RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Thompson & Riverhead News & Much More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The count down to Speedweeks in Florida continues. In four short weeks central Florida comes alive with the sound of racing engines as the 2020 auto racing season begins.

The week plus of speed in the sunshine state will culminate on Sunday, February 16 with the running of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway.

Thompson Speedway competitors continue to mull over their recent announcement of a reduction of races and a huge reduction of purse payouts. Competitors have been asked to respond to their demands by Jan 15 or the weekly racing series will be totally cut from the 2020 schedule. In past years weekly racing has played to sparse crowds but their specials, IceBreaker, Mid August Whelen Modified Tour event, World Series and Flea Market have been big money makers. It is what it is and there will be no change so competitors need to make a decision as to whether to race for a reduced purse or just race elsewhere. Anyone who races for less than a break even purse is a sucker and a fool. No matter how many car owners and drivers commit to the 2020 season at Thompson the handwriting is on the wall. Weekly racing as we know it at Thompson is over!

Even with Thompson out of the weekly picture there will still be a lot of Modified racing to be had. Competitors and fans will have to travel a bit. One such event will be at Loudon in April.

Two of the most reputable names in Northeast Modified racing will be part of the operations team for the inaugural Northeast Classic. American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) officials have announced that Ed Bennett and Greg Felton will oversee the Modified Open at Loudon’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18.

Bennett and Felton have been part of the regional Modified racing scene for decades. Each currently holds a major role with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series (TTOMS). Bennett joined the series in January 2019 as a managing partner in charge of race day operations. He is also a longtime Modified car owner who has fielded rides for drivers such as Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett, Chuck Hossfield, and Erick Rudolph.

Felton was named Series Head of Race Tech for the Tri-Track Modifieds in February 2019. Felton has been a successful Modified crew chief for decades, winning races and championships with Woody Pitkat, Kirk Alexander, Todd Szgedy, and others. He transitioned to a race official in recent years and served as a technical advisor for MRS prior to joining TTOMS.

The full Northeast Classic event schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. Open practice for all divisions is set for Friday, April 17 with qualifying and feature action on Saturday, April 18. The rain date is Sunday, April 19.

Just hours after the famed ball drop in New York City, Riverhead Raceway owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz announced an energized 2020 schedule of events to celebrate the 70th anniversary of racing at the famed quarter mile facility. The schedule of events announced for 2020 will introduce some new and exciting concepts for both competitors and fans alike while many mainstay events and attractions will remain part of the Long Island racing fabric. The 2020 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series will open up with a seven for one program Saturday evening May 9th with the NASCAR Modifieds again headlining the weekly racing action. The May Meltdown Enduro series opener will proceed the NASCAR lid lifter on Sunday afternoon May 3rd.

The NASCAR Modifieds will again race as the Division 1 class of the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at Riverhead Raceway with a regular feature event distance set for 50-laps. Just prior to Christmas, track management announced the Four Race Crown Jewel Series for the NASCAR Modifieds a four race series that takes in the four extra distance time trial events. In additional to the weekly track NASCAR championship points the series will carry it’s own championship points with the champion of the Four Race Crown Jewel Series to win the Ted Christopher Cup. The first of the four races will be the $7,000 to win 4th annual Islip 300 Saturday May 30th which will be followed by the 70th Year Celebration 70-lapper July 4th, the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 on July 25th and conclude with the NASCAR 100 August 29th. The winner of the Four Race Crown Jewel Series championship chase will be presented the Ted Christopher track in victory lane at the conclusion of the NASCAR 100. Since the new broke of the Ted Christopher Cup interest in the Four Race Crown Jewel Series has been high on both sides of the pit wall.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will again visit Riverhead Raceway twice in 2020 first on Saturday evening June June 20th and again September 19th with both events slated for 200-laps and sure to be short track classics.

On a somber note, Get Well Wishes to John Rosati who suffered a stroke on Fri, Dec 27. Rosati was part of the Agawam Mass clan and raced Late Models and Modifieds for many years.

Former Thompson Speedway and New London- Waterford Speedbowl assistant starter Bob Gelinas reports that Billy Harman is in the hospital in Florida with breathing problems. Harman is scheduled for a triple by-pass on Wednesday, Jan 7. Once the by-pass is done former driver Jerry Dostie will be brought in to install a new spell checker in Harman’s body. Get well wishes Billy.