March 4, 2016
Five years ago in 2011, it was speculated with fuel prices going
through the roof, race fans would be staying close to home. A recent trip
from Florida to Rhode Island saw gas prices ranging from $3.09 per gallon to
over $4.00. New Jersey had the best deal at $3.09 per gallon on the
Turnpike. Local promoters who present a quality produce at a reasonable
price would reap the benefits of the race fan sticking close to home
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Drivers and Owners were anxiously awaiting
word from NASCAR concerning Television coverage of the upcoming season. The
Speed Channel and the Versus Channel did an outstanding job with their
The NASCAR Home Tracks web site says that Bryon Chew, a former competitor
in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will trade fenders for nerf bars and
compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starting in 2011.
In some sad news it was learned last weekend that Gene Bergin had passed
away. Bergin had driven just about every kind of race car from Midgets to
Indy Cars and from Modifieds to NASCAR Cup cars. He was also an inducted
member of the NEAR Hall of Fame. He was one of the chosen few to record wins
at Stafford both on the dirt and on the asphalt.
Berginís career included a couple of significant milestones as his 1967
Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway title came in the trackís first year with an
asphalt surface, and his wire-to-wire triumph in the 1971 Stafford 200 also
marked the first checkered flag for a Modified with a Pinto-style body. He
is credited with 15 feature wins at Stafford from 1964-74, the first two of
which came on the old dirt surface.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Phoenix International Raceway Jeff
Gordon passed Kyle Busch with eight laps left and stretched his lead from
there, ending his winless streak at 66 races. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick
and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five in a 312-lap race around PIR's mile
oval, the last on the current surface.
Kyle Busch became the first driver in a national NASCAR race to win
wire-to-wire in nearly eight years. Busch dominated from the pole early and
held off Carl Edwards late, maintaining the lead the entire way in the
Nationwide race Saturday to set up the chance for a perfect weekend at
Phoenix International Raceway. Busch also won the Truck race.
Last year, 2015, The wheels of change
had shifted into high gear at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as NASCAR
and the new track management of owner Bruce Bemer and General Manager Shawn
Monahan announced that the shoreline oval would be under the NASCAR banner
in 2015. The announcement also included a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event
on Saturday, May 30. The addition of the Mr. Rooter 161 on May 30 would give
the tour 15 points events in 2015.
The Speedbowl added a key member to their weekly staff. Terryville,
Connecticut native Rich Keator had been named chief starter for the New
London-Waterford Speedbowl, and will be returning to the flagstand at the
three-eighths mile oval for the first time since the 2012 season.
Keator took some time away from the track over the past two seasons by
working with the Valenti Modified Racing Series as their chief starter, and
was also part of the staff on the Granite State Pro Stock Series.
In other Speedbowl news, it was announced that the trackís Wacky
Wednesday program would be moving to Thursday nights for 2015. The Wacky
Wednesday program is a low-cost alternative to the traditional NASCAR Whelen
All-American Series Saturday night racing show. The events offer lower cost
tickets and divisions that prove much lower in participation costs for
customers. The X-Cars, Super X-Cars and Legends primarily fill out the shows
for the track. Monahan said working with Thompson Speedway was a big reason
for the change. Thompson Speedway will host five Wednesday night summer
shows in 2015. Thompson had previously run primarily Thursday shows. He also
indicated that last yearís rule book will remain in effect for 2015.
It was good to hear that Sidís Vault Productions would be returning to the
shoreline oval in 2015. Up until mid season last year Tom DiMaggio and his
able crew video taped many of the events at the Route 85 oval and made many
non-speedbowl fans aware of the great competition there and he did it all at
no cost to the former owner. Production ceased in mid-season after a dispute
with the former owner.
Thanks to the efforts of New London-Waterford Speedbowl Street Stock
competitor Bill McNeil competitors who raced at the shoreline oval were
recognized for their 2014 efforts at the Groton Inn & Suites in Groton, CT.
Among those who received championship honors were Keith Rocco in the SK
Modifieds and Late Models, Josh Galvin in the Street Stocks, Garrett Denton
in the Mini Stocks, Corey Barry in the SK Lites and Mike Christopher Jr in
Had it not been for the efforts of McNeil competitors at the Waterford
oval would have gone unnoticed.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series officially announced on their Facebook
page that the series will open for the 2015 racing season schedule at the
Monadnock Speedway on April 18. They will also visit Monadnock on July 4 and
August 22. Races will be held at Stafford Motor Speedway, Airborne Speedway,
Seekonk Speedway, Lee USA Speedway, Devilís Bowl Speedway, Beech Ridge Motor
Speedway, Oxford Plains Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The
series will also visit the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on August 8.
The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Mr. Rooter Plumbing
franchisee, Vin Beedle, announced that the Connecticut-based company will be
the entitlement sponsor of the 125-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT)
slated for Wednesday night, June 10. Beedle and his company are long-time
supporters of auto racing in New England, sponsoring the Mr. Rooter New
England Truck Series, as well as fielding a truck in the division in 2015.
The drivers of the Truck will include NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
Champions, and Thompsonís own Sunoco Modified driver, Keith Rocco, as well
as Limited Sportsman - and SK Modified - driver Ed Puleo.
The Syracuse-Post Standard reported that a Watertown, NY jury decided a
parking lot crash that ended the racing career of DIRT modified legend
"Barefoot" Bob McCreadie was worth nearly $1.7 million in damages. But the
jurors found McCreadie 15 percent responsible for the crash, reducing the
award by that percentage, according to Syracuse lawyer Sidney Cominsky.
Cominsky said the state Supreme Court jury deliberated about three hours
before awarding McCreadie the damages for a crash that occurred May 31,
2006, in the parking lot of the Medical Arts Building in Watertown where
McCreadie was heading to pick up some prescriptions. According to Cominsky,
McCreadie was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle down a designated
driving lane in the parking lot when a vehicle operated by Dawn Millett of
Watertown, an employee of an adjacent insurance company, cut diagonally
across the lot, ran into McCreadie and knocked his motorcycle over onto him.
McCreadie suffered a fractured femur, two broken ribs and a chip fracture
of the lumbar spine, the lawyer said. Cominsky said McCreadie has been
unable to return to his racing career where he was once the winningest DIRT
track racer in America.
Austin Dillon appeared headed to an easy victory at Las Vegas Motor
Speedway until four fresh tires helped Ryan Blaney chase him down.
Blaney charged to Dillon's back bumper and stalked him around the track for
the final four laps Saturday, but a bobble ruined his momentum and allowed
Dillon to wrap up the Xfinity Series win. Dillon led 183 of the 200 laps.
Regan Smith finished third and was followed by Denny Hamlin, who was subbing
for teammate Busch, and defending series champion Chase Elliott.
Kevin Harvick pulled off an overdue victory in Las Vegas, grabbing his
first Sprint Cup win of the season. It came in just the third race of the
season. Harvick led 142 of the 267 laps, and he beat Martin Truex Jr. to the
finish. He did it while battling a vibration that developed after his final
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
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