Tuesday September 27, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame  announced the Class 2012 yesterday. Driver Reggie Ruggiero and car owner Mario Fiore, at one time a powerful force on the modified scene, head up the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame class of 2012. Driver Joey Kourafas, car owner/mechanic Jim Jorgensen and track owners Irene Venditti and Donald Hoenig are also members of the class.

The group, along with three choices from the Veterans Committee, will be inducted at the NEAR’s 15th annual banquet Sunday Jan. 29 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor , CT. The Veterans Committee will meet in October. Ticket information will be forthcoming.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH this past weekend. Steady rain greeted competitors as they arrived at the track for tech inspection. The skies cleared on Thursday afternoon, allowing qualifying. Ron Silk, looking to get his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points lead back, was the top qualifier of the 29 cars on hand. Silk had a top lap of 29.764 seconds (127.967 mph) around the 1.058-mile oval. It was the fifth career pole for the Norwalk, Conn., driver, who won at the ‘Magic Mile’ in 2009. Eric Beers qualified second with a lap of 29.793 (127.842), followed by Justin Bonsignore at 29.799 (127.816). NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman, the defending race winner, and Erick Rudolph rounded out the top five. Rowan Pennink, Matt Hirschman, Todd Szegedy, Woody Pitkat and rookie Patrick Emerling completed the top 10. Bobby Santos, who incurred a flight delay and Ted Christopher who was absent because of personal reasons, did not take time which forced them to take provisionals.

The New Hampshire weather on Saturday was shakey to say the least and had an adverse effect on the crowd, especially those who chose just to attend Saturday's events. Ron Silk pulled away from the field on a green-white-checkered finish to win the New Hampshire 100 and take back to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points lead. Silk got a push from Todd Szegedy on the final restart to open some ground on the rest of the field and was unchallenged over the final two laps. Szegedy, who won the tour race at New Hampshire in July, finished second followed by an outstanding run by Justin Bonsignore who finished third.

Ted Christopher came from a 29th starting spot to finish fourth with outside pole sitter Eric Beers rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Erick Rudolph, Zane Zeiner, Mike Stefanik, Matt Hirschman and Eric Goodale. Twenty one of the original 29 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Among those who had problems was Rowan Pennink who was robbed of a top three finish when his car developed fuel delivery problems in the final moments. In the blink of an eye, Pennink went from running second to Silk on lap 97 to 22nd, one lap down, at the finish. Eric Berndt had a multitude of problems as he finished 23rd, four laps down. Wade Cole, who had been running in 23rd spot, broke an axle after completing 81 laps and ended up 24th. Richie Pallai, Jr and James Civali were eliminated in a wreck on lap 65. Bobby Santos III appeared to be down on power on a restart causing cars behind him to bunch up and make contact. Santos managed to remain on the lead lap, finishing 18th while Pallai ended up 25th and Civali, 26th. A big disappointment was the fact that Woody Pitkat suffered engine problems and finished 27th. Pitkat, who was told by his car owner Don King that he was shutting down his race team, had qualified ninth and had led at two different points, made his final ride and finish in the King Car a bitter pill to swallow. Ryan Newman, who was looking for absolution after being disqualified in a previous event with an illegal engine, dropped out on lap 28 with a blown engine. Newman, whom many thought would stink up the show, had qualified fourth, was running sixth, when his power plant died. Finishing 29th and first out was Jake Marosz who had a handling problem.

The actual race took 1 hour 13 minutes to complete, not counting a slight rain delay on Lap 43. There were four cautions for 25 laps and there were 17 lead changes among five drivers. In addition to Silk, Pennenk and Pitkat, Erick Beers and Bob Santos led laps.

In Whelen Southern Modified Tour action south of the Mason-Dixon line George Brunnhoelzl III’s fourth with of the 2011 campaign moved him one step closer to a second NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship as he took home the Tri-County 150 Saturday at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, NC.

After earning the Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the evening, Brunnhoelzl led early on and the regained the lead from Jason Myers with a decisive pass on lap 73. The 2009 tour champion put it on cruise control from there for his 10th career victory. Brunnhoelzl stretched his lead by more than 10 car lengths as the end neared, but just the second caution of the event came out with five laps to go to negate the significant advantage. The West Babylon, N.Y., native was able to hold off his Andy Seuss, his teammate – on the final restart to seal the deal. Seuss settled for second followed by last year’s Tri-County winner Burt Myers, Brandon Ward and Jason Myers in the top five.

With the victory, Brunnhoelzl extended his lead in the championship standings by 20 points on Seuss Saturday night. Sixth through tenth were Tim Brown, L.W. Miller, Austin Pack, Renee Dupuis and Frank Fleming. There were 18 cars on hand.

In NASCAR weekly racing action at Thompson rain again prevailed. The speedway management announced that they will try again this coming Thursday, Sept 29. It was also announced that the Aug 25th Modified Racing Series event that was rained out will not be rescheduled. The next race for the popular series will be the October 8th & 9th D.Anthony Venditti Memorial at Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk MA. .

The Stafford Motor Speedway will close out its 2011 NASCAR season with the 39th Annual CARQUEST Fall Final this coming weekend, Sept. 30th through Oct. 2nd.With two events remaining on thew NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule Ron Silk, with 2182 points leads Todd Szegedy by a mere 8 points. Rowan Pennink sits in the third spot, 164 behind the leader. Eric Beers and Doug Coby round out the top five. Sixth through tenth are Justin Bonsignore, Bobby. Santos III, Matt Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph. The Thompson Speedway will close out the 2011 season on October 16.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco put the previous weekend's disappointment behind him as he padded his point lead and picked up his 11th feature win of the year in the SK Modifieds®. Also scoring victories on the night were Al Stone, who won his sixth Street Stock feature of the season, Charles Canfield

notched his first career victory in the Mini Stocks and Chris Correll captured his first career SK Light Modified checkered flag. In the touring NEMA races, Russ Stoehr won for the second time at the Speedbowl in 2011 while Anthony Nocella scored victory in the companion NEMA Lite feature race.

The Speedbowl returns to action next Saturday night in the final Saturday night showdown of the season. The Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division returns to the track along with additional NASCAR Whelen All-American Series races for the SK Modifieds®, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks. In addition, the Legends Cars and Bandoleros join the card.

George Silbermann, NASCAR Vice President of Regional and Touring Series, has officially notified Philip Morris that he had won his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship based on his standout season in an asphalt Late Model. To claim the title, Morris won nine of his last 10 races. He closed out his second track title at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and then went to his old home track, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. and won his 20th race of the season on Sept. 10. Morris edged defending national champion Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn., 789-778. Morris finished with 20 wins in 28 starts. Rocco, who started 51 events, won 24.

In addition to his championship run last year, Rocco finished second to Morris in 2009 and fourth in each of the two previous years.

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 6:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 3:00pm. day. Race viewing for the week begins on Tuesday, Sept 27 at 5:00pm with the Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour on the Versus Channel. On Wednesday, at noon, the Speed Channel will replay last Sunday's Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 that was run at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. On Thursday at noon Speed will replay the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series 2010 Dover 200 that was run at the Dover Intl. Speedway. Action on Speed continues at 3:00pm with a replay of the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2010 AAA 400 that was run at the Dover Intl. Speedway. At 7:00pm Speed will show the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH, Sept 23. Friday's viewing begins at 7:00am with Trackside (NASCAR) at Dover International Speedway on the Speed Channel. Speed Center follows at 8:00am. At noon on Saturday Speed has Nationwide Series qualifying from Dover. Sprint Cup qualifying from Dover follows at 1:30pm. At 3:00pm the action shifts to espn2 for the pre-race show that will lead to the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series 5-hour Energy 200at the Dover International Speedway at 3:30pm. At 6:00pm the viewing moves back to Speed for Truck Series qualifying at the Kentucky Speedway. At 7:30 Speed has the Truck Series pre-race show that will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. Sunday's viewing begins at 10:30am with Speed Center. A two hour RaceDay preview to Dover follows at 11:00am. At 1:00pm the viewing shifts to ESPN for the NASCAR Countdown to Dover which will lead to the 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA 400 at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE. Also at 1:00pm, the Speed Channel has the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, River Days Rumble Pepsi 50, at the Portsmouth Raceway Park. At 2:00pm Versus has the IZOD IndyCar Series Kentucky Indy 300 at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. Rounding out the day on the Speed Center is NASCAR Victory Lane at 6:00pm, Speed Center at 7:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 8:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week panic sell offs caused just about everything to take a dive. All three speedway stocks had negative results. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 1.37 to 22.90 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.99 to 11.76 and Dover Entertainment dropped 0.12 to 1.21. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.18 to 3.18 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 4.35 to 32.71. Tire supplier Goodyear didn't escape as they dropped 1.23 to 9.86. The car makers also took it on the chin. Toyota dropped 2.96 to 67.85 while General Motors dropped 1.61 to 21.00 and Ford dropped 0.76 to 9.86. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.99 to 33.72 and Lowes dropped 0.64 to 19.74. With the exception of Coca-Cola which went up 0.12 to 55.60 the major team sponsors were also down for the week. Target Department Stores dropped 3.52 to 49.14 while Dupont dropped 6.66 to 40.46, Aaron's Rentals dropped 2.53 to 25.02 and Fedex dropped 9.10 to 67.30.

The stock vigilantes showed the politicians and central bankers last week that the bears were in charge. In the course of the five sessions that ended Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 6.4%, or more than 700 points, to 10,771. This was the index's worst weekly showing since October 2008, as the world's leaders failed to offer up good solutions to the global economy's woes.

As part of the downturn, Red Bull Racing expects to layoff 152 employees when it shuts down operations in December. Red Bull Racing filed a notice this week as part of North Carolina's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act that the layoffs were expected by Dec. 17, 2011. Red Bull is a two-car team that entered NASCAR in 2007. The Austrian-based energy drink company both owns and sponsors the team, which presently fields cars for Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers. Kahne is moving to Hendrick Motorsports next season, and Vickers is in the final year of his contract.

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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