RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Getting Ready For The Spring Sizzler & So Much More…

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Next up, the 2019 season gets underway at Stafford with the NAPA Spring Sizzler® spanning 3 days kicking off Friday, April 26th with a full afternoon of practice for Stafford’s weekly divisions.  The weekend continues Saturday, April 27 with qualifying for all divisions including group qualifying for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as well as feature racing for the Vintage All-Stars, Limited Late Models and Street Stocks.

New for 2019, the Saturday Street Stock feature will be a 30-lap special event as part of the RMSPCO.com Street Stock Triple Crown. Sizzler® weekend is capped off Sunday, April 28 with the NAPA Auto Parts Pit Party and feature racing for the SK Modifieds®, Late Models, SK Light Modifieds, and finally the NAPA Spring Sizzler® 200 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. FansChoice.TV will live stream the entire event.

After three races in the books, Doug Coby leads the charge going into Stafford with a seven point edge over Patrick Emerling. A big surprise has Burt Myers in third spot, only eight points behind the leader. Myers is committed to Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina on Saturdays thru the summer which will make it impossible for him to become a contender. Bowman Gray opens this coming Saturday, April 20. Rounding out the top five are Jimmy Blewett and Chris Pasteryak. Sixth thru tenth are Ron Silk, Justin Bonsignore, Jon McKennedy, Kyle Bonsignore and Matt Swanson.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues to be the best competition that NASCAR has to offer.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl took a major hit last week when a jury in Danbury Ct Superior Court Wednesday found track owner Bruce Bemer guilty of all charges he faced in his human trafficking case. The jury had deliberated for about two days and rendered their decision late Wednesday afternoon.

The 65-year old Bemer was found guilty of four counts of patronizing a trafficked person and one count of being an accessory to human trafficking. Bemer had been out of jail on a $500,000 bond since his arrest in March 2017. According to the Hartford Courant that bond was increased to $750,000 on Wednesday by Judge Robin Pavia. Bemer was expected to post the increased bail.

Bemer is scheduled to be sentenced on June 6. He faces a possible 30 years in prison. He had reportedly rejected a plea deal that would have spared him jail time previously.

In some good news, New London-Waterford Speedbowl general manager Mike Serluca told internet news site RaceDayCT exclusively Friday afternoon that there will be racing at the track in 2019. “As far as the 2019 racing season at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl is concerned, we will be racing at the facility in 2019,” Serluca said. “Without a doubt.”

Serluca said that assurance of operation in 2019 came from Bemer. “There’s no pending sale,” Serluca said. “Whats going to happen down the road with that, I have no idea.” Serluca couldn’t go into any details concerning when the season could possibly begin, but did confirm that the scheduled May 11-12 Blastoff event will not be run. “We’re optimistic of a May opening date,” Serluca said.

Serluca has informed the Valenti Modified Racing Series and the Northeastern Midget Association that their events as part of the originally scheduled Blastoff weekend will not take place.

It was noted by Sid DiMaggio of Vault Productions that 68 years ago, on April 15, the original owners of The Speedbowl cut the ribbon on the frontstretch for the facility’s grand opening. The original track surface was made of dirt (which only lasted for 3 weeks before they paved it with asphalt). Bob Swift won the very first feature event in Speedbowl history that day driving the #164 coupe Modified (which were called ‘Sportsman Stocks’ back then).

Darrell Waltrip announced he will retire as a Fox racing analyst when the first half of the Cup Series is over. His last “Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!” will be heard on June 23 as the green flag is shown at the Sonoma road course. “For 60 years of my 72 I’ve been behind the wheel,” he said. “I was holding onto something. I was holding onto a steering wheel for 30 years. I let go of that wheel, I grabbed hold of a microphone.”

Fan voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020 opened on Tuesday, April 9 on NASCAR.com (www.nascar.com/halloffame) and runs through Monday, May 20 at 11:59 a.m. ET. The five nominees receiving the highest percentage of votes will comprise the Fan Vote ballot.

Following are the 20 nominees for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, listed alphabetically:

  • Sam Ard, NASCAR Xfinity Series pioneer and two-time champion
  • Buddy Baker, won 19 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500
  • Neil Bonnett, won 18 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including consecutive Coca-Cola 600 victories
  • Red Farmer, three-time Late Model Sportsman champion; 1956 Modified champion
  • Ray Fox, legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner
  • Harry Gant, winner of 18 NASCAR Cup Series races, including two Southern 500 victories
  • Joe Gibbs, combined for nine car owner championships in Cup and XFINITY series
  • John Holman, won two NASCAR Cup Series championships as co-owner of Holman-Moody Racing
  • Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief
  • Bobby Labonte, won a championship in both the Cup Series and XFINITY Series
  • Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR west series champion
  • Ralph Moody, won two NASCAR Cup Series championships as co-owner of Holman-Moody Racing
  • Marvin Panch, won 17 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1961 Daytona 500
  • Jim Paschal, 23 of his 25 NASCAR Cup Series wins came on short tracks
  • Larry Phillips, first five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion
  • Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400
  • Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships
  • Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, two-time Brickyard 400 winner
  • Red Vogt, the first master mechanic of NASCAR, and a founding member
  • Waddell Wilson, won three NASCAR Cup Series championships as an engine builder

It looks like the Modified competitors at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island will get a lesson on race track manners as Eddie Harvey announced that Burt Myers will be coming to Riverhead for a weekly show. Myers is the master of madness at the MadHouse, Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina.

Martin Truex Jr was the NASCAR cup winner at Richmond. Ryan Preece finished 20th.

On the speedway stock market scene last week, two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Dover Entertainment went up 0.03 to 2.08 while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.14 to 43.50 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.50 to 13.95. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Energy went up 0.14 to 53.02 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.39 to 19.77 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.19 to 19.55. Two of the three car makers finished the week on a positive note. General Motors went up 0.87 to 39.71 and Ford went up 0.20 to 9.45 while Toyota dropped 0.14 to 122.90. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 1.79 to 203.85 and Lowes went up 1.28 to 116.26. With the exception of Target which dropped 0.21 to 80.73 and Coca-Cola dropped 6.29 to 240.21, the big team sponsors stocks performed quite well. McDonalds went up 0.89 to 191.60, Dow Dupont went up 1.57 to 39.47, Fedex went up 7.25 to 196.95 and Stanley Black and Decker went up 3.43 to 146.17.

On the tube this week:
NASCAR’s Big three are off this week in celebration of Easter.
Thursday, April 18
5 p.m. NASCAR America: Motorsports, NBC Sports Net
6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

Friday, April 19
12:30 a.m., NASCAR The Decades
1:30 a.m., NASCAR The Decades
2:30 a.m., NASCAR The Decades