p.m. with NASCAR Live from Dover International Speedway. NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying for the Dover 400 follows at 3:00p.m. At 4:30 p.m. HD NET presents the NASCAR Grand National Busch East Series Dover 150 from Dover Downs. Speed goes live at 7:00 p.m. with Trackside at Dover International Speedway. Same day-taped delayed coverage of NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying for the Dover 400 follows at 8:00p.m. Saturday’s programming begins at 10:30am with Nextel Cup final practice. Busch Series qualifying will follow at 11:30am. The action switches to TNT at 3:00p.m. for live coverage of the NASCAR Busch Series, Dover 200. At 4:00, NESN presents NASCAR New England, which showcases the weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Switch to the Outdoor Channel at the conclusion to catch the Sept 16 USAC Thunder: Silver Crown event from the Iowa Speedway in Des Moines, IA. At 8:30 p.m. a new program called Tradin’ Paint goes live on Speed at 8:30. At 9:00 the Speed Channel presents live coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Smith's Las Vegas 350 from Las Vegas, NV. Sunday’s viewing begins with a 90 minute NASCAR RaceDay preview of the Dover 400 Nextel Cup event. At 12:30 the action switches to TNT for the Dover 400 pre-race show followed by the Dover 400 at 1:00. At 6:00p.m. the Speed Channel goes with the August 4 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Summer Showdown In Sarver Town 50 that was run at the Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, PA. At 7:00p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane wraps up the days racing at Dover Downs. The Speed Report follows at 8:00p.m. At 9:00p.m. its Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks finishe dup in the green. Leading the pack was Dover Downs, which went up 0.15 to 5.68. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.13 to 48.59 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.08 to 36.40. Nextel took a healthy jump as they went up 0.85 to 17.36. For the third week in a row Sun Oil was down as they dropped 3.71 to 61.79. Featherlite Trailers went up 0.02 to 6.38 while DIRT Motorsports went up 0.25 to 3.00. It was a good week for the drug sector as Bristol Meyers- Squib went up 0.74 to 24.92 and Pfizer went up 0.45 to 28.04. The home improvement sector had one of their best weeks in a long time. Home Depot went up 2.94 to 37.22 and Lowes went up 2.11 to 29.35. The parcel carriers followed suit. Fedex went up 5.19 to 105.90 and UPS went up 2.95 to 72.51.


That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com  


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