RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit; Second Week Of November

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Ten years ago in 2009, Howard Hodge reported that Chuck Hossfeld would be driving Ed Bennett’s car on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2010. Chuck replaced Eric Rudolph.

The Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor to officially honor Ted Christopher, Jim Peterson, Michael Gervais, Jr., Andrew Durand, and Don Wood as the 2009 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.

With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Matt Buckler and Joe Coss serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 40th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the five track champions, it also honored the top-20 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. Other awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, Most Improved Driver Awards, Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards, and the Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award.

The race for the 2009 SK Modified® championship began with several contenders in Jeff Malave, Keith Rocco, and Ted Christopher, but slowly Malave and Rocco faded from contention and Christopher once again demonstrated a season long consistency that drove him to his record seventh career Stafford championship. For the season, Christopher posted 4 wins, 11 top-5, and 13 top-10 finishes in 15 starts with the #13 Broadband Access Chevrolet. Christopher’s 4 victories this season brought his career SK Modified® victory total at Stafford to 91 wins. Combined with his Whelen Modified Tour Tech-Net Spring Sizzler victory at Stafford, his grand total of Stafford career wins now stands at 106 career victories.

Ted Christopher and Jim Peterson made a special presentation to Shawn Waddell. Waddell was the spotter for Christopher and Peterson this year at Stafford, and they presented Waddell with a special plaque that commemorated his dual championships as a spotter. Both cars Waddell spotted for this year at Stafford were numbered 13, the second time Waddell has spotted for championship cars in different divisions in the same season with the same car number. In 2002, Waddell spotted for Bo Gunning in the SK Modified® division and Peterson in the Late Model division when both cars carried the number 17.

Receiving awards for Most Improved Driver were Richie Pallai, Jr. in the SK Modified® division, J.J. Hill in the Late Model division, David Webb in the SK Light division, and Dave Yardley, III in the Limited Late Model division.

The Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards were presented by Brad and Linda Hietala of Reliable Welding and Speed to Mark Bakaj from the SK Modified® division, Adam Gray from the Late Model division, Michael Gervais, Jr. from the SK Light division, and Dan Flannery from the Limited Late Model division. The awards will be worth a $700.00 bonus to Bakaj, and $500.00 bonus to Gray, Gervais, and Flannery from Reliable Welding and Speed. Each Rookie of the Year bonus will be paid out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during the 2010 season.

The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® division, Dillon Moltz in the Late Model divisions, Heather DesRochers from the SK Light division, Carla Botticello from the Limited Late Model division, and Kyle Casagrande from the DARE Stock division.

The Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award was awarded to John Berardi. Berardi prepared and maintained Don Wood’s championship winning DARE Stock car as well as his daughter Stephanie’s DARE Stock, which went to victory lane once during the 2009 season at Stafford.

The Waterford Speedbowl and (Formerly True Value) Modified Racing Series officials announced that the Modified Series would visit the shoreline oval three times in 2010 including the season opening event for both, scheduled for March 26-28th. In addition, the popular tour will visit the ‘Bowl for the 3rd annual Wings ‘n Wheels on August 14th and as part of Thunder on the Sound’s lineup taking place on September 4th.

Jack Bateman continued to pursue a series sponsor for the Modified Racing Series which was formerly sponsored by True Value Hardware. In the mean time Bateman released an 18 race schedule. Bateman’s series had become a legitimate alternative to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.

Photographers Howie and Mary Hodge, mainstays on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series were selected as the winners of the New England Antique Racers Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award. The Hodges, who had been recording New England racing history for 30 years, would share the limelight with 12 new members of the Hall of Fame. Howie started snapping pictures “seriously” in 1979. Mary joined him three years later.

The Hall of Fame “Class of 2010” included drivers Geoff Bodine, the late Mike Murphy, George Savary, Pete Fiandaca and the late Chuck Arnold, car owner/builders Billy Simons, Bob Garbarino, Vic Miller and Marty Harty and contributors extraordinaire Frank Ferrara and the late Archie Blackadar.

Kyle Busch held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to win the 300-mile Nationwide Series race at Homstead FL, a fitting ending because the two NASCAR stars finished 1-2 in the final point standings.

Denny Hamlin won the FORD 400 Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for his 4th win of the season and 8th of his career. Hamlin started 38th, the farthest a driver has started and won at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson [the 2009 Sprint Cup Champion finished fourth. Johnson won his 4th NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in a row, the first driver ever to so in NASCAR’s 61 year history. Johnson was presented a check by Sprint for $6,520,800. Rick Hendrick became the first owner to finish 1-2-3 in the final Cup standings with Johnson, Martin and Gordon finishing 1-2-3. There were 7 cautions for 31 yellow flag laps and 18 lead changes among 10 drivers.

Five years ago in 2014, Fans and competitors of the Waterford Speedbowl received some good news when the New London Day reported that New London Superior Court judge Emmett Cosgrove had ruled that actions among parties involved in the Oct. 18 foreclosure auction of the Waterford Speedbowl did not lead to a chilling effect on bidding.

Creditor Edward DeMuzzio claimed in an objection filed earlier this month that collusion led to a winning bid that was artificially low, as the track is valued at about $3 million. Bruce Bemer, owner of Bemer Petroleum in Glastonbury, CT, won ownership of the track with a bid of $1.75 million at the auction.

“Although there is a substantial difference between the appraised value of the property and the amount of the sale, the court is not confident that a new sale would render any different results, but rather would only incur additional expenses and the continued accrual of interest,” wrote Cosgrove in a memorandum of decision released on Friday, Nov 14. He added “The court approves the committee of sale’s report, approves the requested committee fees and expenses and appraisal fees,” The committee of sale is defined as the attorney who oversees a sale at auction.

With that out of the way Bemer had 30 days following the approval of sale to close on the property, though he said his attorney had informed him that DeMuzzio has a window for appeal of the court’s decision.

Once the sale is consummated creditors, competitors and vendors who were owed money by Terry Eames would be out of luck as it appeared that most or all the $1.75million paid by Bemer would go to Rocco Arbitell and Peter Borelli.

The Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway saluted its NASCAR champions. Ryan Preece was the Sunoco (SK type) Modified champion by six points over Keith Rocco. Preece was absent from the affair but had a good reason as he was driving the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36 Accell Construction Chevrolet in a NASCAR Nationwide Series event at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. Preece started 33rd and finished 28th on the lead lap. Todd Ceravolo ended up in the third spot with Keith McDermott and Kerry Malone rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Tyler Chadwick, Danny Cates, John Catania, Woody Pitkat and Andrew Carron.

Rick Gentes took the Late Model Championship at TMPS by a mere eight points over Larry Gelinas. Mark Curtis, Glenn Boss and James Banfield rounded out the top five. Other TMPS Champions included Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman, Michael Veins in the Mini Stocks and Robert Palmer in the Lite Modifieds.

Numerous special awards were presented. Sunoco Modified Most Improved driver, Andrew Charron and Rookie-of-the-Year, Keith “Cam” McDermott. The Most Improved Late Model driver, Jared Materas and Rookie-of-the-Year, Nick Ladyga. Ladyga as also presented with the UNOH Youth Achievement Award, an award that is open to NASCAR drivers between the ages of 14-17. Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Most Improved Driver award was presented to Hank Stott. In the Mini Stocks, Most Improved driver, Jeff Moffat and Rookie-of-the-Year, Christopher Viens.

The John Hoenig Memorial Award, which recognizes one individual for their hard work and dedication to the Speedway, was presented to Barbara Pickett. Pickett has been with Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for 45 years. She began her tenure as a bookkeeper, but soon was assisting in management of the golf course, restaurant, the Pro Shop, and the trucking company. She has served any role necessary including waitress or bartender if needed, and even served as Donald Hoenig’s personal secretary. The one constant throughout her 45 years of service, however, has been working the ticket booth at the speedway.

Good news came from the Stafford Motor Speedway. According to their website pitch for season tickets the 2015 schedule currently consisted of 23 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series events, 4 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events, Valenti Modified Racing Series events yet to be determined, NAPA SK 5k, and Legend Cars.

The New England Antique Auto Racing Hall of Fame held their annual induction. Drivers Deke Astle, Jim Martel, Mike Rowe, Fred Schulz, Ron Wyckoff, drag racing icon Bob Tasca, historian R.A. Silvia and car builder/mechanic Dave Tourigny and auto racing writer Bones Bourcier made up the New England AntiqueAuto Racing Hall of Fame’s class of 2014. Also inducted were Briggs Cunningham II, Roy “Pappy” Forsyth and Fred Borden were the veterans committee picks for inclusion into the Hall of Fame.

Kevin Harvick did everything he needed to do at Homestead-Miami Speedway, holding off a determined Ryan Newman to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and capture his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. In Nationwide Series racing at Homestead, Matt Kenseth celebrated his first NASCAR win in more than a year, Chase Elliott basked in the glory of a Nationwide Series championship. Kenseth passed Kyle Larson on a green-white-checkered restart to win the Ford EcoBoost 300, his first victory of the year in any series. The 18-year-old Elliott capped off an incredible rookie season by becoming the youngest driver in NASCAR history to claim a major-series championship. A flat tire on Saturday relegated him to 17th at the finish, but he’d already clinched the title a week earlier at Phoenix Int’l Raceway. He finished the season with a 42-point advantage over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith.

Last year, 2018, The International Speedway Corporation was feeling quite frisky last week as they announced that they have entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Racing Electronics. Racing Electronics is known worldwide as a leader in motorsports communications technology and equipment for motorsports drivers, teams, series, venues, and fans, as well as the exclusive provider of FanVision technology to NASCAR and NHRA. Racing Electronics is also the Official Two-Way Radio and Race Communications Provider of 14 major sanctioning bodies including ARCA, IndyCar, NHRA, World Racing Group and USAC.

That news was overshadowed last Friday when the International Speedway Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select Market: ISCA; OTC Bulletin Board: ISCB) (“ISC”) announced that its Board of Directors (the “Board”) has received a non-binding offer from NASCAR, to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Class A common stock and Class B common stock of the Company, other than the shares held by the controlling shareholders of ISC, for a cash purchase price of $42.00 per share. The intention is to combine ISC and NASCAR as one privately-held group of companies with the France family as primary owners. A copy of the proposal letter is attached as Exhibit Number 99.1 to the Company’s Current Report on Form 8-K, which will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.

“In a highly competitive sports and entertainment landscape, a more unified strategic approach is important to our future growth,” said Jim France, Chairman of ISC and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NASCAR. “We believe the industry requires structural changes to best position the sport for long term success and this offer represents a positive step forward in that direction.” NASCAR’s proposal letter indicates that the outcome of this prospective offer will not impact the France family’s long-term commitment to the sport, nor its interest in maintaining its current ownership in ISC, as the France family is not interested in selling its shares of ISC at this time.

The ISC Board has formed a special committee (the “Special Committee”) comprised of J. Hyatt Brown, Larry Aiello, Jr., Larree Renda and William Graves , each of whom is an independent director of the Company, to act on behalf of the Company to consider this proposal. Mr. Brown, the Company’s lead independent director, will serve as Chairman of the Special Committee. The Special Committee will be advised by independent legal and financial advisors. NASCAR’s offer will be reviewed by the Special Committee and will be subject to the approval of the holders of a majority of the Company’s outstanding common stock, other than the common stock held by the France family. In the interim, NASCAR and ISC will continue to operate as separate and independent entities.

The Company cautions shareholders and others considering trading in its securities that the Board just received the non-binding proposal letter from NASCAR and no decisions have been made with respect to the Company’s response to the proposal. There can be no assurance that any definitive offer will be made, that any agreement will be executed or that this or any other transaction will be approved or consummated.

International Speedway Corporation is a leading promoter of motorsports activities, currently promoting more than 100 racing events annually as well as numerous other motorsports-related activities. The Company owns and/or operates 13 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities, including Daytona International Speedway® in Florida (home of the DAYTONA 500®); Talladega Superspeedway® in Alabama; Michigan International Speedway® located outside Detroit; Richmond Raceway® in Virginia; Auto Club Speedway of Southern CaliforniaSM near Los Angeles; Kansas Speedway® in Kansas City, Kansas; ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona; Chicagoland Speedway® and Route 66 RacewaySM near Chicago, Illinois; Homestead-Miami SpeedwaySM in Florida; Martinsville Speedway® in Virginia; Darlington Raceway® in South Carolina; and Watkins Glen International® in New York.

The Company also owns and operates Motor Racing NetworkSM, the nation’s largest independent sports radio network and Americrown Service CorporationSM, a subsidiary that provides catering services, and food and beverage concessions. In addition, the Company owns ONE DAYTONA, the retail, dining and entertainment development across from Daytona International Speedway, and has a 50.0 percent interest in the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

Modified action moved south to Concord, NC for the 16th annual running of the John Blewett III Memorial North South Shootout in Memory of Charles Kepley. Twenty eight Modifieds and a real slim crowd were on hand.

Jon McKennedy finished his season just like he started it with a win at Myrtle Beach in March as he rallied back late in Saturday’s caution-filled 16th annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout and held off a final-lap charge from Matt Hirschman to take down the $10,000 victory at Concord Speedway. McKennedy, who started from the pole and led uncontested until his pit stop at lap 43, only ran outside the top five for 13 of the 125 laps in the tour-type modified event. However, it wasn’t until a restart with 21 to go that he truly retook command of the race.

Driving Tommy Baldwin’s No. 7ny, McKennedy charged around the outside of leader Andy Seuss when the green flag waved for the final time and never looked in his mirror again. He raced away from his closest pursuers and then kept Hirschman at bay in the final half-mile en route to the win.

McKennedy’s main threat in the closing laps was six-time event winner Hirschman, who made his final stop for fresh tires after a red-flag period with 38 to go. He came off pit road in 18th place, but methodically started picking off cars one by one and was in position to slip through a multi-car accident that sparked the final stoppage of the night on lap 104. Among those eliminated were Chuck Hossfeldt, Chase Dowling and Jason Myers.

Avoiding the mayhem that ultimately blocked the track on the frontstretch, Hirschman found himself lined up seventh for the 21-lap sprint to the finish and wasted no time moving into position to run for the win. He broke into the top five with 15 to go and took just eight more laps to crack the top three, passing Andy Seuss for third with seven laps remaining. Hirschman got held up trying to pass second-running Jimmy Blewett and couldn’t secure the runner-up spot until three to go.

By then, McKennedy was just far enough out in front to stay there, and though Hirschman carved a near one-second gap into shreds in the closing moments, he fell a car length short at the checkered flag.

Blewett hung on to finish third in the race named in honor of his brother, John Blewett III, with John Smith trailing close behind in fourth. After leading 41 laps during the middle portions of the race, Seuss faded back to fifth in the end.

The marathon race was slowed by a multitude of wrecks, including four red-flag periods. The 125-lap distance took three hours to complete and only 12 of the 28 starters finished on the lead lap.

The finish:Jon McKennedy, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett, John Smith, Andy Seuss, Bobby Measmer Jr., Anthony Nocella, Todd Owen, Patrick Emerling, James Civali, Burt Myers, George Brunnhoelzl III, Jimmy Zacharias, Daniel Yates, Sammy Rameau, Gary Putnam, Chase Dowling, Calvin Carroll, Chuck Hossfeld, Brandon Ward, Cameron Sontag, Mike Norman, Jeremy Gerstner, Jeff Fultz, Chris Finocchario, Ron Silk, Jason Myers and Brian Loftin.

On Sunday, Nov 11, The New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame inducted their class of 2019 at Manley’s Banquet Hall in South Windsor, Ct. The class includes the late Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik, Jamie Aube, Ken Tremont Sr, John Buffum, Butch Elms, Dick Glines and Pete Silva. George Weaver and George Pendergast were also inducted into the hall. Mark “Bones” Bourcier was presented the Ron Bouchard Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award by Paula Flemke Bouchard.

Stefanik, a Rhode Island racer and one of asphalt Modified racing’s very best, is a seven-time champion of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the series’ all-time winner with 74 victories. He was an outstanding driver in full-fendered equipment as well, winning Busch North Series and Modified Tour titles in 1997 and 1998. He was the 1999 Rookie of the Year on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and has hundreds of victories in weekly short track competition.

Christopher, who was killed in an airplane crash while on his way to race at the Riverhead Raceway in the fall of 2017, owns more than 370 victories in his career in an almost immeasurable variety of race cars, from Modifieds to Midgets to Super Late Models and more. Christopher was the 2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion and the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion. He is the all-time winner at both Stafford Motor Speedway (131 victories) and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (99). Christopher was named one of the top 25 drivers in NASCAR’s weekly series in 2006, when the series celebrated its 25th anniversary. In 2008, Stafford named a section of its grandstand in his honor.

Six out of the eight have strong ties to Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine. Though his name may not be familiar to many stock car fans, Colchester’s John Buffum is the most high-profile inductee from the class. The driver, team owner and car builder is the most accomplished American in the history of rally racing, winning 118 events at the national level in the United States and Canada, three events internationally, and a pair of Pikes Peak Hill Climbs. Buffum was born and raised in Connecticut but has called Vermont home for more than 50 years. He can claim 23 national rally championships and one road racing title as a driver, and another 31 titles as a team owner and constructor.

All three active Vermont stock car tracks find representation in the newly announced class. North Ferrisburgh native Jamie Aube rose from humble beginnings at Barre’s Thunder Road and Milton’s Catamount Stadium to become a household name in the short track world. Aube won the nationally-respected Oxford 250 in 1987 and ’89 and also won three consecutive championships on the former NASCAR Busch North Series.

C.V. “Butch” Elms III is one of two dirt track stars to be named to the NEAR Hall of Fame. The North Haverhill, New Hampshire native is undeniably one of the most accomplished dirt drivers in the Northeast, taking 136 documented wins and 11 track championships. Elms is best known these days as the owner and promoter of Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway, where the bulk of his success came in his driving days — which he has owned since 1989.

Ken Tremont Sr. also represents the dirt world, and is the only non-New Englander in the Class of 2018. The all-time greatest car owner and engine builder at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Tremont has 93 wins and 10 track titles (and counting) within the borders of New England, and he remains active with both his son, Ken Jr., and grandson, Montgomery, driving his cars. Tremont’s accomplishments in his native New York State, though they were not factored into his nomination by NEAR, bring his career totals to well above 350 race wins and nearly 50 championships.
As a driver, New Hampshire native Dick Glines won a championship in the highly-competitive Oxford Open Series and was a winner at several Maine tracks. As a crew chief, he was responsible for the rise and dominance of Robbie Crouch in the 1980s, winning 49 touring series races and five championships including three-straight on the American-Canadian Tour, and was Aube’s crew chief during his 1990 Busch North title run. As a fabricator, Glines built cars for eight additional Busch North championship teams, and his cars also won NASCAR Busch Series (now Xfinity) races.

Maine’s Pete Silva won more than 120 races on paved short tracks up and down the East Coast, and is considered to be one of the Southeast’s most legendary drivers. After winning Late Model Sportsman races in his native New England, Silva relocated to the Carolinas and won many races and track championships at places like Greenville-Pickens, Hickory and Asheville, racing against many drivers who went on to national prominence in NASCAR.

In NASCAR Xfinity Series racing in Phoenix Arizona, Christopher Bell finished 1.877 seconds ahead of Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet driver Daniel Hemric. Matt Tifft finished third with Austin Cindric and Ryan Preece rounding out the top five.

Kyle Busch won for the eighth time this season to tie Kevin Harvick for the most Cup victories and set up a head-to head battle for the championship. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson, both already eliminated from the playoffs, finished second and third.

On a sad note, The great Frankie Schneider passed away on Sunday evening, Nov.11 . A great race driver and true gentleman. He was the 1952 NASCAR National Modified Champion.

One day later, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion David Pearson, who won 105 races in the series, passed away. He was 83 years old. Pearson, known as “The Silver Fox,” is considered one of the best drivers to compete in NASCAR. His 105 victories rank him second in NASCAR Cup Series competition behind only seven-time series champion Richard Petty’s 200.

In addition to his 105 victories and three championships, Pearson earned 301 top-five finishes, 366 top-10 results and 113 poles. He won the Daytona 500 once, the Southern 500 three times and the Coca-Cola 600 three times. He also earned one victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The native of Spartanburg, S.C., was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993 and the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.