RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; NASCAR, Riverhead, ARCA & More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of this Friday, January 11, four short weeks remain before the start of Speedweeks in Florida. New Smyrna Speedway already has sixteen Tour type Modified entries for their upcoming World Series which gets the green on Friday night, February 8. The Tour type Modified opener will be on Monday night, Feb 11.

All is not well in Daytona Beach. The Daytona News Journal reported last week that NASCAR officials confirmed multiple staff layoffs, including some at its Daytona Beach headquarters. The moves comes at a time when NASCAR is looking to acquire International Speedway Corp. and take the public company private.

“A little less than 5 percent of our total workforce was laid off today across our entire company,” a NASCAR official confirmed on condition of anonymity. “We’re looking to take our remaining resources and focusing them on initiatives we already have in place that require dollars and that will help us grow.”Team Volusia in 2017 estimated that NASCAR had 280 employees locally.

The comments came on the heels of multiple national media reports, including by the Associated Press, ESPN and Yahoo, that NASCAR was issuing “dozens of pink slips”. Associated Press reporter Jenna Fryer tweeted on Friday afternoon that, “The word on the street is about 50 people let go, some are people in competition with well-known names that the fan recognizes.”

NASCAR responded to inquiries from The News-Journal about possible layoffs by issuing the following statement:

“As all good businesses do, NASCAR is committed to strengthening its operation to ensure that resources are aligned to strategies that grow the sport and drive our business. We have a talented team at NASCAR and we’re confident that greater focus on the opportunities to drive fan interest and strong industry partnerships will help our sport achieve long-term growth.”

George Summers was waked and laid to rest last weekend. The family stood for over 8 hours until they had received every last person who came to pay their respects. What a tribute that so many stood for more than 2-3 hours to say good goodbye, some traveling from as far as the west coast, and driving in from all over New England.

His funeral Mass was celebrated at 10 AM on Saturday, January 12th, in St. Gabriel the Archangel Church “The Farm“, 151 Mendon Street, Upton. Burial followed in Lakeview Cemetery.

Bryan Narducci got the thrill of a lifetime last week as he tested one of the Robert Our ARCA cars at the Daytona International Speedway. On day one of the two day test Bryan, who had never been on a track bigger than Thompson adapted quite well as he was 15th out of 34 with a speed of 180.854mph. No doubt about it, Bryan is a Racer! Day two, a little slower but a good test none the less. Twentieth overall for two days. Lets hope this opens a few doors for him.

The Riverhead Raceway on eastern Long Island celebrated their 2018 championship drivers and teams of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and Enduro competition as a festive crowd of 325 turned out at the gala affair hosted by Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz. Leading the 2018 parade of champions with both his NASCAR Modified and Late Model titles in ’18 was 22-year old Kyle Soper of Manorville. All seven NASCAR Whelen All American Series champions received championship rings from Riverhead Raceway while the top five in each of those classes also taking home a 2018 point fund check and plaque.

In his first full season as the driver of the Wayne & Joette Anderson owned NASCAR Modified Kyle Soper would pilot the Eastport Feeds Chevy to victory lane three times earning his first ever NASCAR Modified title. For Wayne Anderson the 2018 championship was his 7th overall at the track having won five as a driver and now two as a car owner. For the second consecutive year Soper won the Late Model title for car owner Rob Pelis with that effort also backed by the Corwin family of Eastport Feeds. Kyle won three LM features in route to the crown.

Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck was honored as the 2018 Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified champion winning six of the sixteen races contested driving for his grandfather Buzz Chew. 2018 Figure Eight champion Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead simply dominated the class in 2018 on his way to a fifth career title. Wheeling the Keith Repp owned United Exhaust Shop Chevy Coupe Tom won 8 of the 11 races run.

Also dominant on his way to his third career Blunderbust championship would be 22-year old Jack Handley Jr. of Medford who won 8 of the 14 races run in ’18 steering his Relle Electric Chevy owned by his Mom Cyndi.

Six Rookie of the Year drivers were saluted during the ceremony with Roger Turbush the top freshman driver in the NASCAR Modifieds. Charles Macwhinnie (Late Models), Chris Rogers (Crate Modifieds), Russ Jansen (Blunderbusts), Tom Sullivan (Super Pro Trucks) and Scott Cheslak Legend Race Cars) all taking Rookie of the Year honors as well. There were no eligible drivers in the Figure Eight division in 2018.

Fan voting via the track web page determined the 2018 Most Popular Driver in nine of the twelve divisions with those drivers announced Friday night. Kyle Soper (Mods & Late Model), Justin Brown (Crate Mods), Tom Ferrara (Figure 8), Alyssa Paprocky (Blunderbusts), Jimmy Rennick Jr. (Super Pro Trucks), Allan Pedersen (Legends), Brian Brown (Street Stocks) and Russ Jansen (Mini Stocks) were all voted Most Popular Driver.

Led by GM John Ellwood with Mike Cappiello, Randy Murray and Tom Gatz banquet hosts Bob Finan and Stephen Halpin completed all the award presentations in one hour allowing attendees three hours to socialize, enjoy a gourmet meal with dessert and dance to the sounds of the band Noiz until the clock struck midnight. The 2019 season will commence at Riverhead Raceway with opening weekend set for Saturday night May 4th and Sunday afternoon May 5th.

The Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway awarded their track championships at their annual banquet last weekend. Taking top honors in the Sunoco Modifieds (SK type) was Keith Rocco. Rocco won four of the seven events run at the 5/8th mile oval. Including his wins, he recorded six top fives. Rocco’s career overall total of 260 wins include 150 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 60 at Thompson and 50 at Stafford Speedway.

Todd Owen, with one win in seven starts finished in second spot, 20 points in arears.

Kyle James with three top fives finished third. Troy Talman and Marcello Rufano round out the top five. Eric Bourgeois took the Mini Stock championship with two wins and six top fives. Wayne Burroughs had five wins but missed one event and ended up finishing 27 points behind. In the Late Models Nicholas Johnson went winless but finished in the top five in all seven events. Tom Carey III recorded one win and five top 5’s and finished three points shy. In the Limited Sportsman Shawn Monahan won four of the seven events run and finished in the top five in every event run. Chris Meyer finished 49 points back.

Bronson (Fl) Speedway has learned through a team source that “Showtime” Jimmy Blewett will team up with Joe Bertuccio and his Gershow Motorsports team to run the 4th annual Kick Off To Speedweek Powered by Sunoco Tour Type Modified event. The multi time Wall Stadium champion instantly becomes a threat to win the Kick Off race that will unfold Saturday February 9th. on the high banks of Bronson Speedway. Blewett will also steer the Gershow entry later in the week at New Smyrna Speedway.

On the speedway stock market scene last week all three speedway stocks showed modest gains. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.68 to 16.74 while the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.12 to 43.65 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.12 to 2.03. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 4.58 to 54.37, NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.86 to 15.04